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1. American Prometheus : The Triumph
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2. 109 East Palace : Robert Oppenheimer
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3. A Short History of Nearly Everything
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4. A World Without Time
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5. A Brief History of Time : The
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6. Longitude: The True Story of a
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7. The Double Helix : A Personal
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8. Scientific Revolutions : Primary
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9. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
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10. E=mc2: A Biography of the World's
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11. The Great Influenza: The Epic
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12. Electric Universe : The Shocking
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13. New Cosmic Horizons: Space Astronomy
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14. The Borderlands of Science: Where
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15. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human
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16. The Do's: Osteopathic Medicine
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17. The Code Book: The Science of
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18. The Los Alamos Primer: The First
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19. Einstein 1905 : The Standard of
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20. The Next Fifty Years : Science

1. American Prometheus : The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
list price: $35.00
our price: $23.10
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Asin: 0375412026
Catlog: Book (2005-04-05)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 157455
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2. 109 East Palace : Robert Oppenheimer and the Men and Women Who Followed Him to the Secret City of Los Alamos
by Jennet Conant
list price: $26.00
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Asin: 0743250079
Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 951731
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3. A Short History of Nearly Everything
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
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Asin: 076790818X
Catlog: Book (2004-09-14)
Publisher: Broadway
Sales Rank: 141
Average Customer Review: 4.47 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Bill Bryson is one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers.In A Short History of Nearly Everything, he takes his ultimate journey–into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer.It’s a dazzling quest, the intellectual odyssey of a lifetime, as this insatiably curious writer attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization.Or, as the author puts it, “…how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since.”This is, in short, a tall order.

To that end, Bill Bryson apprenticed himself to a host of the world’s most profound scientific minds, living and dead.His challenge is to take subjects like geology, chemisty, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics and see if there isn’t some way to render them comprehensible to people, like himself, made bored (or scared) stiff of science by school.His interest is not simply to discover what we know but to find out how we know it.How do we know what is in the center of the earth, thousands of miles beneath the surface?How can we know the extent and the composition of the universe, or what a black hole is?How can we know where the continents were 600 million years ago?How did anyone ever figure these things out?

On his travels through space and time, Bill Bryson encounters a splendid gallery of the most fascinating, eccentric, competitive, and foolish personalities ever to ask a hard question.In their company, he undertakes a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only this superb writer can render it.Science has never been more involving, and the world we inhabit has never been fuller of wonder and delight.
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Reviews (236)

4-0 out of 5 stars Just like on PBS
I like Bill Bryson's writing style. This is a book one wishes they read as a teenager. It really brings science alive. One feels like they are witnessing events as they occur in the first person. I like how Bryson takes scientific topics and makes them simple too understand. Bryson puts numbers in perspective and helps the reader understand the spatial enormity or complexity of the elements, atom, planets, and stars. Its easy to retell a Bryson story because they have good imagination well connect ideas that flow into an interesting story without sounding too intellectual. Like, "What is it like to be inside of an Cell? How do cells work? Who discovered DNA and why?" Question like these.

I think reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is a great introduction to science, astronomy, biology, and geology. Bryson keeps the narrative down to earth, terminology to a minimum, and brings out interesting viewpoints on the birth of the cosmos, the self-repairing DNA, life on planet earth, and the composition of the earth.

Bryson did a job not boring the reader with the mysteries of science. Its entertaining reading and not difficult material to understand. Bryson presents thought provoking material that makes one want to read many other published books by Bryson.

5-0 out of 5 stars He Really Does Cover Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson is one of those rare non-fiction writers who can combine anecdote, humor and actual information, all in one book. Here he covers the history of the earth, starting with the big bang and covering all sorts of ground since then, including why you should be really afraid of meteors (by the time we spot the big one it'll be too late) and why you should think twice about that next visit to Yellowstone (the big one is about due).

As with most of his books it's clear he's done a lot of research, and the book is larded with the kind of stories about Famous Scientists that you've probably never heard...but also full of the sort of survey scientific information that will leave you thinking you've learned something really interesting.

Definitely worth picking up.

Who will like it: lovers of pop science, lovers of Bill Bryson, people willing to read a thick book from start to finish.

Who won't like it: people bored by pop science or any science at all.

5-0 out of 5 stars Rediscover what you learned in school and forgot
This book is aimed at people who either know very little about science, or who studied it in school and then forgot it all (my case). I read some of the reviews here and was shocked at how people criticize Bryson, especially saying he got scientific terms mixed up or had errors in his book. He is not a scientist and in my opinion that makes this book that much more impressive! Bryson devoted years of his life to learn this material, and to think we can take it all in by reading a book.. well it just doesn't seem fair! I was sad when I reached the end of the book, I wanted it to continue. I learned so much from this book, and it's interesting how many times the subject material in this book comes up in every day conversations.

Bryson approaches history from two angles: Astronomy and what we know about the universe, and Evolution and what we know about life on Earth. I learned so many things I didn't know. Fascinating facts such as that meteorites are used to date the earth with carbon dating (they're the same age). Meteorites contain proteins needed to build life. Human like species have been on Earth for 1 million years. After finishing this book, I find myself thinking about topics like these during my free time. That's how impressive this book is. If you love science, this won't be a book you just read and forget. It's a book that will teach you things you'll be thinking about for a long time.

Honestly I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you're interested in science, it is a must read.


5-0 out of 5 stars Tabloid history of science
The book's title is very gripping but somewhat misleading - it is in fact a book of science tabloids - in a good way. It covers basic findings and histories of almost all major areas of natural sciences in a shallow but easy to follow manner. It is not intended to be introductory to science and science history (find a textbook instead), it is a fun-fact book of science and science history.

This book is full of interesting anecdotes of science and scientists behind scene, which makes the reading stimulating and gives the readers a joyful sense of "discovery". Here are just a few examples top of my mind:

- Components of your daily household cleaning powders like Comet and Ajax are made from the huge ash deposit in eastern Nebraska - they are leftover volcanic ashes from the ancient monstrous eruption of Yellowstone.

- Marie Curie, the only person to win Nobel prize in both chemistry and physics, was never elected to the French academy of sciences largely because she had an affair with a married fellow physicist after Pierre Curie died in a traffic accident. Madame Curie eventually died of leukemia and her papers and lab books (even her cookbooks) are so dangerously contaminated by radiation that those who wish to see them must wear protective clothing.

- Clair Patterson (a University of Chicago alumnus), who in 1953 gave the definitive measurement of the age of the Earth (4,550 million years - plus or minus 70 millions) by analyzing lead/uranium ratios in old rocks and meteorites, was also the leading expert in atmospheric lead poisoning and the early advocate of cleaning lead additives from manmade product. To his credit, Clean Air Act 1970 eventually led to the ban of leaded gasoline in United States in 1986. Almost immediately the blood lead level in Americans dropped 80%.

Informative tabloids like these are all over the book. Bryson did a perfect job of bringing dull facts in history of science into fun everyday life experience. He compiled a huge amount of anecdotes from otherwise hard to find sources and weaved them together seamlessly in fluid and humorous writing. It makes the reading of science fun.

5-0 out of 5 stars The best book you would be able to read in your lifetime!
By reading this book you realize how lucky you are to be here right now. To be reading this in front of your computer is an acomplishment that you may not realize. It shows how much we know about ourselves and the enviroment around us. "A Short History of Nearly Everything" explains in full detail how we became who we are, how we survived, and how impossible it is to do so. If you are interested in science and are looking for something to read, this well-written story is a great page-turner. ... Read more

4. A World Without Time
by Palle Yourgrau
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 0465092934
Catlog: Book (2005-01-01)
Publisher: Basic Books
Sales Rank: 1743655
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Book Description

It is a widely known but insufficiently appreciated fact that Albert Einstein and Kurt Goedel were best friends for the last decade and a half of Einstein's life. They walked home together from Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study every day; they shared ideas about physics, philosophy,politics, and the lost world of German-Austrian science in which they had grown up. What is not widely known is that in 1949 Goedel made a remarkable discovery: there exist possible worlds described by the theory of relativity in which time, as we ordinarily understand it, does notexist.He added a philosophical argument that demonstrates, by Goedel's lights, that as a consequence, time does not exist in our world either.If Goedel is right, Einstein has not just explained time; he has explained it away.

Without committing himself to Goedel's philosophical interpretation of his discovery, Einstein acknowledged that his friend had made an important contribution to the theory of relativity, a contribution that he admitted raised new and disturbing questions about what remains of time in his own theory. Physicists since Einstein have tried without success to find an error in Goedel's physics or a missing element in relativity itself that would rule out the applicability of Goedel's results. Philosophers, for the most part, have been silent.

_A World Without Time_, addressed to experts and non experts alike, brings to life the sheer intellectual drama of the companionship of Goedel and Einstein, and places their discoveries -- which can only be measured on a millennial scale -- in the context of the great and disturbing intellectual movements of the twentieth century -- in physics, mathematics, logic, philosophy, and the arts. It contains, as well, a poignant and intimate account of the friendship between these two thinkers, each put on the shelf by the scientific fashions of their day -- and ours -- and attempts to rescue from undeserved obscurity the work Goedel did, inspired by Einstein, which made clear for the first time the truly revolutionary nature of the theory of relativity, which to this day is hardly recognized. ... Read more

5. A Brief History of Time : The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition
list price: $16.95
our price: $11.86
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Asin: 0553380168
Catlog: Book (1998-09-01)
Publisher: Bantam
Sales Rank: 1521
Average Customer Review: 4.42 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A Brief History of Time, published in 1988, was a landmark volume in science writing and in world-wide acclaim and popularity, with more than 9 million copies in print globally. The original edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the origins and nature of the universe. But the ensuing years have seen extraordinary advances in the technology of observing both the micro- and the macrocosmic world--observations that have confirmed many of Hawking's theoretical predictions in the first edition of his book.

Now a decade later, this edition updates the chapters throughout to document those advances, and also includes an entirely new chapter on Wormholes and Time Travel and a new introduction. It make vividly clear why A Brief History of Time has transformed our view of the universe. ... Read more

Reviews (281)

5-0 out of 5 stars A classical predecessor of the Elegant Universe
Stephen Hawking is the first physicist who was able to combine the laws of the small - quantum mechanics - with the laws of the large - general relativity - to find out something fascinating: black holes evaporate. He was also the first man who published a book on theoretical physics that has become popular world-wide (about 9 million copies have been sold). Many readers have learned a lot of exciting things about our universe from this book. So did I - even though I was a student of theoretical physics. Although this book is not as perfect as Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe", the successor of the Hawking's book in the position of the book on theoretical physics causing such a stir, "A Brief History of Time" will remain a tour de force, a pioneering work which began a new interest in physics among masses of people. That is why do I recommend you to read this book about the big bang, black holes, the quest for the ultimate theory and many other issues.

5-0 out of 5 stars Scientific Literacy
In the modern era, natural science is more than a lot of abstract thoughts and boring jargon--it is a leader of society. Newton's theory of physics, Darwin's theory of evolution, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle--all have changed the way we think about the world, influenced other disciplines, and ultimately changed society.

Because of this profound effect science has on society, it is important for the general public to understand the ideas and development of science. Unfortunately, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so as science becomes more specialized and technical.

Enter Stephen Hawking and 'A Brief History of Time.' The book is one of many great books that increase scientific literacy for ordinary people like me.

Only someone who fully understands the basic concepts of theoretical physics could put it into clear and easy prose as Hawking does. He outlines the progress of theoretical physics and the theories that attempt to describe the universe, all in plain English.

Hawking paints a picture of the universe--its beginning, its end, the direction of time, black holes-- with the wonder and curiosity of the child plus the style and confidence of a brilliant mind. One of the most brilliant minds in this century, as a matter of fact.

The final sentence about knowing the mind of God--"the ultimate triumph of human reason"--reminded me of that timeless scene in the Bible where the serpent convinces Adam and Eve to eat the apple.

Figuratively (*figuratively*) , that triumph is what we left Eden for. We have left Paradise for unknown horizons, for questions instead of answers, for a world of wonders. That quest is what A Brief History of Time is about. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars a marvel of a book
This book is truly a gem.. small volume but packed with a density of information..
Explore fascinating topics you could not think about in your wildest DREAMS.. topics are Black holes, Entropy, Origins of universe, Time Travel.

Hawkings is truly a genius among geniuses.
(...) If you can finish the book, the knowledge is well worth it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction for the Curious Mind
For anybody who does not have sufficient knowledge to read some of Hawking's more complex writings, this is the perfect book to get started on. It introduces you to the concepts of astrophysics, in which are explained very well. Stephen Hawking uses humor and everyday scenarios to explain some difficult concepts of astrophysics. It is a great way to simply expand your knowledge by understanding the big bang, quantum mechanics, and even sub-atomic particles. Stephen Hawking is an excellent writer, not to mention the Albert Einstein of our time; he makes this book almost seem like a novel more than a non-fiction book. I highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone, because it introduces you to astrophysics, as well as just answering questions regarding time travel, or where we came from.

4-0 out of 5 stars Hawking is succinct, even-handed, and even funny.
A Brief History of Time is 3 things at once:

First, it is a chronology of the various important scientists and discoveries over the centuries, all leading to where we are now.

Second, it explains, between the beginner and intermediate levels, an understanding of concepts such as black holes, worm holes, the beginning and potential end of time, particles and waves, quantum mechanics, and other issues in science.

Third, it is almost an autobiography of Dr. Hawking's scientific life. He interjects wonderful bits of humor and explains the concepts carefully and as simply as he can.

He is also respectful of religion, briefly interjecting his ideas about how religion does not have to be incompatible with the rapidly expanding ideas of science, and that religion should embrace science more.

One part I found humorous was his explanation of a bet he lost with a colleague (he seems to have a lot of long-standing bets going). He owned up to being wrong, and paid the penalty, which was a "one-year subscription to Penthouse, to the outrage of [his colleague's] liberated wife."

This book is for physics experts as well as people who know nothing about science and just want to learn some of the basic concepts. Like the universe, expand your mind. ... Read more

6. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
by Dava Sobel
list price: $11.95
our price: $8.96
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Asin: 0140258795
Catlog: Book (1996-10-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 5257
Average Customer Review: 3.89 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

During the great ages of exploration, "the longitude problem" was the gravest of all scientific challenges. Lacking the ability to determine their longitude, sailors were literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Ships ran aground on rocky shores; those traveling well-known routes were easy prey to pirates.

In 1714, England's Parliament offered a huge reward to anyone whose method of measuring longitude could be proven successful. The scientific establishment--from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton--had mapped the heavens in its certainty of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution--a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had been able to do on land. And the race was on....
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Reviews (209)

4-0 out of 5 stars Amazing subject, fascinating story
With "Longitude" Dava Sobel has written a very interesting book about the greatest scientific problem of the 18th century.

As a result of the 1707-shipwreck story (with a loss of 4 out of the 5 ships), the English Parliament offered in 1714 a 20.000 pounds reward to the person that could provide a practicable and useful way of determining longitude. (If you have forgot, longitude is the "lines" that runs from pole to pole). Not being able to determining longitude was a great problem. Ships spent excessive time trying to find its way back to port, or worse men, ship and cargo were lost at sea.

John Harrison (1693-1776) spent his lifetime trying to solve the longitude mystery. Harrison was a son of a countryman, with minimal schooling, and was self-educated in watch making. He made several timepieces, which all qualified for the reward, but the reward was delayed several times by the Longitude committee whom believed that other ways of measuring longitude were the preferred ones. Ultimately after a lot of harassment and trouble, Harrison was given the reward money.

Dava Sobel has done a wonderful job in this book, capturing Harrison's fascinating character, his brilliance, preserving and hard working nature. The author has also managed to strike a perfect balance between technical jargon and personal anecdotes, and she does it in such a way permitting the lay readers of the book to admire the elegance of Harrison's discoveries. I believe it is a sign of excellent quality when an author makes learning so interesting.

I was hooked from the first page of this book and I read it in 50-page gulps at a time.

Highly recommended!

5-0 out of 5 stars John Harrison--an extraordinary person
John Harrison (1693-1776) spent his lifetime inventing and perfecting a series of timepieces to measure longitude. As Dava Sobel relates in her engaging narrative, "Longitude," until the 18th century sailors navigated by following parallels of latitude and roughly estimating distance traveled east or west. Ships routinely missed their destinations, often taking excessive time to arrive or succumbing to reefs off fogbound shores. Thousands of sailors and tons of cargo were lost.

In 1714, England's Parliament offered £20,000 (the equivalent of about $12 million today) to anyone who provided a "practicable and useful" means of determining longitude. Countless solutions were suggested, some bizarre, some impractical, some workable only on land and others far too complex.

Most astronomers believed the answer lay in the sky, but Harrison, a clockmaker, imagined a mechanical solution--a clock that would keep precise time at sea. By knowing the exact times at the Greenwich meridian and at a ship's position, one could find longitude by calculating the time difference. However, most scientists, including Isaac Newton, discounted a clock because there were too many variables at sea. Changes in temperature, air pressure, humidity and gravity would surely render a watch inaccurate.

Harrison persisted. As Dava Sobel writes, he worked on his timepiece for decades, though he suffered skepticism and ridicule. Even after completing his timepiece, an instrument we now call a chronometer, in 1759, he underwent a long series of unfair trials and demonstrations. Ultimately he triumphed.

Sobel, a science writer who contributes to Audubon, Life, Omni and other magazines, captures John Harrison's extraordinary character: brilliant, persevering and heroic in the face of adversity. He is a man you won't forget.

4-0 out of 5 stars Brief but enjoyable
This slim volume tells the story of John Harrison who, although untrained, built four revolutionary clocks that changed how ships navigate at sea. It also tells about the political fight Harrison was forced to fight to win recognition for his work.

Written in a easy-to-read, "magazine" tone the tale goes quickly, whole years pass in a couple sentences. I wanted more details and this is where the book disappoints but it may not be the authors fault The book hints that many events weren't recorded and more details just aren't available.

One technical note: I think the font used in this tiny, five by eight inch book is a little small and the page numbers, even smaller, aren't readable at a glance. Or maybe I'm getting old.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great story, but BEWARE of inaccuracies in this book.
John Harrison completes his first pendulum clock in 1713 before the age of 20. He made the gears for this out of wood which was radical for such a use, but as a carpenter, perhaps not to him---which is a mark of genius, I'd say; to reach beyond accepted norms in this manner. This he did after borrowing a book on math and the laws of motion; which he copied word for word, making his own copy. He incorporated different varieties of wood into his clock for strenth and later invented a bi-metal pendulum to counteract the expansion and compression of various individual metals. He also employed friction-free movements so as to do away with problematic lubricants. When intrigued by the puzzle of time at sea and the issue of longitude he contemplated substituting something not prone to gravity, as a pendulum of course is, to track times passing. In 1737 he creates a cantilevered clock 4 foot square. This the longitude board (which had offered a cash bonus to anyone who could devise a method in which time at sea could be kept) admired. Four years later he returns with an improved model; then starts on a 3rd model, like the previous two, also a fairly large sized clock.But there exists a problem within this book: An artisan freemason by the name of John Jefferys at the Worshipful Company of clockmakers befriends Harrison and then later presents to him a pocket watch in 1753. Then in 1755, while still working on his 3rd model, Harrison says this to the Longitude board: I have..."good reason to think" on the basis of a watch "already executed that such small machines[he's referring to pocketwatches] may be of great service with respect to longitude." He then completes version 3 in 1759. His fourth version appears just a year later, however, and is a 5 inch wide pocketwatch! The obvious inference made by the author is that after he received the pocketwatch from Jeffreys he seemingly put his version #3 on the backburner and soon started on the pocketwatch 4th version. The author does not claim Harrison copied anything from the Jeffreys model, but she certainly phrases this section so as to lend one to believe that this may have been the case; that Jefferys had a hand in the masterstroke invention Harrison eventually produced in version #4. This is not true. Harrison commissioned the watch he received from Jeffreys and was based on Harrison's specifications. It seems that Harrison simply asked Jeffreys to test an idea which he himself hadn't the time to attack just then; as he was still working on his 3rd version of a table-top prototype clock. Hence Harrison's above statement to the board in 1755 whence his ideas were validated by Jeffreys. In addition, the author plays up the part of the Astronomer Royal's part in attempting to impede Harrison from convincing the longitiude board of the efficacy of a time-piece solution to this problem over a celestial answer to this conundrum. The author also jazzes up the issue of whether Harrison received the prize the board promised to pay for a successful solution herein; even though the board supported him for upwards of 20 years as he pursued this quest. It's as if the author intentionally omitted some facts (that the Jefferys was a Harrison commission), and pumped up others (of a rival/foil on the board trying to impede Harrison and the compensation issue; implying that Harrison was jipped) just to make the story more compelling. John Harrison's story, however, is extremely compelling as it is and didn't need this extra spice served up by the author.Do read this (very short) book on how this Mr. Harrison solved the problem of knowing where one is when at sea; and if you're in London, visit the Old Royal Observatory and the Clockmakers museum (in the Guildhall) where you can see Harrison's wonderful creations in person. Enjoy!

4-0 out of 5 stars The Man who Captured Time so Ships could Navigate Accurately

Note: This review has been written from a city with the following position on Earth:

LATITUDE: (43 degrees 2 minutes North)
LONGITUDE: (81 degrees 9 minutes West).

In order to understand the significance of this remarkable book by Dava Sobel, the reader has to understand some words and phrases in the book's title and subtitle.

"Longitude" along with Latitude are two numbers along with compass directions that are used to fix the position of anything on the planet Earth (as in the note above). Lines of Latitude are the imaginary, parallel, horizontal lines circling the Earth with the equator (fixed by nature) being the "zero-degree parallel of latitude." Lines of Longitude or "meridians" are the imaginary lines that run top to bottom (north and south), from the Earth's North Pole to its South Pole with the "prime meridian" (established by political means) being the "zero-degree meridian of longitude." (Since the mid-1880s, the prime merdian has passed through Greenwich, England. Before this time, the imaginary line that passed through a ship's home port was usually used as the zero-degree meridian.)

Finding the latitude on land or at sea was easy and eventually a device was invented to make it even easier. But finding longitude, especially at sea on a swaying ship was difficult, a difficulty "that stumped the wisest minds of the world for the better part of human history" and was "the greatest scientific problem" of the 1700s. Ways of determining longitude astronomically were devised, but these proved to be impractical when used at sea.

England's parliament recognized that "the longitude problem" had to be solved practically since many people and valuable cargo were lost at sea when the ship's navigators lost sight of land. Thus, this parliament offered a top monetary prize that's equivalent to many millions of dollars today to anybody who could solve the problem.

Enter "a lone genius" named John Harrison (1693 to 1776). While most thought the solution to the problem was astronomical, Harrison saw time as the solution.

To calculate the longitude using time on a ship at sea, you have to realize these two facts found in this book:

(i) The Earth takes 24 hours of time to spin 360 degrees on its axis from east to west.
(ii) Noon (12:00 PM) is the highest point the sun seems to "travel" in a day.

To learn one's longitude at sea using time, as this book explains, it's necessary to do the following:

(1) Know the time it is aboard ship (local noon was normally used because of fact (ii) above).
(2) At the very same moment, know the time at a known longitude (such as at Greenwich, England).
(3) The difference in time between (1) and (2) is coverted to a longitude reading in degrees and direction (using fact (i) above).

Harrison's solution was the accurate determination of time of (2) above by inventing a reliable timepiece. This timepiece, in this case, would be set to Greenwich time. (Note that, as stated, (1) could be determined using the noon-day sun but this was not always practical. Eventually another timepiece was used to determine the ship's local noon for a particular day.) It has to be realized that this was the "era of pendulum clocks" where, on a deck of a rocking ship, "such clocks would slow down or speed up, or stop running altogether." Harrison was to capture time by building a marine clock or "timekeeper" (eventually called a "chronometer") that could be used on a ship at sea.

This book tells the "true story" of Harrison and his chronometers. (There were five built over a forty-year period. Harrison's first timekeeping device was known as H-1, his second was H-2, and so on.) Sobel uses accuracy (as evidenced by her thirty references), extensive interviews, and an engaging, mostly non-technical narrative (only essential technical detail is included) to convey a story that's filled with suspense, heroism, perfectionism, and villiany. All this in less than 200 pages!!

The only problem I had with this book is that it has hardly any pictures (photographs and illustrations). I would have liked to have seen pictures of the various people involved in this saga, maps showing where ships traveled, more photos of Harrison's amazing timepieces (both interior and exterior), and diagrams that explained important concepts. A diagram that actually showed how longitude, using a simple example, is calculated (using the steps above) would also have been helpful.

Finally, there is a good 1999 movie entitled "Longitude" based on this book. Be aware that even though this book is short, the movie is long (over three hours).

In conclusion, this book documents the exciting "true story" of how "a lone genius" solved "the longitude problem." Sobel states this more eloquently: "With his marine clocks, John Harrison tested the waters of space-time. He succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth...dimension to link points on a three-dimensional globe. He [took] the world's whereabouts from the stars, and locked [or captured] the secret in"

<=====> ... Read more

7. The Double Helix : A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA
by James D. Watson
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 074321630X
Catlog: Book (2001-06-12)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 11960
Average Customer Review: 3.69 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

By identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time, Watson was only twenty-four, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of science's greatest mysteries gives a dazzlingly clear picture of a world of brilliant scientists with great gifts, very human ambitions, and bitter rivalries. With humility unspoiled by false modesty, Watson relates his and Crick's desperate efforts to beat Linus Pauling to the Holy Grail of life sciences, the identification of the basic building block of life. Never has a scientist been so truthful in capturing in words the flavor of his work. ... Read more

Reviews (65)

4-0 out of 5 stars Double Helix....Stairway to Genetics
I found the book to be the complete antithesis to the expected writings hidden behind the scientific cover. Watson and his clan's quest for the helixical structure of DNA made for an entertaining voyage within these pages. Unexpectedly, as many scientific based books that I have been privy to read lately, this book was very approachable, dare I say readable. The exploits recounted by Watson were very entertaining; they could even be considered witty and humorous although it was biosciences humor. The teamwork and competition aspects of the discovery of the double helix were unexpected but welcomed because I felt that they were the driving forces behind the people. I was impressed by Watson, Crick and Franklin all bringing something to the proverbial table even though I found it a tad bit lucky or coincidental, but that is how these things work sometimes. This, accompanied with the race against Linus Pauling (already a recognized scientist of the time) helped lend to an educational, insightful and entertaining few hours of reading about the basic structure of all of us. I felt like I took a little something with me when I was finished with this work.......and I do mean literally.

The Double Helix, by James D. Watson is a great book. I have learned a lot by reading this book. It is a simple book that contains lots of humor. I have discovered that Watson is a smart, but at the same time funny, while competing with an admired scientist, Linus Pauling. Watson makes the book fun to read because he conveys his process vividly and shows how important DNA is to the world. All of this started in a dumpy, worn down chemical lab at Cambridge University called "The Cavendish." Watson was interested in investigating the structure of DNA to gain more insight into genetics. James Watson shows that his discovery was also part of Francis Crick, his partner that helped him. However, Crick was sometimes not very helpful because he wondered off. Watson had to get use to the structure of Cambridge where they had meals and everyone sat together on a special table on an elevated platform and were expected to engage in an enlightened conversation. I also like the part where Watson is honest by showing his ignorance on X-ray crystallographic techniques. I also enjoy the sarcasm in chapter 15 where they say, "After Pauling's success, no one could claim that faith in helices implied anything but an uncomplicated brain." Also the information from page 83 describes that ratio of bases of DNA: where A-T and C-G, which is what I have learned in class. Therefore, I believe that The Double Helix is a great book worth reading because it does not contain much technical terms and is also a short book that will show important the discovery of DNA was and still is to the world.

4-0 out of 5 stars Important Discover...but not the most invigorating book
Ok. I'm giving this book a 4 because of the importance of the discover of the structure of DNA. In terms of actual reading material, however, I'd probably give it a 2 or 3. I do believe that James Watson is a great scientist, but he is not writer. His writing style is only adequete and far from interesting and he really doesn't do a great job of putting interest into the subject matter. Someone who does not have at least a little background in the general concepts or biology/organic chemistry/physics will probably not get much out of this book.

Now on to the science side of the book. Watson describes the various events that took place while he, Franscis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin worked on discovering the structure of DNA. Again, Watson does not really put much vigor into these events but does describe them realistically (science can't always do interesting). He focuses on his relationship with Crick, battles with Franklin, and competetion with Linus Pauling--the Nobel prize winning chemist who ironically get the structure of DNA wrong. Through his writing, Watson at times reveals his pompousness and his ignorance of certain scientific concepts, but overall shows his devout eagerness of discovery.

I would say that this is an important book to read if you are at all interested in science. However, it is probably too boring for just a fun read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not a Science Nerd
Science and I have never been on a level playing field. We go together like jalapenos and cheesecake. When the opportunity arose to do extra credit for my biology class, I was ecstatic. That is until I found out exactly what the assignment was. I had to read a book, a scientific one of course, from a list compiled by my instructor, write a review, and post it on here on Amazon. If I wasn't so desperate for the extra points I would have torn that book list into a million pieces, but describing my need for an A as desperate would be an understatement. Naturally, I chose the book with the least amount of pages, James Watson's Double Helix. The title alone made me drowsy. I was in for a big surprise, though. I actually enjoyed the book and even learned a little bit in the process. The story was extremely well told and I found myself eagerly awaiting the answer to Mr. Watson's burning question, "What does DNA look like?"
James Watson was en exceptionally intelligent man, as was clearly demonstrated in his book by his eloquent writing style, extensive vocabulary, and impressive syntax. He was, however, not an intimidating scientist, which allowed me to relate to his story with ease. Watson was full of ideas, a quick study, and very receptive to the work of his superiors, but at the time of his brilliant discovery, he was merely a student, fighting to get funded for his research. He had studied biology, chemistry, and physics, but was not particularly fond of any of them. Unfortunately, Mr. Watson was at a disadvantage because all three disciplines were the building blocks for understanding the composition and structure of DNA.
Although James Watson was funded to research viruses while away in England, his immediate fascination with DNA quickly derailed his educational focus, and with several incorrect theories about DNA already spread, he was unquestionably discouraged from his desired area of study. The entire book boasted his bliss and reverence, having met and worked with some of the worlds most famous and respected scientists. Watson was clever enough to draw knowledge from each of them which assisted him throughout the stages of the project.
The best part about reading the book was that while I was devouring my literature, my Biology professor was covering DNA and genetics in class. I felt like the smartest kid in the world because I truly understood all the material he was discussing, thanks to Mr. Watson. The novel included supportive illustrations which assisted me in following some of the more difficult language, such as nitrogenous bases, and phosphate groups. I was astounded to know that I had a firm grasp of a minute portion of the scientific world.
I thought the book was great primarily because I could understand it. While it may sound facetious, it's absolutely true. Unless you love science, the terminology involved sounds completely foreign. I was utterly terrified just thinking about how I was going to attempt to comprehend my newfound author. My fright was quickly put to ease as I turned each page. Initially I was dreading reading a few pages per night, and soon found myself reading five chapters a night and finished the book, in its entirety, within just a few days. I would undeniably recommend this book to anyone like me who feels inferior when it comes to the sciences. It is a superb account of a scientific breakthrough intertwined with a story of friendship, inspiration, competition, and triumph.

1-0 out of 5 stars Shame on you, "Doctor" Watson
Shame on Watson for "taking" data from Rosalind Franklin and not even acknowledging it. My wife and I watched the Nova program "Secret of Photo 51" and was outraged. This book is a how Watson would like the world to believe how HE discovers the structure of DNA. Stanford refused to publish this book. Watson's ethics is questionable.

If you read this, make sure you read the books about Rosalind Franklin also in order to get the truth. ... Read more

8. Scientific Revolutions : Primary Texts in the History of Science
by Brian S. Baigrie
list price: $46.20
our price: $46.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0130990914
Catlog: Book (2003-12-08)
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Sales Rank: 202544
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Book Description

Covering physics, astronomy, chemistry, the various branches of biology, and geology, this book is the perfect introduction to the history of science. A compilation of interesting readings, Scientific Revolutions reflects the richness and diversity of scientific culture and practice.Its primary focus is on the extraordinary bursts of scientific activity that propel science in new and different directions.Useful as a reference work for readers interested in the sciences. ... Read more

9. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
by Thomas S. Kuhn
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0226458083
Catlog: Book (1996-12-15)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 3091
Average Customer Review: 4.05 out of 5 stars
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There's a "Frank & Ernest" comic strip showing a chick breaking out of its shell, looking around, and saying, "Oh, wow! Paradigm shift!" Blame the late Thomas Kuhn. Few indeed are the philosophers or historians influential enough to make it into the funny papers, but Kuhn is one.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is indeed a paradigmatic work in the history of science. Kuhn's use of terms such as "paradigm shift" and "normal science," his ideas of how scientists move from disdain through doubt to acceptance of a new theory, his stress on social and psychological factors in science--all have had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus, and even the cartoonist in the street.

Some scientists (such as Steven Weinberg and Ernst Mayr) are profoundly irritated by Kuhn, especially by the doubts he casts--or the wayhis work has been used to cast doubt--on the idea of scientific progress. Yet it has been said that the acceptance of plate tectonics in the 1960s, for instance, was sped by geologists' reluctance to be on the downside of a paradigm shift. Even Weinberg has said that "Structure has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science." As one of Kuhn's obituaries noted, "We all live in a post-Kuhnian age." --Mary Ellen Curtin ... Read more

Reviews (74)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of the End of Modernism
Thomas Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1922. He taught physics at Harvard, the history of science at Berkeley, and the philosophy and history of science at Princeton and MIT. His best-known book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, introduced the term "paradigm shift" into the modern vocabulary when it was first published in 1962. Kuhn's study of paradigm shifts in science makes it hard to view science as an objective discipline that steadily advances towards the truth. Instead, Kuhn shows science to be a very human enterprise where truth is as likely to be resisted as it is to be embraced.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn defines a "paradigm" as a set of assumptions, rules, or model problems that define what the important questions are and how to go about answering them. Without a paradigm, would-be researchers are overwhelmed by the sheer mass of data. A "paradigm shift" occurs when a group of scientists reject all or part of their existing paradigm to adopt a new one. This process not only means changing assumptions: it also means reevaluating previous conclusions to see if the old facts still fit within the new paradigm.

Kuhn uses the term "normal science" to describe the work that scientists do as they work within a given paradigm. Their shared set of assumptions, rules, and model problems fairly makes it easy to see what research remains to be done. Occasionally, anomalies will appear. These are events that cannot be explained within the existing paradigm. Normal science tends to ignore anomalies. Instead, by concentrating attention on a small range very specific questions, "the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable."

As more and more research is done within a given paradigm, anomalies tend to crop up. This is because the existing paradigm makes very exact predictions about the expected results, and normal science tests those predictions in ever-finer detail. At first, when the results do not match the predictions, those results are discounted. Some researchers assume the equipment was faulty and so they don't publish results that would only seem to embarrass them. Others try to account for the results by some refinement of the existing paradigm. (The classic case of this involved the medieval astronomers, who kept adding more and more "epicycles" to their Earth-centered model of the universe to explain the results they observed.) Finally, researchers are human, and have been known to simply "fudge" the data to match what the paradigm predicts. Thus, even if every experiment produced exactly the same results, the published research in that field might show a range of results.

Eventually, as the anomalies accumulate, scientists begin to acknowledge a crisis. The results no longer fit the paradigm. According to Kuhn, however, simply abandoning the paradigm is not an option. A scientist can get so frustrated with the paradigm that he abandons it to become a priest or open a bicycle shop, but in doing so, he quits being a scientist. A scientist is not a scientist without a paradigm. The only way a scientist can abandon a paradigm and still be a scientist is to adopt a new one. Kuhn calls this a "scientific revolution."
Kuhn blamed textbooks for creating a false impression of the nature of science and of the role of discovery and invention in its advance. When Kuhn first published his book, science was generally presented as an objective advance towards truth.

According to Kuhn, textbook publishers downplayed the "revolutionary" changes that had taken place in their fields. In 1962, if a textbook covered the history of science at all, it tended to make the advances look inevitable. Kuhn argued that science textbooks present an inaccurate view of the nature of science: they make it look as if science had reached its present state by a steady process, like adding bricks to a building.

The revolution is over when one paradigm displaces another, after a period of paradigm testing. According to Kuhn, however, this is not the result proving one paradigm true and another false, however. To some degree, each paradigm is able to account for all the observations that fit within its set of assumptions and rules. The great German physicist Max Planck used to say that old scientists never change their minds: they just die. Kuhn claims this goes a little too far: instead, scientists slowly convert to the new paradigm, for a number of different reasons. Eventually, if a new paradigm is successful, only a handful of hold-outs support the earlier worldview.

Kuhn's book set off a scientific revolution in its own right. People routinely speak of "paradigm shifts" now, and historians of science (and textbook writers) are much more likely to report on the kinds of controversies that were invisible before The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published.

Kuhn concludes with a startling claim. He argues that scientific revolutions take place in a blind evolutionary process. Paradigms compete for survival, not for truth. This contradicts the "modern" assumption that mankind is steadily advancing towards the truth through science. Given Kuhn's revolutionary impact on our view of science, this book may mark the beginning of the end of the "modernism."

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended for a Reason
This book frequently pops up on a "Top 100" or "Best Science Book" or some other list for a reason: Mr. Kuhn was the first person to step back and look at the complex way in which science and scientific study have advanced over the course of humanity and try to put those observations forth in a logical manner. He succeeded brilliantly.

Mr. Kuhn's main point is that there are two phases of scientific discovery, "normal science" which is built on established principals, rounding out gaps in existing theories until the theories begin to unravel, at which point we have entered a period which will require a "paradigm shift". Mr. Kuhn takes the reader through multiple historical examples, the shifts in scientific thought brought about by Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier and Einstein. His references are relevant and his thoughts are clearly put forth. The historical anecdotes are very entertaining and educational and do a solid job of reinforcing his point.

I must admit I was a bit concerned during the first chapter, it was a bit tough to make it through, but did a very good job of laying the groundwork and allowing a glimpse of the author's thought process. The second chapter, in which the author begins to define "normal science", immediately put me to rest as the author dove straight into making his point and proving his argument. The final three chapters pertaining to the Invisibility, Resolution and Progress of revolutions should be required reading for anyone who works in the sciences, and is immensely valuable to anyone working in any field. I have been surprised that there haven't been more straight on business interpretations of Kuhn's work (although there has obviously been much unreferenced piracy), as the spread of scientific thought is a very apt metaphor for the spread of business theory and product adoption.

This is a very good book and I highly recommend it, regardless of what field you work in, be it science, business or otherwise.

5-0 out of 5 stars Philosophic common sense applied to Science Evolution of Tho
The complete title of this review is "Philosophic common sense applied to Science Evolution of Thought". Basically the central thesis of Kuhn was that science evolves through paradigm shifts, and of course he conceives science as a compound of theories and laws based on the most agreeable paradigms of the epoch. I found this book refreshing and interesting from at least two perspectives, filosofically and historically. Also this book is read as a compendium of consecutive works that altogether make a coherent thesis, so it's easy reading it. Finally, Kuhn's style is very friendly and personal, so you really feel he is urging you to follow him in all his arguments. Reading this book was a great experience for me, and I highly recommend it.

4-0 out of 5 stars How and Why Organizations/Communities Resist Change
This relatively easy read while, focusing on the history of changes in scientific paradigms, really is applicable to a much wider audience. It is a recommended "must read" for anyone in the organizational facilitation or organizational development field who needs to understand how difficult it is for organizations to embrace change.
Kuhn well explains how community paradigms are formed and perpetuated, and just how difficult it is for people to accept changes to their paradigm, and why organiations facing necessary changes to their paradigm are prone to label the changes as "anomalies" so they can be discounted and avoided.

5-0 out of 5 stars should be mandatory reading for grad students in all fields
This book, more than any other, has changed the way that I think about scholarship. I am not even a student of the "hard" sciences (I study linguistic anthropology) and yet still found most of the concepts trenchant. By showing how the game is played, Kuhn raises important issues on how knowledge is produced, and the implications that follow. Real revolutions that propel fields forward are rarely achieved by discoveries of new data, but instead by viewing pre-existing data from novel perspectives. The implication is that while we should not abandon previous learning, part of genius is identifying and UNlearning implicit assumptions. The only criticism that I have is that Kuhn is not always clear as to whether he is writing descriptively or normatively. Nonetheless, this book is great. ... Read more

10. E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation
by David Bodanis
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
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Asin: 0425181642
Catlog: Book (2001-10-09)
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Sales Rank: 20317
Average Customer Review: 4.19 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Already climbing the bestseller lists-and garnering rave reviews-this "little masterpiece"* sheds brilliant light on the equation that changed the world.

"This is not a physics book. It is a history of where the equation [E=mc2] came from and how it has changed the world. After a short chapter on the equation's birth, Bodanis presents its five symbolic ancestors in sequence, each with its own chapter and each with rich human stories of achievement and failure, encouragement and duplicity, love and rivalry, politics and revenge. Readers meet not only famous scientists at their best and worst but also such famous and infamous characters as Voltaire and Marat...Bodanis includes detailed, lively andfascinating back matter...His acknowledgements end, 'I loved writing this book.' It shows." (The Cleveland Plain Dealer)

"E=mc2, focusing on the 1905 theory of special relativity, is just what itssubtitle says it is: a biography of the world's most famous equation, and it succeeds beautifully. For the first time, I really feel that I understand the meaning and implications of that equation, as Bodanis takes us through each symbol separately, including the = sign...there is a great 'aha!' awaiting the lay reader." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"'The equation that changed everything' is familiar to even the most physics-challenged, but it remains a fuzzy abstraction to most. Science writer Bodanis makes it a lot more clear." (Discover)

"Excellent...With wit and style, he explains every factor in the world's most famous and least understood equation....Every page is rich with surprising anecdotes about everything from Einstein's youth to the behind-the-scenes workings of the Roosevelt administration. Here's a prediction: E=mc2 is one of those odd, original, and handsomely written books that will prove more popular than even its publisher suspects." (Nashville Scene)

"You'll learn more in these 300 pages about folks like Faraday, Lavoisier, Davy and Rutherford than you will in many a science course...a clearly written, astonishingly understandable book that celebrates human achievement and provides some idea of the underlying scientific orderliness and logic that guides the stars and rules the universe."(Parade )

"Bodanis truly has a gift for bringing his subject matter to life." (Library Journal [starred review] )

"Entertaining...With anecdotes and illustrations, Bodanis effectively opens up E=mc2 to the widest audience." (Booklist )

"Accessible...he seeks, and deserves, many readers who know no physics. They'll learn a handful-more important, they'll enjoy it, and pick up a load of biographical and cultural curios along the way." (Publishers Weekly)

... Read more

Reviews (75)

3-0 out of 5 stars Science is great, history is not
I would give him five stars for his comprehensible explanation of the physics and the time he spent thinking of metaphors for the equation that make its effects understandable. However, his portraits of figures like Oppenheimer and Heisenberg are way off--extreme readings of uncited evidence that is frankly in conflict with both the historical record and the way that contemporary historians interpret it. Heisenberg was NOT a convinced Nazi--he was a German nationalist. There's a difference. Oppenheimer's personality problems were not at the basis of his later exclusion from further government nuclear research--his communist sympathies were the reason. Bodanis makes Teller sound like a crazy and not like the venerable scientist he was. What's sad about all of these misportraits is that they cast doubt on things I want to believe, about Lise Meitner and Celia Payne, for example. Read with care, and compare to a real book about the Manhattan Project (like Richard Rhodes' "Making of the Atomic Bomb") before you swallow this picture whole. For a much more balanced picture of some of the personalities involved that includes a readable account of the science, check out Freeman Dyson's "Disturbing the Universe."

4-0 out of 5 stars A bumpy ride through Relativity
This is a mildly eccentric book on Relativity. David Bodanis claims at the start that he won't be talking about physics and Einstein --- he's just going to tell you about The Famous Equation. But once he's done with the first chapter, which goes through the basic principles of the equation step-by-step, he gets into physics and Einstein. He loses his focus quickly, but he's always entertaining.

Bodanis loves colorful anecdotes about physicists, the art of discovery, contributions by neglected scientists (primarily women), and the prospect of the Nazis building an atomic bomb. It's this last topic that weakens the book. Frankly, the Nazis never came close to building an atomic bomb. Yes, they would have had a Fat Man or a Little Boy if they built reactors and had heavy water and understood the physics and had a team of scientists working on it and they tested it. But they didn't have any of it. "Might have" doesn't cut it.

The second half of this book is made up of biographies of scientists and extensive footnotes. Bodanis makes good use of the notes, giving you plenty of sources and a lot of additional information. His personal interests are on full display here, as he mentions whatever concept or story that the footnoted information triggers in his mind. It's fun to read, although it does tend to wander.

I recommend this book to anyone who's read a little bit about Relativity. It's a useful refresher, an eccentric view of the topic that will keep your interest. If you've never read about Relativity, try Gribbin and White's biography of Einstein first --- or, better yet, Richard Wolfson's book on Relativity (which is still the best).

5-0 out of 5 stars Reading this book requires E.
The simple equation having only 5 symbols is deep in meaning. It took the genious of Einstein to put the equation together way back in 1905 - - - What E found was: Energy equals mass when you accelerate mass to the speed of light squared. That's 670,000,000 mph times itself.
C stands for 'celeritis' in latin and it means, 'swiftness.' C squared is 448,900,000,000,000,000 mph!
No speedometer exists on Earth that can travel that fast! WOW!
Einstein knew that energy could naturally transform itself into mass under specific and unique condtions.
The equation was published in 1905 and essentially remained dormant and untested until the war.
Then it became a horrifying reality that Einstein himself wished he never uncovered all those years ago.
Other scientists converged their great minds together in a think tank called the Manhatten Projet, and the world changed for the worse --- upon their nuclear discoveries.
Did Fat Boy really need to do what he did?
NEVER! THe controversy broils to this day.
It is so strange to contemplate that in the pool of the most intelligent men on Earth, not a one of them was smart enough to forsee the evil that they created.
Like the saying goes, "You can lead a man to wisdom, but you can't make him think."
None of them thought about what this nuclear power could do when left in terrorist grips.
This book tells the story behind the famous little equation.
Einstein did play a part in developing nuclear arsonel, even though he later denied he encouraged it.
Please see his letter to President FDR on pages 117 - 18.
The reader is left to draw thier own conclusions on that.
Regardless of the controversy, I read this book and must give it my highest recommendations to all who ever wondered what this equation means. It's deep but not complex.
It's complex but not inaccessable by average minds.
What's really chilling is reading what is not said in between the lines of this book.
Could we have avoided the discovery of the Atomic bomb?
Imagine our world without it.....and to think, the Germans weren't all that close to uncovering the secret behind the destruction.
This is a good book about E = mc 2.
Read it and learn that all discoveries have a dark side.

4-0 out of 5 stars meandering history of relativity
In this slim and easy-to-read volume, David Bodanis gives us a meandering history of relativity. First, he looks at each of the individual pieces of the equation (even the equals sign gets its own chapter). Then, he builds up a discussion of other relevant work that led to Einstein's famous equation. He next discusses its applications. The book closes with an immense amount of back matter, including the footnotes and suggested further reading on the topic.

This book is not for physics students who are already intimately familiar with the requisite mathematics and physics. It is intended for a general audience that probably can't remember calculus (or was never introduced to it in the first place). Bodanis engages in a bit of handwaving to make the more difficult parts easier to accept; in general, he acknowledges this. I can't fault him for this decision, although the mathematician in me occasionally found it a bit frustrating.

Make sure that you read the footnotes! It's not necessary to flip back and forth between the main text and the footnotes, but at least read them when you've reached the end of the chapter. Scan past the ones that are simply listing the source material, and read the ones that are longer. There's a lot of great information to be found in those footnotes that doesn't quite fit into the main text. Some of it tells you a bit about what was going through the author's mind when he wrote his book, other material elaborates on what is in the book.

Also, read through the list of suggested readings. It's like getting book recommendations from a well-read friend. The suggestions are thorough, insightful, and often entertaining.

5-0 out of 5 stars Transforming human mass into energy for good
It is easy to think of technology in the context of hard science and with the intellect. Bodanis gives lay readers an appropriate level of insight about how math and science evolved through several hundred years to propel our species toward the elegant equation that changed the world. This historical journey enlivens many forgotten but critical thinkers who made it possible for a restive patent clerk to make the essential creative leap into the intellectual unknown. But this book accomplishes something else, even greater. The author's brilliant chapter describing in micro-second details the detonation of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima creates a powerful, sobering perspective of this fearsome technology and dispassionately reminds all of us of the threats looming. The author uses his beloved science to bring into searing perspective the human face of thermonuclear war. The power to manipulate the atom has the capacity for good in medicine and other human advancements, but it is also a power capable of planetary destruction. It is wise for lay readers to understand E=MC2 beyond science. Our survival is at stake. ... Read more

11. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History
by JohnBarry
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0143034480
Catlog: Book (2005-02-01)
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Sales Rank: 6020
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In the winter of 1918, at the height of WWI, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in anarmy camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed intwenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not theMiddle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial inits breadth of perspective and depth of research, John M. Barry weaves together multiplenarratives, with characters ranging from William Welch (founder of Johns Hopkins MedicalSchool) to John D. Rockefeller and Woodrow Wilson. Ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy,this crisis provides a precise and sobering model for our world as we confront AIDS, bioterrorism,and other, as yet unknown, diseases. ... Read more

Reviews (57)

4-0 out of 5 stars Very Scary!
I remember stories about the Great Flu from older relatives who were children in 1918.It was like someone describing living thru the days of the black plague.

I found this book to be a good history of that time and a good biography of the doctors who tried to stem the pandemic that was killing more Americans than German bullets in 1918.The epidemic killed 5% of the world's population between the ages of 15-35.A great tragedy when compiled on top of those lost in battle from 1914-18.Isolated peoples on the pacific islands and in the artic who had never been exposed to various strains of the flu were practically wiped out.

I found the book provided an intimate glimpse into the lives of the people fighting the pandemic in the US and into those infected.It was also insightful to see the blindness of government bureaucrats who made decisions to promote the war effort at the expense of protecting the public from infuenza.

The scariest thing is we're on a mutation or so away from another pandemic the size of 1918.See Nature's imaginary blog imagining such a future in this month's(May 2005) and be really scared.

5-0 out of 5 stars extraordinary book, and more than a little frightening
This is simply one of the very best books I've ever read. In fact, it's really three books, and the author executes each one of them magnificently. One is like a good adventure novel, fast paced, suspenseful, with well-drawn characters, a few villains, and a few heroes. This novelistic (though obviously well-researched and well-documented) book is imposed upon sort of a second book, an unusually perceptive and eye-opening history of the home front in World War I, of Woodrow Wilson, etc. Together they make great reading. The third book is almost separate; it is, frankly challenging reading if you, like me, know nothing about science. This part describes how the virus (and by implication all invading microorganisms) and our immune system interact, and gives you a very deep understanding from the level of molecular biology right up to why our nose runs. (I see one reviewer complained this book doesn't tell him about influenza. I can't see how he could possibly say this. My internist actually recommended this book to me, and he said the book tells you more about influenza than most doctors know.) If you're up to the challenge, you'll be happy you tackled it. If not, skip these parts, which are clearly delineated, and settle for the story-- a very important story, with direct relevance right now to everything from avian flu in Asia to the threat of bioterrorism.

2-0 out of 5 stars Deadly reading
Although it is full of information about the pandemic of 1918, and the "story" of this event itself is fascinating, I found the book very poorly organized.The author did not follow a consistent plan for introducing the characters, describing the timeline of the pandemic, or illuminating the progress of medical science at this time and because of this event.All that info was there but not in a progression that was logical to follow.

2-0 out of 5 stars This is a study of the scientists not the science
I was disappointed in this book. First, it only looked at the USA and ignored the rest of the world (this was a world-wide pandemic). Second, and more importantly, this is a study of the scientists looking at the pandemic and how it changed American medicine. If you are looking for insights into influenza and the Great Pandemic, look elsewhere. The title and dust jacket are very decieving. Obviously, my gripe is more from my expectation that this was about influenza. It is well researched and well written. If you are looking for a tome on these scientist, the fantastic contributions they made, and the evalution of American medicine in the early 20th century, this is your book.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Important Book
John Barry's book on the influenza pandemic of 1918 is an incredibly researched and well written account on theinfluenza virus that claimed millions of lives around the globe. The estimates vary from as "low" as 20 million to as high as 100 million. Those numbers today would almost be unimaginable. In this country alone Barry states that around 675,000 people died. In addition to the deadly virus itself, Barry discusses the state of medical science in this country at the time and how it developed, the leaders who pushed for this movement and those who tried to combat the influenza virus, and the lessons learned from this deadly pandemic and how to be better prepared in the future.

This book I'm sure has and will attract a wide range of readers, as a history major I can relate to that aspect of the book more so than the scientific and medical aspect, but even that part is still very accessible, even for those of us who aren't as well versed in all the terminology. The first part of the book begins with some of the emerging figures as well as emerging institutions like the Johns Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Institute that would change and enhance the state of medical sciencein this country, which at the time lacked the leaders and institutions found in parts of Europe.

Many leading figures are ably discussed by Barry, people like Welch, Cole, Park and Williams, Avery,Lewis, Army Surgeon Gorgas and many others who worked valiantly to combat the deadly effects of this particular strand of influenza. He also discusses those who saw the dangers and did little or nothing to alert others or work to combat the virus, including big city bureaucrats, the Wilson Administration and the newspapers. Indeed, he is quite condemning of the nation's newspapers who tried to reassure people that everything wasn't as bad as some were saying. This was all part of an effort to promote Wilson's idea that the nation needed to be focused on the war effort and preserving morale. Barry even concludes by saying that the coverup by the major newspapers even contributed to the fear and death toll the influenza was exacting. Maybe that's a little too strong, but I'm sure many people in various leadership positions from the local level to the top certainly didn't help matters.

Barry's narrative is at its best in describing the spread of the influenza from camp to camp, city to city, and the horrible toll is was exacting on the population. Cities like Philadelphia where bodies had to wait on porches to be picked up, homes identified by markings in which a family member was either sick with or had died from the influenza. He is also good in describing the valiant efforts of those who worked hard to combat this deadly virus, many I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Many of the stories are heartbreaking where some families lost so many of their own or in populations like the Eskimos and others whose immune systems were extremely vulnerable to this kind of virus and as a result suffered higher mortality rates. People in my age group (20-30) suffered higher mortality rates than the elderly, which at first seems to us as contrary to most other death rate statistics.

There's a lot I'm leaving out, but this book is worth reading. For me some areas are better written than others, but overall it is very well researched and because of its subject matter sure to make you think, what if something like that influenza outbreak of 1918 or some other disease or some type ofbioterrorist attack hit today? Would we be prepared? Barry discusses this in his conclusion and it's sure to make you pause and think. ... Read more

12. Electric Universe : The Shocking True Story of Electricity
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 1400045509
Catlog: Book (2005-02-15)
Publisher: Crown
Sales Rank: 339066
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13. New Cosmic Horizons: Space Astronomy from the V2 to the Hubble Space Telescope
by David Leverington
list price: $60.00
our price: $24.00
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Asin: 0521658330
Catlog: Book (2001-02-15)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Sales Rank: 453607
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

New Cosmic Horizons tells the extraordinary story of space-based astronomy since the Second World War. Starting with the launch of the V2 rocket in 1946, this book explores the triumphs of space experiments and spacecraft designs and the amazing astronomical results that they have produced. David Leverington examines the fascinating way in which the changing political imperatives of the United States, USSR/Russia and Western Europe have modified their space astronomy programs. He covers all major astronomy missions of the first fifty years of space research: the Soviet Sputnik and American Explorer projects, the subsequent race to the moon, solar and planetary missions, and the wonders of modern astrophysics culminating in the exciting results of the Hubble Space Telescope. Extensively illustrated, New Cosmic Horizons offers amateur and professional astronomers an unusual perspective on the history of astronomy in our time.David Leverington was Design Manager of the GEOS Spacecraft and Meteosat Program Manager for ESA in the 1970s. During his tenure as Engineering Director at British Aerospace in the 1980s, he was responsible for the Giotto spacecraft that intercepted Halley's comet, and the Photon Detector Assembly and solar arrays for the Hubble Space Telescope. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He lives in Essex, England. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars The fascinating history of space-based astronomy
In New Cosmic Horizons: Space Astronomy From The V2 To The Hubble Space Telescope, David Leverington reveals the fascinating history of space-based astronomy from the launching of the V! rocket in 1946 down to the present day. Here are all the triumphs of the space experiments and spacecraft designs that have produced the spectacular astronomical results in the last half of the twentieth century. Profusely illustrated and with a comprehensive, "reader friendly" text ideal for both astronomy students, astronomy professionals, and the interested non-specialist general reader, New Cosmic Horizons will prove to be an essential, core addition to any personal, academic or community library reference collection. ... Read more

14. The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense
by Michael Shermer
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Asin: 0195143264
Catlog: Book (2001-03-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 110903
Average Customer Review: 3.59 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

As author of the bestselling Why People Believe Weird Things How We Believe, and Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer has emerged as the nation's number one scourg of superstition and bad science. Now, in The Borderlands of Science, he takes us to the place where real science (such as the big bang theory), borderland science (superstring theory) and just plain nonsense (Big Foot) collide with one another.

Shermer argues that science is the best lens through which to view the world, but he recognizes that it's often difficult for most of us to tell where valid science leaves off and borderland science begins. To help us, Shermer looks at a range of topics that put the boundary line in high relief. For instance, he discusses the many "theories of everything" that try to reduce the complexity of the world to a single principle, and shows how most fall into the category of pseudoscience. He examines the work of Darwin and Freud, explaining why one is among the great scientists in history, while the other has become nothing more than a historical curiosity. He also shows how Carl Sagan's life exemplified the struggle we all face to find a balance between being open-minded enough to recognize radical new ideas but not so open-minded that our brains fall out. And finally, he reveals how scientists themselves can be led astray, as seen in the infamous Piltdown Hoax.

Michael Shermer's enlightening volume will be a valuable a to anyone bewildered by the many scientific theories swirling about. It will help us stay grounded in common sense as we try to evaluate everything from SETI and acupuncture to hypnosis and cloning. ... Read more

Reviews (17)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not the Applied Skepticism book I wanted, but good anyway.
What I'm looking for is a detailed users' manual for a Baloney Detection Kit (as Carl Sagan called it.) I'd hoped to find this in one of Shermer's previous works, Why People Believe Weird Things, and I'd hoped to find it here. In both cases, the first part of the book did exactly this, but somewhere along the way it turned into case studies of debunking, rather than the process of debunking. (That's okay: they're well-written.)

Michael Shermer's background is psychology and ultra-long-distance cycling; he's written a number of books on cycling and analysis of (and refutation of) Holocaust deniers. He's also president (apparently for life) of the American Skeptics society and a reasonably good writer. In this book, Shermer spends a lot of time talking about the scientific method, its strengths and potential flaws -- and, more importantly, its system for dealing with its flaws (which he claims "sets science apart from all other knowledge systems and intellectual disciplines" -- a heady claim I wish he discussed more.)

Since this is supposed to be a review of Borderlands and not Weird Things, I'll just say that if you like this, you'll like the other as well. In The Borderlands Of Science, he analyzes beliefs that are at defensible, beliefs that could (or were once thought to) be scientifically accurate. Among these are, for instance, ramifications of cloning, confirmation bias in explaining racial differences in sports (about which Malcolm Gladwell has also written), and a whole, whole lot of discussion of Alfred Wallace. Wallace and Charles Darwin were both responsible for the theory of evolution. Wallace is not remembered as widely for a number of reasons, which are explored in frightening detail in roughly 3.5 of the 16 chapters of this book. Shermer did his doctoral thesis on Wallace, not coincidentally. The ratio of stuff-about-Wallace-or-Evolution to everything-else, by chapter, is 3:7; Shermer is pretty focussed on this specific discussion.
The book has four sections: a short introduction (which is quite heavy in skeptical theory, exactly what I wanted) and the main body, discussing borderlands theories, people, and history. In theories, he tends to stray a little from 'why people believe weird things' into 'why stupid people believe weird things' (as he did in the book of the same title) and that's fun. He covers a lot of quite current topics (like cloning, Wacky Unified Field Theories, the importance of Punctured Equilibrium in the evolution of evolutionary theory.)

In section two: people, he discusses the Copernican revolution and its effects, then goes off about Alfred Wallace. Here, he does something weird that needs more discussion. In analyzing Wallace, he constructs a psychological profile, which he derived by having a large number of Wallace experts fill out a survey of the "strongly agree, 9, 8,.. 3, 2, strongly disagree" sort, and then uses the results of these surveys to fill in his discussion of why Wallace became a scientific spiritualist, for instance. It's an interesting technique that he also uses with Steven Jay Gould and Carl Sagan. It is tempting to ask how much confirmation bias exists in a survey of this sort, though. Since I've already let the spoiler out of the bag, Shermer discusses Gould and Sagan, spends some time doing a statistical analysis of Sagan's greatness as a scientist (by comparing published papers by topic with a number of other contemporary, canonically great scientists) and pauses briefly to smack Freud upside the head in a somewhat snarky comparison of Freud and Darwin.

Finally, in section three: histories, he does a lovely discussion of the myth of pastoral tranquillity, including a quick summary of four ancient civilizations that probably managed to destroy themselves through environmental stupidity without (as he puts it) any need of Dead White European Males coming in and inflicting devastation from outside. Shermer then analyzes (and debunks) the theory of transcendent genius, the Mozart Myth, as he calls it, and goes back to two more chapters on Wallace and evolution, in a discussion of the Piltdown Man hoax and why that should (but doesn't seem to have) support the idea that science can be self-correcting and learn from its mistakes.

I like what Shermer is doing, and he writes well and readably. If I sound a bit impatient, it's because I want him to be writing about the application of critical thinking rather than case studies, and when he starts out writing just what I want to read, then goes off in a different direction, he leaves me standing at the intersection saying "hey, wait, this isn't the bus I wanted." The book could stand to be either edited down into two books: a Wallace analysis and a case studies in how science inspects itself discussion, or edited up with a clearer discussion of the math involved in his statistical analysis of Sagan or his psychological profiling of people. In the end, I liked it, I learned a fair bit from it, and I would recommend it to people who want to learn more about both critical thinking and science history.

2-0 out of 5 stars A World of Glasshouses
I'm a scientist, an astronomer specifically, and I'm not really the target audience here I suspect (even though in the line of work I have had to respond to a number of "Borderlands" claims). Objectively this is a 3-star book, but the sleight-of-hand marketing biases me against it.

This is a semi-scholarly work written by a science historian. Most of the essays revolve around Darwin, Wallace, and evolution. With these essays, and a handful of others, Shermer takes a historical approach to the "borderlands of science" to look at the process of how scientific theories develop to acceptance. He looks at very few cases of the current borderlands, and of those he does he makes generally weak arguments (and not scientific ones) with correspondingly weak conclusions. An early chapter on remote viewing is the exception.

The wordcount here is limited, but I wanted to point out some specific problem points. In the chapter asking if Sagan was "a great scientist," one questioning his rejection from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Shermer compares his publications to "the creme de le creme" of scientists: Gould, E. O. Wilson, Jared Diamond, and Mayr. The comparisons involve number of honorary degrees, popular articles, advisory groups, books, etc. There is NEVER a comparison of his scientific publication rate or citation rate versus NAS ASTRONOMERS, a primary criterion for the NAS membership who understands that publication practices vary from field to field. Shermer sets up a straw man and knocks it down, the same thing he accuses pseudoscientists of doing. He never comes close to making an argument about whether or not Sagan was a good scientist, merely that he was a well-known one who was highly regarded for his popularization.

I liked the idea of the chapter on the "Amadeus Myth," which is a topic worthy of comment, but not the execution. We like to make myths of our heroes. But here is another straw man, where Shermer's "genius" is equated to practicing math tricks and never very well characterized. Prodigies are not discussed.

Cosmology is noted as suffering from a bias against "historical science." This is far from true, I assure you. Origins programs in astronomy get funding far ABOVE their non-historical competitors.

A whole chapter is spent discussing whether or not punctuated equilibrium represents a "paradigm shift" of evolution. This is the semantic playing field of a science historian, and of little interest to actual scientists.

Shermer indeed would seem to have such a bias against what he calls "nonscience" topics that he gives them almost no mention. While he lumps, for instance, "Big Foot" in with some poor company, he later quotes anthropologist Krantz in another chapter on another subject; Krantz is one of a number of credible scientists who take the topic seriously. The same cannot be said for his other "nonscience" topics, yet all get rated equally at 0.1 with no discussion.

Indeed, despite Shermer's interesting discussion about a spectrum of "science," his spectrum seems to correspond to his idea of the ideas' correctness, NOT their scientific validity. What is validity (to play Shermer's word games)? All topics can be validly studied using the tools of science. Some are routinely, and some are not. He should have used a different term. I found myself losing trust in Shermer.

When Shermer finds that SETI pioneers are primarily first-born rather than later siblings as in most other scientific revolutions, he finds a way to argue it away in terms of their religion. I did not see this sort of multiple parameter analysis in the comparison sample, so should I believe it? Or did he just invoke the same kind of wishful thinking he criticizes in others?

I had many more problem points that kept my "doubt-o-meter" ringing at regular intervals.

What my criticisms mostly boil down to is that Shermer writes and acts as a science historian much better than he does as a scientist. He gives hints all too often that he doesn't think like a scientist, and this made me distrustful while reading.

This is a shame. I used to subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer, but let that lapse since that magazine too often took lazy pot shots at the same easy targets again and again. Shermer, and Shermer's magazine the Skeptic, for the most part shoot at more interesting targets, but I'm afraid not as well as they should.

1-0 out of 5 stars Shermer Ruins the Book by Talking Too Much
I expected more of Mr. Shermer in this outing, given his excellent work in Why People Believe Weird Things. But then, in that book, Shermer took on and successfully skewered the easy targets, such as UFO nuts, believers in astrology and other New Age fantasies, revisionist Holocaust deniers and whatnot. However, his latest effort basically amounts to little more than a barely intelligible rant than thoughtful scholarship. Shermer begins with a bold objective- trying to lay down demarcation lines between generally accepted science (as is generally accepted by scientists themselves), iffy propositions which he calls borderlands science, and a large group of topics that he labels non-science and pseudo science. I must say without hesitation that he fails miserably in his objective, partly due to his poor choice of content, but mostly because of his even poorer writing style.

Although the book starts out well, the writing steadily devolves, and by the fifth chapter, the reader must set his or her shoulders and hunker down for some very painful reading. Like most PhD holders, Shermer has acquired an impressive amount of scholarly trivia over the course of his education, yet somehow did not the master the mechanics of good writing. This actually is not hard to believe, as too many people finishing PhD programs in engineering, science and to the dishonor of all liberal arts traditions, English and history programs can not string together a few decent words of prose. Honestly, many of these programs think that they can make up for a lack of erudite soul with an overdose of abstract quantitation and esoteric facts.

And boy oh boy does this approach show in Mr. Shermer's stilted and constipated text. Moreover, as someone who regards himself as a champion of the hypothesis test and the scientific method, he really should know when to appropriately use such methods, and when not to use them. In reading his text, I got the feeling that in his graduate training he only attended the lectures in his Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences having to do with hypothesis testing, and studiously skipped all the other lectures, particularly those having to do with measurement, validity, operational definition and level of trust in results.

I say this because in his chapter on Psuedoscience and Race, he utterly fails to lay down an operational definition, and merely assumes that everyone shares the same common definition of race and knows what he is referring to. He also fails to consider the history of race and the common knowledge that race is a social construct, not a biological phenomenon. Though he provides a context (U.S. race relations), he does not provide an operational definition. He also seems unaware of considerable population genetic and molecular genetic evidence which would make it impossible for most in America to claim, at least from a genetic standpoint, to be truly 'white' or truly 'black'. Thus, from this one would have to assume, especially when reading Mr. Shermer's screed, that he defines race based on physical appearance pretty much like everybody else. However, scientists would take a different point of view, much as many a bigotted proponent of eugenics have on many occasions.

A second bone of contention that I have with Mr. Shermer's overly scientific and inappropriately quantitative approach to everything is his use in Part II Borderlands People, of quantitative methods to evaluate purely subjective things. Some variables we measure are concrete and have meaning that is fixed, such as weight, temperature and volume, athough we can use metric or English units to evaluate them. However, as I recall from one statistics text (the actual text is Richard M. Jaeger's Statistics A Spectator Sport), things like intelligence or neuroticism are totally subjective because their meaning and their measurement can change depending on who is evaluating and measuring them. For such things, there can be no common agreement as to definition or even measurement.

Which I believe Shermer should have learned, thus invalidating the invocation of Sulloway's work in his exposition. A good educational regimen in statistics (which I believe should begin with Moore's Statistics: Concepts and Controversies) would emphasize the importance of looking behind the numbers, using the appropriate measurement methods, and taking into account information other than that in the test when drawing conclusions. None of this was done within this text.

Still, I did learn a few things, being quite surprised to learn that there was actually a black champion cyclist, and Mr. Shermer did make a number of correct points. I also give him credit for (grudgingly) admitting, in his last chapter, that scientists are people too, and are motivated by the same concerns and issues like everyone else. Yet, this does not make up for the overall bad writing and worse scholarship. I expect, no, I insist on better from a self-respecting skeptic.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Primer on Critical Thinking
Michael Shermer gives an open and honest account about the inner workings of scientific thought as well as exposing ideas that-even today-many take as fact. The above reviews criticize Shermer for presenting science as philosophy, but there is no question that science is a belief system-it is influenced by culture and opinion. It does not exist as some purely isolated set of truths, partitioned from reality. This is Shermer's point about many scientific ideas throughout the book, not a blunder or misstep. Yes, science uses a particular method to understand the world. But Shermer points out that there are culturally driven forces behind the things we chose to study. Anyone versed in scientific method understands this. Throughout the book, Shermer stresses the criteria for labeling something "science".
Using a textbook definition of science will get you nowhere if your intent is to understand how science truly works. If you want to find the true meaning of life, for instance, rarely would you use Webster's to find it.
This is a great book for anyone truly interested in science and scientific thought. Shermer uses interesting stories, facts and ideas to relay his message that science may not always be as cut and dry as we may think, but its the best method we have of interpreting the world around us.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very well arranged
The Borderlands of Science, like all good science books includes philosophy. When you are writing about the importance and big picture of science, writing about philosophy is inevitable and very much necessary to show the meaning. Because Shermer has so much experience in cricism it is only right that he debunk nonsciences such as remote viewing. I will be anxious for new literature. ... Read more

15. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
by Mary Roach
list price: $13.95
our price: $9.76
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Asin: 0393324826
Catlog: Book (2004-05)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 953
Average Customer Review: 4.57 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year....Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting."—Entertainment Weekly

Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange livesof our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way.

In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries—from the anatomy labs and human-sourced pharmacies of medieval and nineteenth-century Europe to a human decay research facility in Tennessee, to a plastic surgery practice lab, to a Scandinavian funeral directors' conference on human composting. In her droll, inimitable voice, Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them. ... Read more

Reviews (127)

5-0 out of 5 stars wonderful book
This is a very entertaining and interesting book about human cadavers--what happens when you die, the history of dissection, the University of Tennessee "body farm," what dead bodies can tell you about airline crashes, how bodies are used for impact testing, flaws in Dr. Pierre Barbet's studies of crucifixion found by Frederick Zugibe, the process of "organ recovery" from "beating-heart cadavers" for transplants, the survival of severed heads (guillotine and transplantation), mummies and cannibalism, etc. Roach writes in a somewhat flippant style that somehow seems appropriate for the topic, it's never quite irreverent.
My only complaint: p. 126: Roach seems to think that the FAA should force the implementation of safety measures that come out negative on a cost-benefit analysis (given the value of human life at $2.7 million, if shoulder harnesses save 15 lives over 20 years, that's not enough if it costs $669 million to implement). What she fails to recognize is the opportunity cost of such spending--$669 million spent to save 15 lives over 20 years could save thousands of lives if spent elsewhere instead. There is no infinite fund of money available to save lives at any cost.

4-0 out of 5 stars Speaking with the Dead
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is a very original if somewhat disturbing read. If you ever wondered what happens to a body when it dies, if you ever wondered what kind of research is being done on corpses, if you ever wondered what happens if you "donate" your body to science, then this is the book for you. If any of these topics sent a shiver down your spine (or did much worst), then I advise you to stay far away from this one.

The real charm of the book is that, while being very informative and straight to the point, Roach's writing is often humorous in a morbid way that often brought a smile to my lips. She remarks some things that I would never had even thought of and makes some jokes that, done by any other author, could have seem tasteless (in fact, her humour is what makes this book such a fascinating read).

There wasn't a single chapter in this little tome that I didn't find fascinating, but some stood out more than others. In How To Know If You're Dead, Roach examines the different theories about the human soul to try and locate its presence (is it in the heart? the brain? the liver?). In Beyond the Black Box, she explains what happens to someone who is victim of a plane crash and how experts determine the cause of the crash. In Lifer After Death, Roach explains the different stages of decomposition. And in Just A Head, Roach examines the very strange subject of decapitation.

If this all sounds morbid, well, it is. But Roach's book is so well researched and informative that it all goes down easy for the reader. Roach never shies away from the truth, no matter how gruesome it may get.

Is this one for everyone? Not nearly. The topic will put off some, while the vivid imagery with turn off many others. But if you have the heart (and stomach) to take this one in, the ride will make you discover things you never knew about death, and will confirm or finally put to rest other assumptions you could have.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great fun and VERY different
When you look up the term "Off the beaten path" in the dictionary, you will, without a doubt, see a copy of this book. Who would have thought a book on this subject would have been successful? Stiff is, without a doubt, a bizarre yet remarkably engaging read: not surprising since Roach is such a terrific writer. The author possesses the ingenious ability of being able to make digestible the most repulsive of subjects. Curious, yet not callus, Roach manages to ask-and yes, answer-questions often best left unspoken (keeping in mind public decorum). Furthermore, Roach is hilarious. If you like weird, funny, and not-for-the squeamish books, try "The Bark of the Dogwood--a tour of southern homes and gardens. Equally parts funny, morose, insightful, and well-done.

5-0 out of 5 stars On my way to a colonoscopy...
...I was chatting with the nurses and told them that I've been reading a fascinating book that they might be interested in. When I told them the title, a couple squirmed and the one who was going to assist at my procedure wanted some details, immediately. I thought my timing was probably a little off, but being a risk-taker, I offered a few stories. As the medication began to lull me into the twilight zone, I heard her say that she wanted to read the book and that she would take care of me (!) I lived to write this review and will be sending her a copy of the book as a thank you.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Read
This book is so informative, funny, thorough, reverent, and all around amazing... so much so that I am recommending it to all of my friends. Like a previous post stated, Roach's prose really makes you feel as if she is your best friend (she is hysterical!), and her in-depth look at the 'curious lives' of cadavers leaves little to the imagination. Be sure to read all of the footnotes... some of the witiest comments that I have ever read are waiting within. Overall, this book is so, so good in everyway! Get it now... you won't regret it. ... Read more

16. The Do's: Osteopathic Medicine in America
by Norman Gevitz
list price: $24.95
our price: $24.95
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Asin: 0801878349
Catlog: Book (2004-04-13)
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Sales Rank: 228602
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Book Description

Overcoming suspicion, ridicule, and outright opposition from the American Medical Association, the osteopathic medical profession today serves the health needs of more than thirty million Americans. The DOs chronicles the development of this controversial medical movement from the nineteenth century to the present. Historian Norman Gevitz describes the philosophy and practice of osteopathy, as well as its impact on medical care. From the theories underlying the use of spinal manipulation developed by osteopathy's founder, Andrew Taylor Still, Gevitz traces the movement's early success, despite attacks from the orthodox medical community, and details the internal struggles to broaden osteopathy's scope to include the full range of pharmaceuticals and surgery. He also recounts the efforts of osteopathic colleges to achieve parity with institutions granting M.D. degrees and looks at the continuing effort by osteopathic physicians and surgeons to achieve greater recognition and visibility.

In print continuously since 1982, The DOs has now been thoroughly updated and expanded to include two new chapters addressing recent and current challenges and to bring the history of the profession up to the beginning of the new millennium. ... Read more

17. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385495323
Catlog: Book (2000-08-29)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 2601
Average Customer Review: 4.76 out of 5 stars
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People love secrets. Ever since the first word was written, humans have sent coded messages to each other. In The Code Book, Simon Singh, author of the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, offers a peek into the world of cryptography and codes, from ancient texts through computer encryption. Singh's compelling history is woven through with stories of how codes and ciphers have played a vital role in warfare, politics, and royal intrigue. The major theme of The Code Book is what Singh calls "the ongoing evolutionary battle between codemakers and codebreakers," never more clear than in the chapters devoted to World War&nbsp;II. Cryptography came of age during that conflict, as secret communications became critical to both sides' success.

Confronted with the prospect of defeat, the Allied cryptanalysts had worked night and day to penetrate German ciphers. It would appear that fear was the main driving force, and that adversity is one of the foundations of successful codebreaking.

In the information age, the fear that drives cryptographic improvements is both capitalistic and libertarian--corporations need encryption to ensure that their secrets don't fall into the hands of competitors and regulators, and ordinary people need encryption to keep their everyday communications private in a free society. Similarly, the battles for greater decryption power come from said competitors and governments wary of insurrection.

The Code Book is an excellent primer for those wishing to understand how the human need for privacy has manifested itself through cryptography.Singh's accessible style and clear explanations of complex algorithms cut through the arcane mathematical details without oversimplifying.--Therese Littleton ... Read more

Reviews (201)

4-0 out of 5 stars Sound, Entertaining, and Informative Introduction
The fine popular science writer Simon Singh (author of _Fermat's Enigma_, about the proving of Fermat's Last "Theorem") has just put out _The Code Book_, a quick survey of the basics of cryptography from a historical perspective.

Singh's book is an enjoyable and well-done overview of the basics of cryptography. He begins with a story about how Mary Queen of Scots was doomed because her crypto was bad, and continues up to the present day. He describes the 16th Century French Vigenere cipher, World War I cryptography, including the Zimmerman telegram, and lots of detail about Enigma. There is a fascinating side branch into the related issue of deciphering ancient languages. He does a good job describing the Rosetta Stone and the work in deciphering that, and a good job discussing Linear B. The concluding chapters discuss computer based cryptography, particularly the Data Encryption Standard, Public-key Cryptography, the RSA algorithm, and Pretty Good Privacy. I was a bit disappointed in the final chapter, on Quantum Cryptography, which didn't explain things as clearly as I would have liked. Their is also a set of ciphers in the back, and a contest for readers to try to decode them.

Singh does a good job describing the characters involved, in the best tradition of popular science. And though I've known a bit about this subject for some time, he still taught me lots of new stuff. I was particularly surprised to learn that British researchers had invented both Public-key Cryptography and an equivalent to RSA several years before the more famous inventor, but that the British government had classified their work, denying the researchers credit for their discoveries.

This is a sound, entertaining, and informative introduction to the basics of cryptography.

5-0 out of 5 stars Historical and Mathematical intrigue
Simon Singh can describe tails of drama, history, and common mathematical sense into a great book. While most people take cryptography for granted, Singh provides historical and simple examples to illustrate it's importance to mathematics and history. He details it's use in wars, especially World War 2, and commerce. He even delves into the political ramifications of strong versus weak encryption when discussing PGP.

Singh also provides easy to understand ways on how encryption works and even more intriguing, how to break it. He shows how all various encryption algorithms are done, and then how code breakers can decipher them, both in practical and historical consequences.

In the end, he even provides a challenge for would be decipherers out there. Granted, it's already been solved, it's still education and exciting that he offered a considerable amount of money for this challenge ($15000).

All in all, it's a fascinating book that will capture anyone's imagination, even if they hate history or math.

5-0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece!
This book is truly an achievement! SimonSingh takes up a seemingly esoteric, difficult, mysterious, exhaustive subject of Cryptography (or in simple terms Coding and decoding) and backed up by exhaustive research , he has written an engrossing book; The 400page read is a fascinating journey for the reader. The journey spans a broad range and time period. The hallmark of this book apart from the wealth of information it has, is the facile style of writing of SimonSingh which doesn't smother the lay reader with verbiage or technicalities; The structure of chapters is period wise, starting with the basic codes used during the middle ages, with the advancement of monoalphabetic ciphers and then polyalphabetic ciphers (including the vignere ciphers); then the automation of ciphers which happened during WWII with the famous Enigma machine; Then comes the intresting phase of cat and mouse game between the cryptographers and cryptoanalysts, which has always happened, but took a intense phase during the WWII, primarily between the camp at BletchleyPark,London (which housed a motley crowd ranging from Mathematicians to Linguists, all in a hectic pursuit to break the German code) and the Germans. The simple explanation behind the logic of Enigma is a demonstration of SimonS's ability to express the technical in the simplest of terms.

I found the description and concept of DES , the breakthrough of asymmetric ciphers , the concept of public key and Private keys, digital signatures especially illuminating.

The background leading to the development of PGP by Zimmerman and its features is an highlight and very topical. Next time I buy anything from the Web, i will appreciate the technology of security which happens in the backend;

The politics of encryption between the camps for free speech vs Government control is fascinating and becomes all the more urgent in the light of 9/11 and Govt attempts to curtail and control.

Even if you have a passing intrest in science, you will find this book worthwhile to spend time on . Don't get intimidated by the term Cryptography. This is a not-to-be-missed books. There is history, politics(Zimmerman telegram; Navajova talkers;Hans-Schmidt; )I was mesmerised enough to read it twice in a month's span.


5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating subject!
This author did a fantastic job of taking what could be a very dry subject and making it quite interesting. As the subtitle indicates, he traces the history of cryptography and cryptanalysis from the late 1500's to the modern time.

Singh gives examples throughout, and does a great job of explaining them as well. You don't have to be a math major to follow what he's talking about.

The end of the book contains a "Cryptography Challenge" in which he offers $15,000 to the first person to correctly crack ten encrypted messages. Don't set your heart on the prize; it's already been won. Most of the messages can be decrypted by the average (but tenacious) reader; several of the latter require significant computer skills, however.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book
I'd like to put this out there first. If you dont like math and science, get a clue you wont like this book. I however do enjoy math and science, especially computers. This book captivated me from the beginning I very much enjoyed how the material was presented in the codemaking, codebreaking chronology. There was however a section on language as code that I did not care for, but in all honesty Simon Singh writes at the beginning of the chapter that it is a bit of a detour and you do not have to read it. It's a very good book if you would like get a general understanding about cryptography. Or you just love interesting scientific fact and advances. ... Read more

18. The Los Alamos Primer: The First Lectures on How to Build an Atomic Bomb
by Robert Serber, Richard Rhodes
list price: $34.95
our price: $34.95
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Asin: 0520075765
Catlog: Book (1992-03-01)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 113002
Average Customer Review: 4.78 out of 5 stars
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In April 1943, a young physicist named Robert Serber stood up before a small group of fellow scientists in a laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and, as one attendee later recalled, began to speak in "a hazy, uncertain voice" about the project on which they would all be working. "The object," he said, "is to produce a practical military weapon in the form of a bomb in which the energy is released by a fast neutron chain reaction in one or more of the materials known to show nuclear fission." That mechanism, of course, was the atomic bomb, which a little more than two years later would be used against Japan.

In the following weeks, Serber touched on many themes, racing to an array of chalkboards to scribble complex formulas and equations. Among other things, he addressed how big a bomb would need to be in order to achieve critical mass--between 13.5 centimeters and 9 centimeters, he calculated--and what the probability of premature detonation might be. (It was, he concluded, always a danger.) At the end of the series, his lecture notes, classified as top secret, were gathered and printed for distribution to later cadres of scientists who came to work at Los Alamos. Years after the war they were declassified, and Serber, who died in May of 1997, took the opportunity to reflect on his work and the strange culture of the laboratory, adding postscripts and other commentary reproduced in the present edition.

Serber's book is an important document in the history of science, and remains one of the most accessible introductions to nuclear physics ever written. (On that note, those who worry that it is all too easy to find bomb-building instructions in the library or on the Web should rest assured: these lectures were tough for the greatest theoretical physicists of the time to follow.) It all makes for provocative reading. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book on the physics of the bomb
This is a truly exciting book for people with the desire to understand bomb physics. This book consists out of the original lecture notes from a series of seminars given in 1943 to the bomb scientists at the start of the Manhattan Project. These lecture notes are clearly annotated so that a layman can understand the bomb. Although the book discusses mainly the knowledge of 1943, the clear annotations of the author comments also on the advances since 1943.

In this book you will learn to calculate the energy of an atomic bomb after already 5 pages using only one simple physical law (no, not Einstein!). When you are halfway in the book, you will understand the calculations of the critical mass.

However to fully appreciate the book, you need to have a basic understanding of mathematics and physics. (it would be nice if you know what a differential equation is.)

The book also contains several funny anekdotes which make it a truly astonishing reading.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Excellent book, it takes a bit to stick with it, but the modern day excerpts/perspectives threaded into the book give it a good historical perspective. This is a good combo to go together with Richard Rhodes "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" and "Dark Sun".

5-0 out of 5 stars 10 STARS! Essential reading
- for anyone seriously interested in our nuclear heritage, weaponeering, or the NWEPS program. Gives INCREDIBLE insight as to the minds and directions these young physicists were going.

This book is a must-read. Simple, concise, straightforward technically. You gotta read it, 'nuff said.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This is an incredible book. This is originally a compilation of Robert Serber's notes he gave to incoming scientists at Los Alamos in the 1940s, explaining to them the purpose of the Manhattan Project and the expected means by which they would achieve their goal. This particular copy, courtesy of the University of California Press, contains not only an introduction by Mr. Richard Rhodes (author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb - strongly recommended), but notes throughout the Primer itself by Robert Serber. It is fascinating to read comments on a document by the man who wrote it many years afterward. Be warned: This is NOT a how-to book, and does require some basic knowledge of calculus and physics. It is, however, unbelievably interesting, and worth the cost to add it to your collection.

5-0 out of 5 stars Required reading--if you can handle the math.
If you want to understand the bomb, there's no substitue for this book. I have a degree in physics with a decade of dust on it and found this presentation to be just within my understanding. If you don't know calculus and freshman physics, you're probably not going to understand it very well. If you do, it's fascinating. ... Read more

19. Einstein 1905 : The Standard of Greatness
by John S. Rigden
list price: $21.95
our price: $14.93
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Asin: 0674015444
Catlog: Book (2005-01-15)
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Sales Rank: 273425
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Book Description

For Albert Einstein, 1905 was a remarkable year. It was also a miraculous year for the history and future of science. In six short months, from March through September of that year, Einstein published five papers that would transform our understanding of nature. This unparalleled period is the subject of John Rigden's book, which deftly explains what distinguishes 1905 from all other years in the annals of science, and elevates Einstein above all other scientists of the twentieth century.

Rigden chronicles the momentous theories that Einstein put forth beginning in March 1905: his particle theory of light, rejected for decades but now a staple of physics; his overlooked dissertation on molecular dimensions; his theory of Brownian motion; his theory of special relativity; and the work in which his famous equation, E = mc2, first appeared. Through his lucid exposition of these ideas, the context in which they were presented, and the impact they had--and still have--on society, Rigden makes the circumstances of Einstein's greatness thoroughly and captivatingly clear. To help readers understand how these ideas continued to develop, he briefly describes Einstein's post-1905 contributions, including the general theory of relativity.

One hundred years after Einstein's prodigious accomplishment, this book invites us to learn about ideas that have influenced our lives in almost inconceivable ways, and to appreciate their author's status as the standard of greatness in twentieth-century science.

... Read more

20. The Next Fifty Years : Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375713425
Catlog: Book (2002-05-14)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 22989
Average Customer Review: 4.25 out of 5 stars
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Scientists love to speculate about the direction research and technology will take us, and editor John Brockman has given a stellar panel free rein to imagine the future in The Next Fifty Years. From brain-swapping and the hunt for extraterrestrials to the genetic elimination of unhappiness and a new scientific morality, the ideas in this book are wild and thought-provoking. The list of scientists and thinkers who participate is impressive: Lee Smolin and Martin Rees on cosmology; Ian Stewart on mathematics; and Richard Dawkins and Paul Davies on the life sciences, just to name a few. Many of the authors remind readers that science has changed a lot since the blind optimism of the early 20th century, and they are unanimously aware of the potential consequences of the developments they describe. Fifty years is a long time in the information age, and these essays do a credible and entertaining job of guessing where we're going. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Quite an eclectic mix but came good in the end
When I started this book, my first reaction was - who are all these authors? I only recognised 20% of the names. Hardly had I thought this then the Introduction told me exactly who they were - very timely.

However, as I progressed through the book, there was quite a variance in the quality of the writing. Some authors, such as those on Cosmology, communicated well, but then others were far too high-level for a general audience. It was the latter chapters that brought me considerable delight & education when discussing the Mind, Psychology etc (not my favourite subjects I may add).

If all the contributors had tuned their work to the same general audience, then this would have deserved 5 stars; if it wasn't for the redeeming work by the psychologists & neuroscientists I'd have probably rated the book as 3 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thinking about the next fifty years
John Brockman has brought together a group of thinkers to create an online think tank called the EDGE. In an attempt to overcome the great divide between literary intellectuals and scientists that C.P. Snow defined as the "Two Cultures", Brockman created the EDGE to be "The Third Culture".

The Next Fifty Years, is a collection of essays from some of the thinkers from the EDGE. They explore the next fifty years on different topics ranging from Csikszentmihalyi's engineered IQ and Dawkin's thoughts on the genome to colonization on Mars and the importance of Mathematics in the year 2050.

The essays were stimulating and I found this book to be well worth the effort to read. Any book that triggers new thoughts and ideas is one that I will treasure. As many of the scientists point out, trying to predict the future is a futile endeavor, but for me it gives a great insight into the present to see what these minds are pondering today. The ideas that might shape the next fifty years, might not turn out to be accurate, but the ideas and research that are happening today will effect us one way or another in the next 10 years. As humans we over estimate what can be achieved in year, but under estimate what can be achieved in a decade, and in general completely miss the mark when trying to estimate anything that exceeds those time lines. But I think Brockman chose fifty years, to give the thinkers some creative freedom.

If you are interested in science, and you are interested in what some of our best brains are mulling over at present, then you will enjoy this diverse collection of essays on the future.

3-0 out of 5 stars A fairly good overview
The making of predictions is necessary and important, for it can instill both optimism and caution. There is only a modest collection of predictions in this book, but they do give a fairly good representation of the different scientific fields and what to expect in these fields by the end of the fifth decade of the 21st century. Here is a brief summary and commentary of a few of them:

- "The Future of the Nature of the Universe" (Lee Smolin). The author predicts that quantum computing will become a reality in 50 years, as long as quantum mechanics remains true when extrapolated to macroscopic systems. COMMENT: Due to studies in decoherence and more honest interpretations of experiments testing the phenomenon of entanglement, quantum theory will instead be viewed in more "classical" terms in its formalism and foundations. Research into quantum computation, as understood presently, will fade from the scene.

- "Cosmological Challenges: Are We Alone, and Where?" (Martin Rees). The author is optimisitic about the SETI project and other attempts to detect the presence of life external to the Earth. COMMENT: Due to advances in solid state device physics, life on other planets will be detected via the by-products they put into their atmospheres. The information theory behind the SETI searches will become more refined also, increasing the probability of understanding a real message from another civilization.

- "Son of Moore's Law" (Richard Dawkins). The author predicts an exponential increase in DNA sequencing power, which he labels as the "Son of Moore's Law." The author also expresses a fear that there will still be theologians in 2050, this being done in the context of ethical debates on the genetic sequencing of "Lucy" and the possibility of the reintroduction of dinosaurs. COMMENT: The sequencing projects and the number of sequenced organisms will increase hyperexponentially. In addition, tens of thousands of new "transgenic" organisms will appear, all of them optimized to carry out certain biological functions. The field of horticulture will explode, with thousands of new species of ornamental plants appearing before 2050. The university will meet its demise by 2050, but theologians will not disappear. On the contrary, and perhaps unfortunately, the major religions will be with us for many centuries to come, and they will accompany humankind on their voyages to other worlds, for better or worse.

-"The Mathematics of 2050" (Ian Stewart). The author predicts major revolutions in mathematics, due partially to the increasing influence of the computer, bioinformatics, and financial engineering. He also predicts that the current split between "pure" and "applied" mathematics will end, with the result being just "mathematics". He mentions also the "Milennium Problems", one being the Riemann hypothesis, which he predicts will be solved by 2050, its solution being hinted at by considerations in physics. The P/NP problem will be proved undecidable, the Hodge conjecture will be disproved, the Birch/Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture will be proved, the Navier-Stokes equations will turn out not to have solutions in certain circumstances, the Yang-Mills mass gap problem will be settled but will be deemed irrelevant by physicists, and the Poincare conjecture will be "wide-open". Interestingly, the author is one of the few who have mentioned the role of "quantization of mathematics" via quantum algebra, quantum topology, and quantum number theory. COMMENT: The Poincare conjecture will be resolved by 2010 with its resolution being in the context of the "quantization of mathematics" mentioned by the author. In fact, the quantization of mathematics will be the driving force behind whole new areas of mathematics. Pure mathematics will continue to be viewed as disjoint from applied mathematics. In fact, there will be an intense effort, as evident from the last two meetings of the International Congress of Mathematicians, to keep pure and applied mathematics as separate disciplines. Mathematical finance will continue to explode and there will be intense competition between financial firms to develop highly sophisticated algorithms for financial prediction and portfolio manangement. Financial mathematics will also have more overlap with physics and meteorology, as energy and weather derivatives take on even more importance. The next fifty years will see the rise of financial firms, and others, managed, staffed, and run completely by intelligent machines. In addition, due to hardware advances and the development of highly sophisticated algorithms in mathematical biology and bioinformatics, the entire biosphere will be sequenced by 2050. Complete mathematical models of the entire human body will be developed by mathematicians working in the biotechnology industry, and drug discovery will be viewed as essentially mathematical, with the actual physical chemistry and manufacture being essentially automatic. In this same light, combinatorial chemistry will become a branch of mathematics in its own right, attracting the attention of hundreds of mathematicians. Advances in artificial intelligence will bring about, with indications by the year 2040, of intelligent machines able to construct original concepts and theories in pure mathematics. Skepticism as to the possibility of thinking machines will be alleviated because of these developments. "Artificial" mathematicians will begin to become competitive with "natural" ones by the year 2050. Further, cryptography will continue to explode as a field of mathematics, due to the increasing need for online security and individual privacy. Increased computer power will fuel this need, and the competition between encryption and de-encryption algorithms will become very intense. lastly, by 2050 it will be accurate to say that mathematics will enter into every phase of human and machine activity. There will be no process, no business transaction, no entertainment function, no leisurely activity, that will not depend predominantly on mathematical structures or algorithms.

5-0 out of 5 stars An exciting glimpse into the future
As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." However, if anyone can make meaningful predictions, it's the twenty-five leading scientists and authors whose essays grace The Next Fifty Years.

It's an exciting book. Almost every piece is enlightening, stimulating, and remarkably well written. I read a lot of books and articles about science, but still came across dozens of new ideas, convincing arguments and sparkling insights. Here are a few items that got me thinking:

Physicist Lee Smolin points out that subtle changes in light waves as they cross space may provide the first test of quantum theories of gravity--we won't need to build accelerators the size of the solar system to gain this information.

Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller speculates that gene activation chips will soon allow researchers to map the changes in our brains caused by "every state of mind lasting more than a few hours." The result will be a far richer understanding of human consciousness.

Mathematician Steven Strogatz expects that new methods for creating complex, evolving systems on computers will mean that we humans will "end up as bystanders, unable to follow along with the machines we've built, flabbergasted by their startling conclusions."

Richard Dawkins predicts that by 2050 it will cost just a few hundred dollars to sequence one's own personal genome, computers will be able to simulate an organism's entire development from its genetic code, and scientists may even be able to reconstruct extinct animals a la Jurassic Park.

Computer scientist Rodney Brooks thinks wars may be fought over genetic engineering and artificial enhancements that have the potential to turn humans into "manipulable artifacts."

AI researcher Roger Schank foresees the end of schools, classrooms and teachers, to be replaced by an endless supply of virtual experiences and interactions.

In many cases, the bold ideas of one writer are challenged or balanced by another, making the book a kind of high-level dialogue. Cosmologist Martin Rees, for example, takes on Smolin's idea of evolving universes, and neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky is much less optimistic about our ability to conquer depression than is psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

It's not all perfection, however. A few of the essays seemed relatively uninspired. These included psychologist Paul Bloom's pessimistic view of our ability ever to understand consciousness or the nature of thought--"We might be like dogs trying to understand calculus." And I found computer scientist David Gelernter's essay on the grand "information beam" that will transform everyone's lives an unconvincing one-note techno-fix. Also the book really needs an index--that simple addition would have made it much more useful.

However, it's a book that tackles big questions about our future in as thoughtful, insightful and well informed a manner as I've ever encountered. It's worth reading and re-reading.

Robert Adler, author of Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation (Wiley, 2002).

2-0 out of 5 stars Why good scientists rarely make good futurists
A wonderful example across the sciences as to why people working in a field have excellent visibility over the next 5 years, and very poor visibility (or at least very unoriginal) when asked to speculate over longer time periods. For those of you familiar with the research of these people, their vision of the future looks extraordinary like the work they do, only extrapolated in ways that are obvious to those in the field. What I expected was the "creative destruction" by people of their own agendas. All the computer scientists (Brooks, Holland, Gelernter and Schank) disappointed in this regard. Richard Dawkins was the only intriguing one.

Just to calibrate the thought again. If you want to learn the views of some pretty good scientists on the larger backdrop of their research, this is a good book to read. However, other than the fact that they are working on what they are working on, there is no convincing argument as to why the world will turn out the way they envision. Not to mention, good scientists tend to be spectacularly wrong on long term visions (remember Lord Kelvin's claim about the end of chemistry a century ago).

I still look forward enthusiastically to a book with this same title, but a different cast of contributors. ... Read more

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