Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weighing the Soul by Len Fisher

This book is for adults who still ask "why?", and "how does it work?", and like to learn a little something every now and then.

From the cover notes:
"In this witty, insightful and engaging book, scientist and broadcaster Len Fisher reveals why common sense can be the biggest enemy of good science as he takes us on a tour from one American doctor's attempts to weigh the departing human soul, via alchemy, frogs' legs, lightning rods, polaroid sunglasses, the structure of DNA, Frankenstein's monster and the dimensions of Hell, to the necessary, but common sense-defying, mysteries of modern science."

And from the author's introduction:
"This book tells the stories of scientist whose ideas appeared bizarre, peculiar or downright daft to their and common sense often don't mix...Those who proposed bizarre-sounding ideas were often forced to do so after recognising that the accepted wisdom, or 'common sense', of their era was simply insufficient to understand what was going on...This book traces the route of the procession trought the stories of those who forced the changes, and shows how many of their ideas, which seemed to be so at odds with the common sense of the times, are now used by scientists to understand and tackle everyday problems."

The cover notes were enough for me to rescue this book from the 'bargain bin' and take it home. I, quite simply, love to learn, and thought that the subject matter sounded fascinating.

You don't need to know a lot about science to enjoy this book, but you should be interested in the subject matter. Recommended also for history buffs; Fisher has researched thoroughly to ensure that his stories of scientists past are grounded in reliable documents such as original diaries, papers and notes.

A very interesting read that you can pick up, and put down, as the mood strikes.

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