Book Reviews

Review: The Science Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained)


In high school I did pretty well in science. Earth science, physical science, chemistry, physics… I aced all of my classes. However, I’m really not good at science, and I never was. I can do the math, and I could remember the facts (though I despised chemistry), but I was never particularly skilled at science. It didn’t pique my interest. And honestly, it still doesn’t. I have a very hard time remember how just about anything science-related works. Weather patterns? Atmospheric conditions? Plant ecology? The only time I ever enjoyed biology was when we talked about the animals. At least they had names and faces I was familiar with.

Not like the Amoeba Boys.

I’m not familiar with topics on cellular structure. Really, how many people remember the parts that make up a flagellum?

8 Years

Since it’s been 8 years since I’ve had a high school science class (7 years for university, but nonetheless…), I thought it would be good to pick up a book like this. For me, I’d like to know more about science, and I need the big ideas to be broken down into bite sized pieces.

This book by DK Publishers is a hardback survey of scientific thought from 600 BC – the present day. Like The Philosophy Book, this isn’t written from a Christian worldview. So depending on your worldview, you’re going to disagree with some of the entries here (e.g., An Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs [172], Life is Not a Miracle [274]). But that’s the nature of science books and religion. It’s to be expected that you won’t (or might not) agree with every article. No matter, this is still a good compilation of scientific ideas from across the millennia. Here, you’re reading about what a particular person’s thought was. Even if many people disagreed with it, it either stood the test of time or it was a gateway to discovering a better view.


There are four pages of introduction, beginning with the scientific method. “A logical system for the scientific process was first put forward by the English philosopher Francis Bacon in the early 17th century. Building on the work of the Arab scientist Alhazen 600 years earlier… Bacon’s scientific method requires scientists to make observations, form a theory to explain what is going on, and then conduct an experiment to see whether the theory works” (12). It goes through a discussion of the first scientists in the ancient Greek world, stargazers in India, China, and the Mediterranean, the birth of modern science, atoms, infinity, and the secrets to life. After this the book turns to its 108 entries on scientific thinking.

Some of the the well-known scientists here (ones I know of) are Archimedes, Copernicus, Bacon, Boyle, Newton, Ben Franklin, Joule, Darwin, Mendeleev, Rutherford, Einstein, Schrödinger (though his cat may be more famous), Hubble, and Hawking to name a few. Here, everyone gets one entry, which gives room for al to of other names I haven’t heard of, which is a plus. Current and post-high school/university students ought to know the people who came up with the grand ideas of many of the simple things we use today, day in and day out.

Some entries are one page, while others (Einstein) are up to six pages (really 8 pages, but two pages are pictures). Essentially, what this series does is it takes the big scientific ideas and simplify them for the layman audience. With most entries (namely, the longer ones) you get the name (Albert Einstein [214]), you get an gray shaded In Context box which gives you the Branch (Physics) and the thoughts of others before and after Einstein. There’s another coloured box that gives a some biographical details of Einstein’s life, along with his Key Works. There are two quote boxes here, both from Einstein (“The grand aim of all science is to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest number of hypotheses or axioms”). Usually there are thought bubble-squares that point to other thought bubble-squares, showing the progression of Einstein’s thoughts. For example,

  • If the speed of light through a vacuum is unchanging…
  • —> And the laws of physics appear the same to all observers…
  • —> Then there can be no absolute time or space…
  • —> Observers in relative motion to each other experience space and time differently…
  • —> Special relativity shows that there is no absolute simultaneity

Now just picture them as much better looking coloured bubble-squares.

There is a See Also section referring you to other thinkers in the book. And often there are pictures of some form. Here, the pictures help to give you a visual idea of how light, relativity, and gravity correspond.


If you have an interest in science but you don’t know where to start, this book is a good primer. I haven’t immersed myself in much science after high school and university, and, like The Philosophy Book, I don’t have (m)any ‘beginner’-recommendations, but I find the layout of this volume to be very good.  All in all it’s a stimulating book that does a good job of showing you the main idea and how to see the main idea through pictures (which, really, is what every book should have. Right?). The downside of this book for me, compared to The Philosophy Book, is that I found the entries here much harder to understand. However, as I’ve stated before I don’t have the science mind. So with reading even these entries in this book, it takes me some time to understand what’s going on. So before you buy the book, look at the table of contents. The book doesn’t so much explain how the atmosphere works, or how clouds work, or how the structure of a cell is built. Rather, it shows the concepts, ideas, and inventions of great thinkers and how they contributed to the science we have today. If you or your kid enjoy all things science, then this book is well recommended.


  • Series: Big Ideas Simply Explained
    Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: DK (July 21, 2014)

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to DK US for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book].


      1. Thanks Spencer. I have also looked and written. One of the pluses of the book is that it outs science in the context of other important discoveries. In other words, the book is not only a list of important discoveries. I am under the impression most science courses in the USA are taught ahistorically. If you wish to continue this conversation, please email me:

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Agreed, though I’ve only read science books in school so I’m not the person to ask about the ahistorical nature of science books. I’ll shoot you an email within the next few days. Thanks for your comments!


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