Joe Schwarcz has done it again. This host of a science call-in show in Montreal and Toronto has put together another collection of his commentaries on the science of everyday life. All four of his previous books have been "Hal's Picks", and you can find all of them in the Index. As usual, most of the science is chemistry.
It was not that many years ago that one could reasonably defer judgement about global warming. But the evidence that our planet's climate is changing at a pace that can only presage disaster is becoming so compelling that only the US executive branch can't see it. Even the Bush administration now acknowledges that there may be a problem, but not one that would require significant action.
Back in the 1960's, I was captivated by "Percentage Baseball" by Earnshaw Cook. Now long out of print and a collector's item, this book was a forerunner of the "science" of SABRmetrics (after the Society for American Baseball Research) that refers to the scientific (statistical) evaluation of the game.
Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in the last few years. It is an examination of the factors that have led societies to flourish and to gain ascendency over one another.
Several of Michael Shermer's writings have been Hal's Picks in the past. Back in October of 1997, I recommended his "Why People Believe Weird Things", Chapter Ten of which was "Confronting Creationists - Twenty Five Creationist Arguments, Twenty Five Evolutionist Answers".
We teachers of science tend to assume that our students are largely rational - that they can be brought to understanding through a gradual accumulation of experiences that lead to conclusions about how the world works, and that nature can be led to disclose herself through a logical process.
How do you know that no two snowflakes are exactly alike? Does it matter? For the scientist, the similarities between snowflakes are just an interesting, and probably much more important, than their differences. The author of the text in "The Snowflake" is Chairman of the Physics Department at Caltech.
Joe Schwarcz is the director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society, and he also hosts a popular radio show in Canada, in which he answers questions about science he has posed to his listeners. "Dr. Joe and What You Didn't Know" is the fourth in a series of books in which his answers are compiled.
Most people would be surprised to learn that, by the time of his death in 1955, the FBI had compiled a file of more than fourteen hundred pages on the world's most famous and most revered scientist, Albert Einstein.
In his surprise 1959 bestseller about Kepler, The Sleepwalkers, Arthur Koestler claimed that Nicolaus Copernicus' book, De Revolutionibus had very little influence on the other astronomers of his time because it was little-read.