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.
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.
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.
My son gave me this book as a Christmas present in 2009, with the expectation that I would make it one of my Picks. The sentiment was amply appreciated, but I did not make it a Pick then because I didn't want to feel responsible for the maimings and deaths that could result from trying many of the "experiments" described.
Chances are that you have a computer mouse in your hand as you read these words. That object, now ubiquitous throughout the world, originated in the mid-1970's in Xerox's PARC laboratory in Palo Alto, which was a competitor to the famous Bell Telephone Labs in New Jersey.
Just about all of us who teach introductory courses in chemistry have a significant fraction of our students who intend to apply to medical schools and attempt to become doctors. However, very few of my students have a good idea of what that career path looks like, beyond graduation with an undergraduate degree.
If information about information is metadata, that's what we have here. As most of us are trying to drink from a firehose of information that clogs our eyes, ears, and every mailbox, James Glieck (author of "Chaos") helps us to step back to view the larger picture, with a longer perspective.
Brian Greene has emerged as the most significant spokesperson for modern physics. It isn't just that his two previous best-selling books ("The Elegant Universe" and The "Fabric of the Cosmos") were written to be accessible to the interested non-specialist, but also to excite the imagination of laymen.
One cold morning last week, as I was out to pick up our newspapers, a group of perhaps 250 starlings took off from a neighbor's trees, rose as a mass, wheeled a couple of circles in the air over the trees and settled in other trees nearby. There were no predators in evidence, so iIt was not clear what made them fly or how they decided when and where to land.
Magic shows don t work on children if they are not old enough to have developed the expectation that causes have predictable effects. They accept what their senses tell them, without constructing models that that make the surprising result unexpected.