Picks

Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines

The Presidential campaign to this point has been waged so devoid of issues that one might think that there is nothing to discuss other than lipstick and the number of houses the candidates own. Beyond such trivialities as foreign policy, health care, immigration and the war(s), there a few minor issues that have something to do with science.

Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us

Whether you are trying to choose a school for your child (or deciding which district to move into), evaluate a student or a teacher, comply with the requirements of No Child Left Behind, admit students or apply for admittance, or compare the educational systems of different countries, there is likely to be some kind of a test involved.

Home Photovoltaic Systems for Physicists

The July 2008 isue of Physics Today has a special focus: "Energy Today and Tomorrow". It features three articles of interest to chemists and physicists, "Grand Challenges in Basic Energy Sciences" by Graham R. Fleming and Mark A. Ratner, "Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment" by Leon Glicksman, and this one by Thomas Murphy Jr.

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

George Gamow introduced me to Monte Carlo methods in a chapter of "One Two Three Infinity" (Hal's Pick of April, 2001) that I first read when I was about twelve. His vivid description and witty illustration of the path of a staggering drunk comes clearly to mind even these many decades later, and it surely inspired my research on a number of projects.

The Sky is Falling

How likely is it that an asteroid or a comet of significant size will impact the earth, and what would be the consequences? It is now widely accepted that the dinosaurs were wiped out by such an event, and recent research suggests that previous estimates of the number of asteroid impacts may have been much too low.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments

Lists of "the best" movies, books, sports stars, American Idols, etc. etc. are often intriguing and controversial. Science has its own lists, be they Nobelists or most-cited publications. Just a little while ago (could it really have been November, 2005?) Philip Ball's list of "elegant" chemistry experiments was my choice of the month.

Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of 'Energy Independence'

Robert Bryce is a respected commentator on the energy industry. He writes for Atlantic Monthly, the Guardian and The Nation, and he has written books about Enron and about the oil industry in Texas. In "Gusher of Lies", he confronts politicians and entrepeneurs who claim that the United States should/could become "energy independent" at any time in the forseeable future.

Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature

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.