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I'd like to think that it is not just because I am a baseball fanatic that Robert Adair's Physics of Baseball seems the best science text I've ever read, but honesty compels me to acknowledge the possibility. Likewise, one would hardly be surprised if a fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer were to counterargue that Ms Ouellete's breezy and amusing book were better. In my defense, I would note that whereas Ms Ouellete is writing about a fictional series whose writers weren't particularly coherent nor consistent in their vision of the physics that bound their show, Dr. Adair was specifically asked by Bart Giamatti to take a look at the genuine physics of things like curveballs and the behavior of batted and thrown balls at altitude in order to clear up age old questions and myths surrounding the game. Heck, some of us are old enough to remember teachers who would swear to us that the curve ball was just an optical illusion. Presumably there are neither kids in grade schools swearing that the girl down the hall is the new Slayer nor teachers who fight with them over why vampires violate the laws of nature. Mankind needed the Adair book. The Physics of the Buffyverse is a worthwhile lark.

That said, Ms Ouellette provides a light-hearted and interesting, if sometimes forced, look at the popular tv show and at how the ideas contained therein were compatible with or contradicted by what we know of the physical laws and properties of our Universe. Wisely, she allows herself to roam outside the artificial boundaries of episodes of the show, giving herself room enough to explain the science in its entirety. The tv series, thus, becomes a trigger for, but not a limitation upon, the discussions. On the other hand, she's obviously a huge fan of the show and she's unstinting in her examination of its plots and themes. The book will certainly appeal most to fans of the show, but also offers a convenient popular hook for getting more casual viewers interested in the hard science.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Jennifer Ouellette Links:

    -BLOG: Cocktail Party Physics
    -ESSAY: Scientists in love: When two worlds collide: One half of a physics couple that met online, Jennifer Ouellette seeks some advice from married scientists on how to handle both long-distance and up-close relationships, while juggling career and family. Can love survive? (Jennifer Ouellette, 2/14/07, Nature)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Smart Science Writing from a 'Physics Phobe': Jennifer Ouellette avoided science for 25 years. Now she's an ambassador for physics. (Weekend Edition Sunday, April 2, 2006)
    -INTERVIEW: Science Writer Jennifer Ouellette Answers Our Questions About Physics (Electrical Fun)
    -INTERVIEW: Shelf life: Jennifer Ouellette (PhysicsWeb, November 2006)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Physics of the Buffyverse with Jennifer Ouellette (Bill Thompson, The BookCast)
    -PROFILE: Buffy + physics: Science interpreted by local author (Haley Edwards, 2/21/07, Seattle Times)
    -REVIEW: of Physics of the Buffyverse by Jennifer Ouellette (J. D. BIERSDORFER, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Physics of the Buffyverse (HALEY EDWARDS, The Seattle Times)
    -REVIEW: of Physics of the Buffyverse (Andrew Zimmerman Jones,
    -REVIEW: of Physics of the Buffyverse (Bonnie, BlogCritics)
    -REVIEW: of Physics of the Buffyverse (Sunil, Balancing Life)

Book-related and General Links: