Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Dunk a Doughnut by Len Fisher

In which Fisher describes mildly amusing and unusual applications of scientific thought including the absorption of liquid by cookies and the way sperm swims.

I think the problem with many popular science books is that they are either too dumb and cutesy or two rigorous and boring.  This book isn't difficult to understand, particularly, it's just boring.  I kept wanting to check to make sure that this Len Fisher was the same Len Fisher who wrote Rock, Paper, Scissors because I LOVED that book and was bored to death by this one.  It was the same guy, just a totally different quality of writing in my opinion!

 How to Dunk a Doughnut is a series of almost completely unrelated chapters on unconventional applications of science.  They included dunking cookies, boiling eggs, approximating shopping costs, boomerang flight, catching balls, foam, taste perception and the physics of sex.  There was also an interminable chapter on basic tools. 

I guess I could have done a little research and determined that sports, food and tools are things that are almost completely uninteresting to me.  That leaves foam and sex, neither of which were very exciting chapters.  It must take special effort to write about sex and make it that boring!  To be fair the chapter was called "The Physics of Sex" but pretty much was about sperm mechanics.  Yay.

How to Dunk a Doughnut is what it says it is, the science of everyday life.  It's just that the topics in the book failed to entertain me and the writing didn't really liven it up.  I'm not sure who this book would appeal to.  Maybe someone interested in but unknowledgeable about food science would find those chapters cool.  To enjoy this book I think you would have to be both ignorant and curious which is a combination rarely found in nature.

I can't recommend this book at all.  If you want a better combination of science and entertainment, I suggest reading Rock, Paper, Scissors by Len Fisher, Bonk by Mary Roach, Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan, The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins, or Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams.

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