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[Book Review] ``A Very Special Science Essay``

Posted February. 23, 2001 18:53,   


How long is Britain`s entire coastline? The figures could be found in any atlas. But the right answer is ``unknown.`` Anyone who measured the coastline using a map could come up with a figure, but an exact measurement would have to take into account the multitude of twists and turns that mark Britain`s shores. Even measuring the exact size of a small pebble would present challenges due to the countless indentations on its surface.

Science is always a prominent source of questions for TV quiz programs. Points and prizes are at stake based on whether contestants know various chemical formulae or the number of chromosomes in the human body. But this book does not give a wealth of simple answers. Rather it illustrates just how complex (and at the same time fascinating) the study of science really is.

The book, written by noted science columnist Lee In-Shik, is a collection of his newspaper columns, divided into 27 categories. The writer leads readers to participate in and enjoy the intellectual challenges science presents.

The discussion of ``fractal geometry`` is a good example. Fractal geometry, which applies to everything from geology to physiology, is used to express notions of infinity and chaos and helps us see nature with fresh eyes.

What prompted the author`s attempt to better explain science to the average reader? Part of the answer is unveiled in the last chapter. Lee stresses the importance of arming citizens with both scientific knowledge and a humanitarian outlook, while warning against the expansion of anti-science.

Authored by Lee In-Shik/295 Pages, 12,000 won/Blue Tree Co.

Yoo Yoon-Jong gustav@donga.com