2017 Book Reading Challenge 10: Australian Science

TitleThe Best Australian Science Writing 2011

Author: Edited by Stephen Pincock

Publisher: NewSouth Publishing

Location of publisher: Sydney

Year of publication: 2011

Number of pages: 222

Fiction or nonfiction: Nonfiction

Have I read this book before? No

Date I finished reading it: 23 February 2017

Genres: Science, essays. Astronomy, biology, palaeontology, climate, infectious diseases, mental illness.

Personal reflections upon reading this text:

I know that reading The Best Australian Science Writing 2011 may seem oddly specific, considering that it’s now 2017, but it’s simple, really: I saw it on the library bookshelf, judged it by its cover (and its list of authors) and borrowed it.

As I write this post on it now, I have already returned it to the library so unfortunately can’t write a reflexive review with as much detail as I would like. Suffice it to say that this collection of essays about science and (mostly) written by science was excellent. The authors were Australians, and the essays were selected not just for their scientific content, but for their quality and engaging prose that communicated the science to a lay audience.

Some of the information in there was mind-blowing. I particularly liked an essay that talked about measuring the musical pitch of distant stars and galaxies, based on the frequencies of their pulsing, and likening those frequencies to notes on the musical scale. (Albeit, notes that are so far below the human range of hearing that we can’t detect them.)

Some of the essays were very specific to Australian politics at the time, and I noted with some surprise a discussion in one essay on the anti-science, ultra-conservative politics of a particular member of the federal government who was, once upon a time, a fellow member of my former church, whose family I knew quite well. It was an unexpected connection to my own former social spheres and yet a helpful deconstruction of the types of religion-influenced socio-political rhetoric going on back then.

Overall I really enjoyed this diverse collection of essays, some by notable Australian authors (including, a little surprisingly to me, Germaine Greer – who I first read a kajillion years ago as a first year sociology student), as well as Australian household names like Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Professor Tim Flannery. I came away inspired by the incredible feats of Australian scientific research, as well as relieved to hear that science in Australia is by no means dead.