I was finally impelled to read "Uncle Tungsten", which had been recommended by innumerable chemist friends, because of the opportunity to meet the author at the ACS meeting in New York last month.
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It's about time that somebody should write this book, and there is no better "somebody" for the job than Edward Tufte, author of thoughtful and beautiful books about the presentation of scientific data (see Hal's Picks for August, 1998 and
Who doesn't like Harry Potter? I suppose there must be some such person, but it is hard to criticize a book series that has youngsters eager to gobble up 700 pages, even if they were not as creative and entertaining as they are. If you have read some or all of the books, I'm sure that you noticed all the science they contain. No? Me neither.
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.
Why would someone spend more for a quart of water than a gallon of gasoline? Perhaps you would pay even more if you were dying of thirst and the only available water was in the hands of an evil extortionist. But why do so, if there is abundant, safe, tasty, and cheap water provided by a public utility?
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.
Joe Schwarcz is Director of McGill University's Office for Chemistry and Society. He hosts a weekly radio call-in radio show in Montreal and also writes a column about chemistry in everyday life for the Washington Post. The essays in this book are collected largely from his radio show, and they are exactly in the spirit of "Hal's Picks".
Until I read "Measuring America", I was only vaguely aware of the importance of surveying to the economic and political history of the United States.
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.
Many people have difficulty understanding the motivation of scientists for precedence and the recognition it brings. While there are monetary incentives for some of the protagonists in "Acid Tongues", it is more often pride and the acceptance of one's ideas that drove the rivalries of Newton vs. Leibniz, Edison vs. Tesla, Crick and Watson vs. Pauling vs. Franklin and Wilkins.