Science goes Viral by Dr. Joe Schwarcz is a pop science book for the masses. Schwarcz is Director of McGill University’s “Office for Science and Society” which has the mission of separating sense from nonsense. He is well known for his informative and entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the chemistry of food to the connection between the body and the mind. Recently the Office has focused on trying to unravel the mysteries of COVID-19.
Schwarcz covers two areas in this book. The first section exhaustively covers COVID19 and examines the science and disinformation that has spread with the virus from vaccines to home remedies. Schwarcz uses the Spanish Flu for a comparison and shows similar reactions of the general public. His tone and demeaner are straight forward and in a way the successful popular pop science “stars.” There is a bit of Bill Nye, James Burke (Connections), and bit of “dad” in the form of his jokes ending each chapter.
The remainder of the book goes into modern science, disinformation, and old wives’ tales. The topics range from ginger ale, Plexiglas, selenium, Red Die #2, tobacco, and essential oils. All topics are easy to understand by the non-science reader. Some topics come from the recent news like the woman who mistook Gorilla Glue for hair spray to the more historical like Red Dye #2 which many my age will remember. There is even the unexpected story like how an American became a Hero of the Russian Republic and the Andromeda Strain.
Science goes Viral is easy to understand and listen to. The narrator, Raoul Bhaneja, does an excellent job at reading. He is confident and comfortable in his delivery, so much so, that I kept thinking the narrator’s voice was the author’s voice. A listener can tell when the narrator is unfamiliar in the subject he or she is reading. The author and narrator compliment each other well in Science Goes Viral. Well worth the read for those with an interest in science, but not necessarily the background.