“[Czerski’s] quest to enhance humanity’s everyday scientific literacy is timely and imperative.”—Science
Storm in a Teacup is Helen Czerski’s lively, entertaining, and richly informed introduction to the world of physics. Czerski provides the tools to alter the way we see everything around us by linking ordinary objects and occurrences, like popcorn popping, coffee stains, and fridge magnets, to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative medical testing. She provides answers to vexing questions: How do ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice? Why does it take so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle? Why does milk, when added to tea, look like billowing storm clouds? In an engaging voice at once warm and witty, Czerski shares her stunning breadth of knowledge to lift the veil of familiarity from the ordinary.
In this delightful pop science title, Czerski, a physicist at University College London, shows that understanding how the universe works requires little more than paying attention to patterns and figuring out increasingly refined ways to explain them. She begins her discussion with ordinary popcorn. A quick lesson in "ballistic cooking" why popcorn pops and imagining how an elephant uses its trunk segues into understanding how rockets work. Spinning an egg offers insight into spiral galaxies, and considering bubbles and marine snail snot can reveal how fluids behave. The slosh of a cup of tea grows into a look at earthquakes. Czerski's writing is playful and witty: London's Tower Bridge is "Narnia for engineers," cyclists zoom around a velodrome "like demented hamsters on a gigantic wheel," and chapter titles such as "Why Don't Ducks Get Cold Feet?" and "Spoons, Spirals, and Sputnik" draw readers into diverse and memorable explorations of such diverse topics as matter phase changes and why dropped toast tends to land buttered side down. Czerski's accessible explanations share the wonder of experimentation and the pleasure of figuring things out. "It's all one big adventure," she writes, "because you don't know where it will take you next."