Belief is powerful--consider the placebo effect, the persistence of myths, the preponderance of "alternative facts." In a time with a veritable glut of information and when "any twit can twitter," popular science writer and radio personality Dr. Joe Schwarcz offers an antidote to ignorance with A Feast of Science: Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life.
Schwarcz (Is That a Fact?) is an expert in a field fraught with sensationalized stories, with cherry-picked facts that grab headlines but lack (or misrepresent) substance. Does Nutella cause cancer? No. But misleading stories to that effect have run wild, and the myth persists. Schwarcz's morsels in A Feast of Science, like the absence of a Nutella-cancer link, are judiciously cited and swiftly delivered. Most come in brief essays that span no more than a few pages, even if their subjects span centuries: one on carbon dioxide draws connections between the Temple of Apollo and Apollo 13.
Schwarcz's love of learning and his enthusiasm for science are contagious. He includes anecdotes and references for every taste, from somewhat lowbrow--see the story of when Mark Twain dirtied his white suit in a visit with Nicola Tesla, or learn the risks of storing condoms near photocopy machines--to poignant, when he notes that upon learning of his wife's cancer, he, just like almost anyone else, immediately began Googling it.
"Wander about, picking up whatever you may deem to be a tasty morsel," he advises. And, for the record, you can do so while enjoying a spoonful of Nutella. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer