> SCIENTISTS' NIGHTSTAND
A review of The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being, by Nena Baker. Baker’s descriptions of the threats posed by “emerging contaminants” and loopholes in the regulation of hazardous chemicals should serve as a useful springboard for discussions of policy, says Monosson
A review of Defusing Armageddon: Inside NEST, America’s Secret Nuclear Bomb Squad, by Jeffrey T. Richelson. If you want to learn more about NEST, this book is the place to start, von Hippel says, but readers wanting insight into the technical aspects of detecting nuclear explosives will be disappointed
A review of The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth-Century Letter That Made the World Modern, by Keith Devlin. Devlin offers readers a chance to look over the shoulders of two eminent mathematicians as they struggle with confusions over probability theory
A review of The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008, edited by Jerome Groopman, series editor, Tim Folger; The Best American Science Writing 2008, edited by Sylvia Nasar, series editor, Jesse Cohen; and The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, edited by Richard Dawkins. Read penetrating articles like the ones in these anthologies while you can, says Cannon, for the venues that paid people to write them are fast disappearing
Potato • Gaither’s Dictionary of Scientific Quotations • Decoding the Heavens
The University of Hawaii linguist reviews his recent reading and favorite authors
The Oxford biologist reviews his recent reading and favorite authors
The University of Chicago biologist makes the case for evolution
A review of The Art and Politics of Science, by Harold Varmus. Varmus's engaging memoir deserves to be followed by a second volume, says Cook-Deegan
A review of The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn, by Louisa Gilder. This vividly imagined re-creation of some of the most subtle intellectual history of the 20th century is grippingly readable, says Mermin
A review of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, by Rose George, The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis, by Maggie Black and Ben Fawcett, and The Culture Of Flushing: A Social and Legal History of Sewage, by Jamie Benidickson. George and Black and Fawcett offer an NGO’s-eye view of a feces-smothered world in search of solutions, says Hamlin. But can it really be true, as Benidickson’s legal history of hydraulic sanitation suggests, that public health is founded in private property and is a private matter?
A review of Structure and Randomness: Pages from Year One of a Mathematical Blog, by Terence Tao. Tao’s book and blog provide a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the best mathematicians working today, says Shalizi
A review of Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World. Edited by Raphael D. Sagarin and Terence Taylor. There are surely lessons that the field of international security could learn from evolutionary biology, says Gusterson, but this book fails to deliver them
A review of Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World, by Sharon Waxman, and Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage, by James Cuno. Waxman describes high-profile cases of museums returning stolen works of ancient art to their country of origin, focusing on the flamboyant personalities involved, whereas Cuno, a museum director, defends the mores of his profession, decrying the nationalism that has given rise to demands that objects be returned
A review of The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces, by Frank Wilczek. This lively, playful book does a superb job of introducing readers to our current understanding of the nature of matter and the forces that govern the universe, says Dzierba
A review of Lost Land of the Dodo: An Ecological History of Mauritius, Réunion, and Rodrigues, by Anthony Cheke and Julian Hume. The story of the Mascarenes illustrates how human activity can devastate ecosystems—and, in color paintings of the islands’ extinct flora and fauna, Hume offers a glimpse of what has been lost
A review of Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America, by Stephen Trimble. Trimble tells the story of the struggle to keep Mount Ogden, Utah, from being developed
A review of Tools of American Mathematics Teaching, 1800–2000, by Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, Amy Ackerberg-Hastings and David Lindsay Roberts. This book surveys the “material culture” of the mathematics classroom: protractors, blocks, beads, geometric models, slide rules, calculators and the like
Trying Leviathan • What Have You Changed Your Mind About? • The Lost Art of Walking
Historian of science, coauthor with Peter Galison of Objectivity
The Brandeis University psychologist discusses her work the Alex, the African gray parrot
We present some of our favorite recent science and math coffee-table books
A review of Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture, by Alan Sokal. In his new book Sokal leaves the terrain of literary theory, says Bérubé, and enters “realms where the distinction between justified and unjustififed belief actually matters to the world—specifically, the history and philosophy of science . . . and religion.”
A review of Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Art, and Modern Culture, edited by Peter L. Galison, Gerald Holton and Silvan S. Schweber. Twenty essayists consider what elements formed Einstein’s view of the world and what effects his work and persona have had
A review of Solving Stonehenge: The New Key to an Ancient Enigma, by Anthony Johnson. Johnson argues that the builders of Stonehenge had an understanding of the geometry of squares and circles that allowed them to lay out the different elements of the stone monument with impressively regular proportionality
A review of The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought, by Robert J. Richards. This book marks a major rehabilitation of Haeckel as a mainstream Darwinian, says Gliboff
A review of Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years, by Vaclav Smil. By enriching our understanding of the complexity of nature and society, Smil shows that we have much more to fear than accumulating carbon dioxide
A review of Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical Life. By Robin Wilson. Wilson’s brief life of Charles Dodgson explains for a general audience his work as a mathematician and includes samples of the problems and puzzles found in his books on recreational mathematics
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