Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs 67 Digestible Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life

Dr. Joe Schwarcz

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

304 Pages


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Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs really does "tell it like it is" in 67 short, entertaining, and informative pieces about the many functions of chemistry in our everyday experience.

Find out the latest about homeopathy and alternative medicine. Fill up on facts about soybeans, tomatoes, tea, ginseng, chicken soup, hot dogs, and the benefits of eating chalk. Explore the science behind Alice's strange adventures in Wonderland, Rumpole's deadly cheese soufflé, and Casanova's experiments with "Spanish Fly." Investigate the nefarious chemistry of the KGB, the colors of urine, and the mysteries of baldness. Learn how shampoos really work, and discover which cleaning agents must never be combined. Get rid of that skunk smell in a jiffy, and get a whiff of what's behind the act of passing gas. Take a painless, glimpse into the discovery of anesthetics. Read about the ups and downs of underwear, the invention of gunpowder, zombies in Haiti, Van Gogh's brain, John Dillinger's chemical exploits, little Mikey's exploding stomach, and Dinshah Ghadiali's bizarre attempts to cure disease with colored lights. Even Houdini makes a magical appearance in this wonderfully accessible, wholly fascinating, and chemically rich and diverse volume.


Praise for Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs

"Schawrcz tells it like it is. Whether he's plumbing the mysteries of chicken soup or tracing the development of polyethylene, Schwarcz takes a little history, adds a dash of chemistry, and produces a gem of an essay every time. I wish he'd been my chemistry professor when I was in school."—Christine Gorman, Time magazine

"It is hard to believe that anybody could be drawn to such a dull and smelly subject as chemistry—until, that is, one picks up Joe Schwarcz's book and is reminded that with every breath and feeling one is experiencing chemistry. Falling in love, we all know, is a matter of the right chemistry. Schwarcz gets his chemistry right, and hooks his readers."—John C. Polanyi, Nobel Laureate

"Schwarcz has written a book that is enormously enjoyable—it commands and holds your attention. It explains science and scientific phenomena in a simple and accurate way while stimulating logical thinking. It will lead to a scientifically literate reader who will not be so easily misled by those who wish to paint science and technology as being a danger to humankind."—Michael Smith, Nobel Laureate

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Dr. Joe Schwarcz is a professor of chemistry and the Director of the Office for Chemistry and Society at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He hosts a weekly phone-in radio show, is a regular on Canadian television, gives numerous public lectures, regularly contributes feature stories to the Washington Post, and writes a weekly column for the Montreal Gazette. He has received many honors, including the prestigious American Chemical Society’s Grady-Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. "Dr. Joe" lives in Montreal.
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  • Dr. Joe Schwarcz

  • Dr. Joe Schwarcz, one of North America's foremost educators, is well known for his informative and entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the chemistry of love to the science of aging. He has received numerous awards for teaching chemistry and for interpreting science to the public. "Dr. Joe" appears regularly on the Discovery Channel, has a weekly radio phone-in show on Montreal's CJAD, and writes columns about the role of chemistry in everyday life for the Washington Post and the Montreal Gazette. Schwarcz is also the Director of McGill University's Office for Chemistry and Society.