I have noticed a significant decline over the years in the ability of my students to estimate quantities, and have attributed it to an increased reliance on calculators and computers, but it may be a consequence of more subtle differences in brain development.
You know Ira Flatow as host of Science Friday on NPR. I don't often get to listen "live" because the broadcasts occur while I am (supposed to be) working, but I subscribe to the podcasts and catch up on them later from an RSS feed.
This is the second book of chemical demonstrations by Herbert Roesky that I have purchased. The first, "Chemical Curiosities: Spectacular Experiments and Inspired Quotes" should have been a Hal's Pick when it was published in 1996.
When asked by one of our students about the significance of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and his revolutionary (pun intended) theory of the solar system, most of us would recite the folkloric tale. A brilliant astronomer, dissatisfied with the inaccuracies of Ptolemy, devised a completely new model for the solar system.
The whole idea of IQ as a measure of intelligence has been roundly criticized by scientists such as the late Stephen J. Gould ("The Mismeasure of Man"), but tests continue to be given, and scores recorded in "permanent records". Do they have any significance and, if so, what is it?
"Whiskey is for drinkin', water is for fightin'" goes the old saying. The current (November, 2007) issue of Natural History has nine articles about what we will be fighting over. "A Special Brew", by Christopher Mundy, Shawn Kathmann, and Gregory Schenter is the one that is most "chemical", but the others describe some environmental aspects of water resources.
Arthur Kornberg won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1959, and just recently passed away (October, 2007). When his three sons were small, he used to tell them stories and poems about the "germs" he was studying. The subsequent generation of grandchildren came along, catalyzing a whole new batch of poetry and tales.
There is supposedly a Chinese curse, "May he live in interesting times". While the origin of this phrase is apparently not really in China, it certainly applies to the life of one of the first modern chemists. Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier was a French nobleman who lived from 1743 until he was beheaded in 1794.
This little book is a gem. I have to admit that most of the students who have completed my first physical chemistry semester, which is all about thermodynamics, would benefit from reading this wonderful explanation of the central place that these topics play in every aspect of life.
One of the most memorable experiences of my youth was when I was camping in the Mojave Desert. Having lived all of my life up to that time in Los Angeles, I had never seen a truly dark night. Lying under the stars, I found it very difficult to close my eyes because of the extraordinary beauty of the sky, full of stars and planets - the Milky Way clearly visible.