The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Review - Never Shower in a Thunderstorm

Welcome to the first of many Heathen Book Reviews. I was sent a copy of Never Shower in a Thunderstorm: Surprising Facts and Misleading Myths About Our Health and the World We Live In by Anahad O'Connor and it was a very enjoyable read. Here's the formal review.

This book by New York Times columnist Anahad O'Connor made me think of two things that were twin fantasies for a long time. First is the old Hercules cartoon from my youth (think 1970's). Remember when Herc would be attacked by some huge monster and it would be smacking him and his little micro-mini toga all over Olympia? Of course it would throw him into the same rock wall as every other episode and Herc would suddenly remember that he had a ring in his belt that makes him invincible, right? (side note: why did he ever take the ring off?) So the monster charges Herc, screaming its horrible hiss, and Herc seems to pause time while he puts on the jewelery - lightening flashing and crashing - then it's game on, mofo, and Herc kicks the creature a new scream-hole.

It's the time-pausing aspect I'm interested in here. Imagine pausing time in a conversation.

Couple that with the newish TV commercial for the cellular phone company that has the subscriber constantly surrounded by his or her "network". Hundreds of people who follow you around at all times; imagine that concept only with hundreds of experts in various fields of science, literature and culture at your beck and call to check your facts and offer up opinions that are based on more than what the weirdos at the bait shop think.

That's what O'Connor's book is. It's like getting up in the morning and all through the day you get asked about urban legends and old wives' tales and silly pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. You though, today, have the ability to Herc-pause time so you can check with your network of experts. You can check your references, cite your sources, and generally have the "smugness of certainty" (as far as science can be certain). It's like Mythbusters, only without the explosions, beret, or unruly moustache.

O'Connor has compiled 221 pages of his NYT Really? column and come up with a nice little book in the same vein as Robert Wolke's What Einstein Told His Barber and Jay Ingram's The Velocity of Honey. It has an easy conversational style that makes you feel like you're having a few beers with David Suzuki or some other notable know-it-all. There are many studies cited and although there are no notes or references, you could certainly check for yourself if the need arose.

Do yourself a favor and pick up Never Shower in a Thunderstorm. It'll make you less likely to get a girlfriend, what with you spitting out random facts like some Tourette's Savant, but you'll know to buy a manual toothbrush with a clear head. And isn't that better in the long run? ...Don't answer that.

2 Barbaric Yawps:

At 18/5/07 5:47 pm, Blogger StefRobrts said...

I love that kind of stuff - Snopes, Straighdope, Mythbusters. I love being able to pull those factoids out and pop someone's bubble when they're telling some stupid tall tale, but my husband says that's why I'm no fun at a party :) Definitly going to check that book out!

At 22/5/07 9:06 am, Blogger King Aardvark said...

To me, all that stuff is fun at a party. I think that's why I'm no good at parties and generally leave early.

Ah, the production values of that old Herc cartoon. It must have done well in reruns because I, an '80s kid, remember them too. 60% of each episode was just the Hercules song and the animation for him becoming superpowered.

I do use a manual toothbrush with a clear head. Good for me.


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