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Price: $39.95

Paperback 768 pp.
1 line drawing, 156 mm x 234 mm



Publication date:
November 2005

Imprint: OUP UK

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Magic Universe

A Grand Tour of Modern Science

Nigel Calder

This is a marvellously engaging tour covering the whole of modern science, from transgenic crops to quantum tangles. Written by one of the most experienced and well-known names in science writing, it is also assuredly reliable science. Although arranged for convenience and quick reference as a collection of topics in alphabetical order, it is very different from any conventional encyclopedia. Each topic tells a story, making the book eminently browsable. Packed with information, yet carrying its immense learning lightly, this is a book that would appeal to anyone with the slightest interest in how the world works.

Readership : General readers with an interest in science: physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, and earth sciences.


  • `so joyfully demanding was this book in its insistence that every section should be carefully read and reread, that for the first time in my life I missed a review deadline....Calder's brief introduction is a subtle delight and should fire even a lazy brain into action.... Calder is the ideal companion for any non-scientist keen to know something about how science works adn what it can do -- immensely knowledgeable, lively, articulate, sympathetic, intelligible and always interesting.'
    Martyn Berry, Chemistry & Industry
  • `Review from previous edition He is really exceptional in his energy, his range of comprehension, and his quality as a writer. . . . Nigel Calder remains supreme in his range and depth . . . he goes to immense trouble to get things right, and also takes pains with the clarity and elegance of his writing.'
    Sir Martin Rees, FRS, Astronomer Royal
  • `A must for every sixth-form and student of science, it is also the ideal compendium for non-scientists of any age who are trying to keep abreast.'
    John Cornwell, Sunday Times
  • `Magic Universe is a marvellous read...it can be enjoyed like a high-quality magazine'
    Mark Ridley, Times Literary Supplement
  • `Here's evidence of a steady hand, a cool nerve and a clear sense of what matters...Nigel Calder is a science writer with a superb record and immense experience...Dip and dart.'
    Malcolm Smith, Guardian
  • `A must for every student of science, and the ideal compendium for non-scientists of any age trying to keep abreast.'
    John Cornwell, Sunday Times
  • `In this compendium he deals seriously yet entertainingly with just about every sicientific subject you can imagine, and many that you cannot...a solid reference source for many years to come.'
    Independent Review

INTRODUCTION: Welcome to the spider's web
Over 130 articles, from...
ALCOHOL: Genetic revelations of when yeast invented booze
ALTRUISM AND AGGRESSION: Looking for the origins of those human alternatives
ANTIMATTER: Does the coat that Sakharov made really explain its absence?
ARABIDOPSIS: The modest weed that gave plant scientists the big picture
ASTRONAUTICS: Will interstellar pioneers be overtaken by their grandchildren?
BIG BANG: The inflationary Universe's sleight-of-hand
BIODIVERSITY: The mathematics of co-existence
BIOLOGICAL CLOCKS: Molecular machinery that governs life's routines
BIOSPHERE FROM SPACE: 'I want to do the whole world'
BITS AND QUBITS: The digital world and its looming quantum shadow
BLACK HOLES: The awesome engines of quasars and active galaxies
BRAIN IMAGES: What do all the vivid movies really mean?
BRAIN RHYTHMS: The mathematics of the beat we think to
BRAIN WIRING: How do all those nerve connections know where to go?
BUCKYBALLS AND NANOTUBES: Doing very much more with very much less
SMALLPOX: The dairymaid's blessing and the general's curse
SOLAR WIND: How it creates the heliosphere in which we live
SPACE WEATHER: Why it is now more troublesome than in the old days
SPARTICLES: A wished-for superworld of exotic matter and forces
SPEECH: A gene that makes us more eloquent than chimpanzees
STARBURSTS: Galactic traffic accidents and stellar baby booms
STARS: Hearing them sing and sizing them up
STEM CELLS: Tissue engineering, natural and medical
SUN'S INTERIOR: How sound waves made our mother star transparent
SUPERSTRINGS: Retuning the cosmic imagination
TIME MACHINES: The biggest issue in contemporary physics?
TRANSGENIC CROPS: For better or worse, a planetary experiment has begun
TREE OF LIFE: Promiscuous bacteria and the course of evolution
UNIVERSE: 'It must have known we were coming'
VOLCANIC EXPLOSIONS: Where will the next big one be?

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Nigel Calder is a long-established and widely known science writer, and a former Editor of lNew Scientist.

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Special Features

  • A delightful journey through modern science, full of engaging stories on topics from aggression to quantum tangles
  • Author is one of the most experienced of science writers, and combines wonderfully engaging writing with a deep and wide understanding of science