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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious!
From the editor: "Science is the greatest journalistic subject of our time...articles so well written it is a pleasure, not a chore, to read them."

This year there are 20 articles from 11 different publications. It is heavy on medical science (8-9 essays) and human interest science rather than hard science - an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you...
Published on October 1, 2007 by The Spinozanator

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The selection is a bit disappointing...
I was not so impressed with this book, for two reasons: (1) the science itself was not explained very well. Some of the essays had a "gee whiz" tone. (2) Many of the essays were more about the personal lives and politics of the university or field of study, than about the science itself. Finally, some of the essays were from picture-filled magazines, such as Discover,...
Published on January 17, 2008 by Stephen Armstrong


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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious!, October 1, 2007
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This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
From the editor: "Science is the greatest journalistic subject of our time...articles so well written it is a pleasure, not a chore, to read them."

This year there are 20 articles from 11 different publications. It is heavy on medical science (8-9 essays) and human interest science rather than hard science - an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it, but makes for easy reading.

My favorite article, by Jonathan Keats - John Koza has built an invention machine - Artificial Intelligence that solves complex engineering problems with minimal to no human guidance. The machine's method? - Darwinian evolution by natural selection: survival of the fittest computer code.

Tyler Cabot - Why the "theory of everything," that will unite quantum physic with Einstein's theories of relativity is a fool's errand.

Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber - Mathematician Gregory Perelman refused the honors and financial awards for solving the Poincare conjecture. A scramble ensued among others who wished to gain undue credit for that vacant seat of honor.

Robin Henig - A foolproof lie detector might be bad for human society. "After all, the skills of lying are the same skills involved in the best human social interactions."

Joshua Davis - The brain's system for recognizing faces is separate from its system for discerning other objects. Says one patient with a deficient facial recognition module, "Everyone looks the same so it's hard to commit emotionally with anyone."

Oliver Sacks - The only way to perceive depth rather than judge it is with binocular vision. Stereo Sue's newfound visual abilities were "absolutely delightful...ordinary things looked extraordinary."

Stacey Burling - Alzheimer's disease steadily robs you of your humanity...first your memory, then your dignity, then your life. "When I start blithering, I want you to shoot me," Bob told his wife.

David Dobbs - Deep Brain Stimulation, a surgery used for Parkinson's, now used successfully (if experimentally) for intractable depression. Is "Area 25" an on/off switch for depression?

Denise Gray - A new laser twist on a well-established surgery for aneurysms in the brain.

Jerome Groopman - Family presence during resuscitation exposes a conflict between chaplains and nurses (who worry about families' emotional needs) and physicians, who are primarily concerned with quality of care.

Matthew Chapman - Coverage of the Dover, Pennsylvania Intelligent Design trial by none other than the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin.

Atul Gawande - To discourage the inexpert from using forceps, obstetrics had to discourage everyone from using them. This is about forceps, C-Sections, and the revolutionary Apgar score.

Jennifer Couzin - Whistle blowers in cases of misconduct involving basic science research often suffer a loss of time, prestige, and credibility - then frequently change careers.

Lawrence Altman - Ninety-eight year old Michael DeBakey is the oldest survivor of an operation he himself devised. Was this VIP medical care ethical?

Elizabeth Kolbert - How climate change is causing the forced migration of various species.

William Broad - New evidence adds to the complexity of the issue of climate change - a clear victory for mainstream scientific opinion, but not a slam dunk.

John Cassidy - With fMRI (brain imaging), neuroeconomists test whether people really make rational choices in financial decisions.

Barry Yeoman - Mary Schweitzer is a paleontologist, a molecular biologist, and an evangelical Christian (a one-of-a-kind combo). She also found soft tissue in Tyrannosaurus Rex bones. Creationists know how to interpret this - God created earth less than 10,000 years ago. Schweitzer doesn't agree.

Patricia Gadsby - You can improve on the 10-minute egg if you learn a little egg chemistry. "Cooking eggs is really a question of temperature, not time."

Gregory Mone - How MIT professor John Underkoffer tries to make the depiction of movie scientists as real as the science.

As I expected, this yearly compilation is a pleasure to read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One tremendous essay and many competent ones, September 27, 2007
This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
In her informative introduction to this work Gina Kolata explains her criteria for the selections she made. She believes that scientific journalism is the most exciting form of journalism now being done, as it gives us insight into the revolutionary transformations being made in our understanding of ourselves and our world. When she searched for articles for the anthology she searched for those which would pleasant to read, and which would provide insight into an important scientific development. She tells the story of the article of her own she most treasures that on Andrew Wiles ten- year successful effort to prove 'Fermat's Theorem'.
I am not sure that all of the articles meet her criterion of providing insight into important discoveries. I for instance found David Dobbs article on ' A Depression Switch' one which discusses a new surgical technique for treating depression which focuses on brain circuitry to be 'thin' in providing only one case- history in which the procedure was tried and seemed to work.
Tyler Cabot's piece on 'The Theory of Everything' provides a good survey of the work being done now on the realization of Einstein's great dream. String theory, M theory , Loop quantum gravity, the holographic universe- which will provide the theory which will unify all the forces of nature? He shows why there is so much anticipation of the experimental results which will be given by the C.E.R.N. Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland which is scheduled to go operational later this year.
The most powerful, dramatic, interesting, enjoyable piece in this collection I found to be Sylvia Nasr, and David Gruber's 'Manifold Destiny'. They describe the story of the solving of the 'Poincare Conjecture' in the Third Dimension. The story is both of a scientific- mathematical process one and a moral and human competition and struggle. The hero of the story is Grigory Pereleman whose solution to the problem published in three stages on the 'Internet' has been generally accepted by the major mathematical teams that examined it as the correct solution. However as Nasr and Gruber make clear the solution was an effort of many years involving the work of a number of mathematicians, among them Willam Thurston, and Richard Hamilton. The human drama involved a Chinese team of mathematicians including the only Chinese winner of mathematics, most important prize the Fields Medal Shing- Tung Yau. . Considered one of the finest living mathematicians he makes a power play, what the authors clearly see as an illegitimate effort, to steal the honors from Perelman. He does this by having his team provide a much fuller proof than the one Pearlman had provided. Perlman himself refuses the Field award retires from mathematics , and seems to present himself as that kind of pure figure who lives only for the doing of mathematics, and the advancing of human understanding and knowledge.
There are a number of other articles in which the 'human interest' element is at least as important as the scientific. One by Lawrence K.Altman described a heart- procedure done to save the life of Michael DeBakey then ninety- seven. The procedure is one which DeBakey himself devised. In another Robin Marantz Henig examines society's effort to find a reliable way of knowing when someone is lying- a process which has questionable political and moral implications. Another human interest article by Stacy Burling focuses on the story of an Alzheimer's patient and the effort to probe his mind for a cure. The always interesting Oliver Sacks has a piece called 'Stereo Sue' on a woman who for years has no stereoscopic vision only to through the help of a team Sacks is a part of attain this quality. Her words when this happen are perhaps the most inspiring in the volume.
She tells about a moment of perception which she has three years after acquiring the capacity to see in depth .
"In the past ,the snow would have appeared to fall in a flat sheet in one plane slightly in front of me. I would have felt like I was looking in on the snowfall. But now, I felt myself within the snowfall among the snowflakes. Lunch forgotten, I watched the snow fall for several minutes, and , as I watched I was overcome with a deep sense of joy. A snowfall can be quite beautiful- especially when you see it for the first time'.
I have mentioned less than half of the pieces in this most outstanding and enjoyable collection.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're interested in . . ., April 10, 2008
This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
. . . advances in medical knowledge and therapies, then this is the book for you. Not surprisingly, the Internet is increasing knowledge of the conditions that beset us. One of these, once thought to be only another unfortunate result of strokes, is now known to be more widespread. Joshua David's article on prosopagnosia - "face blindness" - reveals how people who cannot recognise faces, any faces, need not be victims of strokes. Face blindness can be congenital, and one estimate puts its prevalence up to six million people in the US alone. Another condition, Alzheimer's, is also undergoing expanded study, as Stacey Burling's essay follows. Post-mortem brain examination has been the only way to develop diagnostic tools. Recent work is providing new ways of learning if the disease has become established, allowing earlier treatment. Depression victims are also being relieved of symptoms through a method related to heart pacemakers as described by David Dobbs in "Depression Switch".

. . . progress in basic physics or mathematics, there are articles on the latest thinking and experiments. Tyler Cabot's "Theory of Everything" relates the "fool's errand" by those on that seemingly hopeless quest. Another apparently fruitless task was the solution of the famous Poncaire's conjecture - a century-old proposition with implications for both mathematics and cosmology. In an article about a bizarre mathematician, David Gruber and Sylvia Nasar relate the story of Field Medal [mathematics' Nobel Prize] winner Grigory Perelman. Jonathon Keats finds another application for numeric calculations in his essay on a computer-based "invention machine". Yet another article on numbers, more practical and, to some, useful is presented by Patricia Gadsby in "Cooking for Eggheads".

. . . the latest discoveries on prehistoric life, then Barry Yeoman's article, "Schweitzer's Dangerous Discovery" will capture your attention. In the fossil bones of a long extinct Tyrannosaurus rex, Mary Schweitzer teased out remnants of soft tissue. The discovery raised questions about a real-life "Jurassic Park", but it also stirred the "Christian Creationist" community to declare the fossils weren't as ancient as palaeontologists had long declared. Attempts to discredit the "dangerous idea of" Charles Darwin are endemic in the US and in Dover, Pennsylvania those efforts came to a new head. In "God of Gorilla", Matthew Chapman relates the events surrounding an attempt to inject "creationism" into a local school system.

. . . just what science is all about, then Oliver Sacks, always a compelling read, explains some interesting studies on vision in "Stereo Sue". An unexpected relationship between economics and how we make decisions is explored in "Mind Games" by John Cassidy. An attention-grabbing mix of cognitive science and values, the article is worth anybody's review. A topic of increasing interest, climate change, is dealt with in two captivating articles. "Butterfly Lessons" relates how various forms of life are appearing in unexpected places due to warming trends. Yet, some of the research on climate change is being challenged as William J. Broad explains.

The "Best American Science Writing" series is always a fruitful addition to any library shelf. This volume is no exception. Gina Kolata is to be congratulated on her selection, as are each of the writers represented here. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good selection, somewhat skewed toward neurology., February 18, 2008
This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
I thought this year's volume was quite a bit better than usual - hence the fourth star. The selection is distinctly skewed in favor of various neurological topics, with relatively fewer environmental and ecological pieces, but the high quality of the results vindicates the chosen emphasis, in my view. Among the topics covered:

* neurological research pertaining to:
- lie detection
- face recognition
- stereoscopic vision
- Alzheimer's disease
- depression
- financial decision-making
* new surgical methods for the treatment of brain aneurysms
* medical ethics (3 articles by Jerome Groopman, Atul Gawande, and Lawrence Altman)
* climate change (2 articles by Elizabeth Kolbert and William Broad)
* the fallout from the falsification of data
* the Dover, Pa 'intelligent design' trial
* string theory
* genetic computing algorithms
* molecular gastronomy
* Hollywood's 'science guru'
* the unseemly squabbling for credit that lay behind the recent resolution of one of mathematics' deepest questions, the Poincare conjecture.

My top three choices: Robin Marantz Henig's excellent piece "Looking for the Lie", Matthew Chapman's "God or Gorilla", and the fascinating piece by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber on the solution of the Poincare conjecture ("Manifold Destiny").

One might wish that the editor of this year's collection, Gina Kolata, had cast a wider net in soliciting articles - the great majority of contributions are from The New Yorker or The New York Times. But this is a minor criticism of an excellent, and stimulating, anthology.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The selection is a bit disappointing..., January 17, 2008
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This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
I was not so impressed with this book, for two reasons: (1) the science itself was not explained very well. Some of the essays had a "gee whiz" tone. (2) Many of the essays were more about the personal lives and politics of the university or field of study, than about the science itself. Finally, some of the essays were from picture-filled magazines, such as Discover, but this compilation had no pictures to wonder and marvel at.

I believe this book is drawn from Houghton-Mifflin's successful experience with The Best Short Stories... and The Best Essays. I found it lacking in specificity.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EASY READING, GOOD CHOICE OF ARTICLES, January 1, 2008
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This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
The selection of articles is outstanding. They range from serious medicine articles to quirky articles about gastronomy and philosophy. It should appeal to anyone very interested in popular science, anyone who reads Jay Gould, Dawkins or Hawkins.

I will point out a few that I found especially interesting:

1. An article about the social consequences of having good lie detectors -- the author is very convincing that we should not want a good lie detector, as many of the skills involved in lying are the same skills we need to maintain a harmonious society.

2. An article about people who have trouble with face recognition and how the internet has made it possible for them to meet and share thoughts. The author then describes the main scientist's findings within this community, as he gains their trust and has some surprising findings about how our brains process information and faces in particular.

3. There is an interesting article about whistle blowers for scientific lying in articles. The consequences were devastating, to both sides (blowers and blown). Questions whether the scientific community is ready to deal with wrongdoing.

Each article has a specific issue tackled and the authors do a good job of mixing them up to make the reader feel smarter in many different subjects by the end. Also the articles are short enough to be read in 15 to 20 minute intervals.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great stuff, July 7, 2013
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John S. (St. Louis, MO USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
whether technology or biology or revolving around the planets, this collection has the best of the journals providing you with only what you need and deleting the clutter!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Contains Quite Interesting Articles, September 29, 2011
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Got this book for an English course called Writing For Engineer, teaching us how to write and read analytically, and it was quite a good book. It has some interesting articles, such as the one about genetic algorithms. It is also very well written, which makes sense since it's a selection of best science writings.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Answers the Question of Why We Are Burning Up the Planet, January 26, 2011
A Kid's Review
This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
No doubt this is a wonderful book, but I couldn't get past the editor's introduction. This editor, science reporter for the New York Times,announces that scientists have difference of opinion on global warming. Well, no, climate scientist, the people who actually study it, really don't have a difference of opinion about whether the planet is warming or that this is caused by human activity.

As reported recently, there's a "difference of opinion" about whether immunizations cause autism - based on fraudulent research.

You could say there's a difference of opinion on a lot of things, including whether peach pits cure cancer, the sun revolves around the earth, etc., with the same level of accuracy as the reporter's claim about global warming.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting articles, nice to know what's happening, August 28, 2010
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This review is from: The Best American Science Writing 2007 (Paperback)
The articles sometimes seemed a bit exaggerated with the story telling, but it kept it interesting and not just the dry science. You may not learn a lot of the specifics, but I believe the articles are meant to inspire and create wonder of what the goals and current states of science really are.
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The Best American Science Writing 2007
The Best American Science Writing 2007 by Jesse Cohen (Paperback - September 18, 2007)
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