How Fast? How Sticky ? How Quiet? – The Science of Extremes

 A Dundee science writer, astronomer and musician has delved into the fastest, smelliest, oldest and brightest things on Earth and beyond with the launch of his new book.

Ka-boom! The Science of Extremes’, by Dr David Darling and published by Oneworld Publications, reveals the stories and scientific explanations behind the brightest light, the lowest sound, the smallest of the small and the blackest of the black.

David’s 56th book covers a staggering 45 topics, broken into Physics, Space, Materials, Technology and The Natural World.  From the top speed of the notoriously sluggish sloth in the tropical forests of South America to the engineers designing the world’s bounciest bouncy ball, the book focuses on the ‘gee-whizz!’ of science.  David also highlights some Scottish phenomena including one of the most resonant places in the world, the 200-foot tall Cupar Silo.  Within this cavernous, concrete structure, the reverberation of a sound lasts a staggering 36.5 seconds.

David will launch the book at a signing event at Waterstones in Dundee this Saturday, 4 May 2024 (2-4pm).

David Darling

Dr David Darling with his new book and, in the background, the Tay Rail Bridge – the longest bridge in the world when the original was completed in 1878. Credit – Kaelyn Roberston, KMR Media.

As David explained, the book may have mainstream appeal, but the content is far from typical – “It’s an unabashed celebration of the exceptional. I hope to take readers of all ages on a rollicking journey through the universe’s weirdest and most wonderful extremes. From the treetop home of the notoriously sluggish sloth to the very edges of the known universe, I’ve searched through space and time for nature and technology’s greatest oddities.”

As well as informing and entertaining readers, the book challenges them to look to the future and consider what might be possible. How can pioneering scientists use these quirks of nature to design faster computers, produce greener energy and revolutionise space travel?

David continued, “The urge to go one better than what came before is motivated by more than just a desire to see records broken. Very often, there are practical reasons to want barriers transcended. By investigating extremes, scientists find ways to hold vast amounts of information, materials that can withstand higher and higher temperatures – everything from non-stick surfaces to the latest smartphones.

“Even more scientific and technical records will fall in the years ahead as we grapple with climate change, pollution, food security and other existential threats. A chemical sponge has been developed that can absorb up to ninety times its own weight in spilt oil and then be squeezed out and used again. The highest sustained temperatures on Earth will eventually be used to generate vast amounts of clean energy. We seek new ways to travel faster or more economically, to produce more energy with less harm to the environment, and to discover lighter, stronger, better insulating or conducting materials. In physics and astronomy, we want to know what came first, what the ultimate constituents of matter and energy are, and how nature behaves under the most extraordinary conditions.”

Having published his first article in Astronomy magazine in 1979, David has written over 50 books, published in 20 countries, including the bestselling Equations of Eternity. Together with Agnijo Banerjee, he is the co-author of the Weird Maths trilogy and The Biggest Number in the World (both also published by Oneworld Publications – the latter in 2023.)

Complementing his love of science, David is also the founder and Executive Producer of Dundee rock band, The Science Fiction Experience. Following three gigs at the city’s Gardyne Theatre, the band is preparing to perform ‘When Worlds Collide’ in front of a global audience of 7,000 sci-fi fans at The World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC), Glasgow in August.  Fans are set to attend from across the world including the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia.

sci fic

The Science Fiction Experience. Credit – Kaelyn Robertson, KMR Media.

David is also making the finishing touches to his next book, still under wraps, which will be published in 2025.

Ka-boom! The Science of Extremes’ is available to buy in all bookstores or online or, for a signed copy, pop along to David’s book signing event at Waterstones, Dundee, from 2-4pm on Saturday 4 May 2024.

For more information about David and his work visit his website



Ka-boom! The Science of Extremes

‘You will learn something new in every chapter, or every page and probably in every paragraph. Hugely entertaining.’

Kit Yates, author of The Maths of Life and Death

‘Wonderful… if you love journeying into imagined mathematical worlds and simply exploring, then this book is pure, unadulterated escapism.’

New Scientist on The Biggest Number in the World

‘Brilliant… page after page oozes enthusiasm, clarity and intrigue.’

Bobby Seagull on Weirder Maths

For more information, please contact Matilda Warner, Publicist at Oneworld –