Picks

The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works

Who doesn't like Harry Potter? I suppose there must be some such person, but it is hard to criticize a book series that has youngsters eager to gobble up 700 pages, even if they were not as creative and entertaining as they are. If you have read some or all of the books, I'm sure that you noticed all the science they contain. No? Me neither.

The Genie in the Bottle: 67 all-new commentaries on the fascinating chemistry of ordinary life

Joe Schwarcz's second collection of essays (see my pick for May for the first) about chemistry in everyday life begins with a Preface in which he confronts a door-to-door salesman of water filters with some basic information about the chemistry of water treatment.

Fun with Physics: The woman leading the hunt for nature's most elusive particles

Janet Conrad received the 2001 Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award for outstanding contribution to physics by a young woman. In this New Yorker story, K. C. Cole describes the lengths to which experimental physicists must go in order to detect and study the properties of neutrinos, which barely interact with any other matter.

Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs: 67 Digestible commentaries on the fascinating chemistry of ordinary life

Joe Schwarcz is Director of McGill University's Office for Chemistry and Society. He hosts a weekly radio call-in radio show in Montreal and also writes a column about chemistry in everyday life for the Washington Post. The essays in this book are collected largely from his radio show, and they are exactly in the spirit of "Hal's Picks".

The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World

In 1792, the French Academy of Sciences appointed two respected scientists to survey a north-south meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona, for the purpose of determining the size (and shape) of the earth. Why is this important? Because it would establish an international basis for the meter, foundation of the metric system.

Acid Tongues and Tranquil Dreamers: Eight Scientific Rivalries that Changed the World

Many people have difficulty understanding the motivation of scientists for precedence and the recognition it brings. While there are monetary incentives for some of the protagonists in "Acid Tongues", it is more often pride and the acceptance of one's ideas that drove the rivalries of Newton vs. Leibniz, Edison vs. Tesla, Crick and Watson vs. Pauling vs. Franklin and Wilkins.

Generation of a Bacterium with a 21 Amino Acid Genetic Code

Even those of us whose whose biochemistry is a little shaky are likely to know that there are twenty amino acids that form the building blocks of proteins in life on earth. Now even that simple factoid is no longer absolutely true. A group of scientists headed by Peter G. Schultz of the Scripps Research Institute have created a new form of E.