Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brian Clegg

Brian Clegg holds a physics degree from Cambridge and has written regular columns, features, and reviews for numerous magazines. His most recent book is Before the Big Bang. He has written eight other science titles, including Ecologic, The Global Warming Survival Kit (Doubleday), and Upgrade Me (St. Martin’s Press). His book A Brief History of Infinity reached #1 on Amazon in Popular Science (General) and Popular Maths, staying at #1 for ten further weeks.

A week ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I’m usually in the middle of reading a science book for the site, but I like to have a fiction book on the go as well, to get some balance.

At the moment I’m revisiting an old favorite, The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Of course there’s her familiar expertise with the Cornish countryside, but I particularly love the way she uses the vehicle of a drug that sends the mind back in time to integrate a historical plot with a present day one. Along with the protagonist, we feel that the historical world is increasingly more real than the modern day segments – it’s immersive in a way that a straight historical novel rarely is. Du Maurier also manages to rack up the tension, as the dangers and side effects of the drug become more apparent. Not a jolly read, but engrossing.

I’m also reading a new science book, We Need to Talk about Kelvin, by Marcus Chown. If I’m honest, I don’t like the title, which sounds painfully forced, but I’m certainly not put off by it, as I know Marcus has a great talent for making science approachable. In this book he looks at what everyday things tell us about the universe. Starting from small observations – the heat of the Sun on your face, a reflection in a window, the way things break – he plunges into the science behind the concept. Often the most simple of ideas, like that reflection in a shop window, has behind it the most bizarre and fascinating scientific phenomena. What’s particularly appealing is that this isn’t detached, knowledge-for-the-sake-of-it science – it has a direct connection to the everyday world, yet at the same time it’s often startling and always entertaining.
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--Marshal Zeringue