Picks

The Island of the Colorblind

Neurologist Oliver Sacks is author of two previous recent best-selling books, "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat", both of which dealt with his specialty, pathologies of the human brain. In "Island of the Colorblind", Sacks takes us traveling to the islands and atolls of the Pacific: Guam, Rota, Pohnpei, and Pingelap.

Why Shake Your Fever Thermometer? - and More

If you have ever wondered (as I have) how a fever thermometer actually works (but have never felt good enough while you were wondering to do any investigation) then you should look at this article in "How Things Work", a feature of The Physics Teacher edited by H. Richard Crane of the Physics Department of University of Michigan.

Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing

In "Invention by Design", Henry Petroski (Professor of Civil Engineering and History at Duke University) describes the creative process by which objects as ubiquitous and as familiar as paper clips, aluminum soda cans, zippers, and "lead" pencils have arisen. In so doing, he invites the reader into the human activity of engineering.

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

Generally speaking, if you skipped every book with the word "weird" in the title, you wouldn't be missing much. This is an exception. Michael Shermer teaches the history of science at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California and, as Editor of Skeptic Magazine, is a prominent and eloquent proponent of the skeptical viewpoint.

The Dead Zone

Did you know that the so-called "Spanish" influenza epidemic of 1918 killed more Americans in three months than the number who died in the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War - combined? Most people don't.

The Limelight

Heat a ball of lime in a hydrogen-oxygen flame, and what do you get? Limelight! This very intense light source was used for lighting plays (hence the modern usage of the word), but it also was the source for the record distance, for a time, over which man-made light was observed.

Catalyst, a Novel

It's not too late to do some recreational reading this summer. "Catalyst" is an enjoyable, light read, especially for chemists. How often do you find a novel that includes catalysis, NMR, mass spectrometry, TLC, some scientific misconduct, and a little sex?