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:How the Mind Works

How the Mind Works

Steven Pinker

In this book, Steven Pinker explains what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life. How the Mind Works explains many of the imponderables of everyday life. Why does a face look more attractive with makeup? How do “Magic-Eye” 3-D stereograms work? Why do we feel that a run of heads makes the coin more likely to land tails? Why is the thought of eating worms disgusting? Why do men challenge each other to duels and murder their ex-wives? Why are children bratty? Why do fools fall in love? Why are we soothed by paintings and music? And why do puzzles like the self, free will, and consciousness leave us dizzy?

The arguments in the book are as bold as its title. Pinker rehabilitates unfashionable ideas, such as that the mind is a computer and that human nature was shaped by natural selection. And he challenges fashionable ones, such as that passionate emotions are irrational, that parents socialize their children, that creativity springs from the unconscious, that nature is good and modern society corrupting, and that art and religion are expressions of our higher spiritual yearnings.

Book:Guns, Germs and Steel

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Jared Diamond

A global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.

Until around 11,000 b.c., all peoples were still Stone Age hunter/gatherers. At that point, a great divide occurred in the rates that human societies evolved. In Eurasia, parts of the Americas, and Africa, farming became the prevailing mode of existence when indigenous wild plants and animals were domesticated by prehistoric planters and herders. As Jared Diamond vividly reveals, the very people who gained a head start in producing food would collide with preliterate cultures, shaping the modern world through conquest, displacement, and genocide.

The paths that lead from scattered centers of food to broad bands of settlement had a great deal to do with climate and…[more]

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: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.

Book:Galileo's Daughter

Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Dava Sobel

Inspired by her long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter, which Sobel has translated into English for the first time, Galileo’s Daughter is a book of great originality and power, a biography unlike any ever written on Galileo. Sobel, the author of the bestseller Longitude, brings Galileo to life as never before-boldly compelled to explain the truths he discovered, human in his frailties and faith, devoted to family, especially to his eldest daughter.

The voices of Galileo and his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, echo down the centuries through letters and writings, which Sobel masterfully weaves into her narrative, building toward the crescendo of history’s most dramatic collision between science and religion. In the process, she illuminates an entire era, when the flamboyant Medici grand dukes became Galileo’s patrons, when the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and prayer was the most effective medicine, when the Thirty Years’ War…[more]

Book:A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

Sylvia Nasar

How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?” the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner.

“Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did,” came the answer. “So I took them seriously.”

Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who—thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community—emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim. The inspiration for a major motion picture, Sylvia Nasar’s award-winning biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over incredible adversity, and the healing power of love.

Book:A Drop of Water

A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder

Walter Wick

The most spectacular photographs ever created on the subject of water appear in this unique science book by Walter Wick. The camera stops the action and magnifies it so that all the amazing states of water can be observed—water as ice, rainbow, stream, frost, dew. Readers can examine a drop of water as it falls from a faucet, see a drop of water as it splashes on a hard surface, count the points of an actual snowflake, and contemplate how drops of water form clouds.

Book:The Greatest Benefit to Mankind

The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity

Roy Porter

Roy Porter explores medicine’s evolution against the backdrop of the wider religious, scientific, philosophical, and political beliefs of the culture in which it develops, and he shows how our need to understand where diseases come from and what we can do to control them has—perhaps above all elseinspired developments in medicine through the ages. He charts the remarkable rise of modern medical science—the emergence of specialties such as anatomy, physiology, neurology, and bacteriology—as well as the accompanying development of wider medical practice at the bedside, in the hospital, and in the ambitious public health systems of the twentieth century.

Along the way the book offers up a treasure trove of historical surprises: how the ancient Egyptians treated incipient baldness with a mixture of hippopotamus, lion, crocodile, goose, snake, and ibex fat; how a mystery epidemic devastated ancient Athens…[more]

Book:The Prize

The Prize: The Epic Quest For Oil, Money & Power

Daniel Yergin

The Prize recounts the panoramic history of oil—and the struggle for wealth power that has always surrounded oil. This struggle has shaken the world economy, dictated the outcome of wars, and transformed the destiny of men and nations. The Prize is as much a history of the twentieth century as of the oil industry itself. The canvas of this history is enormous—from the drilling of the first well in Pennsylvania through two great world wars to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Operation Desert Storm.

The cast extends from wildcatters and rogues to oil tycoons, and from Winston Churchill and Ibn Saud to George Bush and Saddam Hussein. The definitive work on the subject of oil and a major contribution to understanding our century, The Prize is a book of extraordinary breadth, riveting excitement—and great importance.

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