Book Reviews

"What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions" by Randall Munroe

xkcd is a nerdy Internet daily cartoon that is written and drawn by a former NASA "roboticist". The subject matter is all over the map [yesterday's (11/4/14) is about TypographicChemistry], but tends to favor physics and computing. He encourages readers of the cartoon strip to send him outrageous questions, and he supplies outrageous but scientifically accurate responses. Some of the best of these have be come a surprising NYT Best Seller.

Dr. Joe's Brain Sparks: 179 Inspiring and Enlightening Inquiries Into the Science of Everyday Life

Professor Joe Schwarcz of McGill University is Canada's foremost public spokesperson for science. His columns in the Montreal Gazette and in Canadian Chemical News and his radio program on CJAD in Montreal reach thousands of readers and listeners, and have provided grist for his many popular books about science and especially chemistry.

Letters to a Young Chemist

Imagine yourself to be an undergraduate science major, with some interest in the possibility of a career in chemistry. Wouldn't it be interesting to have lunch with more than a dozen (actually seventeen) accomplished academic researchers, who could tell you about some of the cool things that their work has discovered, and what they are currently excited about.

Worm: The First Digital World War

Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down , knows how to write a nonfiction thriller. The Worm sounds like it ought to be science fiction, but the title refers to the Conficker worm, the most diabolical and potentially damaging computer malware ever devised.

The Symmetries of Things

This beautiful book could certainly enhance your coffee table, but don't buy it just for its looks. Be prepared to spend some time with it, and join the wonder that mathematicians are expressing at the brilliance of this new way of describing and inventing symmetries.