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Paul Parsons is former editor of BBC Focus magazine. He has written for publications from the Telegraph to FHM. His The Science of Doctor Who (Icon) was longlisted for the 2007 Royal Society Prize. Martin Rees is Astronomer Royal, President of the Royal Society, and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge.
As a theoretical physicist I am oftentimes at pains to explain to people what is it that I actually do. Theory is a loaded term, and it has different meaning depending on the context in which it is used. The colloquial meaning suggests little more than an elaborate opinion, oftentimes not easily refutable. However, in the minds of most scientists theories are the most refined sets of principles that have been validated through many quite rigorous scientific means, and have come to dominate whole sections of the ways that we view the world around us.
Anyone with some degree of post-secondary education is probably familiar with at least some of the theories that are covered in this book. Many others could be easily explained with a quick online search. However, sometimes it's useful to have a quick and handy reference that can help us get a more secure footing. This well designed and attractive introductory book does exactly that: it provides a brief reference for 50 theories from various fields and disciplines. These are explained in short 300 word sections, with an accompanying illustrations and several even shorter references. The topics covered include: the wave theory, universal gravitational theory, placebo effect, continental drift, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, natural selection, and many more. The illustrations are done in a mock fifties style and they convey a slight panache for self-irony. The book is printed on a high-quality glossy paper and can almost function as a coffee table book. It makes a nice little reference or can be used as a thoughtful gift.
It's like cheating and learning and realizing all at the same time. This is an excellent teaching aid for students in the arts, humanities or even in business who need to fill in some holes in their education. Obviously, it is not thorough, but it provides an overview of the most important theories of The Way of reality, which can create epiphanies. It is a wonderful gift. I wish I could afford to buy them out.
This is a fun way to introduce theories in science to your middle school or high school level student. Also, it is a quick reference for the teacher. As a high school science teacher, I recommend this for the lay person!
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We all hear about scientific theories but who has the time to figure out what they mean? You do! Each one takes 30 seconds, more of less. Concepts you never thought you'd grasp (I'm just an economist) are suddenly quite clear -- not clear enough to get an "A" on a science test, but clear enough to make you amazed. Paul Parsons should get some award for this very slim opus.
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