Annal: 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2008.

Book:The Black Hole War

The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

Leonard Susskind

What happens when something is sucked into a black hole? Does it disappear? Three decades ago, a young physicist named Stephen Hawking claimed it did-and in doing so put at risk everything we know about physics and the fundamental laws of the universe. Most scientists didn’t recognize the import of Hawking’s claims, but Leonard Susskind and Gerard t’Hooft realized the threat, and responded with a counterattack that changed the course of physics. The Black Hole War is the thrilling story of their united effort to reconcile Hawking’s revolutionary theories of black holes with their own sense of reality-effort that would eventually result in Hawking admitting he was wrong, paying up, and Susskind and t’Hooft realizing that our world is a hologram projected from the outer boundaries of space.

A brilliant book about modern physics, quantum mechanics, the fate of stars and the deep mysteries of black holes, Leonard Susskind’s account of the Black Hole War is mind-bending and exhilarating reading.

Book:Microcosm: E.Coli and the New Science of Life

Microcosm: E.Coli and the New Science of Life

Carl Zimmer

In the tradition of classics like Lewis Thomas’s Lives of a Cell, Carl Zimmer has written a fascinating and utterly accessible investigation of what it means to be alive. Zimmer traces E. coli’s remarkable history, showing how scientists used it to discover how genes work and then to launch the entire biotechnology industry. While some strains of E. coli grab headlines by causing deadly diseases, scientists are retooling the bacteria to produce everything from human insulin to jet fuel.

  • Days after birth, we are infected with billions of E. coli. They will inhabit each and every one of us until we die. E. coli is notorious for making people gravely ill, but engineered strains of the bacteria save millions of lives each year. …[more]
Book:Only a Theory

Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul

Kenneth R. Miller

A leading scientist examines the battle between evolution and Intelligent Design in America.

At the dawn of the twenty- first century, the debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution is nearly as contentious as it was in the notorious Scopes trial a century ago. Today, however, people who believe that evolution is “only a theory” have put their hopes in a concept known as Intelligent Design.

In Only a Theory, Kenneth Miller dissects the claims of the ID movement in the same incisive style that marked his testimony as an expert witness in Pennsylvania’s landmark 2005 Dover evolution trial.

Unlike other books on the subject, Only a Theory’s critique of ID goes far beyond the scientific claims of the movement. To Miller, America’s “soul”—its place as the world’s leading scientific nation—is at risk because of this…[more]

Book:What the Nose Knows

What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life

Avery Gilbert

Everything about the sense of smell fascinates us, from its power to evoke memories to its ability to change our moods and influence our behavior. Yet because it is the least understood of the senses, myths abound. For example, contrary to popular belief, the human nose is almost as sensitive as the noses of many animals, including dogs; blind people do not have enhanced powers of smell; and perfumers excel at their jobs not because they have superior noses, but because they have perfected the art of thinking about scents.

  • How many smells are there? And how many molecules would it take to create every smell in nature, from roses to stinky feet?
  • Who was the bigger scent freak: the perfume-obsessed Richard Wagner or Emily Dickinson, with her creepy passion for flowers? …[more]
Book:Worlds Before Adam

Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform

Martin J.S. Rudwick

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, scientists reconstructed the immensely long history of the earth—and the relatively recent arrival of human life. The geologists of the period, many of whom were devout believers, agreed about this vast timescale. But despite this apparent harmony between geology and Genesis, these scientists still debated a great many questions: Had the earth cooled from its origin as a fiery ball in space, or had it always been the same kind of place as it is now? Was prehuman life marked by mass extinctions, or had fauna and flora changed slowly over time?

The first detailed account of the reconstruction of prehuman geohistory, Martin J. S. Rudwick’s Worlds Before Adam picks up where his celebrated Bursting the Limits of Time leaves off. Here, Rudwick takes readers from the post-Napoleonic Restoration in Europe to the early years of Britain’s Victorian age, chronicling the staggering discoveries geologists made…[more]

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