Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Biology, Science and Nature Books
Astronomy and Cosmology
Cosmology is the name given to a range of natural sciences, including both physics and astronomy that intends to provide an explanation for how the universe works as an integrated entity. Over the centuries, since the Pythagoreans in Greece during the 6th century BC considered the possibility that Earth was spherical, cosmology has come a long way and has integrated a variety of different fields of science.
Cosmology evolved from the observation of these Greeks who interpreted the natural laws of the heavenly bodies from which, eventually, the Ptolemaic model developed during the second century AD. Centuries later, during the 16th century, the Copernican system further developed the theories surrounding astronomy and cosmology - followed, in the 20th century, by the theories of special relativity and Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Overall, however, the case for cosmology states that the laws of physics work the same everywhere and that there is homogeneity throughout the universe.
'The Holographic Universe', written by Michael Talbot, tells its story in two parts: the first part devotes 55 pages to discussing David Bohm's holographic model of the universe - simplified into everyday language by Talbot. The second part of the book delves into events of the paranormal while, at the same time, attempting to rationalise the holographic model. Talbot introduces the rdader to Karl Pribram as well as the philosophies of David Bohm.
Chemistry and biochemistry often go hand-in-hand, existing in parallel with other scientific disciplines such as dietetics [the science of food]. McCance and Widdowson, who produce 'The Composition of Foods' summarises food composition tables and updates much in the way of nutrition as a science. The foreword to the 6th edition has been written by Sir John Krebs while the actual volume itself provides an invaluable source of reference to dieticians and nutritionists the world over.
Meanwhile,'Principles of Biochemistry' by Nelson D has been described as a 'modern approach to biochemistry'. Personally, one of the best biochemistry books I have ever encountered was that written by Patterson - now, sadly, long since out of print. I attribute my successful pass in the biochemistry exams to the presence of Patterson which, by the time I had finished with it, was particularly dog-eared! Nelson D's 'Principles of Biochemistry' really is the next best thing to Patterson and a worthy successor.
Earth Sciences and Geography
Earth sciences are a catch-all term covering a different range of natural sciences from those mentioned above. These relate to the study of the earth and how different parts of it are interlinked to produce that homogenous whole that is the classic feature of the scientific world. If you are interested in the world around you then you may be interested in a lovely book by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. This book 'The Cloud Collector's Handbook' is full of charming pictures, below which you will find a short description of each cloud and space for you to record your own sightings. It certainly gives a new connotation to having your head in the clouds!
If you think about it, there is all the difference in the world between someone who loves school and somebody who loves to learn: it doesn't necessarily follow that, if you love to learn, then you must enjoy school. Education, however, is all about learning for the sheer pleasure of gaining new information. This learning may or may not be associated with school: it can even cover any subject. Evidence of this can be seen in Richard Dawkins' book 'The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution'.
Dawkins goes about educating his readers, explaining to them how fossils can be dated accurately, all about plate tectonics etc, before going into the details of how these may be linked with the global distribution of plants and animals and the effects changes in these physical elements can have on them. Dawkins, whilst making it clear that he is aware [and who could not be?] of the great debate on creation v evolution, doesn't get drawn into the minutiae surrounding this eternal dispute.
Engineering and Technology
One book that I simply have to recommend is a fantastic book written by Jo Marchant. You will find it in our Science and Nature section under the heading of Engineering and Technology. The first thing to say is that this is not some dry and boring technical tome. This book relates the story behind a particularly ancient Greek artefact and what it took to decode its hidden mysteries. The book is called 'Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer'. I wish Jo Marchant had found a more intriguing title for her book because this title really doesn't do this book justice.
The book relates the story of the Antikythera Mechanism which has been shown to have amazing capabilities as an astronomical calculator: scientists believe its complexity was at least 1500 years before its time. The Antikythera Mechanism artifact is a good 2,000 years old and was found during a dive in 1901. Scientists have been attempting to unravel its secrets ever since. So, if it's a true-life mystery you are interested, or a book that's a bit different I would strongly recommend this well-written and interesting book of Jo Marchant's.