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June 4, 2008

SciTech summer reading list

Posted: 03:51 PM ET

Reading fantastic fiction in the summer can be fun, but sometimes even more exciting stories come from truths about nature itself. Here are some books that will make you think in new ways and inspire those essential "You're not going to believe this" moments at cocktail parties.

New for 2008

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel
by Michio Kaku

The word on nerdy streets is that this book is highly accessible look at all kinds of things that sound impossible, like time travel and teleportation.

Bang! The Complete History of the Universe
by Brian May, Patrick Moore, and Chris Lintott

Brian May acquired his fame so far as the founding guitarist of the band Queen, but now he’s got a Ph.D. in astrophysics. In this book, he and co-authors rock with the origins of the universe.

My Stroke of Insight
by Jill Bolte Taylor

Taylor, a brain scientist, details her battle with her brain, and the insights she gleaned from recovery from a stroke.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
by Michael Pollan

Calling all omnivores: You may think you’re heating healthily, but Pollan’s dissection of the American diet may surprise you.

Old favorites

Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
by Douglas Hofstadter

This is one of those rare books that makes us think, “Wow, the world is so much more beautiful and complicated than I thought.” That is because Hofstadter interweaves concepts from mathematics, art, music, computer science, biology, and philosophy in amazing new ways. Though the book was published in 1979, the essential questions and insights he brings up about the nature of consciousness and the possibilities for artificial intelligence are still extremely relevant. Hofstadter has also written a follow-up book called I Am a Strange Loop.

The Hot Zone
by Richard Preston

There’s nothing like reading about the way ebola liquefies internal organs while you’re sipping lemonade on the beach. Preston isn’t afraid to get into the gory details of how a strain of this deadly virus came to the United States.

The Elegant Universe
by Brian Greene

Also the subject of a PBS special, this is a terrific introduction to the world of superstring theory. Basically, physicists in this camp speculate that miniscule vibrating loops called strings constitute the entire universe, and that they exist in 10 or more dimensions. Greene has since written Fabric of the Cosmos to touch on similar themes. These topics do get complicated, so be prepared to add terms like branes and Calabi-Yau manifolds to your vocabulary.

Chaos: Making a New Science
by James Gleick

The death of meteorologist Edward Lorenz in April makes this classic book on chaos theory especially timely. Lorenz constructed weather models that led him to a concept known as the butterfly effect. This relates to those pretty pictures called fractals. Soon you’ll be singing the Mandelbrot Set song.

–Elizabeth Landau, Associate Producer,

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Filed under: Physics • Scientists

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jerry a. Myers   June 5th, 2008 2:28 pm ET

WHAT is the purpose of space science labs link to the SPACE
STATION if the far superior use of space data and equations
is outside of NASA. THE mass supremacy of the numeral and
zero system 3557 to over 7000 times the level of Centillions
is the new era of space data on all areas of space, yet mass
media, Congress, U.S. Senate. NASA and major science organi-
-zations ignore this topic.

Old Bob   June 5th, 2008 4:41 pm ET

Jerry, put down the crack pipe and step away from the computer.

Steph   June 5th, 2008 7:38 pm ET

I have a few addition suggestions:
"The Demon in the Freezer"- another good read by Preston.
"Rosalind Franklin: the Dark Lady of DNA" by Maddox. This book gave me a new insight on a little- known Rosalind Franklin.
"A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. A great book on science for those who aren't inclined to read about science.

Franko   June 5th, 2008 7:52 pm ET

Feynman: "string theorists don't make predictions, they make excuses"
Read up on Moving Dimensions Theory (MDT) instead.

Chaos theory is constrained by energy and friction. A butterfly could conceivably trigger a hurricane, but it would have to act as a switch. Turning on a switch can open the floodgates on a hydro dam. CO2 from a smoking a cigarette could butterfry us to Venus temperatures ? Google Ferenc Miskolczi to find out.

jerry a. Myers is not the only one suspicious of NASA.
"NASA Dr. Roy Spencer was silenced by Clinton & GORE for his AGW skeptism"

Liz   June 6th, 2008 1:06 am ET

Godel, Escher, Bach is indeed a wonderful book, both interesting and very original in its juxtaposition of these three imaginative thinkers.

Another good science book I have read is Time Travel in Einstein's Universe, by J. Richard Gott. This book explains, to both the layperson and the specialist, the scientific possibilities of time travel using cosmic strings, based on mathematical solutions to Albert Einstein's equations. Gott also describes a new theory for the beginning of the universe. There is also a discussion of humankind's fascination with time travel, as evidenced by works of literature and film.

James Aach   June 6th, 2008 10:38 am ET

Those interested in energy issues might wish to check out "Rad Decision: A Novel of Nuclear Power" by a longtime nuclear industry insider. It is free online at and can also be downloaded. The author receives no income from this or the print version. The book was endorsed by Stewart Brand, National Book Award winner and founder of The Whole Earth Catalog.

Harold   June 6th, 2008 2:24 pm ET

An old classic which is still one of the best science reads is "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan. Nobody explained it better then Dr Sagan. And the DVD set of COSMOS is fantastic too..

Aussie Jane   June 6th, 2008 4:52 pm ET

Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan, a classic.

JJ, Los Angeles, California   June 7th, 2008 7:59 pm ET

There is a new book coming out next month titled "Purusha's Urn". It's not hard science fiction, but it incorporates many theories about time and space in a very bizarre but interesting way. What's most bizarre is the basic concept of the story, which deals with miniature universes. Watch for it...

Franko   June 8th, 2008 8:34 pm ET

"Less than 20% of the US population is even scientifically educated enough to be considered scientifically literate."

Just look at the policies of the Presidential Candidates: The world is cooling, but the ManPigBear has convinced leading USA public figures of the need for a Carbon tax.

" Do whatever you can to educate yourself"

The Special Theory of Relativity: A Critical Analysis by Louis Essen
"All theories are wrong, but some are useful."
Moving Dimensions Theory " MDT is the best-tested theory of all time"

TommyO   June 9th, 2008 9:32 am ET

Could you try to be more wrong next time? Light from a trillinion miles away can still be seen by us if it was initially bright enough. All we need is to be looking at that point when the light gets to us at 300Km/s. You can see a long ways away – how close do you think quasars are?? What about our own sun – you do see it up in the sky, right? It's around 48 million miles away. Leave the science to scientists, go back to watching quantum leap.

TommyO   June 9th, 2008 10:05 am ET

Egg on my face – mental math was off – the sun is 149,600,000km away, which is 93,000,000 miles. Even farther from your scientific 186,000 milke, Rudi 🙂

Larian LeQuella   June 9th, 2008 11:08 am ET

Here's a link that could be of use: Enjoy! Granted, most of them aren't new, but at least with a review, you get an idea of what you are getting into.

sarge   June 10th, 2008 7:49 am ET

This list is pretty much a waste since many of these books are older and I have read most of them already. I was expecting a more recent list of books.

Darren   June 15th, 2008 7:23 pm ET

In reply to the post by Rudi:

The idea that you could only see for 186,000 miles is not particularly accurate. Just because this is the distance light travels in a second does not mean that this is any kind of absolute barrier. Why not 1 mile? That's the distance light travels in 1/186,000th of a second. In fact, one might argue that everything we are able to see exists only in the past, so in the present we are not able to see at ALL. That's not the way physics works. The time interval of 1 second is arbitrarily determined by mankind, and the passage of time is not even absolute.

Rudi Merom   July 15th, 2008 2:17 pm ET

Dear TommyO,

You have a little lake of REAL TIME you do not see anything from a distance of more then the speed of light...anything that you see from a farther distance is in a delay time and not in real can not see faster then the speed of light (186,000 mile)andthing that you see "farther" is not in real time and you see it as a reflaction on the platform that is on a distence of 186,000 sorry it is not posible to see farther...please put you arrogance aside and see the true.....see Darren comment...he at list know a little science basic without being arrogant, Atacking the true without knowning the true will not change the true.

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