Writing a sparkling scientific study about a routine transatlantic flight on British Airways sounds like an improbable proposition. But it is a feat achieved by the celebrated materials scientist Mark Miodownik with his latest book ... Miodownik’s appeal comes not only from his ability to explain the complexities of science and engineering but also from his acute social observations ... Building the book around the experiences that most readers will have experienced during long-distance flights is an original and entertaining way of structuring the narrative.
The framing narrative of Mr. Miodownik’s plane journey personalizes the story, but there were stretches where he devotes too much space to it, particularly to personal anecdotes that are only tangentially related. Rather than spend several pages on blind taste tests and his personal preferences for different wines, for example, he might have explained in greater detail exactly why, despite their near-identical chemical composition, even a small dose of methanol is lethal while ethanol (the form of alcohol in beverages) is not. This reservation aside, Liquid Rules is an entertaining discussion of the various ways our lives are enriched by fluids. From the physics of ballpoint pens to the origin of jet-aircraft contrails, the book rewards the reader with fascinating facts and insights.
Written in a conversational tone, with all of the charm that genuine enthusiasm for the subject brings ... Liquid Rules also contains sobering passages about global warming and sustainability ... Although the implications of rising sea levels are frightening, the book’s overall message is lighthearted and optimistic, tempering more serious passages with discussions of new and innovative technologies ... Liquid Rules answered questions I never thought to ask ... A straight read-through left me with a bit of metaphorical whiplash. The book might be better swallowed in short bursts, consumed chapter by chapter, rather than in one extended read. There are also two distinct narrative voices: a personable, enthusiastic narrator whose anecdotes add charm to the discussion and a more authoritarian voice that occasionally stretches to make connections between disparate concepts. At times, the switch between these two was not as smooth as it could have been. Despite this, Liquid Rules is both entertaining and informative, which makes it a useful tool in the fight to promote scientific literacy.