If you’re a fan of comic books and the scientific method, Science Tales is just the book for you. If you fundamentally dislike the former – comic books – I don’t know what to say to you, but if you’ve simply never got into the latter then Darryl Cunningham‘s intelligent-but-uninformed-person’s guide-to is a great place to start.
The cover – white and green letters over black – shows a beaker of green liquid being poured into the “mug” of a bespectacled man’s head. A sticker proclaims this to be the “NEW FRACKING EDITION” – not a reference to the ever-popular BSG curse-word but rather a controversial new practice of injecting highly pressurized liquid into bedrock in order to create fractures through which oil and various types of natural gas may pass and be collected. It’s a huge strength of Cunningham that over the course of 34 pages he manages to explain the process in far more depth and far more compellingly and entertainingly than I ever could, making a case for both sides of the debate as well as exploring the politics that surround the issue. In sounds reductive for such a well-researched and informative piece of work, but Science Tales makes complex processes simple and understandable (and fun!) without ever patronizing the reader. It even provides citations in case you decide to read up of your own accord. How many other comics can that be said of?
Whether you’re looking to debate climate change with a mate or come to a better understanding of the ambiguities surrounding electroshock therapy, Science Tales provides all the information you could want through its chosen medium of endearingly crude cartoon figures and concise speech bubbles. The cartoons are inter-cut with relevant images to an almost collage effect, though the layout of each page is rigid, blocky even. Despite being clearly for and against certain issues – anti-homeopathy, pro-vaccination – Cunningham’s only agenda is good science. A sense of exasperation pervades certain sections of the book, one of which notably ends on musings as to why writers without any background or understanding of the scientific process are allowed to pen newspaper articles or scientifically illiterate senators chair committees. Through all of it, though, shines Cunningham’s precision and clear compassion, never judgmental or grandstanding. Think a British Bill Nye in literary form and you won’t go far wrong.
Cunningham lays out his beliefs in the foreword of Science Tales and never deviates from them: “Science isn’t a matter of faith or just another point of view. Good science is testable, reproducable, and stands the test of time. What doesn’t work in science falls away and what remains is the truth”.
For wit and integrity and informing me why certain people can persist in believing we didn’t land on the moon, Science Tales gets four stars!