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Deccan Herald » Book Reviews » Full Story

Simplified science for the common man

The two books attempt to bring science closer to the layman by simplifying scientific concepts.

Icons from the World of Science;
S Ananthanarayanan;
Puffin Books;
pp 138, Rs 175

Fireside Science;
E Ray Lankester;
New Delhi: Rupa pp 160, Rs 150

Did you know that J C Bose actually went to study medicine and because of health problems quit to study physical sciences? or that at the age of thirteen Ramanujam had mastered the entire Loney trigonometry which would do an undergraduate proud? or that C V Raman at the age of eleven had graduated in Physics and English? For those who did not know these facts, there’s more in Icons from the World of Science.

A book that briefly describes the life and works of ten great scientists of the world, it includes features on J C Bose, mathematician S Ramanujam, C V Raman, Meghnad Saha, S Chandrasekhar, S N Bose, Homi Bhabha, Hargobind Khorana, E C George Sudarshan and Jayant Narlikar.

Written in a simple language the book makes for an easy and breezy reading. The facts that have been included make the reader feel proud that so many great science minds belonged to India. The illustrations add to the familiarisation attempt of the author and the book in toto makes for a good read.

On the ‘simplifying science’ end is yet another book Fireside Science. Probably the idea behind writing the book must have been to make science so easy that one can read and understand its concepts while relaxing by the fireside. How far it serves the purpose is really a big question.

The author has described in great detail everything from the protoplasm and Darwin’s theory of evolution to the elephant, whale, sleep and laughter. Almost all descriptions are supported by suitable illustrations wherever possible and an additional index at the end.

But what makes parts of the book tough on the reader is that the author has chosen to write very long sentences. Check this sample as it appears on page 13 : “When we say that life and its most tremendous outcome - the mind of man - are to be studied and their gradual development traced as part of the orderly unfolding of natural processes, we are no whit less reverent, in no degree less impressed by the immensity and mystery of the universe, than those who, with happy and obstinate adherence to primitive conceptions, think that they can explain things by calling up vital essences and wandering spirits.” One would not think that the summary of the sentence above could really be understood by the fireside.

Besides, the inclusion of page numbers 135 after page 144 and the repetition of page 145 and 146 causes a great deal of discontinuity in reading. Those who don’t mind the small errata and can read real paragraph sized sentences by the fireside, go for it, the book is for you.

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