Book review: The Geek Atlas

I’m starting to run out of places I’ve visited (just a few left!) but don’t worry – I will continue posting science travel stories on here. They will just be places I have *not* been to.

But first, an interlude in the form of a book review. You see, this is not the only place you can find science travel tips. There is an entire book out there, called The Geek Atlas, by John Graham-Cumming, which is very similar in concept, and even covers some of the same places.

There are roughly two big differences between The Geek Atlas and The Finch and Pea’s Have Science, Will Travel posts. First of all, The Geek Atlas entries are longer and include boxes with scientific explanations. Second, Graham-Cumming and I have different interests and have been in different countries, so the places covered are not the same. Where I have veered towards animals and geology, his interests are more in technology and his destinations are focused on engineering and physics. He covers the Very Large Array, for example, and  the Eiffel Tower, and Bletchley Park.

There is overlap, though. We both visited the Atomium in Brussels, the Science Museum in London, and the MIT museum in Boston. In fact, I’ve had this book for a while, and I consulted it before going to Boston to look for a fun place to visit. That’s how I found the MIT museum in the first place.

I think that’s how The Geek Atlas is meant to be used, as a sort of Rough Guide for science travel. If you know you’re going somewhere, you flip to that section and read what’s out there. In flipping through the book, I found some destinations that I wouldn’t have thought to include, like Westminster Abbey.

“Most people think of Westminster Abbey as the church where British monarchs are crowned, married, and buried” starts the chapter, “and it is one of a few churches and chapels directly controlled by the British Queen.” So what’s scientific about this? Well, Westminster Abbey is also home to the graves of Darwin, Newton, Herschel, and a whole bunch of other scientists! The science section in this chapter explains Hooke’s Law as applied to the mechanism of clocks – because there are several notable clockmakers buried here as well.

The Geek Atlas also contains a few other destinations where I have also been, which I will try to cover before the end of the year. After that, I might draw inspiration from the book to think of new locations to write about, because clearly I’ve been to science-y places without even realizing it!

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