Picks

On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science

David Goodstein has enjoyed a long and productive career at the California Institute of Technology as a professor of physics and as Vice Provost. He brings to this small book on scientific ethics the perspective of an administrator of scientific research, a viewpoint that I have not seen expressed in any other place.

Boyle: Between God and Science

Robert Boyle is known to most chemists solely for his Law relating the pressure and volume of a gas, but this privileged son of the Earl of Cork was not as interested in discovering an equation as he was in determining what his experiments could tell him about his own relationship to God.

Lithium Dreams: Can Bolivia Become the Saudi Arabia of the Electric Car Era?

There was a time when it was possible to estimate the size of the total US thermonuclear arsenal by measuring the ratio of Li-6 to Li-7 in commercial sources and knowing the amount of the metal in the economy. (Li-6 had been removed to make hydrogen bombs.) Now the lightest metal is prominent in other kinds of energy schemes.

No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale

Chemistry is a beautiful subject. Beyond the intellectual satisfaction of finding out how things work, there is also aesthetic reward in an optically-active crystal viewed in polarized light, a colorful reaction, or even scientific glassware.

Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style

One of the most memorable lectures I have ever experienced was given by Nobelist Willard Libby. He spoke at University of California, Irvine in 1968 or 1969, but the essence of his talk about the atmosphere of Venus is still fresh in my mind because he told such an engaging, entertaining story.

Am I Making Myself Clear?: A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public

The world has never more needed public understanding of science than it does now, and those of us in science education have a special obligation in this regard. The answers to health care, climate change, conservation of the environment, and so forth are not going to be found in science alone, but if they are to be addressed rationally, science literacy will be necessary.

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!