The One Thing you need to know to understand this book is this: It will give you a basic understanding of quite the range of scientific topics by telling you about the one thing per topic that you need to know. Easy, right?
Marcus Chown came to the idea for his book when he was asked to lecture a group of people about a specific topic – only to be told that none of them possesses any specific knowledge about the broader topic at hand. So he sat down and asked himself: If I can explain only one thing to them in the short of time – what should that one thing be so they can deduce further things about this topic? And he realized that this idea is not limited to a certain topic.
Tectonic plates are created at the mid ocean ridges, and knowledge is created in the midst of chapters of this book. Marcus understands how to build a chain of knowledge that spreads out from the one thing – which always opens up a chapter and is therefore right there for later revisions – and covers more ground, helping you to deepen your understanding.
Take the sun, for example. Why is it so hot? Because it’s so heavy. From that premise, you will learn interesting facts. Take a look out of your window – see that ray of sunshine there? You might think it is eight and a half minutes old if you’ve listened to physic lessons in school, like I did. And we both would be slightly wrong – by about 30,000 years. Yes, that light traveled eight and a half minutes from the sun’s surface to our pleasant planet here, but the life of those light photons started 30,000 years ago in the sun’s core, as x-rays. They needed a while to travel to the surface of the sun, at which point they had slowly transformed into light photons. Because Billard (you’ll understand it when you read it).
Marcus manages to order his chapters in a way that make sense, too, because often enough you will be reminded of something you’ve read earlier on. (Sometimes, a future chapter will be evoked, because science is interconnected like that.)
I’m no scientists and can’t offer you the respective perspective, but as popular science goes, this book is well written, short enough to not overload your brain and full of interesting stuff. Highly recommended for nerds like myself, and anyone looking for a novel topic for their next party small talk.
For 4 stars, you can absolutely give it a try.
2 replies on “The One Thing you Need To Know, by Marcus Chown”
This would make a great gift, or even a good book club candidate. I have to say that your excellent review really grabbed my interest!
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Certainly a great gift, for sure!