It is unusual to find responsible journalism about science, and especially commentary that contradicts the current negative view of chemistry in the popular culture. Malcomb Gladwell addresses the poor science that is the crux of the very popular John Travolta movie, "A Civil Action".
As soon as I heard about "Consilience", I figured it would likely be a "Pick of the Month", but I delayed buying it until it became available as a paperback through a book club (I buy just about all the books that appear in this column). This, the most recent book by the renowned Harvard entomologist E. O. Wilson, was worth waiting for.
A year ago, a book entitled "The End of Science" by John Horgan claimed that there was nothing of significance left for science to uncover. It was not a "Hal's Pick" because I thought it was seriously mistaken, echoing the smug predictions of a century ago, just before the revolutions of quantum mechanics and relativity blew the lid off of classical science.
In this "Report", Ken Silverstein relates the case of David Hahn (apparently not related to Otto) whose quest for an Atomic Energy merit badge escalated into an attempt to build a working model of a breeder reactor. According to Mr.
Some of the most incendiary minds of science have also verged on pathology; a few of them clearly have been mentally ill. Cliff Pickover describes the quirks and eccentric behaviors of some of these people, including Nikola Tesla (Chapter 1!), Oliver Heaviside, Richard Kirwan, Henry Cavendish, Francis Galton, and Theodore Kaczynski, among others.
Until relatively recently, chemistry was a career from which women were discouraged or excluded entirely. Therefore, in sieving through history for evidence of their contributions, Marelene and Geoffrey Rayner-Canham have had to dig very deeply indeed. For that reason, most of the names in this book (Laura Linton, Jane Marcet, Rachel Lloyd, for example) will be unfamiliar.
John Emsley writes about chemistry for the lay person, but manages to bring to light facts and anecdotes that will delight chemists and chemical educators. What is "the worst smell in the world"? - and how is it used to protect us? What radioactive element is used in smoke detectors? What's the secret of Coca Cola? What chemical turns men on?
Amongst the components of the refuse of modern societies, the one that potentially could supply the largest amount of energy on combustion is plastics (which are, of course, processed petroleum). So why are there not more efforts to convert this resource to energy, instead of putting nearly all of it into landfills?
This is the third volume in a series by Edward Tufte (the others are "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information", and "Envisioning Information"). All three are beautifully crafted books that are a delight to read and to handle. The most recent one brings the reader's attention to the use of graphics, narrative, and numbers to convey motion, process, mechanism, cause and effect.