Picks

Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science

What would you say are the greatest scientific ideas that mankind has discovered? Most of us chemists would say that the notion that matter consists of atoms would have to be one of them, and physical chemist Peter Atkins does not disappoint us on that score. He also treads ground familiar to us when he describes entropy and energy, and evolution and DNA.

The Height Gap

A widely-held misconception is that people, in general, are getting taller. Another one is that Americans are the tallest people in the world. A handful of anthropologists led by John Komlos, a professor at the University of Munich, is using the average heights of people as a unique historical and contemporary index of health and nutrition.

Eight Preposterous Propositions: From the Genetics of Homosexuality to the Benefits of Global Warming

This is a sequel to Ehrlich's "Nine Crazy Ideas in Science", which was my pick for December, 2001. I don't think it is as good as the first one, although it does have some great strengths; his discussion of the climate change issue is about as good as any, and he also has an especially good discussion of the efficacy of placebos.

Ink Sandwiches, Electric Worms, and 37 Other Experiments for Saturday Science

I am always looking for science/engineering projects that would be fun to do, and to encourage students to try. Neil Downie's first book, "Vacuum Bazookas, Electric Rainbow Jelly, and 27 Other Experiments for Saturday Science" was a Pick for March, 2002.

That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles: 62 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of EverydayLife

Joe Schwarcz's books are irresistible for "Hal's Picks" because they constitute just the kind of morsels that I look for - the connections between what we teach in chemistry courses and the world in which our students (and we) live. My only surprise in this book was that Prof. Schwarcz was able to come up with so many additional high-quality essays.