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The Best American Science Writing 2007 2007 ed. Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0061345777
ISBN-10: 0061345776
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Edited by New York Times science writer Kolata, this volume celebrates writing that captures the excitement of scientific discovery and also its human consequences. Tyler Cabot's The Theory of Everything spotlights theoretical physicists awaiting the greatest, most anticipated, most expensive experiment in the history of mankind. By contrast, Manifold Destiny by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber tells of Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, who quietly announced a solution to one of the field's most elusive problems: Fermat's Last Theorem. Atul Gawande's The Score looks at the all-too-often painful history of obstetrics, and Truth or Consequences by Jennifer Couzin examines the bitter fallout for innocent graduate students and postdocs when their adviser is accused of falsifying data. Oliver Sacks's Stereo Sue explores the marvel of binocular vision, and Barry Yeoman's Schweitzer's Dangerous Discovery profiles unconventional paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer, discoverer of tissue remnants in dinosaur bones. These articles, culled mainly from general interest publications like the New Yorker but also from science magazines like Discover, showcase articles that show, in Kolata's words, how [a]dvances in science have changed who we are as human beings and... are changing what we will become, and readers will indeed find them as exciting as they are compelling. (Sept. 18)
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From Booklist

From daring medical developments to dire environmental predictions, from sophisticated computer applications to scathing evolutionary skirmishes, the range of scientific topics covered by journalists has never been more eclectic or exhilarating, nor has it ever been so accessible to the layperson whose knowledge of or interest in such presumably "technical" subjects might have been left behind at the end of high-school biology classes. With so many stellar examples of sharp and satisfying writing to choose from, Kolata faced a daunting editing task, yet the 20 selections in this year's annual compilation represent a seamless fusion of the empirical and elemental. Among the highlights: Stacey Burling's nimble tale of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease; Matthew Chapman's nifty behind-the-scenes exposé of the Dover, Pennsylvania, lawsuit regarding the teaching of evolution; and Gregory Mone's noteworthy profile of the scientist behind movie science. Culled from the pages of Harper's, Esquire, and the New Yorker, among other mainstream publications, this compelling compendium is one-stop reading for technogeeks and regular folk alike. Haggas, Carol
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Product Details

  • Series: Best American Science Writing
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 2007 ed. edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061345776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061345777
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,865,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on October 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: 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".

. . .
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