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Why Don't Penguins Feet Freeze?

Why Don't Penguins Feet Freeze?

By Hayley Birch

New Scientist's second instalment of Q&A solves one of life's perennial problems: what to do when you get separated in the supermarket. So, failing the involuntary huffing, puffing, tutting and eye rolling whilst storming up and down the central aisle reaction, what's the answer? Well, there are two answers. The more lengthy algorithmic one you can read at your own leisure; the other is to give up and go home.

Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? is filled with ingenious, and not so ingenious, solutions to everyday problems. New Scientist has compiled the best of its Last Word section, where readers write in to ask and answer life's niggling questions, making for a witty and informative read. How do you stop biscuits going soft? Why is nasal mucus green? How do you make a conker invincible? If it's cold outside, does this mean I'm more likely to catch a cold?

These are the sorts of questions that we "science geeks" are supposed to have all the answers to. I get bombarded with these sorts of enquiries on an almost daily basis. People assume that being a science graduate means you know about everything from quantum mechanics to garden horticulture and can tell intuitively why they are bleeding from one ear. So it is comforting to know that there is help out there for these kinds of situations.

For the non-scientists among you, Penguins is worth reading just in case anyone does ever ask you why snot is green. You can then explain, with remarkable nonchalance, that it is in fact due to the iron-containing myelo-peroxidases used by polymorphonuclear granulocytes.

Penguins does not accompany a mug of cocoa and a hot water bottle well; it does not make good bedtime reading. It is a book that is quite at home on a coffee table and will make an ideal Christmas gift for inquisitive types. Just a quick flick through the highly descriptive index, containing entries such as "sheep, running in a straight line in front of a car 49-51" will guide you to whatever happens to suit your mood. So you can pick it up every now and again, read a couple of pages about why eggs are egg-shaped, and feel like you have learnt something for the day.

Mick Hare (Ed.), Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? and 114 Other Questions. Profile Books. ISBN 1-86197-876-6.

Like the sound of this book?  Why not pick up a copy in our lovely bookshop?

To read more about Hayley or to view more of her articles click here

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26 Jun 2011
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