Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ideas That Changed the World by DK Publishing

Ideas That Changed the World presents "incredible inventions and the stories behind them". From medicines and machines that keep us alive to inventions that make life more enjoyable, the ideas in the book affect our everyday lives. The book also includes the inventor's name and other tidbits about each item.

This is a very cool book. It's filled with fascinating facts about the items we use every day. The presentation of the ideas is very well done. Each is featured on a two-page spread with large well-labelled photographs and interesting explanations. Occasionally, additional pages are used for further explanation as in the case of the "Ford Model T" (page 148-149), which has two more pages with information on Ford's model factory.

I loved all of the sidebars that offer additional information about the ideas. They include: "Tomorrow's World", which explains where the idea is headed; "Cool Science", which explains more about the science involved; and "Bright Sparks", which features a historical fact on the item. I also loved the "See Also" pointers at the bottom of most of the pages. For example, on page 46 you can read all about "Lasers" and then skip to page 128 to read about the related "Bar Codes".

All of the ideas in the book are interesting, but a few stood out for me as favourites. I really enjoyed reading about: elevators (pages 60-61), glasses (pages 114-115), zipper (pages 138-139), submarine (pages 154-155), Hubble (pages 182-185), space helmet (pages 198-198). Of course, the best one is the printing press (pages 84-85) for without this idea, this book would not be possible. There was one item that was new to me. In 1934, Percy Shaw invented "Cat's Eyes". I don't think I've even seen these in this form. They are the reflective devices on road ways to make them more visible at night. Interesting.

The ideas are sorted into groups. I'm not that fond of these. While some of them make sense (wheel, jet plane, Metro etc. in "On the Move"), some of them do not (stamp and money in "Handy Gadgets") What's the difference between a gizmo (as in "Great Gizmos") and gadget (as in "Handy Gadgets) anyway? I would have rather just had the ideas presented chronologically. I think it would be neat to see which ideas came about around the same time. It would also make it easy to see the progression of the ideas.

Speaking of progression of ideas, there's a timeline at the back of the book, which lists the ideas chronologically. It's very cool. One small improvement would be to add the invention name next to the date (or in the same bold font at the date) to make it stand out more.

The table of contents is very nice. It lists the groups and ideas in a large easy-to-read font. The glossary is also well presented. It offers compact definitions for a variety of terms from acoustic to x-ray. The index was a little disappointing. At the minimum the ideas and their inventors should appear in the index. Sadly, this is not so. I found at least a few of them missing.

Recommended. The DK website lists the book for ages 10-17. I'd say that about right. Some adults might also enjoy it (as I did), but may find the information a little sparse.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the DK Canada website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Ideas That Changed the World by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2010. ISBN 9780756665319(Hardcover), 256p.

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