Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why Sh*t Happens: The Science of a Really Bad Day by Peter J. Bentley

This is a great book (with an unfortunate name) that I would recommend for anyone seeking an overview of the science of everyday life. The author presents an amusing narrative of someone having one of the worst days ever and then takes each negative event as a launching pad to explore and explain the science of how and why it happened. Although all the science is mostly a high school level, because there is so much of it there is likely something new for everyone (and especially those less scientifically literate).

The presentation is entertaining and light-hearted and most chapters end with brief, helpful tips on how to avoid or ameliorate the negative event/situation.
A minor criticism is that there was no summary or conclusion; a few paragraphs recapping the scientific method and its useful application would have been desirable.

The book has 39 chapters which are described generally by a reviewer (to which I’ve added a few supplementary explanations in parentheses so you can understand how the content is presented):
1) sleeping through the alarm – (the nature of sleep)
2) slipping on soap – (cleansers and lubricants)
3) cutting yourself shaving – (cuts and blood)
4) toast on fire – (metals conducting electricity/heat)
5) exploding liquids – (heating of liquids)
6) milk gone bad – (milk processing)
7) wet mp3 player
8) bird droppings
9) forgotten bag – (memory)
10) skidding on the road – (different braking systems)
11) diesel instead of gas - (diesel versus petroleum cars)
12) tripping on the curb
13) chewing gum in hair
14) rain soaked clothing
15) being lost – (migration)
16) bee sting
17) sticking yourself with superglue - (superglue/adhesive)
18) electromagnetic interference from phone – (cell-phones)
19) puncture
20) leaking pens
21) mistaken identity – (psychological disorder, Capgras)
22) torn clothing – (fabric strength)
23) opening an e-mail virus
24) jammed finger
25) computer hard disk failure
26) broken finger
27) dropping keys down the drain
28) pulled muscle
29) sparking microwave – (how a microwave works)
30) broken glass
31) stains – (cloth)
32) chilli pepper in the eye
33) food on the floor – (eating small debris)
34) lightning kills the tv - (lightning)
35) burns and blisters
36) scratched cd – (cds)
37) broken tooth – (teeth)
38) stubbed toe – (pain receptors)
39) overflowing bath – (buoyancy)

Sounds interesting, right? Check it out.


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