cover image Physics for Entertainment

Physics for Entertainment

Yakov Perelman, , trans. from the Russian. . Hyperion, $16.95 (330pp) ISBN 978-1-4013-0921-3

The impetus to republish this once-popular miscellany by an early–20th-century Russian scientist stems from the notoriety of reclusive Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman (no relation), who was awarded, and declined, the Fields Medal for proving the Poincaré conjecture. Grigori claimed he was inspired by Yakov's book as a child, and certainly children often ask about things like whether an invisible man is able to see, or what you would experience if you fell all the way through the center of the earth. Each chapter is devoted to a scientific principle, such as mechanics, heat, and properties of liquids and gases. Perelman nods to science fiction writers from Cyrano de Bergerac to Mark Twain and H.G. Wells as he explains why their whimsical fancies might or might not be feasible. The writing in this anonymous translation is lively and entertaining, but more up-to-date books in a similar vein are more likely to stoke modern young imaginations. This reprint of the original treatise's second volume (the first being unavailable for translation and republication) is a charming historical curiosity and an entertaining diversion. (Feb. 12)