Saturday, December 22, 2007

Books on science this holiday season

From his new book, I am America (and so can you!), part of Stephen Colbert's view of science:
" 'Why?' -- The question scientists are always asking. You know who else is always asking 'why?' ? Five year olds! That's the kind of intellectual level we're dealing with here."

That's the best justification for my desire to be a scientist that I've seen since I read Tom Weller's book Science Made Stupid back when I was in high school:
"What is science? Put most simply, science is a way of dealing with the world around us. It is a way of baffling the uninitiated with incomprehensible jargon. It is a way of obtaining fat government grants. It is a way of achieving mastery over the physical world by threatening it with destruction."

I've also been reading Uncertainty, a very well-written book about the birth of quantum mechanics that focuses mostly on the personalities of the major players. It's a compelling story, though there are no major surprises: Heisenberg was ludicrously bright; Bohr was incapable of writing a short, declarative statement; Pauli was a sarcastic bastard who could get away with it because he was brilliant; Einstein was already the grand old man.

I can also recommend American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. I'm not done with this one yet, but it's extremely interesting. If you thought that socially awkward, neurotic people going into science was a recent phenomenon, think again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well..the last one is very interesting!..this book has 750++ pages and worth it..