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The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science Paperback – April 3, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
If you, like me, remember the talking head in science class that was speaking in tongues, you will appreciate this book. It will open up areas such as chemistry, geology, biology and others to a clearer understanding. And, understanding science is becoming more and more important in today's society as we become more technologically advanced and science oriented.
I recommend this book for everyone, including, or maybe more importantly, to the scientifically challenged. It will change the way you understand the latest in scientific news, as well as give you an all important base knowledge. And, the writing is well done, easy without being condescending, and fun.
Trouble is, author Natalie Angier is just too passionate for her own good. She obviously knows her stuff, but her prose is just too artful, too flowery, too straight from a creative writing class, never meeting a metaphor it doesn't saddle up and ride like the wind. Describing the beauty of a mountain range, she instructs her readers to "gaze out over the vast cashmere accordion of earthscape, the repeating pleats swelling and dipping silently in the far horizon without even deigning to disdain you."
I think that means it's pretty.
I don't claim to be a serious writer, but with science, a vital topic that America seems to have completely lost touch with, we need books that can easily engage their readers. This one is not quite there. Two better choices are the classics The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence and The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History.
From the biggest questions about the nature of the universe to more personal questions concerning humankind's origins and internal workings, Angier brings not only her journalistic experience and exuberant curiosity to her subjects, she also interviews experts in the field who bring their own authority and creativity in explaining both concepts that are fundamental to our understanding of the physical world and the latest advancements that challenge and further our current knowledge.
An intelligent reader may now gain the scientific literacy necessary for life in the twenty-first century between the covers of one book, written in a playful, vivid, conversational style that nonetheless manages to impart important concepts without oversimplifying them. Natalie Angier has done the world a great service by bringing science in an accessible, entertaining form to a general audience. She has done her job, and now it is the public's turn to do theirs and fulfill its responsibility to educate and enlighten itself.
I remember a review describing this book as like taking a fun science class from your coolest teacher. In reality, this book is like taking a science class with that embarrassing trying-to-be-hip teacher who keeps telling unfunny jokes, and is too obtuse to realize that none of their students finds them the least bit amusing.
Here's an example of an author much too concerned with being funny, and not at all trusting to her subject matter:
"A top of the line radar can pinpoint the whereabouts of a housefly two kilometers away, although clearly this is a radar with far too much time on its hands."
"Fine. They are all light. They are all electromagnetic radiation. They are all - what?"
"The universe, though, doesn't only like to cut things short, it also opts for the sagging saga approach, dictating thick volumes of time that are nearly as unfathomable as Finnegan's Wake."
"Where might Ebola weigh in? And how many of any could dance on a pin?"
"Contrary to myth, time doesn't fly particularly fast when you're dead."
"Hold your Miss Havensham's, huffed the progressive-spirited Darrell."
After several hundred pages, these trite quips (appearing as they do ten a page) grow tiresome and even somewhat alarming. Ms. Angier does not trust her reader to surrender to the facination of her subject or her research and, like an annoying friend in a museum, continues to make jokes upon viewing each painting ('I mean, I guess you can paint with one ear, am I right?')
New Yorker readers (I am one) who are not much interested in science might find a friend in Ms. Angier as she presents 'boring' material with a wink and a nudge-nudge. But to those with curious minds who purchase a book like this to actually learn a few things, move along.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love her work. She's one of the best Science writers around. Well-informed, presents the info very well. She has a sneaky sense of humor that keeps me chuckling while I learn.Published 1 month ago by Sandy Beach
Entertaining, enlightening, clever. Really terrific narrative that puts much of the science world in a pragmatic easy read. Atoms, molecules, space, energy, evolution.... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Christopher Leach
I agree with other comments that the style of writing can get tedious, overly flowery and full of references and adjectives that go on and on and on. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Caffeinated Consumer
A great book explaining the extremes on earth and space by an excellent and very witty writer.Published 10 months ago by Andrew Loebelson
Excellent book for anyone who was interested in science as a child and had it slowly leached out of them by the public school system. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Jeffrey Fink
Simply the best science book I've read in fifty years! Not only does Natalie Angier explain the mysteries and the mechanics of life and the universe, she has a knack of doing it in... Read morePublished 18 months ago by del schulze