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HUTCHINSON TRENDS IN SCIENCE. Astronomy. Biology. Earth Sciences. Helicon pound;14.99 each.

For physicists who wonder if Dolly may not just refer to an electrical switch, or those biologists who believe white dwarves may be something other than stunted pea plants with pale flowers, or, indeed, for any scientists who'd like to step outside their specialist domain, this series could be worth checking out.

Each book attempts to summarise recent developments in particular fields of science. They all start with an overview and then a 100-year chronology, biographical sketches, directory of organisations, further reading, website reviews and substantial glossaries.

The real value of each book is at the start, with around 25 pages that comprise a potted recent history of the subject. It's an excellent way of getting to grips with areas with which you may have previously ha only a passing acquaintance.

The web directory sections will date horribly. Given American domination of the web, it isn't surprising that there is an over-representation of US sites, though it would have been nice to see some more home-grown examples.

Worryingly, the astronomy overview says that red shift means that objects are moving towards the observer and blue shift means movement away. I hope that's the only clanger, but it doesn't inspire confidence in those sections where information is harder to verify.

Specific titles will be more useful to individuals, such as science teachers required to teach outside their science specialism, A-level or higher-tier GCSE students interested in more than the bare bones of the exam syllabus, or the lay reader.

Ian Francis Ian Francis is a science writer and teaches at Parmiter's school, Hertfordshire


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