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Science and Nature Book Recommendations

(22 Posts)
TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 22-Jan-13 13:04:05

Traffic - a really interesting book which includes traffic related statistics, behavioural analysis etc

All of Tim Harford's books - Tim presents More Or Less, a program about statistics, on radio 4, and is the FT's Undercover Economist

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre - a good background on what science is (or should be). Haven't read Bad Pharma yet, but I'm sure that's good too.

John Gribbin books - may be a bit dated now but good reading. In Search of the Big Bang and In Search of Schrodinger's Cat are good.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 23-Jan-13 20:17:11

Oh, I forgot the best book ever - The Making of The Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Only science book to ever make me cry.

TerrariaMum Thu 24-Jan-13 09:36:23

Bad Pharma is definitely worth a read. I don't agree with everything Goldacre says and he can come across as patronising, but it has gotten me interested in learning more about chemistry and biochemistry and that.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 25-Jan-13 09:19:31

Ok I will get Bad Pharma then, thanks!

doyouwantfrieswiththat Fri 25-Jan-13 16:06:18

Does 'The man who mistook his wife for a hat' count as science, or 'Serendipity - Accidental Discoveries in Science'.

I'm a bit of an intellectual lightweight I'm afraid.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Fri 25-Jan-13 17:29:59

Yes, they do! I read the first one a long time ago but don't know the second one.

Takver Fri 25-Jan-13 17:42:50

As a counterbalance to Tim Harford, I'd suggest Ha Joon Chang's book '23 Things they Don't Tell You about Capitalism' which is kind of a Bad Science for economics, if that makes sense. (The author explicitly says that he isn't anti-capitalist, its just about pointing out some of the assumptions that never get made clear in news stories etc.) Its a very easy read and I'd definitely recommend it.

Delusions of Gender, can't remember the author's name, but she's a neuroscientist and it is absolutely fascinating on the girl/boy nature/nurture debate.

Guns, Germs and Steel and also Collapse by Jared Diamond - he seems to be coming in for a lot of criticism recently, but I think often unfairly, both these books are a very interesting overview of why some societies come out on top, again ones that will send you off to read more.

The New Science of Strong Materials or Why You Don't Fall through the Floor - old but good and does what it says on the tin grin

cumfy Fri 25-Jan-13 21:12:59

I really enjoyed the following:

Psychological biases and how poor we are at predicting what events will make us happy.

Large scale view of pre-history and what factors lead to the pre-eminence of Eurasian civilisation.

The story of how L-DOPA was discovered and its extraordinary effects on patients paralysed by "sleeping sickness" for over 40 years.

cumfy Fri 25-Jan-13 21:17:33

Takver, I'm half-way through Collapse at the moment, and find it very illuminating.

What sorts of criticism are being made about his work ?

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Sat 26-Jan-13 01:25:26

Oh yes, The New Science of Strong Materials is good. I've also got Structures, another JE Gordon book, knocking around somewhere.

Stumbling Happiness sounds goodand I will look at the Ha Joon Chang also, thanks.

<credit card scuttles for cover>

Takver Sat 26-Jan-13 13:09:30

I like Structures too, its a long while since I read either of them, should dig them out again.

Cumfy, this review in the Guardian is a good example - one quote:

"The very premise of Guns, Germs and Steel is that a hierarchy of progress exists in the realm of culture, with measures of success that are exclusively material and technological"

and there were similar criticisms in a Radio 4 programme about him I heard the other day (The Life Scientific I think it was).

I'd say that is a very simplistic reading of JD's books myself - IMO he isn't making any value judgement that says that western european culture is 'better' than any other culture. I would say he is simply asking the very pertinent question 'why have western european cultures been dominant in recent history'. To say that we have succeeded in taking for ourselves a far greater share of resources than other cultures doesn't in any way imply that we are superior.

cumfy Sat 26-Jan-13 14:15:42

Takver, thanks for the link.

I very much agree with you and found it very hard to follow Wade's arguments as ultimately they don't appear to contradict in anyway the reasoning or conclusions of Jared Diamond. Yet he seems very keen to make it sound like he does.confused

I'm sure for instance that Diamond agrees with every word about Aborigines:

Consider Diamond's discussion of the Australian Aborigines in Guns, Germs and Steel. In accounting for their simple material culture, their failure to develop writing or agriculture, he laudably rejects notions of race, noting that there is no correlation between intelligence and technological prowess. Yet in seeking ecological and climatic explanations for the development of their way of life, he is as certain of their essential primitiveness as were the early European settlers who remained unconvinced that Aborigines were human beings. The thought that the hundreds of distinct tribes of Australia might simply represent different ways of being, embodying the consequences of unique sets of intellectual and spiritual choices, does not seem to have occurred to him.

I'm sure it has occurred to him and I am equally sure he concurs completely.
It is simply not relevant to the question of which "species" of society "evolve" to be "fittest" in a globally connected world.

It is at points almost as though he is denying the existence of evolution.

I suppose, therefore, I will just have to read The World Until Yesterday myself.

Takver Sat 26-Jan-13 14:36:09

I'm looking forward to reading it too smile TBH I had just thought that reviewer had a bee in his bonnet until I heard the radio programme a few days later.

cumfy Sat 26-Jan-13 14:47:41

I listened to the Life Scientific prog also, and similarly found the criticisms advanced were very luke warm suggesting his conclusions were too wide sweeping.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Sat 26-Jan-13 15:31:39

Adding "The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins, a really interesting way of laying out evolution but you need to concentrate!

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Sat 02-Feb-13 22:23:15

It's not a recommendation as I haven't read it but there's a biography of Patrick Moore in the 100 books for £2.99 or less on Kindle this month.

TerrariaMum Thu 07-Feb-13 16:23:19

I would also like to add The Periodic Kingdom by Peter Atkins. It's a really good intro to chemistry.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Sat 02-Mar-13 21:56:30

Ah, Atkins grin

This looks like a good site for recommendations - they run the Royal Institution's Book Club!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 10-Mar-13 02:33:50

Takver I am enjoying 23 Things and only being mildly distracted by the fact that, whenever I read "as I say in Thing 2", I get a Dr Seuss riff in my head about Thing 1 and Thing 2 grin

I also read Bad Pharma, it was interesting but although there are massive commercial reasons for the way results are presented, after reading Delusions of Gender as well, I think there should be a special Journal of Null Results and the Daily Fail should be obliged to publish enormous headlines about it every month eg "nineteen out of twenty studies showed no difference in xyz. Hooray! Let's explain that carefully!"

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 17-Mar-13 21:07:56

I enjoyed all of the 23 Things, Takver, thanks. I've downloaded Bad Samaritans by him but haven't got into it yet.

BooMum123 Sat 13-Apr-13 12:11:29

Good grief I'm 'new', just found this and 'geeky stuff' and I'm very happy indeed...

I 'did' A Sand County Almanac at uni and remember it being a rather lovely read. Not very pop-sci, but To interpret the earth:Ten ways to be wrong is a brilliant book for anyone studying/teaching Geography or Earth Sciences. Bit expensive though, may be a library job.

Also love a bit of bonus science - got Lily Vanilli's Sweet Tooth as a present, quite a lot of interesting stuff about what sugar does!

I want to get back up to speed a bit - what journals/periodicals do you read and like? Short toddler-friendly articles, preferably...

Sorry for long post, think I just got a bit over excited

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 18-Apr-13 08:46:12

Waves to Boomum!

Do you mean articles you can read in a few minutes with half an ear out for your toddler?

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