Skip to main content

Cover Story

Mark 1 cover
 The advance copies of my new book Inflight Science have arrived - expect one or two references to it as we build up to it going out to the world on 7 April. Despite this being book number 36, I confess that the excitement of holding a new book in your hands doesn't go away, and I've got big hopes for this one.

It certainly has one of the best covers I've had, which has undergone an interesting tweak. The original version of the cover was all drawn, while the new version incorporates photographic material as well. When I heard this was being done I was a bit dubious, but in fact I hope you'll agree that it somehow makes it crisper and more attention grabbing - it certainly looks great on the finished book, with the red lettering embossed on the surface.

Final cover
I had the rare opportunity to yesterday to get some unbiassed and pontentially highly critical opinion on it. I was doing a talk at the Piggott School in Wargrave. (One of two talks yesterday, both brilliant if very different audiences. The school was over 150 year 9s (13 to 14-year-olds. The evening talk was a more select and somewhat more mature audience at the the rather lovely shiny new Pewsey Library. Both audiences were very attentive and produced a great range of questions at the end.)

Back at the covers, I had laid out a range of my books on a table at the school before the students came in. When they did, I was sitting some distance from the table, not obviously connected to it, but close enough to hear what was being said. A group descended on it and immediately homed in on Inflight Science saying how great it looked. One of them picked it up, and was so impressed by the factoids on the back that she began to regale the others with them. All in all, I think a good field trial for what I hope will be a successful book.


  1. Oh dear, I've just noticed "...your airplane window..."

    Shirley some mistake? ;-)

  2. The publisher's feeling is a) aeroplane looks old fashioned and b) airplane is acceptable on both sides of the Atlantic, but aeroplane isn't.

    And don't call me Shirley.

  3. If you say "aeroplane" in the States, people think you're from the past. Which you totally are, of course, but they call you a nerd when you start explaining that...


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Mirror, mirror

A little while ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Royal Institution in London - arguably the greatest location for science communication in the UK. At one point in the talk, I put this photograph on the screen, which for some reason caused some amusement in the audience. But the photo was illustrating a serious point: the odd nature of mirror reflections. I remember back at school being puzzled by a challenge from one of our teachers - why does a mirror swap left and right, but not top and bottom? Clearly there's nothing special about the mirror itself in that direction - if there were, rotating the mirror would change the image. The most immediately obvious 'special' thing about the horizontal direction is that the observer has two eyes oriented in that direction - but it's not as if things change if you close one eye. In reality, the distinction is much more interesting - we fool ourselves into thinking that the image behind the mirror is what's on ou