Summer Science Books

None of the new science books on my desk this morning are more than an inch thick, so they should make great lighweight packing for a summer holiday read.

First up, It Takes a Genome by Greg Gibson, Professor of Genetics at North Carolina State University at Raleigh, explains why a clash between our genes and modern life is making us sick. Gibson provides new insights into why we are facing new epidemics that were never a widespread problem for our ancestors, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Crohn’s disease, asthma, arthritis. He also probes exactly what we mean by physical and emotional “normality” and suggests that the human genome might teach us one of the deepest lessons about the human condition yet.

Galileo’s New Universe as the title might suggest celebrates the 400th anniversary of the telescope by taking us on a tour of astronomical observation from that period to the modern day. Stephen Maran (ex-NASA) and Laurence Marschall (Gettysburg College) discuss the revolution that Galileo wrought in our understanding of the cosmos.

I met Max Perutz once, briefly, at an MRC media open day some time in the 1990s and I’ll tell anyone interested in knowing about the great man the packed lunch anecdote. That’s for another day, though, and it doesn’t get a mention in this posthumous “autobiography” of Perutz entitled What a Time I am Having. Compiled from his life’s letters and edited by his daughter Vivien, this is essential reading for anyone interested in the groundbreaking scientific happenings of the twentieth century and one of the key players.

Biocentrism by Robert Lanza CSO of Advanced Cell Technology with astronomer Bob Berman attempts to explain how life and consciousness are the keys to understanding the true nature of the universe. Lanza proposes a paradigm shift that essentially takes the quantum mechanics notion that the very act of making an observation affects the results of the experiment to the cosmic level. He suggests that life itself creates the universe, rather than life simply being an accident of the laws of physics.

Lanza’s book then is in contrast to Shadows on the Cave Wall: A New Theory of Evolution by Keith Ronald Skene, which arrived after I wrote this post. Skene’s idea is that physics needs to reclaim life and evolution from the biologists and chemists…

Lies, Damned Lies, and Science by science educator Sherry Seethaler turns on its head the idiom that statistics are always to blame for misunderstandings of a scientific nature and offers an escape route. She aims to help you sort through the noise surrounding global warming, the latest health claims, and scientific controversies. In Lies Seethaler explains the difference between cause and coincidence and shows you how to recognise lies, truthiness, and pseudo-expertise.

10 thoughts on “Summer Science Books”

  1. An extra book just turned up – Shadows on the Cave Wall: A New Theory of Evolution by Keith Ronald Skene – which intriguingly seems to be the inverse of Lanza and Berman’s Biocentrism.

  2. “Lies, Damned Lies and Science” brings to mind “The Bell Curve”. I actually read that thick tome carefully. It turned out to be an interesting read, but chock full of self contradictions, statistical sleight of hand and outright trickery and deceit. I’d recommend it as a heavy exercise in seeing through a cloak of science to root out some really nasty agenda.

  3. The phrase “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics” is attributed to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli although Americans might assume it was due to Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It’s a double-edged sword slicing away at the persuasive power of numbers, the use of statistics by people with a weak argument, and the fact that people will disparage statistics that do not support their argument.

  4. That last book lies damned lies and science was used as an example in one my lectures. I didnt know that it was a book but it was used as a statement to outline the fact that stats can be distorted or something like that. (Never did to well in that class:-) ) Might have a read over the summer though now that I have some free time

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