Picks

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?