Andrew Morris
UCL Press
2016 | 205pp | £15.00 (Free PDF online)
ISBN 9781911307037

Why Icebergs Float

Why do icebergs float? I am sure you know it has to do with density. But what is density? And how is it that a well packed solid, like ice, is less dense than a liquid composed of the very same water molecules? Andrew Morris addresses these questions, among many others, in his latest book Why icebergs float, doing so in the most natural way possible: remembering bar conversations with his friends over the years.

The book explains the science behind all sorts of phenomena, including why some people hate avocados (apparently this is a real thing), why you shouldn’t take antibiotics when you have a cold, or why wall sockets in the UK have more holes than anywhere else. Morris even dares to talk to his friends – and his readership – about complex scientific concepts like mathematical models, reality, energy or even Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Don’t worry though, he makes it really easy to understand.

I particularly loved the second chapter of this book. Nearly two years ago, I decided to send a short piece about the fading colours in Van Gogh’s paintings to the Chemistry World science communication competition. This fading alerted every single art curator in Amsterdam, and was eventually all over the news. Morris’s friends, intrigued by how paintings can lose their colour, trigger a very interesting discussion that meticulously unravels what pigments are, how they work and why some of them fade over time.

If you know your science and you are considering getting a copy – this book is not for you. You are just going to find some curiosities you probably already knew. If, on the other hand, you wish you knew more about science, you will certainly love this book. You may encounter some complicated words like phospholipids, cloxacillin or electromagnetism. But all of them are carefully explained and, when words aren’t enough, simple and colourful illustrations perfectly complement the text. It also contains a slew of additional resources to keep pursuing your interest in science.

Morris says in the prologue: ‘If you come away from this book with a greater interest in science and enhanced confidence about tackling it, the book will have served its purpose.’ So, don’t be afraid of science and give Why icebergs float a chance. You will absolutely enjoy it.