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.
When I bought this book, I didn't realize how complementary to my Pick for Marchit would turn out to be. I thought that Poincare's "maps" referred to were his geometric depictions of deterministic chaotic systems, which he was first to discover, and the book was going to be largely about mathematics.
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.
I was finally impelled to read "Uncle Tungsten", which had been recommended by innumerable chemist friends, because of the opportunity to meet the author at the ACS meeting in New York last month.
It's about time that somebody should write this book, and there is no better "somebody" for the job than Edward Tufte, author of thoughtful and beautiful books about the presentation of scientific data (see Hal's Picks for August, 1998 and
Who doesn't like Harry Potter? I suppose there must be some such person, but it is hard to criticize a book series that has youngsters eager to gobble up 700 pages, even if they were not as creative and entertaining as they are. If you have read some or all of the books, I'm sure that you noticed all the science they contain. No? Me neither.
Joe Schwarcz's second collection of essays (see my pick for May for the first) about chemistry in everyday life begins with a Preface in which he confronts a door-to-door salesman of water filters with some basic information about the chemistry of water treatment.
Why would someone spend more for a quart of water than a gallon of gasoline? Perhaps you would pay even more if you were dying of thirst and the only available water was in the hands of an evil extortionist. But why do so, if there is abundant, safe, tasty, and cheap water provided by a public utility?
Janet Conrad received the 2001 Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award for outstanding contribution to physics by a young woman. In this New Yorker story, K. C. Cole describes the lengths to which experimental physicists must go in order to detect and study the properties of neutrinos, which barely interact with any other matter.
Joe Schwarcz is Director of McGill University's Office for Chemistry and Society. He hosts a weekly radio call-in radio show in Montreal and also writes a column about chemistry in everyday life for the Washington Post. The essays in this book are collected largely from his radio show, and they are exactly in the spirit of "Hal's Picks".