Picks

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.

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

I enjoyed so much Dava Sobel's previous books, "Longitude" and "Galileo's Daughter" (both of which were Hal's Picks), that I was eager to read her latest, which was judged "best science book" for Fall, 2011 by Publisher's Weekly.

The Joy of Teaching and Writing Conceptual Physics

Paul Hewitt may be the best-known physics teacher in the US. Not only has he written outstanding books for the teaching of physics and physical science, he is also the author of the very popular monthly "Figuring Physics" column of The Physics Teacher.

Hacked!

Computer security became a personal issue for Atlantic Monthly national correspondent James Fallows when his wife Deb's g-mail account was hacked. Bogus e-mails appealing for emergency money were sent to everyone on her contacts list, six years of mail, photographs, and records were deleted, and Mrs. Fallows was locked out of her own account.

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.

Leveling the Field: What I learned from For-Profit Education

One would expect a long-time educator like me to know more about the largest university in the United States (enrollment of 530,000) and I have wondered what the University of Phoenix is really like. I see their large office buildings with prominent signs everywhere but, since they do not offer programs in science, their activities are essentially orthogonal to what I do.

The Great Martian Catastrophe and How Kepler Fixed It

Owen Gingerich is the author of one of my favorite books, "The Book Nobody Read", which was my Pick for October 2004 (could it have been that long ago?), which combines astronomy, history research, and bibliophilia.

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

None of us is Spock, the superrational StarTrek character, but many of us in the science or science education business imagine ourselves to less susceptible to unfounded beliefs than the non-scientist community. In "The Believing Brain", Michael Shermer, publisher of The Skeptic magazine, shows how belief that is not based on data or reason is an inevitable consequence of being human.

A Red Herring Without Mustard

Flavia de Luce is still at it. The precocious eleven-year-old chemist that we first met in "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie", my Pick for September 2009, has continued to solve the mysterious deaths that occur just about every year in her 1950's English hamlet of Bishop's Lacy.

Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Do tsunamis affect global warming? Well, the 2004 Indian Ocean catastrophe probably indirectly decreased the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere by destroying the lives of 200,000 victims and the livelihoods of probably 250,000 more. Of course, it also negatively affected coral reefs, mangroves and other wetlands, forests, and plant diversity.