TITLE: Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
AUTHOR: Helen Czerski
DATE PUBLISHED: 2016
In the author's own words:
"this book is about linking the little things we see every day with the big world we live in. It's a romp through the physical world, showing how playing with things like popcorn, coffee stains and refrigerator magnets can shed light on Scott's expeditions, medical tests and solving out future energy needs."
This book is definitely a "romp" through the physical world, managing to be entertaining, energetic, accessible and educational at the same time, without bogging the reader down with too much formal detail, lengthy explanations or equations.
Czerski begins each chapter with something small and familiar that we will have seen many times but may never have thought about, and uses it to explain the relevant fascinating physics phenomenon. By the end of each chapter, the reader will see the same patterns explaining some of the most important science and technology of our time. This book provides a good deal of basic general knowledge and shows how physics laws we observe on Earth are applicable universally.
Czerski has a chatty, informal style of writing interspersed with personal anecdotes she usually uses to make a relevant point (which I didn't find as annoying as the ubiquitous author interviews and fashion commentary found in other books). Each chapter covers a theme or physics law (e.g. waves, electromagnetism, surface tension, gravity) and then discusses several useful, common or interesting real-world applications in bite-sized chunks to demonstrate the concept - everything from popcorn, fluorescent scorpions, floating eggs, toast, sloshing tea, bubbles, mail rockets, elephant trunks, steam locomotives, candles, ocean and air currents to Sputnik, the Hubble Telescope, and wi-fi etc. I found her inclusion of experiments that anyone can do at home (e.g. all the egg experiments, the raisins in the fizzy bottle, pH indicator cabbage and the toast experiment) to be a nice addition to a general physics popular science book.
Czerski has an infectious passion for physics. While her explanations aren't terribly detailed; they are accessible, entertaining, understandable, not overly simplified, and extremely fascinating. The examples she chooses are also different - I doubt readers will look at their toasters, tea or eggs in quite the same way again!
I found Storm in a Teacup made for an enjoyable reading experience, providing information that was new to me about how and why ordinary "stuff", and ultimately, the world works.
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