Tag Archive: books

Book Review: Runners by Sharon Sant

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Runners Publisher: Immanion Summary: An engrossing, and thought-provoking read. Set in the wreck of a future dystopian England, Runners begins with teenage Elijah and a band of other tearaways (or Runners) struggling to get by in the ruins of an old house. The group dynamic, with its varied mix of personalities and ages, is fascinating from the off and the snippets of information concerning how the novel’s world came to be such a mess are intriguing to say the least. Of course, the group’s situation quickly becomes about more than merely feeding themselves as Elijah and his friends find themselves stuck in a dismal situation engineered in no small part by the sinister Mr Braithwaite. On top of this, a chance discovery in a mysterious woodland catapults them right into the heart of an even bigger menace; a superb representation of a theorized quantum phenomenon, and, by the end of the book, the numerous plot threads really do intertwine beautifully. …

Twitter Q and A: David Bradley

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This week the wonderful Feed My Reads hosted a Twitter Q and A with renowned science journalist and author, David Bradley. Using #DBQuestions, twitter users were able to ask David absolutely anything they wanted. This seemed like so much fun that Unpopular Science just had to get involved! So, below are the fiendish questions users asked, as well as David’s insightful answers. @HenryGeeBooks: What gets you up in the morning? DB: Usually, a dig in the ribs from my wife expecting a cup of tea and the dulcet tones of Humphrys et al with the news headlines on the radio. And, of course, the urge to share the scientific discoveries I come across in as informative and entertaining way as I can. Oh, and our labrador always needs her breakfast and an exit to her morning constitutional. @Charli_TAW: Have you always wanted to be writer? DB: Hah, not at all. I always wanted to be a marine biologist and then a physicist, and then a guitar god …

‘I don’t know’: why science and fiction get on so well

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I don’t know.’ This is the default position of science. If you ask any half-decent physicist how the universe came in to being, they will say ‘I don’t know but here are some theories.’ Likewise, if you ask any biologist what colour a baby archaeopteryx was, they will probably say ‘I don’t know, but I can speculate.’ The lack of absolutes is what makes science great and what makes the scientific process so encompassing and so (mostly) open-minded. By a happy coincidence, it also leaves a lot of mystery and a lot of room for guess work, and this is where our good friend fiction comes in … Because our scientific understanding is far from complete, authors can take a scientific concept, and flesh it out however they want. In 1963 a physicist named Hugh Everett published a new theorem, The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. His radical new idea proposed that, thanks to some incredibly clever calculations and observations, …

Book Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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The Rithmatist Author: Brandon Sanderson Published: 23rd May 2013 Publisher: Orion Summary: Mountains of magical, mathematical mayhem. Maths. For so many school-goers, such a difficult subject to get to grips with. If only there was a way to make it more exciting. Maybe with laser beams, or explosions perhaps, or, even better, what if your geometric diagrams came to life to do battle with those of other students? Well, in New York Times-bestselling author Brandon Sanderson’s young adult novel, The Rithmatist, that is exactly what does occur in the classrooms of Armedius Academy. Unfortunately for the book’s protagonist, Joel, however, he’s strictly forbidden from studying the magical, mathematical art  he finds so alluring. Joel is the son of a lowly, deceased chalk-maker, and is only granted attendance to the prestigious Academy because his father and the principal were such close friends. Sadly, attendance is not enough to allow Joel into the exclusive Rithmatic lectures he so desperately wants to be a …

Book Review: Paradox Child

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Paradox Child Author: Jane Yates Published: 6th June 2013 Publisher: Amazon Summary: A debut which confirms Yates’ creative talent Lilly is the eponymous Paradox Child. Her life is to be changed completely by the dark secret her family holds – they are able to travel back in time. This novel for young adults marries exploration of the possibility of time travel, with elements of fantasy and historical fiction. Set in Oxford in the 1980s, a young woman knows she’s part of a slightly different family. They keep themselves to themselves. She has few friends at school and tries to keep her head down. She enjoys walking the family dogs, growing food in the garden and doing spells with her mother and grandmother. The spells she, her mother Rose and her grandmother Iris perform were passed down from older generations of women named after flowers. The disappearance of her mother means Lilly has to be told the family secret a little …

Phobias and society

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I’m sure all of us are a little afraid of something; be it something small, something big or even something exceptionally common. Take Arachnophobia for example: research shows that 50% of all women in the US suffer from the fear of spiders, and it’s the most common phobia in the UK. However, not one species of native UK spider is classified as deadly. So we have to ask ourselves, in general, are phobias rational or irrational? It was Walter Bradford Cannon who first coined the term ‘fight or flight’. Cannon was a physiologist who studied the response of animals when faced with an immediate threat. As well as acceleration of heart rate, increased breathing and loss of peripheral vision, the body releases a series of hormones (including adrenaline and noradrenaline) to prepare itself for danger. Now, as humans, we’ve evolved from our prehistoric roots; we no longer face the terrible dangers of times past, yet we still undergo that same fight or flight …

Scientists in fiction: the good, the bad and the poorly represented

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Science and scientists are a huge part of our society and, perfectly reasonably, this means that a good number of men and women in white have had starring roles in our fiction. Be it in books, comics, or on the silver screen, there really are a vast array of fictional scientists out there influencing how people perceive science-types and, by extension, the disciplines they devote their lives to. In this post, I discuss why I’m not entirely comfortable with some of the ways scientists have been represented in recent years, and speculate wildly over some of the problems Hollywood et al may be causing. To put it straight out there, my major gripe with science in fiction is what I like to refer to as ‘the polarisation of fictional scientists trend’. By this I essentially mean that, more often than not, a fictional scientist is either the saint-like expert who is ignored as he/she warns of impending disaster or doom (think Dennis …

Book Review: Deceived Wisdom

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Deceived Wisdom Author: David Bradley Published: 8 November 2012 Publisher: Elliot and Thompson Summary: Warm and incredibly insightful – a literary gift. Several weeks ago I provided a brief round up of what I considered to be some of the most common scientific misconceptions. But, like all good ideas, it seems that I was beaten to the literary punch by Professor David Bradley, who has recently written an entire book on the subject, entitled ‘Deceived Wisdom: Why What You Thought Was Right Was Wrong’. What is immediately evident from a casual perusal of the contents page is the sheer breadth of topics that Bradley has chosen to cover. Everything from dietary deceptions to computer hacking is placed beneath the cold light of his empirical lens, meaning that every reader is likely to find his or her own topics of personal interest. I was wearing a particularly wry smile whilst reading the chapter on the fallacy of ‘cooling down with a …

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