Friday, December 26, 2008

Science Frontiers

Science Frontiers: 1945 -
Ray Spangenburg and Diane Kit Moser © 2004
246 pages including index

This week I resumed my reading of Spangenburg and Moser's updated "History of Science" series, finishing it off with Science Frontiers, which examines science since 1946. After an introduction on the scientific method, the book is divided into the Physical Sciences, the Life Sciences, and Science in Society, following the same pattern established in their preceding books in this series. The physical sciences are dominated by particle physics and quantum mechanics. The authors didn't seem to do the excellent job they usually do of explaining the topics: perhaps I was off. This first part ends on amuch more easy note, that of the solar system and Earth. Thanks to the satellites projects of the seventies and eighties, we have a wealth of data on the other bodies in the solar system. The last chapter, "Mission to Planet Earth", includes the topics of plate techtonics, dinosaur extinciton theories, ozone depletion, and the greenhouse effect.

In The Life Sciences, one chapter is devoted to the discovery of DNA. The next chapter concerns the origins of life, and examines viruses, AIDs, genetic eingeering, cloning, and the possibility that life arose from clay. The last chapter in this section concerns human evolution. Part 3, "Science and Society", was very interesting. It consists of two chapters. In one, "Hot and Cold on Science", the authors look at a curious situation: while the atomic age create fear and distrust about science and scientists, the space age turned them into heroes. The last chapter concerns the rise of superstition, post-modernism, and the new age.

As usual, the book is concise and presents a very readable narrative, especially beyond the chapters on physics which I thought fell short of their usual superbness.

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