With this book in hand, we have all we need to set off on our next flight with our eyes open to the sheer wonder of what is involved.

Alain de Botton (Mail on Sunday)

Brian Clegg

There are few times when science is so immediate as when you're in a plane.

Acclaimed science writer Brian Clegg shows how you stay up there - but that's only the beginning. Because the flying provides a unique opportunity to see the world around you differently.

Inflight Science explains the ever-changing view, whether it's crop circles or clouds, mountains or river deltas, and describes easy-to-do experiments to show how a wing provides lift, how to calculate the population of the towns you fly over. You'll learn why the coastline is infinite in length, the cause of thunderstorms and the true impact of volcanic ash on aircraft engines.

Fascinating facts to discover include:
• If you flew across the Atlantic every week for 40 years you would be one thousandth of a second younger than your identical twin
• It’s impossible to make a perfect cup of tea in mid-air
• The wingspan of a 747 is around twice the distance flown by the Wright Flyer on its maiden flight

Packed full of amazing insights from physics, chemistry, engineering, geography and more Inflight Science is a voyage of scientific discovery perfect for any journey - even if it's just in your armchair.

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Enter the name for this tabbed section: Reviews


Imagine Leonardo da Vinci seated next to you on an airplane. . . . Brian Clegg attempts to restore something of the lost wonder of air travel . . . even as Leonardo, so fascinated by science, might have done . . . leav[ing] his readers improved for the journey and filled with a renewed sense of curiosity toward the wonders out their window. Wall Street Journal (Peter Pesic)

…we should be grateful for this book from Brian Clegg, an unabashed aircraft geek. Everything about aircraft seems to fascinate him: how much they weigh, how their lavatories work, how they affect our bodies. His curiosity extends to airports, which he turns into pleasure palaces full of little-known facts rather than the dull shopping malls we normally take them to be... I consider myself reasonably competent on matters aeronautical, but he still managed to surprise me with something new on every page. For example, he digresses on why there will never be electric aircraft. The reason is that to carry the same amount of energy as 10kg of jet fuel, you'd need one ton of batteries…. He points out that only children tend still to be excited by aircraft. We should take their curiosity as a guide. With this book in hand, we have all we need to set off on our next flight with our eyes open to the sheer wonder of what is involved. Mail on Sunday (Alain de Botton)

Brian Clegg is a science writer whose previous works have seen him explain the big bang, infinity and global warming. Here, he pulls all that together into one neat concept: a read-along guide to the science of flying, following the journey from the security checks at departure through to landing at the other end. Using the body scan and luggage x-ray, he successfully lays out the physics of radiation in layman’s terms, with diagrams to illustrate the trickier parts, or particles... Inflight Science catches the current wave of Brian Cox-approved popular science. It is straightforward and easy to grasp, even when Clegg dips into the mind-blowing world of quantum physics, relating it back to how the sun works... for those who are interested in the way things work, and have seen the films on offer on board, it’s a pleasant way of riding out the bumps. Sunday Times (Rebecca Nicholson)

BOOK OF THE WEEK - Inflight Science by Brian Clegg is, essentially, an eye-spy book for adults... fitting into that publishing niche somewhere between hard science and Schott’s Miscellany that was so successfully exploited by the Cloudspotter’s GuideThe great strength of this book is its ability to pull out from the mundane experiences of modern air travel - the contrails and cumulonimbus, the security scanners and salted snacks - to explain a wider technical point... We are called - it is the Royal Society’s motto - to take no one’s world for it. In that spirit, Clegg includes several of his own experiments, so you too can perform some basic mile-high science... [some] are ingenious. The Times (Tom Whipple)

The book is best described as a science encyclopaedia written like a novel. It grabs you and will not let you go; every other page introduces a new flight-related scientific topic, connected to the next in logical sequence… The scientific information is not only presented in an unusual context, but also often explained in a very funny way… I highly recommend Inflight Science to all science teachers who have been airborne at least once. Its use in the classroom will enrich the learning of numerous students through their teachers’ new approach to familiar science. Science in Schools (Friedel Krotscheck)

Surveys suggest that fear of flying is one of the most common phobias. White-knuckled passengers frantically ask themselves: Why are the wings of the plane flexing? What if someone tries to open a door while we’re in flight? What’s keeping this plane up in the air, anyway? The nerve-calming answers to these questions and many others can be found in this easy-to-pack paperback by Clegg… In other discussions of everything from jet engines to jet lag, Clegg both fascinates and informs. If straight­forward science can dispel fear of flying, there will soon be fewer people shaking in their seats. Science News (Sid Perkins)

He successfully lays out the physics of radiation in layman’s terms, with diagrams to emphasize the trickier parts, and offers plenty of facts worth recycling in the pub… Sunday Times - Pick of the Paperbacks (Brian Schofield)

If flying in an airplane has left you with questions, Clegg will have the answers you're looking for and then some… Once in the air, Clegg explains the landscape out the window (even the Nazca Lines, in case you're flying over Peru), covering the fractals of streams and why rivers meander, among other subjects. With time devoted to clouds, time zones, jet lag, technology, eclipses, and outer space, Clegg also includes more esoteric details, such as why you can't get a good cup of tea on board--the lower air pressure reduces the temperature at which water boils. Though it's not as much fun as a trip to Hawaii, it's much cheaper. Publishers Weekly

In Inflight Science the science you experience as you travel by air to your destination is brought to life in a fun, accessible and informative way...This book really offers an innovative and fresh glance at the amazing processes that make air travel possible, and Clegg’s enthusiastic (and easy!) explanations really help this flying companion soar. Clegg’s writing reveals the massive scientific leaps we make without even removing our seatbelts... Every moment of your journey is an opportunity to experience science in action: Inflight Science will be your guide, and it’s guaranteed to be more entertaining than the inflight movie!

Brian Clegg answers many of the more pressing questions people have about commercial aviation. What is a contrail, for instance? Why did volcanic ash ground so many flights in Europe in 2010? And what is it that keeps us airborne?.. He also explains why airline tea is so appalling: water boils at too low a temperature in the cabin's low pressure to make a decent brew. For that knowledge alone I, for one, was grateful. New Scientist (Paul Marks)

If you're looking for harder-working summer literature, then Clegg's foray into the science of air travel should be awarded some precious space in your hand luggage... The beauty of the book lies in the way it makes you see the world afresh, learning about the way things work and like a child, constantly questioning why. The opportunity for such entertaining enlightenment - or should that be enlightening entertainment - are few and far between when you pass the age of ten; grasp it with both hands. Engineering & Technology Magazine (Erika Burrows)

This is one of those 'cor, I wish I had written that' books, a deceptively simple concept brilliantly executed. This marvellous little book tells you all about the sights, sounds and experiences (not to mention rock-hard engineering) going on from your vantage point in your aircraft seat. Packed with facts, figures and head-scratching information it sets out to restore some of that childlike excitement that you used to feel before air travel became 'yet another damned business trip'. Mostly Books (Mark Thornton)

What a lovely little book this is: the ultimate holiday read before the holiday's even begun. You can consult it in real-time (cover to cover, roughly in the time it takes to fly from Heathrow to Hungary) - a refreshing change from staring at the back of a seat... Best of all is the writing style: clear as day, yet totally non-patronizing. Author Brian Clegg clearly understands that science is only as dry as the ivy-covered professors who make it so. The Word Magazine

This is such a good idea it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before... All in all this book contains pretty much everything you might want to know about air travel. Geographical Magazine (Mick Heron)

British science writer Brian Clegg agreed to an unsexy title for his latest, but he can boast having written the perfect non-fiction equivalent of an airport novel. Able to be read from cover to cover in a flight to, say, Bali, its constant whirr of facts all things airborne and commonsense tone should not only distract reluctant flyers (like myself) but reassure us that the best minds in engineering and science have worked (and keep working) to make flying as safe as possible. New Zealand Sunday Star Times (Mark Broatch)

Holiday season is fast approaching and what better way to get in the mood with a bit of holiday reading – we suggest Inflight ScienceThis light but informative read is fun and accessible and the perfect book to read on your travels – and there are even a few inflight experiments for you to get your teeth into. Laboratory News

If you love flying you will find this book utterly fascinating. It's crammed with interesting facts... The Scotsman/Edinburgh Evening News

If you’re wondering what to take to read on the plane as you set off on your next holiday, consider this Guide to the World from your Airplane Window. This is science simplified, surprising and entertaining. Choice Magazine (Simon Evans)

Everything you were afraid (very afraid!) to ask is explained in this brilliant guide to the science of getting into the air, staying there and landing. Saga Magazine

Families who love flying will find Inflight Science utterly fascinating. It is crammed with interesting facts... It’s the perfect airport thriller. Blackpool Gazette

This book is an enjoyable scientific romp through the various processes that make up a typical flight, from arriving at the terminal to take-off to the world you can see through the window. The narrative is structured to follow a typical flight, so if you’re in for a long haul it’s perfectly possible to use the text as a real-time guide, a kind of virtual tour of the world of flight as it happens...

Where this book’s strength really lies, however, is in its demonstration that science is all around us and that powered flight is just one of the many ways in which scientific principles form the foundation of the world in which we live. And that’s just another thing to consider when we take to the skies. The Daily Rant (Keith Ruffles)

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