I enjoy learning things about just about anything. Many of the non-fiction books I enjoy the most are ones I walk away knowing things I didn’t before. So when I saw What Einstein Told His Barber by Robert L. Wolke I thought I’d found a book for me.
Though I hate to say I was disappointed, I was. It wasn’t the book for me though it’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It’s well written. It’s informative. It’s funny at times. It’s very accurate. However, it’s very basic.
I’m no science whiz but I’ve had a lifelong interest in the field. Generally to satisfy my curiosity on how the world worlds. Oh, and to spark my curiosity on another level. It seems that the answer to one question often inspires three more. I find someone who walks through this world without asking how that works, what do we know about this thing, what do we call this, and why to each of those lives in a world without color. So just as I love the books about killer plants, what we understand about our own brains so far, and what it’s like to climb Mt. Everest I gain answers, questions, and insights from each one.
I picked up What Einstein… in that vein. Sure I’d like to know more about everything. I did pick up a few interesting tidbits, like did you know the ultra saturated type colors like neon things actually emit more light than strikes them? Yes it’s true that’s why they seem unnaturally bright. What I mostly found were reviews of basic principles of physics from middle school and high school. Heat vs Temperature, Voltage vs Amperage, Additive vs Subtractive primary colors and so on. I should have know this book wasn’t for me when one of the first questions was ‘Where does the tread on my tires go?’ I think by the time I’d left 4th grade I understood the principles of friction.
Still despite my disappointment I hung in there and found a few shells on the beach of basic information I’d not seen before or at least for forty years. The information was good but I often found myself mumbling more things about the topic under my breath while I scanned forward to only find my mutterings in his section on each topic called “Nitpicker’s Corner.” Apparently I’m a nitpicker who wanted even more information.
In the end I can’t say it was a bad book but I can say what I did at the start. It wasn’t the book for me. It’s a great book for the curious middle schooler, the person who didn’t take physics in high school, or someone who wants to brush up on the basics. It’s not Brian Greene (whom I love BTW) stuff that bends your mind with new perspectives on the principals of quantum physics. While I will recommend this who series of What Einstein Told… to people when I think appropriate, I won’t be picking up a copy of What Einstein Told His Cook or His Cook 2 or Didn’t Know. They don’t fit the bill for my curious leisure reading.