How Do You Get An Egg Into A Bottle? by Erwin Brecher & Mike Gerrard (book review).

‘How Do You Get An Egg Into A Bottle?’ is but one of the many questions asked and answered in this book by Erwin Brecher & Mike Gerrard. Divided into 7 sections with the 8th having the answers. Along the way, you will find the science behind a variety of phenomena and some general things you take for granted.

The problem with books of this nature is where to put the answers so they are accessible but not intrusive while you are having a think before looking them up. It gets around people like me who can read upside down and has them at the back of the book so be sure to have a bookmark there.

This book is designed to make you think first and look up after, so don’t rush to the back without some thought. Ultimately, I was reading a couple pages at a time before seeing what the answers were and whether they agreed with my solutions. There is also a lot of information supplied prior to the questions so you are being supplied with a lot of facts to supplement them.

Rather than pick out favourite questions, I’m going to contribute some different solutions I considered. Oddly, this is with the first question about what does a flashing red/green LED look like in an alternating current. I would have thought that if you include a resistor in the circuit, you could slow the flashing down to see the different colours.

Blowing up a stereo is more to do with feedback when crossing wires. Sort of like what Marty McFly did in the opening of ‘Back To The Future’ with his guitar at Doc Brown’s house. Their reason for having two eyes for stereoscopic vision should make you question why give aliens multiple eyes, apart from seeing in all directions. Equally, their problem of how does an astronaut in a room returned to normal gravity figures out what has happened.

Is it acceleration or gravity? All things being relative this is a tricky one and I’m not sure if the astronaut would have a spring balance in his/her possession. Considering there had to be a door or hatch, I would drop something and see which way it went relative to that. Oddly, this question is asked again later with a few more things in your pocket when on a space station.

I would argue that if you were detached from your spaceship umbilical cord that you could use a shotgun to return to it. You would still be moving at the same velocity as the spaceship and there is a tendency to be in a parabolic orbit to it that would bring you back to it.

Rather interestingly, how to make a manual spray gun is a demonstration of the Bernoulli Effect and I was surprised it and the later flag and weather vane does as well, although it does refer to it as an explanation further on. It would have made more sense to have revealed this with the first entry. Then again, after a while, so many pressure effects rely on air pressure changes.

It’s interesting that a question on jet-propelled helicopters doesn’t mention the fictional Airwolf. Yes, I can understand there are limits to how fast the rotor can go under motorised flight but disengaging it from the motor and spin freely might probably allow greater speeds for short distances was the explanation in the series. It isn’t as though converti-planes haven’t been thought of and autogyros certainly have a free-rotating rotor.

Oh, for the answer to the book title, you need to look to page 155 and something I’ve known about but have never tested. Saying that, I would have to think about the type of milk bottle used, the very narrow spout or the more common wider one as I’m not entirely convinced that the former would work.

A couple times in this book, they address a weight comparison between feathers and gold, sidestepping both by explaining the different materials are weighed and assessed differently. If you saw the answer the first time, you would know the answer the second time. However, I think they should have been equally fair and if they weighed as objects than materials, a pound or an ounce of each would have weighed the same. It would also have been interesting to see what the answer would have been had they gone for mass or volume by immersing in water.

Please don’t think my objections to some of their questions and answers are disparaging. This book is designed to make you think, even when you discover the answers. I have a feeling I’m doing just what they intended. Don’t treat this book as a passive read. You will learn a lot and I suspect if you buy it for your sprogs for long journeys, they will have a think about the solutions before looking them up.

GF Willmetts

September 2019

(pub: Carlton Books. 224 page illustrated indexed squarish hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78739-272-4)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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