Monday 15 October 2012

Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations

Australia's Greatest Inventions and Innovations Australia's Greatest Inventions and Innovations by Christopher Cheng and Linsay Knight in association with the Powerhouse Museum (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781742755649
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

What a fascinating book. Not everyone is into reading fiction and this latest compendium of inventions that explains and celebrates Aussie creativity has three things going for it. It is sumptuous to look at, simple to read and seriously interesting to learn from.

Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations is a handsome book, generous in size at almost A4 proportions, with each page clearly numbered and glossy to handle. Its layout is fresh with appealing print and visuals and enough white space so that you don’t feel weighed down by slabs of words.

Its catchy cover sparkles in colour and font and cries out to be opened. Sure, you can Google Aussie inventions (if you knew what Aussies had invented apart from Vegemite), but this book is tactile, fun and not intimidating even though it is filled with information.

Simple to read is another plus. With its conversational tone, it’s as if someone is spinning a yarn about each invention. There are nine themes reflecting innovations in science, industry and design. Each theme is colour-coded, such as green for communication, red for leisure and blue for health. Each invention begins with a problem conceived by the inventor, such as ‘How to convert chook poo into a useful fertiliser…’ We’ve all smelt the eye-watering odour around the neighbourhood and here we learn that chook farmer, Norman Jennings took years to work out how to turn the sludge into Dynamic Lifter that is now sold world wide. We get a short bio of the inventor and then find out the nitty-gritty of the process he had to go through. A keyword for each topic is helpful, as is the glossary at the back.

Seriously interesting is my last criteria. Over 45 inventions or innovations are explained that can be dipped in and out of. How would you find clues at a crime scene that are hidden to the naked eye like invisible fingerprints? Check out the Polilight on page 172.  What about Spray on Skin or the Supreme Mousetrap Machine? Heard of the Black Box Flight Recorder? Read their stories and more.

This book would suit anyone from upper primary through to teens and adults. It is a result of the collaboration of great minds with accomplished children’s author Christopher Cheng and author and editor Linsay Knight together with the storehouse of all things innovative, the Powerhouse Museum.

Just think. You might be a future inventor. That light bulb moment could happen when you least expect it. What a great idea. Let’s patent it!

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