Annal: 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2003.

Book:Protecting America's Health

Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation

Philip J. Hilts

Emerging out of the era of the robber barons and Theodore Roosevelt’s desire to “civilize capitalism,” the Food and Drug Administration was created to stop the trade in adulterated meats and quack drugs. In the almost one hundred years since, it has evolved from a squad of eleven inspectors dogging dishonest tradesmen into America’s most important regulatory agency, keeping tabs on the products of about 95,000 businesses and more than $1 trillion worth of goods annually.

This book shows how the agency combats self-serving political and industrial interests and protects Americans from hazardous medicines, medical devices, and foodstuffs while enforcing rigorous scientific standards. Hilts takes us back to the FDA’s beginnings, when it confronted businesses that acknowledged no limitations on what could be brought to market or on the claims they could make for a product. With the coming of the FDA, our government, for the first time, was able to force the removal of toxic…[more]

Book:The Beast in the Garden

The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature

David Baron

The time: the late 1980s. The place: Boulder, Colorado. When residents report cats as massive as African leopards in their yards and driveways, it becomes clear that mountain lions (cougars, pumas, panthers) are repopulating the land, rebounding after decades of persecution and bounty hunting.

To inhabitants of the environmentally aware city of Boulder, the lions’ return is cause for celebration—initially. As the massive cats take up residence among houses and feast on pets, the animals’ presence turns ominous, provoking political battles and culminating in the unthinkable—the death of a young athlete, hunted by a lion behind a nearby high school.

David Baron chronicles Boulder’s struggles to coexist with its wild neighbors and reconstructs the paved-with-good-intentions path that led to Colorado’s first recorded fatal mountian lion attack. The book reveals the subtle yet powerful ways in which human actions are altering wildlife behavior, and it demonstrates that the death in Colorado signaled the start of a worrisome trend—one that continues today.

Book:The Emperor of Scent

The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses

Chandler Burr

For as long as anyone can remember, a man named Luca Turin has had an uncanny relationship with smells. He has been compared to the hero of Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume, but his story is in fact stranger, because it is true. It concerns how he made use of his powerful gifts to solve one of the last great mysteries of the human body: how our noses work.

Luca Turin can distinguish the components of just about any smell, from the world’s most refined perfumes to the air in a subway car on the Paris metro. A distinguished scientist, he once worked in an unrelated field, though he made a hobby of collecting fragrances. But when, as a lark, he published a collection of his reviews of the world’s perfumes, the book hit the small, insular business of perfume makers like a thunderclap. Who is this man Luca Turin, they demanded, and how does he know so much? The closed community of scent creation opened up to Luca Turin, and he discovered a fact that astonished him: no one in this world…[more]

Book:Merchants of Immortality

Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension

Stephen S. Hall

An Award-Winning Writer Explores science’s boldest frontier—extension of the human life span—with the researchers and entrepreneurs who are racing to create medicines that will allow us to live longer and better.

Aging, cancer, stem cells, cloning—the themes of Merchants of Immortality are the stuff of today’s headlines, yet they reflect some of humankind’s most ancient hopes and fears. Stephen S. Hall delves behind the headlines to reveal just how close scientists are to fulfilling hopes of longer, healthier lives. Merchants of Immortality tackles profound social questions: How close are we to cloning humans? Can stem cell therapies tame illnesses such as heart attacks, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes? How long might our children live?

Hall’s account of life-extension research is as dramatic as it is authoritative. The story follows a close-knit but…[more]

Book:Wings of Madness

Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight

Paul Hoffman

From the acclaimed author Paul Hoffman comes the engaging true story of Alberto Santos-Dumont’s extraordinary life and the thrilling days of early flight.

Santos-Dumont grew up on a remote coffee plantation in Brazil. Influenced at an early age by Jules Verne and historical accounts of balloon flights, Santos-Dumont set out to create the first practical flying machine.

By the turn of the century, Santos-Dumont had moved to Paris. Soon, the dashing and impeccably dressed aeronaut was barhopping around the city in a one-man dirigible he had invented, circling above crowds and crashing into rooftops. He then built the first airplane in Europe and became an overnight sensation, with the press following his every move. His picture appeared on cigar boxes and dinner plates, and he dined regularly with the Cartiers, the Rothschilds, and the Roosevelts, hosting “aerial dinners”…[more]

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