Imagine a world where two guys, graduates of the University of Guelph, a mid-sized university in southern Ontario, are able to parlay a series of funny and cool whiteboard-style science explanation YouTube videos into a global science communication empire. Without even "forgetting" to give credit to science illustrators in the process.
Don't imagine too hard, because I think we're almost there.
And what is it about Ontario and humourous science communications anyways? Is it something in the water? At least the most recent incarnation seems to be a little clearer on how things should be done.
And what in tarnation am I even talking about, you ask? I would freaking love to tell you.
No, not that one.
I'm talking AsapSCIENCE!!!!!
AsapSCIENCE is the YouTube channel brainchild of Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown which has branched out into the worlds of Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and now, a real paper, ink, electrons and pixels book. And I'm no doubt missing a few services and channels...
So what is AsapSCIENCE? Basically the idea is presenting useful scientific ideas in a lighthearted, interesting mostly very accessible way via brief whiteboard illustrated and narrated YouTube videos. Sounds easy, but not really. And to be honest, the AsapSCINCE team do a very credible job of producing a video every week. A good recent example is their video on that damn dress.
Which brings is to the latest stage in Asap world domination -- the book.
Get ready, take a deep breath, the title is a bit long...AsapSCIENCE Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena by Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown (Illustrations by Mitchell Moffit, Jessica Carroll and Greg Brown).
The book definitely channels the same spirit as the videos with a series of very short, punchy, illustrated chapters divided into sections such as Resolving Persistent Questions, Rumors, and Weird Phenomena; Body Talk; Hypotheticals; Sensory Perceptions; Hot Sex and other Amorous Pursuits; Getting to the Bottom of Bad Behavior; Dreaming, Waking, Napping, Sleeping.
Some of the chapters include: Does being cold make you sick? Are silent farts more deadly? Brain farts, Could a zombie apocalypse happen, Why do we get pins and needles, The science of sexy, The science of swearing and The scientific power of naps. In particular, I've always wanted to know why spicy food makes you hiccup. (It happens to me sometimes if I get a real spicy jolt while eating.) The chapters are a mix of adaptations of videos and totally new content.
Overall the quality of the chapters is very high, with great explanations of genuinely interesting -- if whimsical and naughty -- topics (Some of the evolutionary psych stuff I could do without, but that's a quibble.). The illustrations are great, the text snappy. It's a quick read, to be sure, you could get through the whole thing in one sitting. Although I would suggest dipping in for shorter hits as you can maintain the funny better that way.
I recommend this book without hesitation. It's a fun combination of sugar and medicine to make the scientific information go down. It would also make a great gift for just about anybody. While probably not appropriate for most academic collections, this would be a great addition to the humourous science collection of any public library. While the content itself is definitely appropriate for a middle or high school audience, some of the fairly risque chapter titles might make selectors in those types of libraries pause. For example, Which is worse, childbirth of getting kicked in the balls; The science of orgasms, Will dancing get you laid; The science of morning wood, The scientific hangover cure...
You get the idea.
While this is certainly a good book for young people in terms of content, but sadly misplaced sensitivity on the salty nature of some of those chapter titles may, as I mentioned, make collections people hesitate. Don't. This is a very fine book. It's slightly scatological nature isn't that must different from the Captain Underpants books, but for an older audience. And we know how popular those books are.
Moffit, Mitchell and Greg Brown. AsapSCIENCE Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena. New York: Scribner, 2015. 256pp. ISBN-13: 978-1476756219
Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:
- AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena by Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown
- Neurocomic by HannacRos and Matteo Farinella
- The Cartoon Guide to Climate Change by Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman
- In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
- Laika by nick abadzis
- Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno
- The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic: The Adventures of Geo, Vol. 1 by by Kanani K. M. Lee & Adam Wallenta
- Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
- Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi
- It's Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes by Jennifer Gardy and Josh Holinaty
- Darwin: A Graphic Biography and Mind Afire: The Visions of Tesla
- Survive! Inside the Human Body graphic novel series
- How to fake a moon landing: Exposing the myths of science denial by Darryl Cunningham
- On a beam of light: A story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky
- Primates: The fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
- The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham
- Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
- Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick
- The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon
- Evolution: The story of life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon
- Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papdatos and Annie Di Donna