Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Review: Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?

Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? And 114 Other Questions
Penguin Canada 2006
ISBN-10: 0-14-305390-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-14-305390-3

I subscribe to New Scientist, a weekly science magazine similar to Scientific American, but published in the UK. The first thing I do when I receive my weekly issue is turn to the back and check out "The Last Word". This is the part of the magazine where readers write in with questions about science and other readers write in with answers.

Like it's predecessor Does Anything Eat Wasps? this book presents the best of the Last Word column in book form. It presents about 100 questions and answers divided up into categories such as our bodies, plants and animals, and food and drink.

The questions and answers are fascinating. Many of them make you think "that's something I see all the time but never asked why". It's also interesting that not all scientists agree on the answers. Some of the answers are quite humorous, even tongue in cheek And many of them I've never seen answered before.

My criticism with the previous book in the series was that, for some strange reason, they decided to use US measurement units rather than metric, even though New Scientist uses metric units as do most scientists even in the US. Thankfully they didn't continue this practice for Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze, at least in the Penguin Canada edition I read.

The book is highly recommended. Whether you consider yourself scientifically literate or not, you will get a lot out of it, both in the form entertainment and education.

The latest book in the series, How to Fossilize Your Hamster, was recently released and I'm looking forward to reading it once I get hold of a copy.

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