Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life

by Helen Czerski

I wish Helen Czerski had been my high school physics teacher (or that my high school physics teacher had read this book). I’m more of a literature type person, but this book explain simple everyday things like magnets and popped popcorn and bubbles in your beer with just the right amount of dry humor (she is a Brit) and techno speak to be informative and entertaining.

With just enough deep explanation and acerbic footnotes to go deeper or skim as one wished. Czerski uses every day items: popcorn, electric teakettles, magnets, etc. to good effect and then alternates with kind of more esoteric physics stuff from her own life/research such as wellington boot throwing trebuchets and bubbles in the Atlantic ocean and the alternating stripes of frozen magnetic fossils in the iron ore on the deep sea floor just to spice things up a bit.

You get the sense that she really, really likes things like gravity, and center of mass on falling buttered toast, and alternating currents. And she paints a picture of the world we humans live in as positively teeming with wave information we don’t perceive– colors, radiowaves, electric pulses, and such that bring a sense of wonder to the everyday and mundane.

Really, cool book. For non-science majors like me, best digested in chunks and not read straight through. Czerski is going up on my mental shelf along with Sam Kean (chemistry amongst other things), Mary Roach (biology and sociology) and Siddhartha Mukherjee (cancer, medicine) as a favorite and informative science writer.