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Sciencia: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Astronomy for All (Wooden Books) Hardcover – October 25, 2011
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About the Author
Matthew Watkins, Ph.D. is a musician and mathematician. He lives in England. Matt Tweed is an artist and musician. He lives in England. Burkard Polster is a professor of mathematics at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Gerard Cheshire is is a professional science writer. He lives in England. Moff Betts, M.D. lives and practices medicine in Wales.
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After this, I think the collection loses its way, veering away from the concept that made "Quadrivium" so good. The next book, "Useful Mathematical & Physical Formulae", is really more of an appendix than a book -- if you don't already know the formulas in question, you won't be left any wiser about where they come from. Unlike "Q.E.D.", it doesn't expand the reader's mind by bringing the reader on a journey, but simply bombards the reader with a collection of equations -- much like the equation handouts that my high school physics teacher used to hand out before tests.
Another thing that reminded me of school are the illustrations. The illustrations in "Q.E.D." and all of the books collected in "Quadrivium" are detailed and serious, leaving one with a sense of awe and beauty. The illustrations in "Useful Mathematical & Physical Formulae" and the following books are, to a greater or lesser extent (the "Evolution" book has the fewest) full of cartoon figures, wizards, and so on, which trivialize the information and deflate any sense of awe and wonders.
The books that follow feel, more or less, like condensed versions of high school textbooks. They mostly present the mainstream way that these subjects are taught and use lots and lots of specialist jargon. The worst of them, "Essential Elements", is tedious to read (and has lots of jargon in italics, just like high school chemistry textbooks, as well as cartoony illustrations). The best of them, "Evolution", isn't so much tedious as really, really densely packed and full of specialist terminology and phrases you'd think came from a conference paper (though it seems well-organized and has mostly good illustrations).
I think that the authors of the last four books went overboard by cramming in as much specialist terminology as they did. Randall Munroe, with his recent book "Thing Explainer" (which explains complicated concepts using only the most common 1000 words in the English language) proved that it's unnecessary. Now, I don't think they needed to go as far as Munroe did, but I do think that the whole concept of the last four books (which seems to have been to create condensed, coffee-table versions of high school textbooks) was misguided.
What I would have appreciated instead is a continuation of the concept started in "Quadrivium" and continued in "Q.E.D." -- a journey through overlooked but easy-to-grasp mathematic relationships that explain a great deal of the major themes of how our world works, instead of getting bogged down in jargon and small details. I'll give an example: there's a chart of electron orbitals "from a quantum perspective" in the book's appendix (p.389). I've seen the very same figures (I believe they're called "spherical harmonics") used to explain solar system and galaxy formation, used in sound recording (to explain XY and mid-side microphone placement techniques), in antenna arrays for long-range radio-wave broadcasting ("beamforming"), and in ocarinas when you blow into them hard instead of softly (see p.4 of Daniel A. Russell's paper "Basketballs as Spherical Acoustic Cavities" to see a diagram that looks just like the electron orbitals, and Jared Kearns' "Hole Size in a Spherical Resonator"). It also seems quite probable that the eidophone, chladni plates, cymatics and other visual manifestations of sound (a major topic in the "Quadrivium" collection's "Harmonograph" book) are partial 2D visualizations of those same 3D electron patterns (spherical harmonics). The Wikipedia article "Vibrations of a circular membrane" suggests as much. And cymatics is now being used to study dolphin language. There's probably a whole book that could be made just about this one topic, actually. I hope that if Wooden Books decides to publish another collection like this, they'll pick up where "Quadrivium" and "Q.E.D." left off, and write about the awe-inspiring, often-overlooked patterns that shape the world we live in (the secret connections that the more thoughtful academics are aware of, but that are rarely explained to the public), rather than attempt to make concise high school textbooks.
There's not much like this out there. If the illustrations that were lacking could be cleaned up/redone in a better manner, I'd have no problem with this book. I haven't the heart to give it a four though, as it's very useful a guide. I'd recommend this to anyone.
It's around 400 pages of beautiful, wonderful natural science and math. :)
I highly recommend all three of these compilations: Sciencia, Quadrivium, and Designa!