Nine Crazy Ideas in Science: A Few of Them Might Even be True

One of the goals of a course I teach in our Honors College is to provide non-science majors with the tools they need to differentiate authentic science from material that has merely been provided a "scientific" dressing. Physicist Robert Ehrlich has provided nine case studies that are ideal for this purpose. Do more guns in the hands of citizens decrease crime? Is AIDS really caused by HIV?

Why Disposable Diapers Are Like Microchips

Malcolm Gladwell has done it again. This article is very much in the spirit of the books by Henry Petroski, who has written about the engineering hidden in ordinary objects such as paperclips and pencils.

Naturally Dangerous: Surprising Facts about Food, Health, and the Environment

Professor James Collman of Stanford University has provided an excellent resource for all of us who try to help our students and the general public to discriminate between valid science and the bogus "scientific" claims that pervade television, the Internet, the grocery store, and especially the "health food" store.

Drugstore Athlete

For a long time, it could be said that with some validity that drugs not help athletes perform better. That is no longer the case. It is could increasingly difficult to assure that amateur athletes, even high school athletes, are not training and competing with the aid of testosterone and its precursors, or erythropoetin.

Transforming Matter: A History of Chemistry from Alchemy to the Buckyball

I've been reading a lot lately about alchemy, and was therefore delighted to find a new book on the history of chemistry (that includes some on alchemy), just published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Trevor Levere takes on the impossible task of chronicling the developments in chemistry from its beginning to the present, in only a little over 200 pages.

Nitric Oxide and the Control of Firefly Flashing

As a physical chemist, I was amazed when it was discovered that the diatomic free radical, nitric oxide (NO) was intimately involved in the transmission of neurological information in mammals. Now a group led by Barry Trimmer at Tufts University has demonstrated that it is the key that turns on bioluminescence in fireflies.

The Mosquito Killer

What do you think of when someone mentions DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane)? Chances are that your mind immediately goes to the damage the use of this chemical has done to bird populations, Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring", and the effort to ban or control its use.

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

"Brunelleschi's Dome" is an excellent example of technology in an historical context. The author, Ross King, focuses on one of the great achievements of medieval technology, the construction of the dome of the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, in Florence, Italy.