In Brief

6th February 1998 at 00:00
The complete A-Z Physics Handbook. By Michael Chapple. The complete A-Z Biology Handbook. By Bill Indge. Hodder Stoughton Pounds 8.99 each.

Generally I am wary of scientific dictionaries, but these are exceptions. The definition of terms is very full and there are useful diagrams, flow charts and worked examples.

I was encouraged to find useful sections in the physics handbook on the construction and interpretation of graphs, while the biology handbook goes in for conceptual understanding rather than excessive detail. Thus the Krebs' cycle is given in sufficient detail to understand the basic processes, but does not overwhelm with unnecessary chemical detail.

As working dictionaries, the books will be particularly useful to students. However, like all dictionaries you need to be familiar with the language to use them properly.

New students should treat the books with caution, and avoid the idea that physics and biology are about definitions rather than concepts. However more mature users will be well served by these books which are good value for money.

Life Chemistry Molecular Biology. By E J Wood, C A Smith and W R Pickering. Portland Press Pounds 16.

This is an excellent learning tool with copious illustrations and an accessible text.

It ventures well beyond what would be considered necessary for A-level, for instance, Mitchell's chemiosmotic hypothesis, but this is an advantage, since it help students to understand how the electron transport system actually generates ATP.

Furthermore it makes the book interesting by dealing with specifics rather than generalities. I cannot recommend this book too highly. Buy a copy if you want to develop your own understanding of molecular biology.

Geoff Hayward is lecturer in science education at the University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies

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