#45 The Magic of Reality - A Review

"The Magic of Reality" for iPad.  Text by Richard Dawkins (c) 2011; Illustrations by Dave McKean (c) 2011; iPad App Developed by Somethin' Else for Transworld Publishers.  Available on iTunes in the App Store for $14.99

This book is fascinating for at least two major reasons.  It is a phenomenal book that is both insightful and creative while being rational and scientific.  This book is also a great leap forward in the way we read and consume material by way of the iPad application.  By the way, the book is also available as a beautiful paper book and as an audio book.  Although, I would recommend reading this book by one of the two visual methods because that is the best way to get all there is out of this amazing resource.  This review will focus on the iPad app since that is the one I read.

First, let me discuss the app's success so far as an example of how the information is being received by the public.  The iPad app was released on September 23, 2011 and as of October 8, 2011 was listed third in a list of top paid iPad apps in the "Books" category.  The list is based on total number of downloads.

The "Magic of Reality" is listed on another list in the app store.  This is a list of Top Grossing iPad Apps, again in the "Books" category.  This list is based on the purchase price of the book and it is listed fourth.  Not too bad for only being out for a few weeks.  I'd also like to point out that Dawkins' book is three positions ahead of the Bible which, at least this version, has been out since 2009, six months after the iPad's debut.  Do not be confused by the Bible App's listed price of "Free".  There are several pricey in-app purchases that tend to advance it within this list's ranks.  Now, on to the review.

The book is split into twelve chapters.  They deal with everything from magic to the beginnings of life, the beginnings of the universe, aliens, earthquakes, miracles, and much more.  Each chapter begins with common myths surrounding the topic.  For example, chapter 2, called, "Who was the first person?" starts with several myths regarding the beginning of humans from different indigenous cultures around the world.  Accompanying the text are amazing pictures, graphics, and illustrations.  In the image below, the hands descend from the sky to light up the body with a beating heart.  Following the mythology of the topic, Dawkins gives a simplified, yet not dumbed-down, explanation of the subject using current scientific principles and excepted theories.  The book is certainly not written for scholars of these topics, rather it is written for people that have rudimentary knowledge of a few of the topics but not all.  However, the book covers more than most people have a familiarity with and can teach even the most scholarly among us at least something.

The moving images and illustrations are well drawn and keep you interested.

Often, an image is important to the text for several pages.  Using the format of an iPad app, the image can stay on the screen while a page turn simply moves new text onto the page.  The days of referring back several pages to a figure mentioned in the text are over.  Authors now have the freedom to adjust the format of the book to better suit their needs and to more adequately present the information to the reader.

The metaphors and illustrations that Dawkins chooses to use as tools for illustrating the principles of the chapters are easy to understand and clearly get the point across.

There are interactive pages within almost every chapter.  The image above is one such page.  After pressing the hand symbol you are asked to blow into the microphone on the iPad.  This has the effect of moving the iguanas on the debris flows onto the islands in the Galapagos where they experienced a divergent evolution.  This exercise allows the reader to visualize a method in which the iguanas arrived on the islands.

The Magic of Reality is simply amazing, both for its information and it's presentation.  Dawkins represents the achievements of science to explain much of what was mystery a short time ago and it represents an evolution in the way we will read books in the future.  I'm excited for other scientific books to come out in this format with this level of interactivity and highly recommend it to any student of science or anyone who wants to learn about how the world works.

Written in Sparks, Nevada


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Archaic In America, this term refers in a generic sense to a simple hunter-gatherer lifestyle involving small bands of people pursuing a pattern of seasonal movements linked to the migrations and periodic abundance of animal and plant foods.