William Tell Overture for Moms
September 2007 Archives
I read Mark Haw's Middle World: The restless heart of matter and life and found it an enjoyable science history lesson. By interweaving personal anecdotes of the scientists involved, Haw tells the story of the middle world, that part of the physical world too small to be seen, yet above the molecular level. Sounds dull but it really was a fascinating discussion.
He began with botanist Robert Brown, who first described what became known as Brownian motion, although he really had no idea what he was seeing nor what could be causing the pollen grains he was watching through his primitive microscope to dance all about, seemingly at random and never ending. Haw carefully describes each advancement after that, with interesting asides for many of the primary actors, some famous and some unknown today.
I have to admit to getting bored towards the end. Science in the 1800s is fascinating stuff, as they try to figure out some basic things anyone today can grasp. But science today is an incredibly rich source of deep arcane knowledge, and even a very controlled writer would have had a hard time making today's investigation into plastic and DNA strands interesting. And Haw, while a good writer, tends to wander about sometimes and I got a bored by the end.
Still, an enaging book, one sure to please anyone with even a passing interest in science history and philosophy.