The Element in the Room

51B-8FSCpyLThe Element in the Room is a fun book about science written by Festival of the Spoken Nerd (authored by Helen Arney and Steve Mould with introduction by Matt Parker). It is published today in the U.K. and will be on sale in the U.S. on March 6, 2018. It will be available in hardcover, audio, and e-book.


Comedy-science nerds Helen Arney and Steve Mould have put together a fully illustrated compendium of science activities that will keep you and your curious friends busy for hours. No nerd is fully equipped without The Element in the Room.

In chapter one, I’m immediately freaked out by an extra tendon in my wrist (even though 85% of us have it) and then subsequently not trying to feel a bit crawly while memorizing a song that lists the 37 lifeforms living in my gastrointestinal system. I won’t even go into all the weird stuff that animals do to procreate! Then things start to settle down and we get kitchen experiments (complete with a history of American vs. British tea and coffee), chemistry, physics (including Steve’s trick with beads, The Mould Effect), and experiments from their live show Full Frontal Nerdity, like playing with smoke rings and spinning a bin of fire (please don’t set yourself on fire).

I did a piece on terrifying facts about fruit recently, but had no idea bananas were radioactive. Because of potassium, each banana has .1 microsieverts of radiation. But don’t worry. You have to eat a million bananas for the radiation to change your blood cells.

For astro-junkies, there’s a handy guide of Earth-like planets/moons where we could consider moving to if Earth became no longer habitable. Fans of Helen Arney’s musical standup will appreciate fully annotated lyrics of “The Ballad of the Lonely Sun.” If you want to know where we’re headed, the nerds have got a checklist of pros and cons of getting yourself cryonically frozen and a choose-your-own-ending-style fate of the universe.

Lastly, I couldn’t praise this book without pointing out Richard Wilkinson‘s beautifully illustrated chapter openers. Each one is even more engaging than the last. I can’t wait to get the real book in my hands this March!

If you enjoy this kind of thing, Matt Parker has a similar exercise book all about math: Things to Make & Do in the Fourth Dimension; and Steve Mould has a science experiment book for kids: How to Be a ScientistYou can also read my review of the recorded live show Full Frontal Nerdity, which is on sale on the Festival of the Spoken Nerd website as a download or DVD. They have a new recording called Just for Graphs coming out this month, too. So much nerdity!



Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd magazine. Follow her on Twitter. She lives and works in New York City.

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