Sunday, November 28, 2010

Science Corner

Recommended Reads from a retired engineer-books that are good reading & good science!

One of our customers came up with this booklist for us-comments after the title are the customer's. If you have a list of recommended reads on any subject that you'd like to share, let us know!

Science and Pseudoscience

Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of our Time.
Carefully examines why we are so easily misled into believing things that are not real.

John Brignell, The Epidemiologists: Have They Got Scares For You!
Traces the history of epidemiology from its proud beginnings in stopping the cholera epidemic at the Broad Street Pump, to its current position as a purveyor of unscientific scares based upon fallacious statistics.

John Brignell, Sorry, Wrong Number: The Abuse of Measurement.*
Misuse of numbers and measurements by government, environmentalists, and single-issue fanatics to mislead us into believing and acting on false conclusions

Alan Sokal, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science.
Builds on his—hoax--article, published in Social Text (“a journal at the forefront of cultural theory”) that gravity is not real, but only a social construct. Fun reading.

Joel Best, Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists.
Title says it all. Debunks the worst social statistic ever published.
Expands on the earlier book and gives tools for critically examining claims and counterclaims.

Victor J. Stenger, Physics and Psychics: The Search for a World Beyond the Senses.
Critically examines evidence for theories of a transcendent reality, and shows that no replicable data exists to support them.

Terence Hines, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.
Readable debunking of popularized non-science.

Human Behavior
Pinker’s best book to date. A balanced approach to how heredity and environment influence behavior.

Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works.
Best explanation I’ve yet read on how and why we think the way we do.

Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.
An honest and surprisingly compassionate treatment of how mental capability affects our lives.

Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal.
How we got here and why we act the way we do.
A “history of everyone” for the last 11,000 years. His thesis is narrow but the book is fun to read.

Robert Wright, The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are.*
Uses Charles Darwin as a vehicle to explain morality.

Robert Wright, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.*
Gives an intriguing explanation of how human relationships might have developed.


Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder. Excellent book on how science enhances, rather than destroys, poetry and beauty.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene.
Don’t be put off by the title.
Very readable account of our ancestry.

Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology. *
The book that launched the field of evolutionary psychology.

Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia. *
Readable account of species.

Edward O. Wilson, On Human Nature.
Nice explanation of the biological aspects of human behavior.

Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan, Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species.
Intriguing thesis that large organisms are formed by symbiotic assemblies of well-functioning smaller units.

Martin Jones, The Molecule Hunt: Archaeology and the Search for Ancient DNA.

Physics, Engineering, and Math

James E. Gordon, The Science of Structures and Materials. *

James E. Gordon, Structures, or Why Things Don’t Fall Down. *
Both of this title & the one above are the most readable treatments of structural mechanics I have ever seen. Considers animal as well as inanimate structures.

James E. Gordon, The New Science of Strong Materials, or, Why You Don’t Fall through the Floor. *
Gordon is the only author I’ve ever read who makes the mechanical behavior of materials both interesting and understandable to the non-practitioner.

Amir Aczel, Pendulum: Leon Foucault and the Triumph of Science.
About an amazing and ingenious French scientist.
An excellent practical introduction to using probability in ordinary life.

Steven Vogel, Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle.
Title says it all.

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Good introductory science treatment
*Not in the ABC Libraries catalog.

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