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The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science | [Natalie Angier]

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science

Buckle up for a joy ride through physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. Drawing on conversations with hundreds of the world's top scientists and her own work as an award-winning science writer, Natalie Angier does the impossible: she makes science fascinating and seriously fun, even for those of us who, in Angier's words, "still can't tell the difference between a proton, a photon, and a moron".
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Publisher's Summary

Buckle up for a joy ride through physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. Drawing on conversations with hundreds of the world's top scientists and her own work as an award-winning science writer, Natalie Angier does the impossible: she makes science fascinating and seriously fun, even for those of us who, in Angier's words, "still can't tell the difference between a proton, a photon, and a moron".

Most of the profound questions we will explore in our lives (such as those involving evolution, global warming, or stem cells) have to do with science. So do a lot of everyday things, like our ice-cream melting, our coffee getting cold, and our vacuum cleaner running (or not). What does our liver do when we eat a caramel? How does the horse demonstrate evolution at work? Are we really made of stardust? (Yes we are.)

In The Canon, Lewis Thomas meets Lewis Carroll in a book destined to become a modern classic, because it quenches our curiosity, sparks our interest in the world around us, reignites our childhood delight in discovering how things work, and instantly makes us smarter.

This is a playful, passionate, ebullient guide to the science all around us by a Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author.

©2007 Natalie Angier; (P)2007 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"A pleasurable and nonthreatening guide for anyone baffled by science." (Publishers Weekly)

"Every sentence sparkles with wit and charm...it all adds up to an intoxicating cocktail of fine science writing." (Richard Dawkins)

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What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (158 )
5 star
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3.8 (33 )
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3.9 (33 )
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  •  
    Paul philadelphia, Panama 09-19-08
    Paul philadelphia, Panama 09-19-08 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Far too cute"

    I generally listen to non-fiction and I like to refresh and update my understanding of science. I have read this author's science reporting in the NY Times enjoyed it.

    Based on that experience I purchased this book. I could not listen to more than 2 hours of it! Far too basic. The writing style is little more than a sting of quotes from scientists and comes off as a hard to follow "he said this and she said that." The result is tedious and hard to follow. Worst of all the book is littered with remarks that attempt to amuse, but really serve only to annoy.

    Oh, the narrator makes all that is bad in this book that much worse because of her over to top perkiness.

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Canton, GA, USA 06-30-07
    Kimberly Canton, GA, USA 06-30-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Tedious and preachy"

    This is the first review I have written after listening to many, many audiobooks and it feels like a civic duty to warn others to avoid this book. The insufferably preachy and tedious first chapter is the author's diatribe against adult Americans' disinterest and avoidance of science. Since the vast majority of people reading the freaking thing are probably doing so without a gun being held to their head, it's fairly obvious she's preaching to the choir. And she tries (again and again and again) to be funny. Ugghhh! Don't waste your time or money. Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is so much better. Even if you feel stupid, you won't want to gouge out your own eardrums to avoid listening to the book.

    23 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    02-04-09
    02-04-09 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Terminally Cute"

    Everytime the author seemed on the verge of informing or educating me, she inserted a "cute side comment" grounded in pop culture that served to disrupt my concentration and take me away from the subject at hand. I am not sure why she feels that science needs "dumbing" down, in order to sell books, but it detracted from the listening experience. I will make sure that I never purchase another of her audio books. I will not recommend it to anyone.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael Potomac, MD, United States 11-26-07
    michael Potomac, MD, United States 11-26-07 Member Since 2006
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    "tedious"

    This is intended as a lay person's primer on the basic sciences. It is quite comprehensive in its approach. The author writes in a breezy,casual style and frequently peppers her sentences with quips, puns and alliteration. I found all this interfered with content and my understanding. It was too rapid, too cute for the subject matter. Further, the narrator's voice grated on me and I couldn't wait for the book to end. If you want a lay person's primer, listen to Bill Bryson's book. Even better if you want a comprehensive lay person's approach, buy (or get from the public library) the masterpiece set of CDs by Professor Robert Hazen. His "The Joy of Science" is a best seller of The Teaching Company (also known as The Great Courses).

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron Bishop Newark, De USA 07-13-07
    Ron Bishop Newark, De USA 07-13-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Superfluous"

    Listening to this book reminded me of being stuck in a conversation with someone who loves to hear his/her own voice. The Author would have better served her audience by including more science and less superfluous language.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AKsmitty 02-17-08
    AKsmitty 02-17-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Science Booster Shot"

    The Canon, excellent piece of work. It is both a torch and booster shot for sophomore and juniors mired in the science memorization/regurgitation quagmire of high school. Filling the reader with both science fact and enthusiasm. The book and it’s author seem like a stimulus for encouraging school boards to vest more funds in high school science. A must read for science teachers rich with ideas geared towards making science interesting and meaningful.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Max Manalapan, NJ, United States 08-22-07
    Max Manalapan, NJ, United States 08-22-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    64
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    11
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    4
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    "do NOT buy this one..."

    Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" - is SO much better! She's not covering half of the things Bill Bryson does. And IF you'll make yourself to listen to it once, you will not be able to make yourself listen to it second time. On the positive side you'll be more concentrated on the road.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jana Zephyrhills, FL, United States 07-28-07
    Jana Zephyrhills, FL, United States 07-28-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    35
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    "Uninteresting and Unentertaining"

    I purchased this audio book based on my delight in reading Bryson's book A Short History of nearly Everything (or something like that) and based on the professional reviews posted. Boy, was I dissappointed! I've listened to the agonizing long introduction, the first two chapters and the beginning of 3 more chapters. There is NO logical formation to relaying any information - it's just sort of "stream of conciousness" writing. If something can be said in 10 words, this writer has to use three times that many words, causing me to loose interest in what she started out to say, even if I was interested in the first place. One enlightening point in her introduction is her dismay as how many people she meets who don't read her newspaper science columns - that should have been an alarm to her that her writing is so awful, at least as it relates to science. I didn't learn anything from what I listened to; I wasn't entertained and it's not interesting - so what is the point of the book? I'm very sorry that I wasted the money on it! This publisher and writer certainly could not offer a satisfaction money back guarantee, or they would be giving back most of what they took in. Bill Byrson's book is great - this book not even in the same universe.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Baltimore, MD, USA 12-23-07
    Patricia Baltimore, MD, USA 12-23-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Factual with a Good Dose of Humor"

    As a science teacher I loved listening to this book. Written so as to explain some complex scientific principles in simplistic lay terms; with a touch of humor added. I have found myself repeating some of the material in my freshmen biology classes, and the kids love it! Rates 5 stars from me, and my classes as well!

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Reich Northern, CA 08-08-08
    Chris Reich Northern, CA 08-08-08 Member Since 2005

    Business Physicist and Astronomer

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "More Annoying than Educational"

    Not to sound like a snob, it may be that I'm a bit beyond this "People Magazine" style of writing. I found the constant barrage of attempts at wit annoying. There's far too much "cuteness" in this audio book for my taste. By the second part I began to feel like I was on a bad date with a woman who wouldn't shut up. Yack yack yack.

    I also found her tirade on natural selection to be a bit preachy for a supposed scientific piece. Okay, I get it, creation bad. But it's not really necessary to hammer that point at length. Just give the science and leave the "I know better" stuff out. By the way, her bit about the purity of the scientific process is nonsense. Consider the chaps that discovered the H-Pylori tie to stomach ulcers---the scientific community did all they could to block and defame their work. Carl Sagan had many people "black balled" who did not agree with his pronouncements. Science is tarnished by competition for grants and fame---stop kidding yourself, honey.

    Go with "A Short History of Nearly Everything". She got most of her material from that book and "Short History" is far better written and narrated.

    If we could "resell" audio books, this one would go to Ebay.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
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