Sarah Keenihan Reviews Science for Life: A manual for better living

by Sarah Keenihan

Science for life: A Manual for Better Living
by Brian Clegg

In August 2012 I started Science for Life.365 as a public writing project ‘to formalise how science informs daily life in ways which don’t necessarily have a focus on equipment, displays, lectures and laboratories’ and to ‘insert a little more celebration of science into every day of the year’. The blog continues to the present day.

In 2015 British writer Brian Clegg published his seventh book, Science for Life: A Manual for Better Living. Brian’s book is structured as a guide for individuals and families, presenting ‘the best of current scientific advice, cutting through the vested interests and confusing contradictory statements to give a clear picture of what science is telling us right now about changing our lives for the better.’

This book is targeted at the science-interested, non-expert audience: people seeking to make evidence-based decisions about aspects of their daily lives. Content is presented encyclopaedia-like, under the groupings Diet, Exercise, Brain, Psychology, Health, Environment and Fun. Flick through and you’ll find well-researched scientific information on everything from Artificial Sweeteners to Vitamins and Minerals, from Aerobic Exercise to Recovery, from Acupuncture to Weight Reduction Pills.

For each item Brian presents the ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’, topped by a précis statement. Wondering about Fried Food?  Brian’s summary says:

“Recent evidence that saturated fats are not as bad for us as we thought might make it seem as if it were a green light for fried foods – but it isn’t that simple.”

How about Colonic Irrigation?

“The use of enemas, sometimes featuring an active ingredient like coffee, to cleanse the body of toxins may be popular with celebrities, but it has no health benefits,”

As far as Petrol Consumption goes, Brian states

“Motoring costs are set to continue rising. Using a little science to mimimise usage will help your budget as well as the environment.”

My favourite entry addresses Toilet Roll Perforations:

“Surprisingly, that curse of the toilet roll – perforations getting out of sync – is not what it seems.”

Brian offers the following solution:

“All you need to do to restore harmony is to unwrap or re-wrap a rotation of the outer layer until it all lines up once more.”

Gold, thanks Brian.

Jokes aside, I do believe this book is important. It truly is incredibly confusing – and frustrating for many – to see contradictory science stories published in the mainstream media, as journalists and indeed readers lurch from individual study to individual study, from one food fad, health kick and environmental movement to the next. This book overrides the media and marketing hype often linked to scientific issues.

Whilst some may read it cover-to-cover, Science for Life may work better as a resource to dip into now and then as the need arises. Suited to that purpose, Brian is providing additional content at Presumably this site will present updated information to support the book as new evidence on key topics emerges. The website will also serve as a method to recruit new readers searching online for scientific evidence relating to daily life matters. It will be interesting to follow how long the online side of the content production will be maintained.

It is my opinion that science can provide all people with critical skills for navigating through life. Education in the sciences enables children and adults to judge the quality of information and to make informed and appropriately-weighted decisions about food, health, energy and living. Sadly however, many in our society do not see a reason to study science, or they simply do not have the opportunity to do so. Science for Life is the perfect book for those looking for scientific support as they grapple with the trials and tribulations of life in the first world.

Sarah-KeenihanSarah Keenihan

Sarah is a freelance science writer based in Adelaide, South Australia. She established her writing business in early 2012 after 15 years working in immunology research and science communication in Australia and Indonesia. She currently works with a range of clients in science, medicine, research, education, outreach and communications. She has a Bachelor of Medical Science with honours, a PhD and a Graduate Diploma in Sciences Communication. When not reading and writing, Sarah indulges in cooking, eating and exercise.

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