Picks

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

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.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

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.

The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty

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.

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.