File Size: 1469 KB
Print Length: 306 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 3, 2008)
Publication Date: April 3, 2008
As such, Angier's treatment is neither thorough nor systematic, and many key matters in the "the canon" recieve little or no mention. Within other words, the exact level is well below university technology courses, and perhaps nearer to middle-school level. Despite these limitations, Angier still handles to convey quite a lot of information, and she does it reliably. I even learned some things, despite having a strong technology background. Moreover, I thought the earlier chapters working with scientific methodology, data, etc. were a nice touch.
That's the positive. The biggest negative is that Angier's writing style is excessively cutesy and flowery due to the girl incessant use of analogies, metaphors, and jokes. I found the analogies and metaphors to be more distracting than helpful, and I found the comedies to be more corny than funny. She was overzealous and should have recognized that adult readers of a book like this will already be considering science, so she needed to just just get the facts.
Thinking of all of this, perhaps I will still recommend this book to readers with a limited science backdrop, particularly readers who avoid mind the writing style (I suggest reading some samples of the text message to guage that). But for everyone else, this may be a book to miss. Some alternatives to consider are as follows (in roughly increasing order of sophistication):
- Science Explained: The field of Science in Everyday Life (Henry Holt Reference Book)
- Normal Science: Bridging the Distance, 5e
- The Age of Science: What Scientists Learned in the Twentieth Century
- Magic Universe: A Grand Trip of Modern Science
- Scientific American: Science Table Reference
- The Technological Companion: Exploring the Physical World with Facts, Figures, and Formulas (Wiley Popular Science)
- The Excursion of Science , Natalie Angier can definitely write interestingly about science facts. I feel that if she turns her awareness of biographies of living scientists, the results will be wonderful. But the buzz for this book is undeserved.
The Canon is filled with enthusiasm, bubbling the entire, brilliant puns and autobiographic images--components that make a popular human-interest magazine article or work of fiction. What makes up for in style and earnest good intentions, it lacks in content and clarity. The widely-praised opening chapters on the nature of scientific thinking, while giving lips service to the unusual concept of "control", never actually clarify the characteristics of critical inquiry, the detective-story misdirection and pitfalls and causes of proceeding systematically and questioning continuously. Angier attempts to make use of the board game of Mastermind as a metaphor for technology, but leaves the overwhelming impression that she just doesn't get Mastermind, is driven to tears by it, and doesn't get how people do real science, either. Far better it might have been to tell an actual story of scientists getting things wrong first, then getting them more almost right later, in each chapter. The sparse sponge of facts amid its 264 pages of anecdote and symbolism are largely out of context of each other, and completely out of context of the interesting story of how they were discovered. For example, even if you leave out the discovery of quantum mechanics, she has missed the chance to clarify its contacts with acoustics and spectroscopy.
I had been going to give The Canon higher scars for giving information without disinformation, and then the complete paragraph of disinformation showed up, blaming the combustion of meteors on friction (air friction cools them--it's the shock wave of compressed air before them that heats them until a number of them are slowed enough to achieve the ground extremely cold) induced by the speed at which they zip around the photo voltaic system (the earth's the law of gravity is the key accelerator of their falls).
I'm recommending that anybody who is considering of buying The Canon instead get Asimov's New Explained Science, or any similar book by Isaac Asimov or Carl Sagan. Yes, those books are dated, but any publication of science is dated, because science doesn't stay still. In the quick months because the Canon's distribution, evidence for successful digital photography of planets of other stars has emerged.
Natalie Angier's The Canon units out to deliver a basic course in what all non-scientists should know about science. It gives a catalog of facts wrapped in rhapsodic words. But it fails to deliver science itself, its pitfalls and corrupting impacts, and, most of all, its painstaking, open, social methods for self-correction and purification. An understanding of those processes is critical to every citizen's informed judgment.
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