SCIENCE MADE STUPID
by Tom Weller
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In the 1991, a very popular book explaining how to use computers, DOS for Dummies, was published. It was so successful that it spawned an entire series of "for Dummies" books and a competing series of self help books that billed themselves as "Complete Idiot's Guides." Naturally these books were rife for satire and many parodies followed. The most prescient, of course, would have to be Tom Weller's book Science Made Stupid: How to Discomprehend the World Around Us, published in 1985.
What Science Made Stupid is, in a nutshell, is a scientific version (with illustrations) of Sellars and Yates's classic British history book 1066 and All That. Weller has taken all the science vaguely remembered from high school classes and presented it with varying degrees of misinformation and humor. This information is illustrated by cartoon-like drawings which, at their best, help illustrate the humor although sometimes in a subtle manner.
The layout of Science Made Stupid is cramped, giving it an overly busy feel, but also meaning that unless a reader actually spends significant amount of time looking at a page while reading, there will be details to enjoy on multiple read throughs of the reasonably short book. However, it also means that the eye jumps around from item to item on the page, never really resting on anything long enough to fully see what it is. Similarly, there is little feel for the intended flow on many of the pages.
In fact, the brevity of the book is one of its weaknesses. Weller could easily have expanded the book to incorporate additional material, but he decision (or his publishers) to keep the book to under 80 pages meant that it lacks in heft what one might hope to find. Add to that the number of pages which are taken up with full page illustrations to divide sections and the book does not give the impression of value, despite the busy-ness of the pages.
Science Made Stupid is a clever, if brief, look at the type of science books used in basic classes, as well as a look towards the various self-help books of the 1990s. It leaves the reader wanting more, but at the same time seeing the book as too busy to completely focus on the humor gems which Weller does provide.