Picks

The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London

Robert Hooke's name is familiar to most of us only because of "Hooke's Law", f = - kx, which describes the potential for a harmonic oscillator. I became aware of some of the other contributions of this remarkable man by reading one of Lisa Jardine's previous books, "Ingenious Pursuits", which was my pick for May, 2000.

What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained

Many have pointed out the similarity between the science of chemistry and the art of cooking. I'm sure that there is a lot of truth in that; some of the best amateur chefs I know are professional chemists. I don't happen to know any professional chefs who are amateur chemists, but Robert Wolke comes pretty close to that.

The Fate of Industrial Carbon Dioxide

About half of the carbon dioxide from anthropogenic sources since the beginning of the industrial revolution is no longer in the atmosphere. For a long time, it has been recognized that the oceans have been absorbing the gas, and this is often viewed positively by environmentalists, because the impact on climate change would otherwise be much larger.

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.