Open Eye: open book

Fat is fine... global freezing... science's kid questions...
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The Independent Online
The Fats of Life by Caroline M. Pond, Cambridge University Press, pounds 12.95

Fat is a dirty word for most people - but they could change their minds after reading Caroline Pond's book, The Fats of Life. Dr Pond, Reader in Biology at the OU, has been studying fat in humans, animals and plants since 1982 - what it is, why we need it, and why we often get more than we want.

Writing for the general as well as the scientific reader, Dr Pond puts hot topics like fats and health, obesity, slimming and body shape, into a wider environmental context, helping make sense of why people become fat and why attempts to achieve an 'ideal' figure are so often doomed to failure. Dr Pond's aim is to fill the gap between the health advice of the 'shed those pounds for summer' type and technical reports on lipid biochemistry and obesity. Its basic message - that fat is natural and necessary - may at least help some of us feel more comfortable with our bodies.

'The Fats of Life', with line drawings and illustrations by Mat Cross and Sarah Sutcliffe is available in bookshops from July.

Frosts, Freezes and Fairs by Ian Currie, Frosted Earth, pounds 8.95

Since experiencing the great thunderstorm in September 1958 and the big freeze of 1962/3 as a child, OU graduate Ian Currie has been interested in extremes of weather.Now a freelance weatherman, author, newspaper columnist and speaker, Ian outlines all the great freezes of the past 1,000 years in Frosts, Freezes and Fairs, an illustrated, wintry chronology of weather events when Arctic conditions split trees down the middle, froze people and birds to the spot and iced over the Thames.

Ian, who lives in Coulsdon, Surrey, describes the effects, how people coped and the unusual enterprises inspired by the freezing over of the Thames. Some enterprising printers in the 18th century, offered commemorative sheets bearing the customer 's name, printed on a press set up on the frozen river. In more recent times, the sea froze as far as the horizon in Kent during that 1960s winter, the coldest since 1740, and a Dartmoor farm was cut-off for 66 days.

Ian, who graduated in geography and earth science, writes a weekly weather column for several Surrey newspapers, is Telewest's Channel 17 TV weatherman, a member of the Climatological Observers Link and a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. He has written several other books about the weather and his home county.

Ask Uncle Albert - 100 Tricky Science Questions Answered by Russell Stannard, Faber & Faber, pounds 4.99

What are atoms made of? Why do people die? Can astronauts cry in their high-pressure spacesuits? Such apparently simple children's questions can cause even the most well-informed adult to re- examine their ideas about the universe.

In Ask Uncle Albert - 100 Tricky Science Questions Answered, Russell Stannard, former Open University professor of physics and a well-established children's author, has brought together over 100 children's letters and his answers in a highly-readable paperback from which both kids and their parents can learn and gain enjoyment.

Although written to appeal to an age range of around eight to 12, the content is by no means childish - in oneanswerStannard describes how, when flummoxed by an eight-year-old boy's question: "how do clouds stay up in the sky?", he walked down the university corridor and asked his colleagues (all physicists), and not one of them could give the right answer.

Stannard's underlying respect for children's open-mindedness and freshness of vision will come as no surprise to those familar with his bestselling Uncle Albert series, in which he tackles concepts such as Einstein's theory of relativity. This latest publication is one to dip into at random for enlightment on topics ranging from aliens to the influence of genes on human behaviour.