Book: Marcus Chown - We need to talk about Kelvin

By admin
28 January 2011

For entertainment value this book never lets the reader down. It takes everyday things and explores the science behind them.

So, for example, the partial reflection of our faces through a night-time window leads to an explanation of the theory of light.

Later we learn about the nature of atoms and heat, thermodynamics and cosmology. Why, the author asks, is the night sky black when it should be a carpet of stars?

The Kelvin, by the way, is a unit of measurement for temperature, worked out by Lord Kelvin in the 19th century.

The nice thing about this book is the way it draws on historical information about the people behind key scientific breakthroughs, which makes it all so much more human and easy to grasp.

The last chapter deals with aliens, a delightfully open-ended way to leave a scientific discussion.

Final verdict: this is a great read even if you’re not a science boffin.

We need to talk about Kelvin by Marcus Chown

Faber and Faber, R130

Rating: 4/5

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