Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump by Sandra Hempel

book cover

The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump:
John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera
by Sandra Hempel

ISBN-13: 9780520250499
Hardback: 331 pages
Publisher: University of California Press
Released: 2007

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Cover:
In 1831, an unknown, horrifying, and deadly disease from Asia swept across continental Europe and North America, killing millions and throwing the medical profession into confusion. A killer with little respect for class or wealth, cholera rocked Victorian England when it arrived in its capital, where it indiscriminately ravaged the squalid streets of Soho and the great centers of power.

In this gripping book, Sandra Hempel tells the story of John Snow, a reclusive doctor without money or social position, who--alone and unrecognized--had the genius to look beyond the conventional wisdom of his day and uncover the truth behind the pandemic. She describes how Snow discovered that cholera was spread through drinking water and how this subsequently laid the foundations for the modern, scientific investigation of today's fatal plagues.

A dramatic account with a colorful cast of characters, The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump features diversions into fascinating facets of medical and social history, such as Snow's tending of Queen Victoria in childbirth, Dutch microbiologist Leeuwenhoek's deliberate breeding of lice in his socks, Dickensian children's farms, and riotous nineteenth-century anesthesia parties. What emerges is the dramatic story of an important breakthrough for medical science, and of one individual's determination to use science to help others. An afterword discusses how global warming will likely increase the risk of infectious diseases--including malaria, yellow fever, and cholera.

My Review:
The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump describes the waves of cholera that spread across the world from 1817 to 1866, what was done to treat it, and what was discovered about it. While many people and places were mentioned, we learned the most about John Snow since he made the greatest discovery about how cholera was spread and the main focus was on the cholera-related events in London, England. The book also described related topics like the medical and sanitary practices of the day, medical training, etc. Sometimes it felt like the author was wandering off topic, but these asides still gave an interesting look at the time period.

The author frequently quoted letters, journal articles, case notes, etc., from that time period They described what someone sick with cholera went through, the medical views on the spread and treatment of cholera, etc. There were also black-and-white illustrations: political cartoons and posters about cholera from that time period.

If talking about drinking water that contains feces and mentions of people throwing up grosses you out, then you might not enjoy the many vivid descriptions in this book. However, I found it an interesting, easy read from start to finish. The author clearly explained the (few) medical terms she used as well as any outdated phrasings in the quotes that might be confusing.

Cholera is another example of how the majority of scientists at that time were so sure of their own ideas about how sickness was transmitted that they couldn't see the truth even when John Snow clearly showed that they were wrong. Anyone who believes that "if most scientists say it then it must be true" should read books like this. :) Maybe they're right, maybe they aren't, but they aren't right just because they're in the majority.

In any case, I recommend this book to those who aren't easily grossed out who are interested in cholera and the advances in science that occurred while trying to fight it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fossil Book by Gary and Mary Parker

book cover

The Fossil Book
by Gary and Mary Parker

ISBN-13: 978-0-89051-438-2
Hardback: 80 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 2006, 2007

Source: Local Christian bookstore.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Fossils have fascinated humans for centuries. From the smallest diatoms to the largest dinosaurs, finding a fossil is an exciting and rewarding experience. But where did they come from, and how long have they been around? These and many other questions are answered in this remarkable book.

The Fossil Book will teach you about:
  • How fossils are formed.
  • How to start your own fossil collection.
  • What kinds of fossils can be commonly found.
  • The age of fossils.
  • The different kinds of rocks fossils are found in coal and oil formation.
  • The Geologic Column Diagram.
  • How scientists find and preserve fossils.
  • How to identify kinds of fossils.
  • How the flood affected fossil formation.
  • The difference between evolutionists’ and creationists’ views on fossils.

Learning about fossils, their origins, and how to collect them can be both fun and educational. The abundance of both marine and land fossils and the locations they are found in is a fascinating subject for students of all ages and has been studied by scientists and laypersons alike for many years. Learn what all the excitement is about!

My Review:
The Fossil Book is a nonfiction book about fossil formation, types, and collection. The authors assumed they had a Christian audience, but they still gave solid, respectful reasons for why they believe Flood Geology is the better explanation for how most fossils were formed. They clearly explained each topic and defined the few scientific terms in the text (though there's also a glossary in the back). The book is suitable for 10- or 11-year-olds on up.

There were full color pictures and illustrations. In the back, there's a 12 by 24 inch pull-out full-color poster with pictures from the book. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to children and adults who are interested in fossils and fossil hunting.

Chapter One explained what a fossil is, what rocks they're found in, how they're formed, and the types of fossils (including fossil fuels). Chapter Two explained what the Geologic Column is and compared Evolutionist and Flood Geologist interpretations of fossils. Chapter Three briefly covered the problems with the evolutionary interpretation of fossils and why the evidence better fits the Flood Geologist explanation. It then discussed the Grand Canyon's formation and rock layers.

Chapter Four covered invertebrate fossils. Chapter Five covered vertebrate fossils and discussed intermediate fossils and fossil sequences. The final section described how to do fossil hunting and collection (where to look, permits needed, tools used, and how to collect, store, and display them).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Read an excerpt from The Fossil Book.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Early lighting in New England by Helen Hebard

book cover

Early lighting in New England, 1620-1861
by Helen Brigham Hebard

Hardback: 88 pages
Publisher: The Charles E. Tuttle Company
Released: 1864

Source: Bought at a library book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Antique collector Helen Hebard wrote this presentation to be read at an Antique Collectors' Week-End meeting since she couldn't give it in person due to an illness. She discusses her favorite topic, old lighting devices--specifically those used in New England in 1620 to 1861.

My Review:
Early lighting in New England briefly describes the various ways New Englander's lighted their homes from 1620 to 1861. The author described the various types of lighting and sometimes (especially for splint lights, rush lights, and bayberry candles) described how they were made. There were some brief quotes describing these devices by the people who actually used them.

There were black and white sketches and black and white pictures of the various items, but mainly of the candle holders and lamps. 40 of the 82 pages in this book were completely full of pictures or sketches. Additional, smaller sketches were scattered throughout the text.

The lighting methods covered were wood (log fire, torch, wrought iron cresset or fire basket, splint light); grease lamps (crusies, Betties); rushlights; early candles (tallow, beeswax, bayberry); candle holders; whale and lard lamps; solar and astral lamps; kerosene lamps.

It was interesting and easy to follow, but I personally would have enjoyed more details on how the various lighting sources were made and used at the time. Though written for collectors, it didn't give much information about finding or identifying good specimens for antique collections. It's more a brief overview of the various methods used to light New England homes from 1620 to 1861.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Just as the log fire was the first source of light in primitive dwellings where wood was the only fuel, so the hearth fire was an all important and at first the only means of illumination in the homes of our early settlers. The torch, an offshoot of the fire, could be carried about, thus enlarging man's sphere of activity. Staggering however are the number and variety of torches improvised, fashioned or fabricated for outdoor use. They range from strips of blubber, fat bodies of birds and fish, to dried tree limbs or pine knots. Our pioneers utilized what was available and wood was plentiful in the new land.

The wrought-iron cresset or fire basket was a later development of the above methods. It was used throughout the ancient and medieval periods. In early New England the cresset functioned as special purpose lighting. An early reference to the blazing beacon on Boston's highest hill gave it its present name--Beacon Hill.

Splint lights are a refinement of the torch used by many people in many places. These slivers of resinous wood are known here as splints or candlewood and in Scotland as fire-candles. They have been used for centuries wherever suitable wood was plentiful.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Exploring the World of Physics by John Hudson Tiner

book cover

Exploring the World of Physics
by John Hudson Tiner

ISBN-13: 978-0890514665
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: May 2006, March 2008

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Physics is a branch of science that many people consider to be too complicated to understand. In this exciting addition to the "Exploring" series, John Hudson Tiner puts this myth to rest as he explains the fascinating world of physics in a way that students from elementary to high school can comprehend.

Did you know that a feather and a lump of lead will fall at the same rate in a vacuum? Learn about the history of physics from Aristotle to Galileo to Isaac Newton to the latest advances. Discover how the laws of motion and gravity affect everything from the normal activities of everyday life to launching rockets into space. Learn about the effects of inertia firsthand during fun and informative experiments.

Exploring the World of Physics is a great tool for students of all ages who want to have a deeper understanding of the important and interesting ways that physics affects our lives and is complete with illustrations, chapter questions, and an index.

Exploring the World of Physics teaches basic physics within the format of discoveries made throughout history. It included page-long biographies of scientists who made important contributions to our understanding of physics.

The author did a good job of clearly explaining new concepts. The book was suitable for middle schoolers on up, though younger children may find this book understandable. There were useful black and white charts and illustrations. There were also a few experiments that the reader could do with common objects. At the end of each chapter, there were 12-20 questions that tested if you learned the important points in the chapter. The answers were in the back.

The author occasionally referred to God as Creator and pointed out which scientists were Christians. Overall, the book was interesting and well-written. I'd recommend it to homeschoolers and those who want to learn basic physics in an interesting way.

Chapter 1 was on Motion on the earth (teaching about speed, acceleration, velocity, Galileo, Aristotle, etc.). Chapter 2 was on Laws of Motion (teaching about force, friction, Isaac Newton and his three laws of motion, etc.). Chapter 3 was on Gravity (teaching about Johannes Kepler and his three laws of planetary motion, Newton's Law of Gravity, etc.). Chapter 4 was on Simple Machines (teaching about levers, pulleys, inclined planes, wheels, axles, Archimedes, etc.).

Chapter 5 was on Energy (teaching about mechanical energy, heat energy, kinetic energy, potential energy, James Prescott Joule, James Watt, etc.). Chapter 6 was on Heat (teaching about heat capacity, measuring temperature, conduction, convection, radiation, entropy, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Laws of Thermodynamics, Daniel Fahrenheit, Anders Celsius, etc.). Chapter 7 was on States of Matter (teaching about solids, liquids, and gases, Robert Hooke, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Daniel Bernoulli, etc.). Chapter 8 was on Wave Motion (teaching about wave length, frequency, velocity, speed of sound, wave waves, sound waves, amplitude, echoes, Doppler effect, etc.).

Chapter 9 was on Light (teaching about prisms, color, the human eye, optical illusions, mirrors, telescopes, etc.). Chapter 10 was on Electricity (teaching about electrical fields, conductors, batteries, resistance, voltage, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Morse, etc.). Chapter 11 was on Magnetism (teaching about magnetic fields, magnets, electromagnets, William Gilbert, Michael Faraday, etc.). Chapter 12 was on Electromagnetism (teaching about radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, x-rays, gamma rays, Rudolf Hertz, James Clerk Maxwell, Albert Einstein, Arthur Holly Compton, etc.). Chapter 13 was on Nuclear Energy (teaching about the parts of an atom, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, nuclear power, etc.). Chapter 14 was on Future Physics.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Read an excerpt using Google Preview.