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Despite Zalasiewicz’s wonderful storytelling, a book on this topic would have benefitted from more illustrations and graphics. Four color pages are included in the centre of the book which mainly depict rock formations. There are a few other images throughout, and these would be improved with some annotation. It would have been beneficial if the movements of the tectonic plates from the Cambrian age to today were depicted. Then I might better appreciate how our pebble was transformed along its j
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  Despite Z alasiewicz’s wonderful storytelling, a book on this topic would have benefitted from more illustrations and graphics. Four color pages are included in the centre of the book which mainly depict rock formations. There are a few other images throughout, and these would be improved with some annotation. It would have been beneficial if the movements of the tectonic plates from the Cambrian age to today were depicted. Then I might better appreciate how our pebble was transformed along its  journey as wales moved up from the southern hemisphere Overall, the planet in a pebble will appeal to anyone with a prior appreciation of general science, as it brings learning from the different scientific disciplines into focus together. Those without a science background will also find it enjoyable overall, though they might encounter barriers in some parts where scientific terminology and conventions are used without greater explanation. Mouthfeel: how texture makes taste You may disagree, but I would argue that few things have turned the public on to chemistry more in recent years that gastronomy. “ molecular gastronomy” techniques and equipment used to be the preserve of Michelin- starred chefs. Now, they’re avai lable to anyone who wants a go, with judge barely batting an eyelid when amateur cooks pull out the liquid nitrogen or attempt spherification on competitions like masterchef. But there are still few educational resources that are readily available to the home cook. Mouthfeel, with its gorgeous photography and colorful diagrams, appears to be trying to change this. Indeed, the back of the book states that it is ‘for food lovers and food - science scholar’.  The book explores how our perception of food is influenced by the way it feels as we eat it. Through a material science lens, we learn about what our food consist of on a molecular scale, it physical and chemical properties and how these can be manipulated to create the desired sensations. For someone w ho has Heston blumenthal’s entire back catalogue (either lovingly cared for or tattered through overuse), this should all be fascinating, but such is the dryness of the writing and the level of assumed knowledge in parts that I would find it difficult to recommended mouthfeel to even a keen amateur cook. Although not a recipe book, there are a handful within to try to demonstrate the concept discussed. However, most of them are beyond most hobbyists, whether due to assumed ability (one step in a recipe say s to ‘heat[sugar] until it caramelizes’ -a non-trivial tasks), or unavailability of equipment or ingredients. Recipes call for starfish roe, cod air bladder and even bull testicles, whilst necessary equipment includes a pacojet. Even when the recipe are do-able, they feel tacked on, with no real explanation as to what is being demonstrated. A brisket recipe says to cook this tough cut of beef at 57 o C in a water bath in the section that explains how such cuts only starts to become tender at 70 o C. unsurprisingly, my dinner that night was borderline inedible. The writing at times feels like a collection of facts without direction or application. For example, after exploring in depth the properties of different gelling agents such as gelatin, agar, alginate, and gellan  gum, the book provides no recipes or practical examples, failing to inspire the reader and leaving them to wonder why they should care. The same section also separates out gums from gelatin, agar and others, but fails to explain how they’re differen t or what they are. Mouthfeel and texture play huge parts in our enjoyable of food. This book had potential, but was ultimately frustrating. Due to assumed knowledge and lack of doable recipes or demonstrations, it’s certainly difficult to recommend to foodies. As for its other intended audience  – food science scholar  –  I can’t see what there is about mouthfeel to recommend it over Harold McGee’s on food and cooking , the srcinal food science bible. Robots I don’t usually stare so blatantly at strangers in public , but today I’ve paid for the privilege so I don’t stop myself, even when her eyes turn towards me and stare straight back. Her appearance is, at least initially, attractive. She is of Japanese srcin, with shoulder length black hair and totally unblemished smooth sin. And now her eyes are locked on mine and I detect a hint of a smile. Then, for a brief moment, I feel a connection has been made and she has detected something about my inner self. Embarrassed by this, I look away. Immediately, I’m angry  at myself and force myself to look back. I must show her she has no power over me. We stare at each other a little longer. And then, to my horror, her gazes passes from me to my friend, who is too busy looking at something else to even notice. I, on the other hand, am livid. And then I laugh at myself because I reflect that I’ve been manipulated, not by a woman but by a machine. That I have been touched emotionally, even if only briefly, by this experience has made my visit to the science museum’s robots exhibition worthwhile. It has made me all too aware that our relationship with machines is changing. I’ve not just seen the evidence of this –   I’ve felt it.  The exhibition takes you on a journey from medieval automatons, through breathtaking examples of clockwork robots, such as a boy from the 18 th  century that can apparently write anything you want him to, through amusing 1950s specimen that are little more than swiveling bins with eyes, and on to the celebrity robots of today, such as Honda’s asimo.  The middle section is a little cluttered with examples that are too similar and, to me at least, neither familiar nor interesting. I would have liked to have seen more examples in operation rather than static exhibits. But overall the displays are brilliantly constructed, with accompanying videos when they themselves are too valuable to be continually operating. The more modern exhibits do include functioning examples. The dexterity and strength of some of them is a little sinister, demonstrating a mechanical superiority that makes me fear for my professional future. With my discovery that they can at least fake emotion, I wonder if the days of humans as the greatest machines on the planet are numbered. But then I look at another exhibit and I conclude that we have a  few more decades left as lords of the planet. It stands motionless beside a sign that reads:’this exhibit is not working ’.  
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