I have said that I would rarely review a new book – I figure they are pretty well covered by others. But here I have to make another exception, as I did last week for The Miracle, about the economic rise of Asia and the people behind it (http://hooversworld.com/archives/3084?day=Tuesday).
The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive by John Graham-Cumming is one sweet treat for a curious person like me. It is published by the great computer book publisher O’Reilly – any company which publishes a book called “Mind Hacks” has to be pretty original, and this new one is no exception. The Geek Atlas is not an atlas and it’s not just for geeks.
The Geek Atlas lists 128 different places where you can learn about science, ranging from science and technology museums to fascinating old canal locks and amazing dams and observatories. Despite a heavy dose of locations in the UK and the US, the book includes a few scattered around Europe and Asia. Each entry tells you the story of the place, and gets you excited about going there.
A surprising number of the places were unknown to me. Many of them are not what you would expect. How about going to the world’s tallest inhabited building, in Taiwan, to see the 600+ ton golden ball at the top that swings like a pendulum in storms and quakes to help the 101-floor building stand straight? Many tall buildings have a pendulum like this, but no others have theirs on display at the 90th floor!
But just as cool, each story is followed by a little one or two page science lesson related to the topic at hand. It has been a long time since I have had such an easy and fun time understanding the different forms of carbon (from pencil leads to diamonds), how super colliders spin strange quarks, DNA sequencing, or how the speed of light was first measured. Graham-Cumming really knows how to make it all understandable. And these short entries are bite-sized for someone with a short attention span – like me.
If you have any kids around the house interested in this kind of stuff, or are a kid yourself, run out and get this book!