scientific-ish


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big bang by simon singh (book cover)

big bang: the origin of the universe

by simon singh
isbn: 0-007-16221-9

now this book i couldn't put down. absolutely delightful. i wanted to do my 4 hour train commute to work each day just so i had time to read this book on.

in the classic style that i have come to know as singh's, i was taken through the most marvelous journey of how it is that scientists know what they do about the universe. singh started off with ancient civilisations and how their crude geometry allowed them to predict, to a certain degree, the motions of the stellar bodies, and then singh slowly progressed through the discoveries, revolutionary ideas, connundrums of politics and religion (as relating to scientific progression, or repression there-of), breakthroughs, the tears, the joys and the elation of scientific investigation.

singh's books are not the reason i'm a scientist myself, but i'll tell you all this - if i wasn't already a scientist, singh would allow me to assert myself towards the study of science.


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code book, the by simon singh (book cover)

code book, the

by simon singh
isbn: 1-857-02879-1

great, fantastic. a thrill to read. i love this author and both books i've read of his so far (i do intend to read as many as i can) have been tremendous.

i love the way singh starts from first principles. starting off with not the complex cryptography and trying to explain how it works, but with hiding messages as the first form of secret communications, then showing how it developed into simple codes, and the more complex, and finally, through am ever exciting narrative, finished on quantum cryptography. wow. what an eye opener and total page-turner.


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code of codes, the edited by kevles and hood (book cover)

code of codes, the

edited by daniel j. kevles and leroy hood
isbn: 0-674-13646-2

this is one of those very very interesting and thought-provoking books. written before the final release of the sequence of the human genome, it was interesting to realise that the ethical, social and scientific issues stated then are still very well alive and kicking now.

it's great how this book assumes no prior knowledge - it explains not only how the science was done, but successfully integrates the scientific progression through time with the gradual ability to (bit-by-bit) unravel the secret code of the human DNA molecule. then the book makes clear why there are issues, and what the specific impact will be on society, should the ability to read everyone's DNA sequence become commonplace.


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E=mc^2 by david bodanis (book cover)

E = mc²: a biography of the world' most famous equation

by david bodanis
isbn: 0-330-39165-8

short but sweet. not too detailed, but not as detailed as other books i'm used to reading - and probably all the better considering the topic at hand.

this book started from quite a way back, describing the foundations that allowed einstein to come to the revolutionary equation. the book also followed through with what happened to the equation (and einstein) in the years that followed.

being so light, i found that i wanted more when i'd finished reading this book. i wanted more detail, though i think it was good to get the basics down first. i may need to read it again, before i pick up anything a little more involved!


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genius by james gleick (book cover)

genius

by james gleick
isbn: 0-349-10532-4

this is was a very good read. it was mainly a biography of richard feynman but also outlined rather well quite a lot of the physics advancements during feynman's time, but it was quite different to reading feynman's autobiography (see further) which focussed more on feynman's achievements and life story more than his tricks, jokes, behaviour and anecdotes.

this book, more to the point, has given me leads to other books i want to read, specifically the autobiography of james watson (written in 1970's; i believe, entitled 'the double helix') who is known as the co-discoverer (with francis crick) of the structure of DNA using crystallography in the 1950's. also the red books of the feynman lectures, though i seriously doubt i'd understand 1/100th of it...


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the last 3 minutes by paul davies (book cover)

last three minutes, the

by paul davies
isbn: 0-465-03851-4

i thought this book was fantastic. davies quite successfully introduces the reader to all the physics (quantumn or otherwise) that the reader needs to know to understand the concepts davies talks about - and he doesn't inundate the reader with all the physics in one go - he does it in a "need to know" basis, which works very well in the context of this book.

unlike most big bang related books, which concentrate quite a lot on what happens in the very beginnging, davies turned the topic on its head and wrote about what would happend at the very end of time. obviously noone knows what will happen, but the theories in this book is just what makes it interesting.

davies has written quite a few science books for the lay man, and the other one of his that i've read i can't remember the title! but i'll include it here when i remember it ;-)


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the number sense by stanislas dehaene (book cover)

number sense, the: how the mind creates mathematics

by stanislas dehaene
isbn: 0-713-99170-4

now this book was a fantastic read. it goes through the innate ability of animals (focusing on humans, of course) to 'count' - even human infants. now, when i say "count" i mean "count to three"; it gets a little more complicated than that and ... brilliantly melds the possibilities of neural surgery with the evolutionary need to be able to estimate with the fascinating idea that counting and numeracy is not necessarily a learned skill.

this was one of those books i simply couldn't put down until i'd finished it. written in a way that can be read and understood from the age of about 'young adult', it included excellent experimental designs and wonderful interpretation and discussion of results and possibilities from what is obviously a very talented man.


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surely you're joking, mr. feynman! (book cover)

surely you're joking, mr. feynman! (adventures of a curious character)

by richard feynman
isbn: 0-393-31604-1

this book was very interesting. it was a semi-autobiographical collection of 'adventures' during the life of richard p. feynman. the things he did that amazed people, the things he tried to do to improve science, and the ways and thoughts he put forward that make you think "there's more than one way to look at things." as many of you would know richard feynman as a rather eccentric personality and was awarded a nobel prize for physics in 1965. this was particularly interesting to me b/c i'm an eccentric scientist too!! (nudge nudge, wink wink.)

a lot of the things feynman described were very intuitive and worthwhile mentioning - i was very impressed. then there were the not so good bits: the parts where, i thought, he was just showing off, or proving himself smarter than everyone else... a know-it-all with an "i'm better than you" attitute.

despite the few curve-balls in this book, it was rather enjoyable and i would recommend it to other people. a quick read and a well written, strictly biographical, book with no physics or math mumbo-jumbo to have to get your head around.