Picks

Cantor's Dilemma: A Novel

This book has been around since 1991, but I had not read it until a colleague suggested that I do. This is the first of least four novels by Stanford chemist Carl Djerassi, best known for his work on oral contraceptives.

Fritz Haber: Chemist, Nobel Laureate, German, Jew

Haber's name is found in the indices of a large fraction of all books about chemistry. Introductory students learn about the Haber process, by which we (still) synthesize ammonia from nitrogen in the air. Physical chemistry always includes the Haber cycle, a systematic approach to thermochemistry.

The Areas of My Expertise

The full title of this book is "The Areas of My Expertise: Which Include Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a kind of food), Squirrels and Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects". It is full of little-known and bizarre facts, all of which were fabricated.

Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another

Why is society organized the way it is? Is it possible to use some of the laws of the physical universe to understand why and how national economies, stock and commodity markets, companies and clubs organize the way they do? Can physics provides "laws" of human nature that are as useful and universal as those of mechanics?

Elegant Solutions: Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry

Choose ten exemplary chemistry experiments. The synthesis of nylon? Bakelite, the first man-made polymer? The structure of DNA? The fixing of nitrogen? The discovery of buckyballs? Sorry, but none of those made the list of veteran science writer Philip Ball. Mr. Ball was looking for something other than mere importance.

The CartoonGuide to Chemistry

My goal in Hal's Picks is to expand the chemistry curriculum, embracing science that is not usually included in chemistry courses. This month is an exception. The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry is about exactly the topics that traditionally appear in Introductory Chemistry courses.

Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology

I seldom have chosen books as Hal's Picks that are not relatively recent (although there are precedents for this), but the current controversy over "Intelligent" Design brought vividly to mind the 1971 book, "Chance and Necessity" by Nobelist Jacques Monod.

Annus Mirabilis: 1905, Albert Einstein,and the Theory of Relativity

John and Mary Gribbin have written a book with a somewhat broader scope than Rigden's on the same topic. The first 138 pages of constitute a brief biography in three chapters: The First Twenty-Five Years, The Annus Mirabilis, and The Last Fifty Years.