Check it out: Quick facts that edify, not fluster

By Jan Johnston, Columbian book reviewer

Published:

 
photoJan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at readingforfun@fvrl.org.
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Review

“Science in Seconds: 200 Key Concepts Explained in an Instant”

By Hazel Muir; Quercus, 415 pages

The older I get, the more I realize just how much information is out there, and just how impossible it is to take it all in. When I was a kid, lots of things interested me, and I felt that there was an endless supply of hours in which to absorb everything that I wanted to know. Fast forward several decades, and now, instead of limitless time ahead of me for exploration and contemplation, I can barely keep up with current events. Information doesn't just flow into my life; it cascades over me like a cataract.

Yet, I still want to know about so much. How do I do this without filling up too quickly? Go on an information diet by taking small bites -- or bytes -- depending on the medium. And it just happens that "Science in Seconds" by Hazel Muir satisfies without causing brain indigestion. OK, I'm getting a little crazy with the metaphors here, so forgive me. But if you like science -- yet you're feeling "over-informed" in all areas of your life -- "200 Key Concepts Explained in an Instant" just might be the perfect snack for always curious but exhausted gray matter.

For instance, I have often heard the terms "nuclear fission" and "nuclear fusion." And honestly, I really don't want to know a lot about these topics because I think my brain just might explode. But a simple, one-page explanation is ideal, and page 98 does the trick. Concerned that your weary gray matter won't be able to handle "anti-matter" and "dark matter"? No need to worry: pages 88 and 360 will enlighten without clobbering overworked brain cells. How about geomagnetism, isotopes, quantum mechanics, and wormholes? They're all there, as well as topics in anatomy and physiology, biology, spaceflight, and information technology.

Learning is a wonderful thing, but sometimes, as in other areas of life, moderation is the key. If a limited approach sounds like a good idea to you, consider checking out this week's book.