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The Best American Science Writing 2004 Paperback – September 14, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this collection of 22 essays and one poem (by John Updike), accomplished essayists writing on subjects across the spectrum of science inform readers without talking down to them or falling into scientific jargon. Sobel (Longitude, Galileo's Daughter) canvassed periodicals as far afield as Mother Jones and Parade, deftly juggling the length, subject and tone of her choices, which include long, serious pieces, like William Langewiesche's account of the disastrous breakdown in decision making within NASA that led to the Columbia tragedy and Susan Milius's short, light-handed description of "the unsung triumphs of creativity" in scientific experiments, such as figuring out how to leash a rattlesnake or frustrate lovelorn dragonflies. Kevin Patterson describes the spread of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis resulting from complacency within the medical profession. K.C. Cole tells of physicist Janet Conrad's search for the elusive "sterile neutrino" using a giant vat of baby oil, and Michael Pollan recounts food scientists' efforts to save vanishing species of turkeys, oysters and corn to preserve genetic diversity as well as flavors that were common in meals long ago. One might argue that space and cosmology are overrepresented. But fans of good science writing, and of good writing of any kind, will find much enjoyment in this collection.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Notable science author Sobel (Galileo's Daughter, 1999) selected these popular science articles, all published in 2003. Spread across the disciplines, many of Sobel's choices first appeared in popular sci-tech periodicals, and an encouraging number of these superbly written pieces also came from literary-minded magazines such as the Atlantic, Harper's, and the New Yorker. The last ran a fascinating profile by Atul Gawande of the late surgeon Francis Moore; a Harper's writer took readers to one of the sentinels-- the Goldstone Tracking Station--for threatening asteroids and comets; and William Langewiesche gave atlantic subscribers a dissection of the dismaying bureaucratic facts about the space shuttle columbia disaster. Sobel selected humorous articles as well. An arch Psychology Today article considers a Harvard professor who takes alien abduction stories seriously, and a Science News piece describes the low-tech apparatus (fishing line and duct tape) used by a researcher of snake behavior. Readers can also find cutting-edge science amid the pleasures of this volume's well-crafted expositions. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Best American Science Writing
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Edition edition (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060726407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060726409
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,006,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Woods on November 14, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The 2004 volume of "The Best of American Science Writing" edited by Dava Sobel is a first-rate, in my opinion, collection of pieces by well-selected spectra of contributing authors.

These are not dry scientific articles, but well written science short stories, and accounts. This book is a pleasure to read and a great source of information.

Without further ado, I would like to continue by giving short descriptions to each of the works in the book. If you prefer to find out for yourself what those are about, you may wish to stop reading this review now.

1. Jennifer Kahn - "Stripped for Parts". A dead man's body is the best place to store organs. Read about the current state of organ transplantation, challenges and advancement. A baboon heart in a human body? Find out how well it works.

2. Atul Gawande - "Desperate Measures". Experimental techniques in medicine. How a test tube of radioactive deuterium from a nuclear reactor helped to measure human body water content. Moral aspects of versus medical progress.

3. John Updike - "Mars Bright as Venus". A little poem.

4. K. C. Cole - "Fun with Physics". Neutrinos, and MiniBooNE experiment at Fermilab.

5. Oliver Morton - "Strange Nuggets". Very heavy and strange dark matter. Read about an extraordinary probe into using seismic stations around the world to detect possible strange matter clusters passing through the Earth.

6. Keay Davidson - "Mapping of Cosmos Backs Big". How recent measurements of cosmic background radiation prove the Big Bang Theory.

7. Neil DeGrasse Tyson - "Gravity in Reverse". Find out what Einstein's "greatest blunder" was. Understand "Dark Energy" that causes the universe to expand at a different rate than previously thought.
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By LauraGee on March 2, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read quite a few of these compilations. While there are some really great pieces included--my favorite is the one on TB--it doesn't have the same spark as some of the other books of this type. Nevertheless, it's well worth reading.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RompingStallion on March 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent collection of scientific writings. It exposes you to fields that you might not think about exploring on your own. The dark secrets of organ donor science and the nightmare of being "locked in" by total paralysis come to mind. Note that not every writing in this collection will interest you. There will surely be a story or two that you end up just skipping over due to complete lack of interest. This book is a great alternative to watching T.V. on the nights when you are completely burned out from your primary research/occupation but feel like you need to keep on chugging.

Note: I gave this book a 4 out of 5. This is because most of the writings where excellent and very engaging but there were a few that were a little lackluster.
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By Craig A. Coppock on November 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a great series. Don't miss any of it. Back order old issues... it's worth it.
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