Carnegie librarians continue to keep readers in the know
Loud noises don't trigger avalanches. Underinflated automobile tires waste as much as 5 percent more gasoline. Some people snore almost as loud as the noise made by a pneumatic drill.
Sure, if you spent enough time in a library — or ran a pneumatic drill next to your favorite snorer — you'd know all that.
But for those who haven't got the time, the 11 librarians in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Science and Technology department have created a shortcut to answering common and not-so-common science questions with the third edition of "The Handy Science Answer Book."
The first edition since 1997 marks the 100th anniversary of the department, which was the first to be established in an urban public library.
"These are actual questions that were asked by our customers," says James Bobick, head of the department.
The librarians categorized library patrons' various queries, dividing them into "difficult," "frequently asked," "interesting" and "unusual," says Naomi Balaban, who managed the project. They culled the answers from books, magazines, Web sites and government documents.
Some answers in the book are useful for everyday living:
Others might not do more than elicit an admiring "huh" from party guests. At the very least, it's entertainment.
"The Handy Science Answer Book" addresses those burning questions and 1,762 more.
"It was definitely a big project," Balaban says. "I know I spent hours and hours poring over each answer, making sure it was accurate, reading it over (to make sure) it could make sense to the lay person."
The first edition, published in 1993, was Bobick's brainchild. It was published by the Gale Group as "Science and Technology Desk Reference" and tailored for librarians and students. The publisher spun off a version of the book for the casual reader on its former imprint, Visible Ink Press, calling it "The Handy Science Answer Book."
It led to a series of 12 other Handy Answer Books by other authors, covering politics, religion, sports and other subjects.
Bobick and his wife, Sandi, a professor of Biology at Community College of Allegheny County, might eventually tackle a "Handy Genetics Answer Book."
Royalties from sales of "The Handy Science Answer Book" help to pay for upkeep and improvement of the Science and Technology department.
|The answer is ...|
Answers to science-related questions you might or might not have asked:
Source: "The Handy Science Answer Book," Centennial edition