The Martian Chronicles: New Discoveries on the Red Planet, by Burkhard Bilger

One could argue that the technological triumphs embodied in our robotic explorations of Mars far exceed those that put men on the moon.  Missing, however, is the drama of putting human life at risk, and the ease with which our imagination can put us in the shoes of the explorer. That is not to say that there is not a human element.

Effective Peer Review

All academics are encouraged to become reviewers to keep abreast of new developments in their field, to help shape the direction of their discipline, and as their scholarly responsibility. The article has many more details and is worth a quick look.

Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure

What is this?  Art? Humor? Sports? Math? – or all of the above? With baseball season starting, I found it irresistible to recommend “Flip Flop Fly Ball”, which reminds me in some ways of the beautiful series of graphical exemplar books by Edward Tufte, and in others of Michael Lewis’ MoneyBall (the book, more than the movie, although the movie was ok).

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

What good is music? Oliver Sacks (author of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, The Island of the Colorblind, and especially - for chemists - Uncle Tungsten) concludes in the Preface to Musicophilia that there is no apparent evolutionary advantage associated with human appreciation for certain combinations of sounds and rhythm.

Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines

The Presidential campaign to this point has been waged so devoid of issues that one might think that there is nothing to discuss other than lipstick and the number of houses the candidates own. Beyond such trivialities as foreign policy, health care, immigration and the war(s), there a few minor issues that have something to do with science.

The Sky is Falling

How likely is it that an asteroid or a comet of significant size will impact the earth, and what would be the consequences? It is now widely accepted that the dinosaurs were wiped out by such an event, and recent research suggests that previous estimates of the number of asteroid impacts may have been much too low.

Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature

You know Ira Flatow as host of Science Friday on NPR. I don't often get to listen "live" because the broadcasts occur while I am (supposed to be) working, but I subscribe to the podcasts and catch up on them later from an RSS feed.

The Dark Side: What we re missing in the night sky

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 Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Like Malcolm Gladwell s Tipping Point , Nassim Taleb s Black Swan threatens to become a permanent part of the lexicon. In this best-selling book, he makes the argument that evolution has prepared us to over-emphasize continuous, Gaussian relationships because they occur much more frequently than do rare but momentous, unpredictable events.

Beautiful Evidence

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.