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What science books do you recommend?

Cap'n Refsmmat

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Let's start a list of the popular (and unpopular) science books you recommend. Perhaps we can all get some worthwhile reading material out of this.


I'll start:

  • Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene: good intro to modern physics
  • Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker: a look at modern psychopharmacology and the effects of psychiatric medicine. Well-written and researched.
  • Why People Believe Weird Things, by Michael Shermer. Engaging, amusing, and enlightening.
  • The Last Man on the Moon, by Gene Cernan. Cernan landed on the Moon on Apollo 17, and this book is his memoir of the entire Gemini, Mercury and Apollo programs. Great if you like space exploration.

What are your choices?

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The Language of Mathematics: Making the Invisible Visible by Keith Devlin. Pretty good overview of some major areas of mathematics. It's a little outdated now (for instance, the Poincare conjecture has since been proved), but it's still a good read.


The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene. Also a decent book, a bit more technical and oriented towards String Theory than Fabric of the Cosmos.


Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Starts with Frankl's description of his time in a concentration camp, then introduces the reader to logotherapy, probably my favorite of the three major Viennese schools of psychology.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Easy-to-read discussion of various topics in astrophysics. It's a fun read, not very technical.


I may add some more later, but those are some of my favorites from my reading in the last few years.

Edited by John
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Hmm, I've missed a few good ones:


  • The Scientists, by John Gribbin. A history of science done by looking at the scientists making key discoveries. You learn very interesting (and surprising!) things about the scientists you've heard about all your lives. A great biographical compilation.
  • When Prophecy Fails, by Stanley Schachter, Leon Festinger and Henry Riecken. This book advances the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance, which explains how humans respond when their expectations are violated, by infiltrating a 1960s UFO cult and observing what happens when they aren't taken off the planet to safety as predicted. Excellent reporting -- and non-fiction! -- but perhaps not as fun as it could have been, because the authors focused on their psychological theory instead of just telling a good story.
  • Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach. Well... have a guess at what this one's about...

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Stardust by John Gribbin. Great intro to Cosmology.


Einstein: A Hundred Years of Relativity by Andrew Robinson. I think this is an honestly presented overview of Einsteins's life and works with critiques by the author (a physicist) on the long term and relative importance of each of his theories.


The Revenge Of Gaia by James Lovelock. Putting his apocalyptic forecast for humanity aside this book is a nice intro to the Earth System: it's cycles and feedback mechanisms.


It's about Time by David Mermin. An intro to Special Relativity that keeps the maths to a minimum. but some is unavoidable. Not a light-hearted read like the first three...needs effort!

Edited by StringJunky
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The Demon-Haunted World Carl Sagan


Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine Nesse and Williams


The Beak of the Finch Jonathan Weiner


Lucy Johanson and Edey


Guns, Germs and Steel Jared Diamond (somewhat less of a "hard science" book, but still very good)

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WOW! How do you narrow it down?


It's a Wonderful Life by Gould


Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee


The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs by Adrian J. Desmond


Dynamic Aquaria "Building living Ecosystems" by Walter H. Adey and Karen Loveland


Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena by Willian R. Corliss


Life as we do not know it by Peter Ward


The Deep Hot Biosphere by Gold


The list goes on....


Oh and one fiction book I had the privilage of reading before it was released to the public... and I still have the pre-release copy! really great book, it is of course fiction but with great details of what is was really like in the Cretacious age!


Cretaceous Dawn by L.M. Graziano and M.S. Graziano

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Physics of Star Trek whose author escapes me at the moment

Lawrence Krauss wrote it.


The Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind

On the Shoulders of Giants by Stephen Hawking (just for convenience).

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nobody's mentioned the old classics I read in my youth:


--Hans Zinsser's Rats, Lice & History, which I think Guns, Germs & Steel is trying to imitate without giving due credit, unless I'm mistaking it for some other one,


--biologist René Dubos's The Mirage of Health,


--Watson's The Double Helix (a funny history of the discovery of the structure of DNA by its co-discoverer),


--1965 Nobel Prize winner Jacques Monod's Chance & Necessity,


--playwright Rob't. Ardrey's The Territorial Imperative,


--pioneering ethologist Konrad Lorenz's On Aggression,


--paleontologist G.G. Simpson's The Meaning of Evolution (and I'd like to read his sci-fi novel The Dechronization of Sam Magruder),


...and another classic is How To Lie With Statistics, which I'd like to read before I die and become a part of the statistics. As I said elsewhere, I'm younger than "owl" but not terribly younger, but at least I'm still not as forgetful (that bane of ripe old age) as venerable "owl".


Harlow Shapley's collection of essays titled Beyond the Observatory (1967) has been important for me because one of the essays inspired an int'l. space mission I've very recently suggested to the space agencies, but I don't think it deserves a discussion unless I get at least one reply, even if it's from the space agency of, for instance, humble Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru or Algeria. The message was sent to 39 nat'l. space agencies or research organizations and seven int'l. organizations, including the U.N., in the course of a few days (Jan. 15-20).



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Earth, Portrait of a Planet - Stephen Marshak

Life - Richard Fortey

Tell Tale Brain - V.S. Ramachandran

The Ancestors Tale - Richard Dawkins

Cosmos - Carl Sagan

Bad Science - Ben Goldacre

The Origin of Life - Paul Davies

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Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher by Lewis Thomas -- It's a little dated now, but this collection of essays is a great read. Actually, anything by Lewis Thomas is a great read.


Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment by Patricia Fara -- a wonderful collection of biographies


The New Science of Strong Materials: Or Why You Don't Fall Through the Floor by J.E. Gordon -- I cannot recommend this book enough.


Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle by Steven Vogel -- Or, again, ANYTHING by Steven Vogel.


EDIT: I forgot one!


The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley -- A bit controversial, this one. I disagree with some of what he says, but I quite enjoyed this book overall.

Edited by biologywatcher
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  • Although somewhat speculative, Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot was excellent.
  • Wonders of the Universe, by Brian Cox is probably my favourite book out of all the books I've read.

Edited by Samm
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The Trouble with Physics - Lee Smolin

One of the best modern physics books around. Not very technical, and discusses the current state of physics and the problems faced by modern science.


The Emperor's New Mind - Roger Penrose

A little on the technical side, but not as much as the average Penrose book. This one is about modern science and conciousness.


entanglement - Amir Aczel

About quantum entanglement.


Einstein's Cosmos - Michio Kaku

Im not a big Michio fan but this is a pretty good one. Not very technical.

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