A Self-Help Book of Science

Diana Lutz at American Scientist:

PhotosureThe Velocity of Honey’s 24 chapters are short meditations on questions that are probably never going to make the cover of Science or Nature, such as why toast falls butter side down and why time seems to speed up as we grow older. You might call them crossword puzzles for the scientifically minded—they offer a mental workout for its own sake but also soothe and amuse. In fact, author Jay Ingram calls The Velocity of Honey “a self-help book.” Its essays “reduce stress,” he says, and offer “a brief interruption in the ridiculous rush of life.”

Ingram, who hosts the Discovery Channel’s science program Daily Planet, says he picked the topics for their appeal—adding with characteristic self-irony that this means their appeal to him. Somehow, he says, that turned out to mean there is a lot of physics and psychology and not much in between. (Ingram himself has a master’s degree in microbiology from the University of Toronto.) The physics chapters include, in addition to tumbling toast, essays on the way paper crumples and crackles when it is squeezed, the aerodynamics of the maple key (the thin fibrous “wing” that encases the maple seed), the tricky behavior of stones thrown slantwise across water or sand, and the motion across ice of the 20-kilo granite “rocks” used in the sport of curling.

More here.