Physics

Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science

What would you say are the greatest scientific ideas that mankind has discovered? Most of us chemists would say that the notion that matter consists of atoms would have to be one of them, and physical chemist Peter Atkins does not disappoint us on that score. He also treads ground familiar to us when he describes entropy and energy, and evolution and DNA.

Eight Preposterous Propositions: From the Genetics of Homosexuality to the Benefits of Global Warming

This is a sequel to Ehrlich's "Nine Crazy Ideas in Science", which was my pick for December, 2001. I don't think it is as good as the first one, although it does have some great strengths; his discussion of the climate change issue is about as good as any, and he also has an especially good discussion of the efficacy of placebos.

Ink Sandwiches, Electric Worms, and 37 Other Experiments for Saturday Science

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.

The Genie in the Bottle: 67 all-new commentaries on the fascinating chemistry of ordinary life

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.

Fun with Physics: The woman leading the hunt for nature's most elusive particles

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.

The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World

In 1792, the French Academy of Sciences appointed two respected scientists to survey a north-south meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona, for the purpose of determining the size (and shape) of the earth. Why is this important? Because it would establish an international basis for the meter, foundation of the metric system.

Relativity and the Global Positioning System

An ideal companion to "The Universe in a Nutshell" is this article by Neil Ashby, a Professor of Physics at University of Colorado - Boulder. Hand- held GPS devices have become standard equipment for boaters, hikers, and technology junkies. It is now taken for granted that one's position on the earth can be obtained within a few seconds, accurately, and free.