THE LAB

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - LEIGH DAY­TON

IF quan­tum the­ory seems in­com­pre­hen­si­ble you’re in good com­pany. The ex­perts them­selves are of­ten baf­fled. Mar­cus Chown dis­cov­ered this quan­tum phe­nom­e­non when he de­cided to in­tro­duce the sub­ject to the curious but unini­ti­ated. So he pieced it to­gether him­self. Don’t worry, though. You can trust Chown. As a ra­dio as­tronomer trained at the fa­mous Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and a long- time con­trib­u­tor to New Sci­en­tist mag­a­zine, Chown gets things right. The re­sult is a won­der­fully witty ex­pla­na­tion of the in­ex­pli­ca­ble.

Life in Cold Blood Can­cer Ex­plained: The Es­sen­tial Guide to Di­ag­no­sis and Man­age­ment

By Fred Stephens and Richard Fox Ran­dom House Aus­tralia, 267pp, $ 24.95 WAIT! To bor­row from sci- fi writer Douglas Adams, ‘‘ Don’t Panic!’’ Sur­gi­cal on­col­o­gist Fred Stephens and med­i­cal on­col­o­gist Richard Fox, both Aus­tralian spe­cial­ists, are not scare­mon­gers. Quite the op­po­site. Their straight­for­ward, re­cently up­dated take on can­cer — from ade­no­car­ci­noma to ze­bra­noma ( OK, I made that one up) — re­places fear with fact. It can­vasses the latest ad­vances in pre­ven­tion, di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment. It should in­ter­est all read­ers, not just those tack­ling can­cer or help­ing oth­ers to do so. True, not all can­cers can be cured, but many can. By David At­ten­bor­ough BBC Books, 288pp, $ 59.95 THIS book, based on an­other television se­ries from the mega- pro­lific David At­ten­bor­ough, is so en­tic­ing my re­view copy van­ished one night. For­tu­nately, if sur­pris­ingly, the cul­prit re­turned it, be­cause this is a lav­ishly il­lus­trated romp through the his­tory of ec­totherms, an­i­mals whose body tem­per­a­ture de­pends on their en­vi­ron­ment rather than be­ing in­ter­nally gen­er­ated. At­ten­bor­ough uses an approach based on evo­lu­tion­ary pro­gres­sion, stop­ping off at var­i­ous an­i­mal ex­am­ples along the way. It’s ef­fec­tive, in­struc­tive and en­joy­able. IN 1957 Ge­of­frey Lee Martin was a young New Zealand jour­nal­ist who scored the ul­ti­mate as­sign­ment: travel with Ed­mund Hil­lary to the Antarc­tic. Four years af­ter Hil­lary and Ten­z­ing Nor­gay knocked off Mt Ever­est, the ad­ven­turer was cho­sen to lead one of two field par­ties mak­ing up the Com­mon­wealth Trans- Antarc­tic Ex­pe­di­tion. It was part of the In­ter­na­tional Geo­phys­i­cal Year ( 1957- 58), among the largest sci­en­tific col­lab­o­ra­tions ever. Lee Martin’s gos­sipy, pic­ture- packed book de­scribes what the sci­en­tists and ex­plor­ers got up to.

Quan­tum The­ory Can­not Hurt You: A Guide to the Uni­verse By Mar­cus Chown Faber & Faber, 200pp, $ 35

Hell­bent for the Pole: An In­sider’s Ac­count of the ‘‘ Race to the South Pole’’ 1957- 1958 By Ge­of­frey Lee Martin, Allen & Un­win, 160pp, $ 35.00

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