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Collected Quirks of Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math from Nerd Nite

by Christopher Balakrishnan & Matt Wasowski ; illustrated by Kristen Orr

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 2024
ISBN: 9781250288349
Publisher: St. Martin's

A quirky compilation presents an engaging stroll through a forest of peculiar subjects.

For anyone who often finds life difficult, depressing, and too serious, this book is for you. Balakrishnan and Wasowski collect dozens of presentations from their Nerd Nite events, which are held monthly. There is also a YouTube channel, curated by the authors, who between them have a good mix of expertise. The subjects are largely scientific and cover topics ranging from the chemical basis of hangovers to the complex math of gossip. Some of the presenters are established scientists, while others are doctoral students or people who just know a lot about a specific topic. Several of the essays are laugh-out-loud funny—e.g., Jane Gregory’s piece about why some people are driven to paroxysms by small but repetitive sounds, such as those made by the annoying individuals who eat chips straight from the foil bag (“misophonia can attach itself to any repetitive sound, but the most common ones are things like chewing, breathing, sniffing, and throat clearing).” Others, such as the zombie creatures of the animal kingdom or dealing with excrement in space, are cleverly droll. Many, such as the piece titled “Why Nuclear Fusion Would Be Awesome—If We Get It to Work” or the one explaining how to manipulate perceptions of physical attractiveness (“Hot or Not? How To Be a Perfect 10”), are surprisingly informative. Most of the essays are only a few pages, so the book is a good one to dip into when a lift in mood is required, and Orr’s wacky illustrations provide a further dimension. One regrettable omission is that there is no contribution on influencing fungi, although it is clear that Balakrishnan and Wasowski are fun guys.

An enjoyable romp through the back alleys of scientific research, proving that knowledge and fun can easily go together.