The Symmetries of Things

This beautiful book could certainly enhance your coffee table, but don't buy it just for its looks. Be prepared to spend some time with it, and join the wonder that mathematicians are expressing at the brilliance of this new way of describing and inventing symmetries.

Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions

I am an enthusiastic fan of Brian Hayes' "Computing Science" column in the Sigma Xi publication, American Scientist, which is the source of most of the essays in this book. Before that, I read his articles in The Sciences, a now-defunct but beautiful little magazine once published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth of America

The BCCE in 1994 was at Bucknell University, not far from the US home of Joseph Priestley, and I was one of a group that went there to see his place. While I knew some of his scientific contributions, I did not at the time appreciate how important a role he had played in the intellectual life of the nascent republic.

Sex in an Age of Technological Reproduction: ICSI and Taboos

You won't find titillation in this book about sex and reproduction. These two one-act plays are intended by their author, one of the "fathers of the Pill" to prompt discussion of the many ethical questions posed by the divorce between act of sex and human reproduction.

Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Cases

Poisons are among the favorite weapons of mystery writers, if not murderers. Guns may be quicker, but poisons have a cachet that you really can't beat. On the other hand, murder by poison has become increasingly dangerous - to the perpetrator!

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.

Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us

Whether you are trying to choose a school for your child (or deciding which district to move into), evaluate a student or a teacher, comply with the requirements of No Child Left Behind, admit students or apply for admittance, or compare the educational systems of different countries, there is likely to be some kind of a test involved.

Home Photovoltaic Systems for Physicists

The July 2008 isue of Physics Today has a special focus: "Energy Today and Tomorrow". It features three articles of interest to chemists and physicists, "Grand Challenges in Basic Energy Sciences" by Graham R. Fleming and Mark A. Ratner, "Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment" by Leon Glicksman, and this one by Thomas Murphy Jr.

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

George Gamow introduced me to Monte Carlo methods in a chapter of "One Two Three Infinity" (Hal's Pick of April, 2001) that I first read when I was about twelve. His vivid description and witty illustration of the path of a staggering drunk comes clearly to mind even these many decades later, and it surely inspired my research on a number of projects.