ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: The Shocking True Story of Electricity

David Bodanis, Author . Crown $24 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4550-1

This entertaining look at how electricity works and affects our daily lives is highlighted by Bodanis's charming narrative voice and by clever, fresh analogies that make difficult science accessible. Bodanis examines electricity's theoretical development and how 19th- and 20th-century entrepreneurs harnessed it to transform everyday existence. Going from "Wires" to "Waves" to computers and even the human body, Bodanis pairs electrical innovations with minibiographies of their developers, among them Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Guglielmo Marconi, Heinrich Herz and Alan Turing. In each case, Bodanis deepens his narrative by charting early failures—Edison's difficulty in finding a workable filament for the electric light bulb, for example—and financial struggles. And Bodanis can be a wry commentator on his subjects, noting, for example, how bedeviled Samuel Morse was by his telegraph patents—when the telegraph was actually invented by Joseph Henry, who refused to patent it. Surprisingly, Bodanis goes beyond the inorganic world of devices, delving deeply into the role electricity plays in the seemingly inhospitable "sloshing wet" human body, such as why being out in the cold makes us clumsy, or how alcohol works in the nervous system. Those who don't generally read science will find that Bodanis is a first-rate popularizer—as he also showed in his earlier E=MC 2—able to keep a happy balance between technical explanation and accessibility. Agent, Katinka Matson. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/06/2004
Release date: 02/01/2005
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FORMATS
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-1325-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-4159-1626-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7393-1324-4
Microsoft Reader Pocket PC - 288 pages - 978-1-4000-5060-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-7393-3036-4
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