From Publishers Weekly
The editor's claim that we are now living in the "golden age" of science writing is borne out in this superb anthology of pop-science essays and news reports. Progressing from the hardest to the softest fields, the eclectic selections include think pieces on the conceptual foundations of physics, updates on cutting-edge controversies in genetic engineering and stem-cell research, profiles of leading researchers, ecological meditations and debunkings of the latest scientific fads and frauds. Among the brightest in a stellar lineup are Frank Wilczek's exploration of the worldview embodied in Newtonian mechanics; Jim Holt's humorous look at cosmologists' varying scenarios for the end of the world; Philip Alcabes's critique of the current panic over bio-terrorism; and Mark Solms's account of the return of repressed Freudian theories of the mind in contemporary neuropsychology. The essays are well attuned to a general audience, but scientists will also find them full of intriguing information and interpretations. The result is a wonderful collection that expands the mind without overwhelming it.
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One of the many pleasures found in this excellent annual is the introductory essay by each volume's guest editor. This year the acclaimed novelist, physicist, and essayist Alan Lightman offers a brisk and defining overview of what he prefers to call "public" science writing as opposed to "popular" science writing. He avers that we are experiencing a golden age in this invaluable genre, and, indeed, the range of subjects and the elegance of the writing found here substantiate his claim. Diane Ackerman writes of bumblebees, and K. C. Cole of life on Mars. The study of the human genome inspires riveting and unsettling essays by Natalie Angier, Robin Marantz Henig, Mark Dowie, and Gina Kolata. Catastrophic diseases and bioterrorism are the subjects of jolting essays by Philip Alcabes, Laurie Garrett, and Atul Gawande. Our jeopardized relationship with nature occupies Edward Hoagland, and Andrea Barrett writes insightfully about the different ways novelists and scientists navigate the "sea of information." What with "maggot therapy" and the "biology of hope," there is much here to stoke the imagination. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved