24 April 2023

Review: Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski

Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski book cover

Reading Storm in a Teacup - The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski is akin to dipping your toe into the world of physics and thankfully Czerski provides a steady hand for the layperson. Czerski looks at everyday occurrences like why a buttered piece of toast will usually fall butter side down when dropped and what happens when you add milk to coffee informs the book's title.

The audiobook was expertly read by Chloe Massey who shares her northern accent with actress Joanne Froggatt - who plays Anna Bates from Downton Abbey - which is to say I loved listening to her narration.

I found many of the topics interesting including how coffee rings develop and why it's hard to get tomato sauce out of the bottle until all of a sudden it comes glugging out. I was also curious to learn why pigeons bob their heads when they walk.

The author references a study of pigeons that was undertaken in order to understand why these birds bob their heads forwards and backwards when they walk. When the pigeon was walking on a treadmill, the researcher noticed it wasn't bobbing its head.
"The bird obviously didn't need to do it in order to walk, so it wasn't anything to do with the physics of locomotion. The head bobbing was about what it could see. On the treadmill, even though the pigeon was walking, the surroundings stayed in the same place. If the pigeon held its head still, it saw exactly the same view all the time. That made the surroundings nice and easy to see. But when a pigeon is walking on land, the scenery is constantly changing as it goes past. It turns out, these birds can't see fast enough to catch the changing scene. So they're not really bobbing their heads forwards and backwards at all, they thrust their head forward and then take a step that lets their body catch up and then thrust their head forwards again. The head stays in the same position throughout the step so the pigeon has more time to analyse this scene before moving on to the next one." Chapter 5
Fascinating isn't it? I've been wanting to observe this for myself, but the only pigeon I've seen since finishing this audiobook was asleep. Hopefully I'll have better luck soon. 

Coming in at a listening time of 10 hrs and 14 mins, Storm in a Teacup took me a while to get through and when I got to the end and did a stocktake of the notes I'd written in preparation for this review, I noticed pickings were slim.

While I've never been one for physics, I was in safe hands here. Storm in a Teacup - The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski was a nice jumping off point that held my attention throughout, despite not knowing much about the topics covered.

Czerski's enthusiasm for physics shines through and this was an informative listen.

My Rating:

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