One of the most memorable experiences of my youth was when I was camping in the Mojave Desert. Having lived all of my life up to that time in Los Angeles, I had never seen a truly dark night. Lying under the stars, I found it very difficult to close my eyes because of the extraordinary beauty of the sky, full of stars and planets - the Milky Way clearly visible.
The first of this series of books by Edward Tufte, "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" was the one that, in my opinion, would be of most practical use to the average scientist. That was six volumes and twenty four years ago. I would recommend the most recent one, "Beautiful Information", as a logical continuation.
The folly of spending more per liter to buy water than gasoline has been mentioned in Hal's Picks previously (July 2003). That article, by Michael Schermer, emphasized the waste of money that this boondoggle constitutes. In the New York Times magazine this week is another argument against the practice, and that is its impact on the environment.
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.
The search for replacements for oil and natural gas is heating up, as the price of oil rises. No alternative is getting more attention than biofuels - which in the US means ethanol from corn or biodiesel from soybeans. The movement has terrific political momentum because it promises not only to increase the price of corn, but also to enrich those who have invested in distillation facilities.
It was not that many years ago that one could reasonably defer judgement about global warming. But the evidence that our planet's climate is changing at a pace that can only presage disaster is becoming so compelling that only the US executive branch can't see it. Even the Bush administration now acknowledges that there may be a problem, but not one that would require significant action.
About half of the carbon dioxide from anthropogenic sources since the beginning of the industrial revolution is no longer in the atmosphere. For a long time, it has been recognized that the oceans have been absorbing the gas, and this is often viewed positively by environmentalists, because the impact on climate change would otherwise be much larger.
Ice cores, bored through thousands of feet of stable glacial ice in Greenland, have proved to be our best record of global climate over more than a hundred thousand years.
Malcolm Gladwell has done it again. This article is very much in the spirit of the books by Henry Petroski, who has written about the engineering hidden in ordinary objects such as paperclips and pencils.
Professor James Collman of Stanford University has provided an excellent resource for all of us who try to help our students and the general public to discriminate between valid science and the bogus "scientific" claims that pervade television, the Internet, the grocery store, and especially the "health food" store.