Honor roll: Science/Technology books

Each of these Science/Technology books has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:The Beak of the Finch

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

Jonathan Weiner

On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin’s finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself. The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould.

Book:The Third Chimpanzee

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal

Jared Diamond

Though we share 98 percent of our genes with the chimpanzee, our species evolved into something quite extraordinary. Jared Diamond explores the fascinating question of what in less than 2 percent of our genes has enabled us to found civilizations and religions, develop intricate languages, create art, learn science—and acquire the capacity to destroy all our achievements overnight. The Third Chimpanzee is a tour de force, an iconoclastic, entertaining, sometimes alarming look at the unique and marvelous creature that is the human animal.

Book:The Way Things Work

The Way Things Work

David Macaulay

The information age is upon us, baffling us with thousands of complicated state-of-the-art technologies. To help make sense of the computer age, David Macaulay brings us The New Way Things Work. This completely updated and expanded edition describes twelve new machines and includes more than seventy new pages detailing the latest innovations. With an entirely new section that guides us through the complicated world of digital machinery, where masses of electronic information can be squeezed onto a single tiny microchip, this revised edition embraces all of the newest developments, from cars to watches. Each scientific principle is brilliantly explained—with the help of a charming, if rather slow-witted, woolly mammoth.

Book:The Soul of a New Machine

The Soul of a New Machine

Tracy Kidder

Computers have changed since 1981, when Tracy Kidder indelibly recorded the drama, comedy, and excitement of one company’s efforts to bring a new microcomputer to market. What has changed little, however, is computer culture: the feverish pace of the high-tech industry, the mystique of programmers, the go-for-broke approach to business that has caused so many computer companies to win big (or go belly up), and the cult of pursuing mind-bending technological innovations. By tracing computer culture to its roots, by exploring the “soul” of the “machine” that has revolutionized the world, Kidder succeeds as no other writer has done in capturing the essential spirit of the computer age.

Book:Gödel, Escher, Bach

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Douglas R. Hofstadter

Linking together the music of Bach, the graphic art of Escher and the mathematical theorems of Godel, as well as ideas drawn from logic, biology, psyhcology, physics and linguistics, Hofstadter illumnintaes one of the greatest mysteries of modern science: the nature of the human thought process.

Book:The Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard

Peter Matthiessen

When Peter Matthiessen set out with the field biologist George Schaller from Pokhara, in northwest Nepal, their hope was to reach the Crystal Mountain—a foot journey of 250 miles or more across the Himalaya—in the Land of Dolpo, on the Tibetan plateau. Since they wished to observe the late-autumn rut of the bharal, or Himalayan blue sheep, they undertook their trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes, and five weeks were required to reach their destination.

At Shey Compaa, a very ancient Buddhist shrine on the Crystal Mountain, the Lama had forbidden all killing of wild animals, and bharal were said to be numberous and easily observed. Where they were numerous there was bound to appear that rarest and most beautiful of the great cats, the snow leopard. Hope of glimpsing this near-mythic beast in the snow mountains would be reason enough for the entire journey. …[more]

Book:The Lives of a Cell

The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

Lewis Thomas

Elegant, suggestive, and clarifying, Lewis Thomas’s profoundly humane vision explores the world around us and examines the complex interdependence of all things.  Extending beyond the usual limitations of biological science and into a vast and wondrous world of hidden relationships, this provocative book explores in personal, poetic essays to topics such as computers, germs, language, music, death, insects, and medicine.  Lewis Thomas writes, “Once you have become permanently startled, as I am, by the realization that we are a social species, you tend to keep an eye out for the pieces of evidence that this is, by and large, good for us.”

Book:More Forensics and Fiction

More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered

D.P. Lyle, M.D.

This compilation of medical and forensic science questions from crime writers around the world provides insight into medical and forensic science as well as a glimpse into the writer’s creative mind.

How do hallucinogenic drugs affect a blind person? Will snake venom injected into fruit cause death? How would you perform CPR in a helicopter? What happens when someone swallows razor blades? How long does it take blood to dry? Can DNA be obtained from a half-eaten bagel?

D. P. Lyle, MD, answers these and many more intriguing questions. The book is a useful and entertaining resource for writers and screenwriters, helping them find the information they need to frame a situation and write a convincing description. TV viewers, readers who enjoy crime fiction, and those who want to know more about forensic science can keep up with the news and understand the science behind criminal investigation. From traumatic injuries to the coroner’s office, the questions and answers are divided into five parts, making it a compendium of the incredible information that lies within the world of medicine and forensics.

Book:Charles and Emma

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

Deborah Heiligman

Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary tract on evolution and the fundamental ideas involved, in 1859. Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within Darwin himself, and played an important part in his marriage: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debates.

Deborah Heiligman’s new biography of Charles Darwin is a thought-provoking account of the man behind evolutionary theory: how his personal life affected his work and vice versa. The end result is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for young readers.  

Book:Genius

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

James Gleick

Richard Feynman’s life encompassed the most important discoveries and changes in science in this century. As a boy he tinkered with radios and as a scientist he looked at all things from an unusual and unique perspective. Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize, was an eccentric and hard-driven perfectionist—a genius indeed. Feynman’s career touched on every area of modern science: from the Manhattan Project to quantum mechanics, to the Space Shuttle Commission. Beyond the importance of the physicist, we learn of a man whose emotional demons made him all the more human. In the hands of gifted writer James Gleick, Richard Feynman is a man worth knowing.

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