This is one of my favorite types of book- short, brief articles with a question and answer format on science, engineering or technical topics.
The Good Stuff:
* The questions are all over the map and have a nice variety. Everything from monkeys holding hands to the technology of a ball point pen.
* On those questions where I already knew the answer, the book's information seemed accurate and reliable. All the other answers given seemed plausible, although I didn't verify any of them.
* There is some reasonable level of organization, with topics broadly grouped by category.
* The book includes a fairly comprehensive index, so you have a good chance of finding a particular article or topic.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
* The style of many of the articles is a bit dry. Those of you familiar with "The Straight Dope" format will be disappointed (or relieved) to find none of the humor or snarky comments that made Cecil Adams an American tradition.
* Sources: This is my biggest problem with the book. For a great many of the articles, you do not know the qualifications of the author of the response. In some cases, the author will be identified by affiliation- (e.g. Simon Iverson, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia). OK, Simon may be the janitor in the department, but there is some level of credibility of the man's credentials.
Most of the responses however have sources with no affiliation (e.g. Simon Langley, West Yorkshire, UK). Not to cast any aspersions on Mr. Langley, but how do I know that he has any real expertise on Bic ballpoint pens and is not just giving us an opinion?
Jon Richfield of Somerset West, South Africa is a contributor of a significant number of responses, but other than an author's note that his very existence has been questioned, no mention at all of Mr. Richfield's credentials to answer questions from nutrition to athletic performance.
I admit to being overly sensitive to the sourcing problem, but just one of my quirks. My problem is that I have a very good memory for things that I read, and I am very careful not to read opinions disguised as facts. I hate to find myself quoting nonsense as scientific fact.
If that doesn't bother you, then you will enjoy the book. If it does, you will always be reading with a question in your mind.
What a piece of junk. At least the title is correct "tantalizing science questions". If they described the answers as "tantalizing" or "science" it would be a complete lie.
The book reads like you are browsing an internet forum (because that's all this is an internet forum turned into a book), complete with unqualified strangers dropping in to make unscientific answers to the questions. Every answer is taken at face value with no regard to the scientific method and every regard to "in my experience", "a friend told me", etc.
Most of the time the question isn't even answered, just some e-nerd ranting about a semi-related subject but avoiding the actual question. Even when it is answered, the next answer directly contradicts the first answer so you are left worse off than when you started.
I bought this book as a bathroom book, just something to read for fun when I had some downtime in my day. It didn't even work in that role.