Physics for Entertainment

The name of Yakov Perelman (1882-1942), Russian science popularizer, will raise very few associations with even an expert English-speaking audience, due to his lifelong unavailability in American editions. But this regrettable deficit is now remedied with the publication of his charming, albeit quaintly archaic Physics for Entertainment. A facsimile of a 1975 Soviet printing (in English, of course) of Perelman's 1936 text, the book exudes a rudimentary atmosphere of simpler times, before quantum weirdness, Big Bang cosmology, and Grand Unified Theories came to dominate our understanding of the universe. In ten neatly organized chapters, Yakov explicates the Newtonian paradigm with cleverly contrived experiments, of both the practical, hands-on variety and the thought-only kind. (Unless, of course, you're up for drilling an actual tunnel through the earth's core.) Many -- such as the counterintuitive trick of causing a flask of prepared water to boil by cooling it! -- still retain teaching power, while others involving magnets and compasses, for instance, seem drained of power to stimulate much curiosity. Useful, uncredited illustrations evoke a Mechanix Illustrated/"Gasoline Alley" era, when every backyard tinkerer felt competent to whip together a homemade barometer or steam turbine. An unabashed fan of early science fiction, Perelman draws lessons from the novels of Wells and Verne and Kurd Lasswitz, among others. Closing his book by categorizing it as a "motley handful of simple facts?culled?from a boundless domain of knowledge," Perelman humbly hopes he's stimulated interest in his passion -- and in the fulfillment of this hope he may indeed rest content. -

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.