Trick Or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine

"Trick or Treatment" is a critical (very critical) examination of several varieties of alternative medicine. I was surprised to see Simon Singh as lead coauthor of a book about health because I know him as author of a book about math, "Fermat's Enigma", that I recommended in December of 1999. I thought it was the best science/math book of that year.

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

I am a fan of Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science" column in The Guardian. Several hundred of his articles are available free online at His pieces are always well-researched and well-reasoned, and he writes with flair and wit. This slightly edited collection of his essays has recently been released in paperback in the US, after having been on the market in the UK since 2008.

Mammogram Math (The Way We Live Now)

Imagine a highly reliable cancer test. It detects 95% of a certain type of cancer, and has a "false positive" rate of only 1%. This test is used on a population in which this type of cancer occurs in 0.5%. One day your doctor tells you that you have tested positive. What is the chance that you are actually sick? Surprisingly, it is only about 32 percent!

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

When I saw this new book on the subject of evolution, I thought it would probably be one side or the other of the very tired evolution/creationism-"intelligent" design debate. I was delighted to find instead a very smart discussion of the status of our understanding of the origins of life, how life has changed over the millennia, and how we have learned about those things. Mr.

Germ Stories

Arthur Kornberg won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1959, and just recently passed away (October, 2007). When his three sons were small, he used to tell them stories and poems about the "germs" he was studying. The subsequent generation of grandchildren came along, catalyzing a whole new batch of poetry and tales.

The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life On Earth

One of my picks last year was the frontal attack of an atheist scientist on religion. It was Richard Dawkins' popular "The God Delusion". This month, my choice is a respectful and conciliatory appeal by entomologist E. O. Wilson for common cause between religion and science in the preservation of what is left of Eden.

The Darkening Sea (Annals of Science)

You may remember Elizabeth Kolbert as author of the extensive New Yorker series on climate change that was Hal's Pick in May of 2005. She also wrote about the ways in which ice core samples disclose the history of the atmosphere; that article was Hal's Pick in January of 2002.