SAN FRANCISCO — You can start at the back of the book with the glossary, a breakdown of those fancy scientific phrases that left you numb and stuttering in ninth-grade life science.
They don't look quite the way you remember them. Chromatic aberration: wearing brown shoes with a blue suit. Ohm: where the art is. Half-life: Saturday night in Fresno.
That's the tone of "Science Made Stupid," an 80-page paperback written and illustrated by Tom Weller, a graphic artist from Berkeley.
"I guess that, like a whole lot of people, I grew up watching Mr. Wizard on TV and reading all those popular scientific books," said Weller, 39. "Pretty soon patterns and standards start to stick in your mind, and you realize how ripe they are for parody."
He decided to write "Science Made Stupid" after "going to book stores and seeing bigger and bigger piles of books about pseudo-scientific nonsense. Somebody just had to make fun of them."
So Weller put together his tome (" . . . set in 12-point Monotone Bimbo, with chapter headings in Basketball Overextended.") that should hit the bookstores by mid-March.
In the introduction, Weller points out that at one time it took years to obtain "even a dim, incoherent knowledge of science . . . (but) today all that has changed: A dim, incoherent knowledge of science is available to anyone."
As an example, he offers an artist's rendition of the interior of a black hole in space, cluttered with lost keys and ballpoint pens, Visa cards, sunglasses and Amelia Earhart's airplane. Black holes also are thought to contain "campaign promises, missing Watergate tapes and Jimmy Hoffa," the book points out.
Looking back on the way he learned about the solar system, Weller remembered teachers comparing it "to golf balls at various distances--they always came up with this bit. Always."
Weller's comeback is "imagine the Earth is a tennis ball located in the middle of Times Square. Venus, to the same scale, would be a golf ball in Buffalo. . . . Jupiter would be the same size and location as the average Central American right-wing dictator."
On planetary orbit, Weller's book states that "an eclipse of the moon occurs when the sun passes between the Earth and the moon," and "an eclipse of the Earth occurs when you put your hands over your eyes."
The satire is greatly helped by the illustrations of skewed mammals with quizzical looks on their faces, happy dinosaurs jitterbugging to extinction and careful diagrams for the do-it-yourself crowd to follow.
From Dr. Stupid's Laboratory, Weller offers readers the chance to build their own Personal Planetarium--a paper cutout of stars on a black background that you can slip down over your eyes.
There is also Dr. Stupid's Seismometer, used to measure the severity of earthquakes: Mild: Passing Truck; Medium: Swell Party Upstairs; Strong: Nearby Small Children; Devastating; Water Heater Exploding.
Weller really hits his stride, though, with the Periodic Table of the Elements. The table includes Li (Lint), Dr (Drano), Ve (Velveeta), Te (Teflon), Bu (Bugetta), Feh (Irony), To (Tofu) and 35 other elements in the world as we know it.