Monday, December 17, 2018

Science Report Card 2018

The last couple of years I've imposed a little order on my science reading, forcing myself to read across fields more deliberately; so far I've enjoyed it and will continue the structure in the future. I just finished the last entry on the list, Seeing Further, and will be posting comments in the next few days.  I'm in good shape to start next year's,  as I already have four titles waiting to be read and ideas for several others.

Cosmology and Astrophysics
Hubble: Window on the Universe, Gwyneth Snow. I didn't give full comments on this one because it's mostly exceptional for its bounty of full-page photos from the Hubble telescope. The contents are the sort of thing you'd read in a book version of Sagan's Cosmos: the lifespans of stars, the structure of galaxies, and the ins and outs of our local neighborhood.

Local Astronomy
First Light, Richard Preston. This was...also one I didn't comment on, partially because it was weird.  Centered on the Hale telescope in the Palomar mountains, its story of scientific research often pretends to be a novel and switches back and forth between decades.  It wasn't an approach that proved winning for me.

The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass ExtinctionsPeter Brannen.

Chemistry and Physics
Stuff Matters:  Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World, Mark Miodownik. Fun microhistory.

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ, Giulia Enders

Flora and Fauna
The Truth About Nature,  Stacey Torno and Ken Keller

The Invaders: How Humans and their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction, Pat Shipman

Neurology and Psychology
This Is Your Brain on Parasites Kathleen McAuliffe

Weather and Climate
The Water Will Come:  Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, Jeff Goodell

History of Science
Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society,  edited by Bill Bryson

Science and Society
A Crack In Creation:  Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution,  Jennifer Doudna

Thinking Scientifically
50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True,  Guy  Harrison


  1. great list, especially the books on geology (haha)... i used to try to keep up on quantum research but i got left behind at some point; i'm stil pretty interested in the ideas tho... the last one on the list seems to be pretty important... never heard of Harrison, but that just puts with all the other modern scientists i haven't heard of... i look forward to your posts on these...

    1. Harrison isn't a scientist, more of a popularizer of skepticism and the like. I'm with you on quantum mechanics and the grouping it with cosmology is a bit of cheating!

  2. I'm trying to read more diverse science but I keep coming back to my comfort zones of Cosmology, Human biology, Evolution and QM.

    1. That was my problem, but with human biology, evolution, and brain books. I'm awed at the premise of QM being a comfort zone!

    2. To be honest QM is *so* out there it makes me laugh out loud. Once you stop fighting its strangeness and just go with it then it's just so bizarre (and yet at the same time perfectly true) that it both calms me and makes me giggle at the ultimate incomprehensibility of the Universe.

    3. what you see is what you get... literally...

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