Science isn’t very funny, I’ve been married to a scientist believe me I know, but sex is potentially very, very funny and not just in a “Carry on” boobs and buffoonery kinda way. Mary Roach is an American science writer and author of the chucklefests Stiff: The curious lives of human cadavers (2003) and Spook: Science tackles the afterlife (2005). Her latest humorous scientific foray Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex attempts to answer such pressing issues as “Is vaginal orgasm a myth?”, ” Can a dead man get an erection?”, “Why doesn’t Viagra help women – or for that matter, pandas?”. Burning issues that demand an answer I’m sure we all agree (especially for all the sexually dysfunctional pandas among us).

Mary Roach’s approach to scientific investigation is rather in the mode of British documentary maker Louis Theroux, enthusiastic and self-sacrificing. Roach and her long-suffering husband Ed (ED also stands for erectile dysfunction) endure sexual congress by Dynamic 3D ultrasound, Roach witnesses Danish artificial inseminators pleasuring sows and finally rides the vaginal photoplethysmograph … all enough to make a librarian blush.

This is not a history of sex research but loosely dips in and out (phnarr-phnarr) some of the most significant eras of scientific investigation including Dickinson, Kinsey and Masters, as well as current research activity. Fun and a right “rollicking good read”, but typically not everyone agrees with me (see The Listener’s review).

Centenary of Bond creator’s birth

BondIan Fleming would have reached the venerable age of 100 on the 28th May; instead his final mission was in 1964, when his heavy smoking, skirt-chasing and boozy lifestyle finally caught up with him and stilled the old ticker. Not a bad way to go some might say and the Bond series which he himself referred to as “trivial piffle” also made him a very rich chap indeed, $2.8 million US from the thirteen Bond titles alone.

Commander James Bond, CMG, RNVR is best known now through the twenty-one Bond movies and we’ve had the lot; the blond Bond, butch Bond, Scots, Irish, Welsh, Australian and English Bonds. The film character has seen a new interpretation with each incarnation but the novels have a more static version of the Bond that Fleming first envisaged. Fleming considered Bond to be ” an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happen…a cardboard dummy” but others like Kingsley Amis have waxed lyrical on the theme of Bond’s “fine natural physique…ravaged countenance, dark and brooding in expression” and George Grella said “James Bond is the Renaissance man…lover, warrior, connoisseur. He lives the dreams of countless drab people, his gun ready, his honor intact, his morals loose: the hero of our anxiety-ridden mythless age”

So if you’re feeling drab and want to live the life of a Renaissance man, lover, warrior or connoisseur this could be the perfect time to escape into the wonderful world of Bond, James Bond.