Jody Gomez

What are your favorite science books?

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Kat, et al,

As a child I read The Meaning of Evolution by George Gaylord Simpson who was then Curator at the American Museum of Natural History and books on astronomy by Sir James Jeans which were eye openers in those days before science became popularized by the likes of Isaac Asimov, James Trefil, Richard Feynman and others.

I recall my mother unleashing me in the Grand Army Plaza main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and finding The Star Gazer by Zoltan Harzanyi which is a biography of Galileo. Impressive insight into the workings of the Holy Roman Inquisition of which amazingly most folks raised in Catholicism manage to remain ignorant.

My wife is going to Manhattan tomorrow and I will remain behind to go to work to keep the proverbial ball rolling. One of her missions will be to go to the Strand Bookstore on Broadway and 12th Street and find for me a copy of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by the late Stephen Jay Gould. It is a 4.9 pounder which I hefted at Barnes and Noble but instead of paying fifty bucks we will get it for twenty at the Strand!

I love books and science books are among my favorite categories. i will not live long enough to read all the unread books I already own but I love to be surrounded by them at home.

There is always the hope that my ship will come in which would give me more time to read.

galt

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~ For those not really science-'oriented', but, ntl, science-'interested', no one can top Asimov re the 'popularizers' (nm the original popularizer OF 'popularizing' science subjects!) --- Pick your subject for intro-delving-into: Math, Physics (macro or micro/particle), Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, all chronically peppered with their developmental history, and, bows to the 'names' of the times (which Asimov seemed to take pains about clarifying!)

~ Hell, even a section of the 'humanities', as in biblical (archeologically as well as 'textually' speaking) or Shakespearean literature: he's THE MAN. I learned more about 'basics' from his books than anything in school (I have some college; not a 'pro', here.) Add on (predominantly non-biology) Pagels, Sullivan, Weinberg, Gardner, Gamow, Sagan and a few others...

~ I really can't pick my fave of his...plethora...of books (some of which are, actually, collected articles; ntl...)

LLAP

J:D

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~ Of course, much has developed since Asimov's gone to that Great-Laboratory/Library-In-The-SKY. Gould (whom I've not read...yet...though mucho about), Feynman (all of his), Hawking (ok; not an 'easy' read, 'less your familiar with the subject 'basics'), Pais, Drexler, Gleik and a few others, all have much to add to the knowledge and understanding by and for the 'common man'...who is interested enough to tackle the subjects.

~ Sorry I can't pick any books, per se, out; only the authors who I've found 'thought-provoking' (without getting specifically into specialty-subjects of science), from my beginning interests to my present ones (little changed there). --- Wish I could add something re Psychology, Animal-Intelligence, or even AI, but...the subjects per se, most fascinating; the data/info/knowledge established-for-useage about/within/from, since I was a kid, nada beyond NB's stress on the nature and fundamentality of 'self-esteem.' But, for 'understanding', where does one go from there?

LLAP

J:D

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Addendum (can't get away from these, lately!):

~ Re the subject of 'Relativity', I've read a few: Russell's, Calder's, Gardner's, Kaku's (the best of all, and he did at least 2 on its prob-relation with QM), as well as Spector's Methodological Foundations of Relativistic Mechanics (anyone into 'light-cones'?); but, the BEST on the subject really is Albert Einstein's original: Relativity.

~ Interested in the subject? It's a 'no-miss' (a-n-d, less confusing than most other 'explainers', though, they're more understandable if read a-f-t-e-r this.)

LLAP

J:D

PS: Some Strangeness In The Proportion: A Centennial Symposium to Celebrate the Achievements of A-E (edited by Harry Woolf) is worth reading...a-f-t-e-r. It includes multiple commentings (discussion/articles) by Dirac, Purcell, Shapiro, Sciama, Hawking, Pais, Wheeler, Penrose, Yang, Dyson...and quite a few others.

Edited by John Dailey

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Ellen-

Good luck with the Principia. Hopefully they have translated the mathematics into a readable, modern form as well. I've never read it, but I've heard that mathematically it is trying for even physicists. Not that it is inherently difficult, but I don't think the equations are couched in modern forms.

You are right. Newton derived his results using his newly invented calculus and differential equations, but his math was far too advanced for the readers of his time. So he translated the mathematical formulation to the more traditional Euclidean Geometric mode. In his time calculus was like the kind of mathematics used nowadays to express super string theory. Very few are sufficiently trained to follow it.

Ironically, modern readers can handle the calculus based presentation, but are hard put to comprehend the older geometric approach. The central position of Euclidean Geometry in the mathematics curiculum has been denigrated and a watered down version is taught in American high schools.

For a clear (but not easy) presentation of -Principia Mathematica- read the new translation edited by I. Bernard Cohen. The translation avoids some of the old fashioned locutions (in English) found in the Cajori translation. Really, who understands phrases like hemidemisubsesquintial ratios. (I exaggerate only slightly).

Ba'al Chatzaf

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My favorite book on cosmology is Eric Lerner's The Big Bang Never Happened.

REB

Lerner's book presents a rather bogus version of the Cosmos. He leans heavily on the work of Aalfens, but the verdict is pretty well in. The measurement of the Cosmic Background Radiation initiated by Wilson and Penzias in 1965 gives very heaving evidence in favor of the Big Bang. Apparently, according to the best available evidence, really did happen.

Even Hoyle's theory is better grounded than Lerner's nonsense, and Hoyles theory turned out to be wrong.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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Objectivist Living maybe interested in this (April 14-15) weekend Wall Street Journal which in their Book page they have a list of the five best science books selected by John Gribbin. The dates on the books selected range from 1600 to 1994. Dr. Gribbin has written a book called The Fellowship about the 16th century "scientific revolution".

Edited by Chris Grieb

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If I may stretch the category a bit, I really enjoyed Arthur Koestler's The Act of Creation and The Ghost in the Machine. They're both about a lot more than science, but it figures prominently in them.

Roger-You're about the third or fourth whose intelligence I respect that has recommended these two books. I have read "Darkness At Noon", but nothing else of Koestler's. Think I'll pick those up(which is the last thing I need, more books I have to read!, but I can't resist any excuse to purchase more books)

Read -The Sleepwalkers- by Koestler. Embedded therein is the only (partial) English translation of Kepler's notebooks. Kepler is one of the few scientists who kept a stream of consciousness journal of his thinking when he did researches on planetary motion, included self deprecations for making mistakes (oh what a dummkofp, I am etc. etc.). So you not only get Kepler's final results (he fitted ellipses to the data points of Mars which Tycho Brahe's people recorded), but you get the intermediate steps, his false and mistaken tries at fitting the data. Kepler's results are not only the work of genius and inspiration, but of elbow grease and lots of calculations (Kepler did not have calculus as did Newton). Kepler sweated over the Mars ephemarus for eight solid years before he got a decent fit.

Bob Kolker

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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It happens that I've just finished a translation of a French magazine dedicated to Kepler, and as a reference I've bought two books by Kepler, his Astronomia and his Somnium (both in an English translation). He was indeed a remarkable person. He made many false starts, like his theory of the nested Platonic solids for the planetary orbits, but he was scrupulous enough to start all over again when he discovered that his theory gave only a rough approximation. He has always defended Copernicus' model for the solar system, and he had to use some diplomacy when he worked for Tycho Brahe, as the latter wanted Kepler to prove the correctness of his own (i.e. Tycho's) model. Kepler solved that by presenting the models side by side so that everyone could draw his own conclusions. When Brahe died (it seems he had been poisoned, there is even a wild theory that he was poisoned by Kepler!) Kepler still had similar problems with Brahe's heirs, as he used Brahe's data and he had to have their permission to publish his work. Kepler's problem with the orbit of Mars was that he for a long time still supposed that all planetery orbits were circular, which necessitated a complex system of epicycles, deferents and equants. But even the most sophisticated version was not accurate enough, so finally Kepler came to the conclusion that the orbit had to be an ellipse and that the sun was situated in one of the focal points of the ellipse.

Less well-known is the fact that Kepler was also a pioneer in optics. He improved the design of the primitive telescope of Galilei (he had problems obtaining such an instrument, Brahe's work was all done with the naked eye), gave an essentially correct description of the working of the eye, and wrote the first modern treatise on geometrical optics.

He also spent six years long a large amount of his time on defending his mother, who had been accused of witchcraft. He finally succeeded in saving her from the stake, but she died a few months after her release from prison.

His last work, Somnium, is a short SF story about a trip to the moon, with a large number of notes with a volume several times that of the story itself, explaining all the technical details, as it was in fact a didactic work in the guise of a fantasy, to show what people on the moon would see in the sky (for example a practically immovable earth turning around its own axis).

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