Matters of fact

9th May 1997 at 01:00
HUMAN REPRODUCTION. By L M Baggott. Cambridge University Press Pounds 8.95.

ASTRONOMY FOR THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE. By Paul Wyatt. Cambridge University Press Pounds 13.95.

FOOD FOR A HUNGRY WORLD. By Tony Sadler Cambridge University Press Pounds 12.95

Sex, stars and a healthy diet: Geoff Hayward examines an eclectic selection of readers for advanced students

None of these titles from Cambridge University Press can be considered a text book: they lack the normal devices found in such books which turn them into learning tools. Rather they are readers, sources of up-to-date, factual information that will prove useful, to both students and teachers, either in the library or as part of a science department's stock of reference books.

Human Reproduction is part of CUP's developing series of Social Biology topic books. It starts with some speculation about the evolution of human reproduction and sexuality followed by chapters on the structure and function of the human reproductive system, embryological development, birth, contraception, the causes and treatment of infertility and a final chapter which looks at some of the ethical and moral aspects of human reproduction.

There is a lot of really useful information in the detailed, well-written text, especially about the causes and treatment of human infertility. However, while it is understandable that such books have to be produced to a tight budget, the lack of diagrams and photographs is disappointing.

More effort could have been made to use the diagrams which are present to explain the often quite difficult science that is covered in the book. The effect is to produce a book which will appear, to even the most motivated A-level student, rather daunting. Nonetheless it is a text well worth buying and will be equally useful for A-level and Advanced GNVQ students, and their teachers.

The other two books, developed with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, are written for an Australian audience and are therefore full of Australian examples. However, both texts, especially the astronomy one would be useful for schools in this country. Published in full colour, with a wealth of photographs and diagrams, they look very appealing and would be useful to A-level, Advanced GNVQ and, for general reading, more able GCSE students. I will certainly be looking out for the companion book in the series, Science and Our Future.

I was particularly impressed by Paul Wyatt's Astronomy which, though emphasising the astronomy of the southern hemisphere, presents basic astronomical information in such an accessible way that it would be very useful to students in this country.

It would also be invaluable for teachers needing to develop their content knowledge to deliver the astronomy component of the national curriculum.

The book has clearly been written by someone with a passion for astronomy, is easy to read and the colour photos and images are stunning, especially those taken with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Tony Sadler's book covering basic nutrition, food production, processing and preparation systems, and the ecology of food production is equally interesting but less relevant in Britain. Again the text is well written and lavishly illustrated.

Specific examples, such as the value of the annual production of dairy foods in Australia, will not prove that useful, but there is enough general information, for instance about methods of food preparation and preservation, to make this book a worthwhile buy.

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

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