This is an introductory book on Excel for physical scientists. Cambridge University Press deserves a compliment for a beautifully produced volume. Unfortunately, its contents are disappointing, because the text contains serious errors and omissions. The most obvious error is the statement, on page 308, that Excel does not provide built in facilities for fitting equations to data using nonlinear least squares. Excel does provide these, in the form of Solver, but the reader will look in vain for any mention of Solver in this book. (Figure 9.1 on page 365 shows that the author indeed has not bothered to activate the Solver Add-in.) The most serious omission is that the existence of user-definable functions and macros is not mentioned either. This leaves out two of the most powerful features of Excel: nonlinear least squares, and user programmability.
Another major problem with this book is that it doesn't show the reader how to use the spreadsheet effectively, but often goes out of its way to make easy things difficult. The almost exclusive emphasis in this book is on least squares methods, yet these are handled quite clumsily. On page 244, e.g., the linear correlation coefficient is computed from its formula by calculating the necessary sums, rather than by taking advantage of the fact that Linest, Regression, and Trendline all provide this parameter or its square. On page 284 the reader is shown the matrix algebra for fitting data to a parabola, and then told that "The built in matrix functions of Excel are well suited to estimating parameters in linear least squares problems", as if Linest, Regression, and Trendline are not there to take care of such tedious data manipulations. Likewise, on page 290, the user is not informed that Linest and Regression can also do multivariate analysis, but instead is instructed to do this the hard way, again by setting up and solving matrix equations. It is as if the author hasn't quite figured out yet that the spreadsheet has several built-in facilities specifically designed to make such least squares problems user-friendly.
In comparison with other books vying for the scientific spreadsheet market it is difficult to come up with any area in which Kirkup's book has the edge over its competitors: Billo (2nd ed., Wiley, 2001), Bloch (2nd ed., Wiley, 2003), de Levie (Oxford, 2004), Gottfried (2nd ed., McGraw-Hill, 2002), Liengme (3rd ed., Newnes, 2002), and Orvis (2nd ed., Sybex, 1996) all provide much more useful information, and don't make their readers jump through unnecessary hoops either.