I’m the type of person who forgets everything really quickly, from what I ate for breakfast to what I learned in class the day before. (I didn’t even remember which direction the sun rises from until well into middle school!) Reading about science in my spare time is one of the ways I stay connected to work after I come home, so that I don’t forget too much about my job! It’s fun to build on what I’ve already learned from classes or from reading papers, especially from more anecdotal and historical perspectives. AsapSCIENCE and Escape from the Ivory Tower are two books on my science list that fit this need, and they both had their pros and cons.
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did, simply because I enjoy the ASAPscience Youtube videos A LOT. Like, A LOT A LOT. But the translation of what Mitchell and Greg did to a different media (from video to book) didn’t work for me as well – maybe because I can’t see anyone drawing that picture of the nose? Or because I can’t hear a voice narration? I also feel that I’m over these “random facts” books that intrigued me more as a child – nowadays, if I think of a weird question (like, what makes some corn sweet or not-so-sweet?) I just look up that specific question. However, Mitchell and Greg do organize the book into different sections, such as the section on “Bad Habits” which explain why people lie or procrastinate. Overall, I enjoyed it, but I’ll stick to the videos from now on. (Also, CANADIANS WOOHOO!! 🍁)
As a public health scientist, I’m very much interested in the ability to translate my work into something that can help the general population. This book aims to teach scientists about science communication, and it does quite a good job at that. A few pages in and I’m already super impressed by this book because Donald Kennedy – former editor-in-chief of Science – wrote the foreword. The book is also full of tips-and-tricks boxes, pictures, and tables for those who want to skim through. I was also amused by how “scientists” and “journalists” are displayed almost like different beasts on Discovery channel, as exemplified by the following passage:
Scientists, as a breed, seem genetically incapable of using simple language when complex jargon will do. Why talk about an animal’s form and structure when you can just say morphology?
If you want to watch a journalist lean forward, remember the magic words, “Let me tell you a story…”
However, I do dislike the cover and the title of this book. At first, I found both to be very clever an humorous, but they don’t match the significance or the urgency of the content. Escape from the Ivory Tower has the potential to be a must-read reference for all graduate students who are doing scientific research, but I’m sure few would take it seriously from just the packaging.
And I’ll end with another quote that I liked:
Scientists love to erase themselves. […] And while science journalists have managed to tell a few amazing stories starring molecules, potatoes, and other nonhumans, good storytelling usually requires people in the lead roles.
Do you like science books?
If so, what do you like to see in your science books?
(I like pictures and history!)