In a labored follow-up to his Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science (2010), Connolly offers 24 hazardous scenarios that require math and logic skills to escape.
Introductions to each chapter specify which “Survival Strategies”—ranging from “Operations and Algebraic Thinking” to “Geometry” and “Expressions and Equations”—will be exercised. The author then plants readers beneath a bladed pendulum, imprisons them in an ancient tomb with coded directions to a hidden exit, charges them with stringing a fiber-optic cable around the Earth before a giant asteroid hits, challenges them to get three people across a rope bridge in the dark with but one flashlight and so on. Though he provides blank work pages for do-it-yourselfers, he also lays out every significant component of each problem and places step-by-step solution immediately adjacent. These are accompanied by “Math Lab” projects that require similar skills in more real-world settings and occasional number tricks. Dramatic and varied as the situations are, they’re never more than thinly disguised exercises, because nearly every one depends on a rat chewing through a rope in exactly one minute, the bus getting precisely 17 miles to the gallon, an astronaut’s heartbeat never varying from 72 beats per minute or other arbitrarily fixed values.
An inviting alternative to utilitarian workbooks, but full of transparent contrivances. (Nonfiction. 10-13)