About six months ago, I wrote about a new entertainment that my husband and I had taken on: I was reading science books out loud to him. I had just finished reading the second book, where both were about paleontology and geological evidence for the evolution of living things.
Since then, we’ve completed 10 other books on a wider range of topics including neurology and memory, evo devo (evolutionary development), geological catastrophes and plate techtonics, e coli and what scientists have discovered using it as a model organism, and most recently, various techniques for establishing dates for everything from the solar system to tooth enamel of individuals born before and after atmospheric nuclear tests. I updated the original post whenever we finished a book, thus keeping a reading log for us. Today I decided to bring half of the books forward into this posting, since the other was getting too long. 5 to 7 book reviews seem enough for one posting.
I found I was overusing the word ‘fascinating’ as I wrote short blurbs for them. The things that scientists are figuring out are so interesting, and the techniques to explore them so ingenious, that it is hard to use any other word. We keep finish a chapter thinking, I didn’t know that!
|Kandel, E. (2006). In search of memory: The emergence of a new science of mind. New York: W.W. Norton.|
|Gazzaniga, M. (2008). Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique. Ecco Publishers. A discussion of what distinguishes humans from other animals, including considerable insight into the way the brain functions. Not one picture!|
Chester, R. (2008). Furnace of creation, Cradle of destruction. New York: Amacon Press.
A fascinating exploration of earthquakes, volcanos, and tsunamis. Includes a lengthy discussion of plate tectonics and how the theory grew out of earlier continental drift and seafloor spreading theories. The descriptions of specific disasters — from the Krakatau volcano and tsunami to the the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami — are a good source of humility for humans.
|Zimmer, C. (2008). Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life. New York: Pantheon Books.
Fascinating exploration of the social life of e coli in biofilms that are much hardier than single cells, as a wide variety of forms, from ones that live cooperatively in our guts to others that turn our immune systems against us, as factories for the insulin that I depend on, but most of all for the sheer number of biological discoveries that scientists have made from working with it.
|MacDougall, Doug (2008). Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
This book was a complete surprise. Who would think that the techniques for measuring ages of things could be so interesting and could lead to so many insights about the history of the earth and all the things therein? From carbon-14 dating to uranium-lead dating to potassium-argon dating — as well as counting tree rings and ice layers in glaciers — all leading to new insights about how the earth formed, how its chemistry changed over time, and the way rocks form, break down, and form again, with zircon crystals from older rocks embedded in younger ones.