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Volume 95 | Number 3 | May-June 2007


Self Assembly

Margaret Boden

A review of I Am a Strange Loop, by Douglas R. Hofstadter. Almost thirty years after writing Gödel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter attempts to clarify and expand upon the themes of that acclaimed work

Two Tales of a City

Christopher Hamlin

A review of The Ghost Map: The Study of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson and The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera, by Sandra Hempel. John Snow's achievement in ascertaining "the mode of communication of cholera" was both richer and more complex than the "you are there; feel your griping guts" accounts of Johnson and Hempel suggest, says Hamlin: Snow didn't just demonstrate cause—he changed what cause meant, beginning a paradigm transformation of explanatory expectations

The Stuff of Bombs

Frank N. von Hippel

A review of Plutonium: A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element, by Jeremy Bernstein. Bernstein tells the story of the discovery of plutonium and its properties, sketching in the background of the development of atomic and nuclear physics in the first half of the 20th century. But he has little to say about how to deal with all of the plutonium that has been created

One for All

David Sloan Wilson

A review of The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness, by Lee Dugatkin, Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved, by Frans de Waal and The Evolution of Morality, by Richard Joyce. It is not easy to reconcile morality and altruism with evolution, but a variety of approaches to doing just that can be sampled in these three books

Calculating the Weather

Brian Hayes

A review of The Emergence of Numerical Weather Prediction: Richardson's Dream, by Peter Lynch. In the course of telling the story of a weather forecast from 80 years ago that was utterly wrong, Lynch provides an insider's guide to how weather prediction works

A Passion for Precision

Ken Alder

A review of Measuring the World, by Daniel Kehlmann. Translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway. This historical novel tells the life stories of Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss in alternating chapters, revealing how their two lives became entangled and then drifted apart

Is Biology Reducible to the Laws of Physics?

John Dupré

A review of Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology, by John Dupré. Rosenberg takes the implausible position that the principle of natural selection is a fundamental physical law

Port and Walnuts

K. Soundararajan

A review of Letters to a Young Mathematician, by Ian Stewart. While focusing on what mathematicians do, why that is worth doing, and what it means to be a mathematician today, Stewart also provides plenty of reasons to smile

What Makes Science Successful?

Margaret Jacob

A review of The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World, by Peter Dear. How does science manage both to make nature intelligible and to make us believe in its own effectiveness?

 

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