The Geek Atlas book

This book covers 128 interesting destinations around the world where major breakthroughs in science, mathematics, or technology occurred

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O'Reilly The Geek Atlas book
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • An interesting read

Cons

  • -

Bottom Line

The Geek Atlas is a great geography and history of science and technology. It's not overly technical but includes a lot of scientific explanation as well as information on the fascinating 128 scientific destinations. It's not just for armchair readers, it's a proper travel book, as well.

Would you buy this?

The history of science is, of course, a fascinating one — lit up by discoveries, inventions and many a curious character. But much less is known about the geography of science, and so The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science & Technology Come Alive (O'Reilly, 2009) is a welcome addition to any tech-inclusive library.

This book covers 128 interesting destinations around the world where major breakthroughs in science, mathematics, or technology occurred — or are happening now.

It's not just an interesting read, it really is a travel book — listing places suitable for children, refreshment facilities and places that are free to entry.

45 of the 128 places are in the UK, including Bletchley Park, Ironbridge, Greenwich and the Alan Turing Memorial.

Scientific places of interest in the US just outnumber the UK, with 46 destinations, including the National Cryptologic Museum, Horn Antenna (Big Bang), HP garage and Apple's HQ at 1 Infinite Loop.

Also included are the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico (where the first atomic bomb was exploded), Chernobyl (unsurprisingly not suitable for children), Eiffel Tower and CERN.

Although this book is "written for scientists", it is more than accessible for people who have never worn a white coat in their lives.

"In the technical descriptions, I've tried to simplify the science without dumbing it down to the point of using analogies and metaphors instead of actually describing ideas," writes author John Graham-Cumming, who describes himself as a "wandering programmer".

"So as you flip through the book, you'll see the sorts of pictures you'd find in a travel guide, but also a lot of diagrams and equations. (Any reader who doesn't want to deal with the equations can safely read the first part of each chapter.)

Each site in The Geek Atlas focuses on discoveries or inventions, and includes information about the people and the science behind them. Full of interesting photos and illustrations, the book is organized geographically by country and comes complete with latitudes and longitudes for GPS devices.

Graham-Cumming says that "every site in this book has genuine scientific, mathematical, or technological interest - places guaranteed to make every geek's heart beat a little faster."

"One thing that I've been asked by reviewers again and again is to recommend one single must-see place. Picking one place is next to impossible—there's just so much great science out there—but I will admit to shedding a tear every time I see the Difference Engine at the Science Museum in London. It's mathematics in motion and arithmetic in action."

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