Renee Webster Reviews The Atoms Under the Floorboards: The Surprising Science Hidden in your Home
Are you in a room? Wearing clothes? Sitting on a chair or piece of furniture made of plastic? Many of us never pause to consider the plethora of science and engineering that goes into the production and functioning of our everyday surroundings and household items. This is the basis of Chris Woodford’s book, The Atoms Under the Floorboards: The Surprising Science Hidden in your Home. The book is comprised of 18 chapters each on a different aspect of the science in our homes and everyday lives. Atoms Under the Floorboards is aimed at the science-engaged layperson, and would also be suitable for an older child or teen with a burgeoning interest in engineering and the physical sciences.
Atoms Under the Floorboards is about the fundamental scientific principles behind everyday items, but unlike many other popular science books it does not dwell on the history of their discovery or famous scientists from the past. This was a smart decision by Woodford, to not go over this ground which has already been comprehensively covered in other books. He has injected a cheerful and conversational style to topics that at a first glance may seem banal and dull, and focussed on real world examples that almost any reader can relate to.
Woodford is British which is evident in some parts of the book where readers outside the UK may miss some cultural references or need to have their smartphone nearby to quickly google British terms or idioms. Efforts are made to account for language and other cultural differences, providing synonyms for example, “tap (faucet)” and measurements given in metric and imperial units.
If you have tertiary qualifications in a discipline including engineering, physics, or chemistry, you will find parts of this book too rudimentary and perhaps struggle to hold your interest. However, keep reading, because you may well come across a new explanation or analogy that could help you communicate everyday science to your friends, family or colleagues. And even if the chapter on clothing or energy is nothing new to you, maybe you’ll find interest in the chapters covering fluid dynamics or adhesives. Also valuable is the comprehensive referencing throughout the book, with 30 pages of notes and further reading at the end of the book. Atoms Under the Floorboards is an entertaining and accessible platform from which to dive into the surprising science hidden in your home.
Renee graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in Chemistry from the University of Western Australia in 2005. Since then she has applied her chemical skills and knowledge to a variety of fields including environmental science, food chemistry, air quality and forensics. Renée specialises in analytical chemistry and instrumental analysis, with particular emphasis on gas chromatography and advanced molecular separation techniques. Renée currently works for the Australian government researching the chemistry of transportation fuels and is also completing her PhD at Monash University.