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Malini Bose

FROM BUGS TO BLACK HOLES: DISCOVERIES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
By Shobhit Mahajan
Puffin Books, Delhi, India, 2005, pp. 150, Rs. 175.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 11 November 2005

From Bugs to Black Holes by Physics and Astrophysics Professor, Shobhit Mahajan is a must-read for people of all age groups – science lovers or not. This non-fictional book deals with twenty concepts of science and astronomy. If anyone begins to read it thinking that one can flip through 150 pages of just another science book, one would be sadly mistaken.   Science has never been made so interesting. This easy-to-read book is a welcome break from the monotony of school textbooks. It gives a lot of information with subtle humour and fascinating facts are cleverly scattered throughout. The data is beautifully framed, and is clear and succinct. Detailed explanations make it simple for even young children to comprehend.   The book basically scrutinizes the discoveries and inventions made through the years and which affect our lives today. The discovery of Vaccinations, Archimedes’ Principle, invention of the Computer and X-rays are just a few of the topics that the book covers. It explores the lives of the scientists to whom we owe these discoveries. It tells us what motivated these great men and women. For instance, we all know that Archimedes deciphered the puzzle about the floatation of solids in the bathtub. How many of us know that he did so while trying to deduce whether the crown of King Hieron of Syracuse was made of pure gold or not! Or that John Dalton who formulated the Atomic Theory established his own school at the age of twelve?   Those of you who have suffered the sheer agony of working out logarithms would be happy to know that Charles Babbage invented the computer solely to solve his logarithm problems. If it were not for him, we would not have log tables to consult!   The chapters are full of history – history that enables us to understand the inventions better. The invention of the smallpox vaccine by the British Edward Jenner was considered to be such a breakthrough that Napoleon released some British POWs on the request of Jenner! Wristwatches were invented during World War I because the soldiers realized that it was inconvenient to pull out watches from their pockets when surrounded by enemy fire. Conflicts of scientists such as Copernicus and Darwin with the Church are subtly explained.   The book contains information in boxes that automatically attract the attention of the reader. Self-explanatory diagrams about the steam pump and electric circuits are very helpful. The ...


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