Those of us who have written off science as too dull, geeky, or difficult are about to have our minds changed by National Book Award finalist and Pulitzer Prizewinning New York Times journalist Natalie Angier. A passionate polemic against the scientific illiteracy permeating American society, The Canon offers a refresher course in the fundamentals of five "hard" sciences, presenting them in an exuberant, accessible style that is neither didactic nor dumbed down. Angier wins us over, not with an appeal to our better nature (science, like broccoli, is good for us) but with the promise of a fun-filled excursion -- a promise she fulfills in spades! Enlivened with humor and colorful real-world examples, here -- at last -- is a playful reminder that science is not so much a "bunch of facts" as a way of seeing the world.
… the book is worth reading not only as a science lesson, but also as a rhapsodic personal essay from one of the great science writers of our time -- an eminence whose love of snotty cells and crazy creatures may be second only to her love of language.
The Washington Post
The Canon is never dull or obscure, and despite the distracting wordplay, most of Angier’s explanations are anything but superficial. She conveys the real substance of field after field, without distortion or dumbing down, and often her sensual descriptions (of the interior of a cell, a star or the Earth, for instance) leave the reader with images both vivid and useful. The Canon is an excellent introduction (or refresher) to the beautiful basics of science, and I hope it is widely read. It could make the country smarter.
The New York Times
Science is underappreciated and undervalued in a world that thrives on it. Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter Angier sets out to bring the basics of hard science (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) into listeners' everyday lives. Rather than returning to the doldrums of a high school science class, she shows listeners where and how science is happening in everything we do. Through her discussions with scientists and her use of analogies, she makes the complex accessible. Doukas delivers her performance in an energetic, soft and welcoming voice. She emphasizes and paces so as not to overload her listeners as well as to bring home Angier's points. Doukas's tone hints of excitement but also sympathy for those listeners who may appreciate science but who have a bit of angst for learning about it. With over 13 hours of listening, though, this audiobook is best processed in small chunks. Angier covers a lot in each chapter, but trying to grasp it all may take repeated listening. Simultaneous release with the Houghton Mifflin hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 8). (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In the introductory essay of this exuberant book, Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Angier corrects two common misapprehensions about science. First, forget the "nerdy" image—science is fun, born of a child's innate curiosity. Second, it's not just for the intellectual elite—everybody doesscience, whether solving problems or just making observations. Thus, Angier sets out to depict the joys of science and to present them as something in which we all can participate. Chapters explore essential principles in the fields of statistics and probabilities, measurements and calibration, evolutionary and molecular biology, physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy. She writes with such verve, humor, and warmth that even readers who may have flunked any of those subjects in high school will still be willing to give them a second chance. Also, she quotes frequently from interviews that she conducted with dozens of scientists, humanizing the work that they do. The style is so lively that the more serious goal of fostering public science literacy is easily reached. A similar book is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Both are well worth reading. For all libraries.
Gregg Sapp Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Decrying smug scientific illiteracy, New York Times science writer Angier (Woman, 1999, etc.) deftly sets forth the universally accepted principles underlying basic science that everyone should understand. This bestselling author's love of words is writ large here. Hardly a page goes by without an internal rhyme ("sirs and madams we're all made of atoms"), or an unexpected adjective (a gecko with a nose of "Necco pink"), or a blunt descriptor (the living cell is squishy like snot) that sets up a what-will-she-say-next? tease. A snappy style is simply her way of making sure we pay attention as Angier presents chapters on thinking scientifically, probability, scales of measurement, physics, chemistry, evolution, molecular biology, geology and astronomy, all of them liberally laced with juicy quotes from the powerhouses she's interviewed. The chapter on evolution alone is worth it, providing ample evidence to confront creationists and their intelligent-design offspring. Against the intelligent-designers' argument of "irreducible complexity"-the idea that, for example, the intricate blood-clotting mechanism found in vertebrates is just too complex to have evolved through "clunky" natural selection-she places biologist Kenneth Miller's analysis of the far cruder and simpler clotting process in invertebrates: "exactly the kind of ‘imperfect and simple' system that Darwin regarded as a starting point for evolution." Dentists will love the chapter on molecular biology, which begins with a description of the scrupulous dental hygiene Angier practices as part of her never-ending battle against the oral bacteria assaulting tooth enamel. Such graphic, homely examples serve as springboards for thedeeper stuff, whether it's the genetic code or the ever-expanding universe. She even makes it clear why it's hard to get your arms around the idea that galaxies are not exploding outward into space, but that space itself is stretched. Not everything is as easy as pie (or pi) to grasp, and therein lies the excitement and challenge of science, masterfully conveyed here.
"Every sentence sparkles with wit and charm. . . it all adds up to an intoxicating cocktail of fine science writing."Richard Dawkins
"Natalie Angier provides a masterful, authoritative synthesis of the state of knowledge across the entire scientific landscape."Howard Gardner, Harvard University, author of Five Minds for the Future and Frames of Mind
"An essential experience . . . How dare she write so artfully, explain so brilliantly, rendering us scientists simultaneously proud and inarticulate!"Leon Lederman, Nobel laureate
"Every single sentence . . . sparkles with enough intelligence and wit to delight science-phobes and science-philes alike. I loved it!"Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Bait and Switch and Nickel and Dimed
"Natalie Angier makes planets and particles sexy. . .She turns guys with lab coats and pocket protectors into Daniel Craig."Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
"Exuberant . . . She writes with such verve, humor, and warmth." Library Journal Starred
"This bestselling author's love of words is writ large here . . . the excitement and challenge of science [is] masterfully conveyed." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"Angier is a nimble stylist with a playful sense of alliteration and consonance."Ben Dickinson Elle
"An excellent introduction (or refresher) to the beautiful basics of science, and I hope it is widely read."Steven Pinker The New York Times Book Review