The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science

50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists
306p. 978-0-76115-687-1.
Gr 5—10—Perhaps picking up on a trend started by Conn and Hal Iggulden's The Dangerous Book for Boys (Collins, 2007), this volume features a sensational title and lurid, retro cover art that might suggest a shallow and gimmicky package, once cracked. It's not. Instead, the content is solid and compelling. The premise is that all of humankind's greatest milestones in science and engineering have entailed risks and courage on the part of the innovators. Starting with Stone Age tools and ending with a Hadron Collider, each chapter details a historic leap forward in scientific understanding and explains what the potential downsides of those discoveries were. Potential catastrophic consequences include persecution for heresy, the very real risks of self-injury or death in the process of discovery, and the reality that almost every beneficial scientific discovery can also be tapped to create efficient means for humans to kill one another. As such, it's an illuminating survey. Unfortunately, kids who see the cover urging them to "try these experiments at home" and listing them as "smashing atoms, making gunpowder, firing rockets, and raising the dead," might be a little disappointed when the actual "experiments" turn out to be tamer—and sometimes lamer—analogous demonstrations of the concepts put forth in each chapter.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
This engaging title challenges readers to follow a timeline of scientific discovery, first by learning and then by doing. From the Stone Age and the creation of tools to the present-day study of the Big Bang theory, this thorough introduction presents the whys, whos, and hows of innovation, followed by scientific experiments for hands-on learning. Budding scientists will enjoy this clever offering.

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