Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Science Books

The last 10 days have been very busy, with trips to Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto. The time in planes and airports gave me an opportunity to complete the 'History' book, "Wild Swans" as well as a thick book of poetry, "The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova".

I ventured into one bookstore and had a wonderful time purchasing the following books:

Snowball Earth (2003) by Gabrielle Walker. This is the story of a new interpretation of geologic history to show that 700 million years ago the earth was completely frozen over, becoming a giant snowball. Fascinating! I can hardly wait to read it.

The Book Nobody Read (2004) by Owen Gingerich. The title is a delight and the book traces the history of Copernicus'book "De revolutionibus" which first outlined the idea that the sun, not the earth was the center of the universe.

The Labyrinth of Time: Introducing the Universe (2005) by Michael Lockwood. Time is a topic that has always fascinated me. I tend to buy most books that discuss this elusive concept.

On the Shoulders of Giants (2002) by Stephen Hawking. I noticed this book when it was first published and then noticed that it has been republished as a series of five smaller books, each one focusing on one of the major sections of the original book. The book is a compendium of the writings of five famous scientists: Copernicus (note the overlap with the second book in my list), Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein. The price for the softcover version of the original book is substantially less than the cost of the five separate books.

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From the Beaten track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman. (2005) by Michelle Feynman. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the books about Feynman and am ever hopful of reading his famous 3-volume set "Lecture Notes of Physics" which is still a classic, 40 years after its original publication. For those new to Feynman, I suggest the biography "Genius" by James Gleick. My general plan is to first renew my understanding of calculus and to then tackle both the Feynman "Lecture Notes" as well as Roger Penrose's "The Road to Reality".

Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics (2005) by Paul Ormerod. This looks like a gem, with potential implications for education, particularly universities.

Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis (2005) by Dan Rockman. This is the second book I have purchased on this conjecture which is becoming a hot topic, perhaps because the idea involves the easily understood concept of prime numbers, and perhaps because there is a reward of a million dollars for the person or persons who successfully prove or disprove this 150 year old hypothesis. This is a branch of mathematics that may, or may not, involve the ideas of calculus, and as such is a topic I can play with while simultaneously playing with calculus.

My plate is full, and the excitement is palatable. Learning is never dull.

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