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What if...we all joined the science teachers book club?

I know I spend too long on Twitter when I could be doing something useful - but my determination to spend less time there is constantly undermined by the fact that, every now and then, I come across something either really useful or interesting there.

I started following the Science Teacher's Book Club a few months back and I'm increasingly taken with the idea. Set up by Simon Flynn, who describes the idea as 'A popular science book club for teachers, that meets half-termly'

It's all very simple. Back in September, they put up a shortlist of four books: Einstein's Fridge, Sentient, Short History of Life on Earth, and 'What If' (pictured) - to be voted on by those following the a/c.

They all look like good books, but in this round, What If won out, and its due for discussion over the midterm.

I found a copy in Easons. It took me a while to get to it, but I finally got past the first few pages and now I'm loving it. It's a collection of items from a website: and contains the writer's thoughts on matters as crucial to the future of science as

  • If Every Human simply disappeared from the surface of the earth, how long would it be before the last artificial light would go out?

  • What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool?

  • If everybody on earth aimed a laser pointer at the moon at the same, would it change colour?

What's fun is that it takes these often-silly questions seriously and goes into great detail answering them. So, from the above, I've learned ....

  • that wind turbines are designed to go 30,000 hours without maintenance - and that one installed in Denmark in the 1950s required no maintenance for a full eleven years - but that their gears would eventually seize up and that the LEDs on Motorway emergency phones would have a better chance of being the last lights on earth (if we ignore the light emerging from toxic waste)

  • that swimming in a pool used to store nuclear waste should be fine as long as you stayed near the surface

  • that if we all shone our lasers at the moon, nothing much would happen. But if we fired up some ridiculously powerful lasers, we could push the moon out of its current orbit and allow it to qualify as a dwarf planet in its own right.

The 'Book Club' is due to discuss this over midterm. With over two thousand members, I don't feel the pressure to contribute would be too intimidating, but I certainly intend to check out the discussion. Perhaps, if a few of us joined in, we could form an Irish subset within the group?

And I'm very much looking forward to seeing that the next book suggested is.

Incidentally, I've just noticed that Simon, who curates the site, also wrote an interesting looking book himself. The Curious World of Science - Icon Books

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