Take a look up at the stars on a clear night and you get a sense that the universe is vast and untouchable, full of mysteries beyond comprehension. But did you know that the key to unveiling the secrets of the cosmos is as close as the nearest toaster?Read more...
Take a look up at the stars on a clear night and you get a sense that the universe is vast and untouchable, full of mysteries beyond comprehension. But did you know that the key to unveiling the secrets of the cosmos is as close as the nearest toaster?
Our home here on Earth is messy, mutable, and full of humdrum things that we touch and modify without much thought every day. But these familiar surroundings are just the place to look if you're interested in what makes the universe tick. In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski provides the tools to alter the way we see everything around us by linking ordinary objects and occurrences, like popcorn popping, coffee stains, and fridge magnets, to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative medical testing. She guides us through the principles of gases ("Explosions in the kitchen are generally considered a bad idea. But just occasionally a small one can produce something delicious"); gravity (drop some raisins in a bottle of carbonated lemonade and watch the whoosh of bubbles and the dancing raisins at the bottom bumping into each other); size (Czerski explains the action of the water molecules that cause the crime-scene stain left by a puddle of dried coffee); and time (why it takes so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle).
Along the way, she provides answers to vexing questions: How does water travel from the roots of a redwood tree to its crown? How do ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice? Why does milk, when added to tea, look like billowing storm clouds? In an engaging voice at once warm and witty, Czerski shares her stunning breadth of knowledge to lift the veil of familiarity from the ordinary. You may never look at your toaster the same way.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-16
- Reviewer: Staff
In this delightful pop science title, Czerski, a physicist at University College London, shows that understanding how the universe works requires little more than paying attention to patterns and figuring out increasingly refined ways to explain them. She begins her discussion with ordinary popcorn. A quick lesson in ballistic cookingwhy popcorn popsand imagining how an elephant uses its trunk segues into understanding how rockets work. Spinning an egg offers insight into spiral galaxies, and considering bubbles and marine snail snot can reveal how fluids behave. The slosh of a cup of tea grows into a look at earthquakes. Czerskis writing is playful and witty: Londons Tower Bridge is Narnia for engineers, cyclists zoom around a velodrome like demented hamsters on a gigantic wheel, and chapter titles such as Why Dont Ducks Get Cold Feet? and Spoons, Spirals, and Sputnik draw readers into diverseand memorableexplorations of such diverse topics as matter phase changes and why dropped toast tends to land buttered side down. Czerskis accessible explanations share the wonder of experimentation and the pleasure of figuring things out. Its all one big adventure, she writes, because you dont know where it will take you next. Agent: Will Francis, Janklow & Nesbit. (Jan.)