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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.

The God Delusion

Unless you teach in a religiously-sponsored school, religion probably plays little role in your teaching of science. However, the "prior knowledge" of your students includes some decidedly non-scientific, religion-inspired viewpoints that ought to be taken into account.

The Rock from Mars: A Detective Story on Two Planets

If you've been reading Hal's Picks for a long time, you might remember something about this rock, ALH84001, because the publication in Science of the paper that announced evidence in a meteorite that life had once existed on Mars was my Pick back in August of 1996. The article was controversial, as you might expect.

The Areas of My Expertise

The full title of this book is "The Areas of My Expertise: Which Include Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a kind of food), Squirrels and Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects". It is full of little-known and bizarre facts, all of which were fabricated.

Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another

Why is society organized the way it is? Is it possible to use some of the laws of the physical universe to understand why and how national economies, stock and commodity markets, companies and clubs organize the way they do? Can physics provides "laws" of human nature that are as useful and universal as those of mechanics?

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in the last few years. It is an examination of the factors that have led societies to flourish and to gain ascendency over one another.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

We teachers of science tend to assume that our students are largely rational - that they can be brought to understanding through a gradual accumulation of experiences that lead to conclusions about how the world works, and that nature can be led to disclose herself through a logical process.