From the Beacon: Books explore 'wizardry' of science

Do you know how to crush a can with water, fit a quarter through a dime-sized hole or boil water in a paper cup?

If so, then you'll likely wan to thank Don "Mr. Wizard" Herbert, whose show "Watch Mr. Wizard" aired 59 years ago March 3. Mr. Wizard was the first of a string of TV scientists (Julius Sumner Miller, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Professor Beakman, to name a few) who demonstrate incredible science behind everyday things.

While "Watch Mr. Wizard" aired a bit before my time, my dad fondly remembers it and encouraged me to watch Herbert's 1980s TV series, "Mr. Wizard's World." If you have ever loved everyday science, here are some book titles for you to check out:

Find out more about the science at work in the kitchen -- and in your body -- in "On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen," by Harold McGee. The author combines science, history, linguistics and, of course, gastronomy, in this comprehensive, practical classic.

How much can anyone learn from a candle? Almost anything, as Michael Faraday's "Chemical History of a Candle" demonstrates. Using a candle and a few other simple components, chemist and physicist Faraday created elegant experiments to demonstrate scientific laws in action. The experiments are included, and many of the components are easy to acquire.

Algebra, geometry, calculus -- math is scary to a lot of people. But "Life by the Numbers" by Keith Devlin explains its roles in the everyday world (yes, even calculus has its uses!) in a fun, engaging way. From meteorology to medicine to figure skating, find out how math helps advance every sort of activity you can imagine.

The long title of this next book sums it up quite well. "Scientific American Inventions and Discoveries: All the Milestones in Ingenuity from the Discovery of Fire to the Invention of the Microwave Oven" by Rodney Carlisle explains the origins of objects and discoveries as simple as wooden furniture and as complex as Cartesian mechanistic science. Arranged as an encyclopedia and divided into six periods from ancient civilization to the 21st century, "Inventions and Discoveries" can be used for research or perused for a quick, interesting read.

Part memoir, part chemistry handbook, "Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood" by Oliver Sacks describes how the author -- now a neurologist and best-selling writer -- fell in love with science with the help from his uncle Dave, the "Uncle Tungsten" of the title. Through Uncle Tungsten, Sacks became interested in metals and describes his personal recollections and the history of chemistry in artful detail.

With science as a resource in our everyday toolbox, we might find ourselves looking at the world around us in new and exciting ways.