REVIEWS OF We Need to Talk About Kelvin
In the UK
The Independent on Sunday, 20 December 2009
The award for the cleverest title of the year goes to the popular science writer Marcus Chown for We Need to Talk About Kelvin – the content also doesn't disappoint.
New Scientist, 18 December 2009
This book relies on a formula, but a good one. Marcus Chown begins each chapter with a mundane image - a broken teacup, TV static, a reflection--then suddenly reveals that the image actually unlocks the nature of cosmic inflation, or the heat death of the universe or some other Big Idea. It's a book you have to trust. The route from A to B can seem steep and circuitous, and you're not always sure Chown will bring you back around by chapter's end. But aside from some scary bits--his explanation of spin in quantum mechanics gets pretty hairy--Chown is a reliable guide. He balances the science with charming history and, at its core, this book shows what thinking must have been like for a Fermi or a Feynman -- someone who could vault so easily from an everyday happening to a sublime scientific truth.
Bookgeeks, 7 December 2009
Wow, what can you say apart from “great title!”. Move beyond that, though, and this is a fantastic piece of popular science writing. Marcus Chown has a real talent for explaining complex scientific ideas to the layperson, and his latest offering employs the premise of using everyday observations of the world around us to explain why deeper scientific truths must indeed be a reality (and also why we take for granted some fairly remarkable things). A great book that makes we want to understand the universe better – and surely there can be no higher praise.
BBC Focus Magazine, October 2009
Chown writes with ease about some of the most brain-bending of concepts and makes you really think about science. He is at his most admirable when he is tackling the subjects that many others avoid, such as the information content of the Universe and how this means that a million universes could fit on a 1Gb data stick. Will almost certainly become one of those books that you find yourself dipping in and out of, long after you read it the first time.
The Guardian, 17 September 2009
The pleasant conceit of this elegant pop-physics pick'n'mix is that quotidian experiences "tell us" something deep about cutting-edge science. Staring out of the window "tells us" about the nature of light and quantum indeterminacy, at explaining which Chown excels, having had practice in his superb previous book, Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You. Other essays explain why things are solid or various, why the sun is hot, and so on. Chown writes very fluently, helping us to visualise things with matchboxes and Lego bricks, and he has a knack for the startling comparison. "Your stomach generates heat at a faster rate than an equivalent volume of the solar interior," he writes, and one thinks, oh, is it time for elevenses already?
Bookhugger, October 2008
Marcus Chown, author of the hugely successful Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, shows how familiar features of the world reveal profound truths about the ultimate nature of reality. With the aid of a falling leaf, or a rose, or a starry night sky, Chown makes cutting-edge science clear and meaningful. His new book will literally change the way you see the world.
www.popularscience.co.uk, October 2009
An author that immediately gives you the reassurance that you are going to have a good time - one the most consistently entertaining popular science writers in the business. For entertainment value, and driving pace, Kelvin never lets the reader down. From the start we are bombarded with amazing facts, driven by Chown's very effective idea of taking everyday aspects of human existence and exploring the exciting science that lies behind them. So, for instance, the partial reflection through a night time window leads on to the consideration of the quantum theory of light and much more. Later on, we discover more about the nature of atoms and heat, thermodynamics and cosmology. Chown's great strength is that he can counter the QI glaze effect. On the TV show QI, when they occasionally have a panellist with a science background, the other competitors start to glaze over whenever that person starts on about a science subject. They visibly drop off and lose interest. It's very easy to present something like the Pauli exclusion principle that is at the heart of subatomic physics in a way that would put the reader to sleep as well - but Chown makes it interesting and makes it seem very logical.
New Humanist, October 2009
Award-winning popular science writer Marcus Chown uses examples from the world around us to explain extraordinary facts about the Universe.
The Australian, 19 December 2009
Beforte we talk about Kelvin we need to talk about Marcus Chown. Fans of his earlier books, including Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You and The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead, know the reformed radio astronomer and New Scientist cosmology consultant knows his stuff. They may not know his adviser at the California Institute of Technology was ethnically Chinese, along with the rest of his grad students. When a pasty-faced Brit walked into the lab ... they had a laugh. And a laugh is what you'll get with Chown's new book, along with the latest on the universe. He's talking about Lord Kelvin, the 19th-century scientist whose temperature scale begins at absolute zero.