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Books of Note Archives

Listed alphabetically by title.

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Henry R. PollackUncertain Science...Uncertain WorldIn Association with Amazon.com
Uncertain Science...Uncertain World
Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN: 0-521-78188-4, $28

Is it really essential that the public understand science? Why not let scientists do their own thing, and let the rest of the world go on with their business too? Unfortunately, in the modern world, that is a path we cannot follow. But how do we begin to interpret all the discrepancies between various scientific reports? How can we trust the media with so many contradictory stories circulating? Scientific uncertainty puzzles many people. The confusion arises scientists have more than one answer, and disagree among themselves. By acquainting readers with the ways that uncertainty arises in science, how scientists accommodate and make use of uncertainty, and how they reach conclusions in the face of uncertainty, this book enables them to evaluate uncertainty from their own perspectives, in terms of their experiences.

Raman K.Prinja & Richard IgnaceIn Association with Amazon.com
Understanding the Universe
Facts on File Library
Checkmark Books, 2002, ISBN: 0-8160-5228-X, $29.95

A guided tour of our solar system and beyond in clear, accessible language suitable for beginners, with original artwork and the latest images from the HST and other ground and space telescopes. Understanding the Universe explains the broad concepts of astronomy and introduces the workings of the universe, starting with the sun, Earth, and planets in the solar system. The formation and composition of the wide variety of galaxies present in the universe is discussed in detail along with other topics, such as the creation and future of the universe itself and the possibility of life existing elsewhere.

David DarlingThe Universal Book of AstronomyIn Association with Amazon.com
The Universal Book of Astronomy: From the Andromeda Galaxy to the Zone of Avoidance
John Wiley & Sons, 2003, ISBN: 0-471-26569-1, $40

The Universal Book of Astronomy compiles more than 3,000 extensively cross-referenced entries to cover every noted star, planet, authority, and telescope that has influenced our modern understanding of the universe. Spanning everything from major observatories and space telescopes to biographies of astronomers throughout the centuries, The Universal Book of Astronomy showcases an extraordinary array of newfound wonders, including microquasars, brown dwarfs, and dark energy, as well as a host of individual comets, asteroids, moons, planets, stars, nebulas, and galaxies. Further complemented by: ore than 200 illustrations throughout; eight pages of color photographs; succinct articles on astronomy's history and technology; and biographies of those who shaped, and continue to shape, our knowledge of this infinite universe.

Georges IfrahThe Universal History of ComputingIn Association with Amazon.com
The Universal History of Computing: From the Abacus to the Quantum Computer
John Wiley & Sons, 2002, 0-471-44147-3, $16.95 (paperback)

In this follow-up to his bestselling The Universal History of Numbers, the author traces the development of computing from the invention of the abacus to the creation of the binary system three centuries ago to the conceptual, scientific, and technical achievements that made the first modern computers possible. Along the way he visits mathematicians, visionaries, philosophers, and scholars from every corner of the world and every period of history.

Seymour SimonThe UniverseIn Association with Amazon.com
The Universe
Smithsonian/HarperCollins, 2006, ISBN:0060877243, $16.99

Award-winning science writer Seymour Simon has teamed up with the Smithsonian Institution for new updated editions of his acclaimed long running series of photo-essays. Matching full-color, full- and double-page-spread-sized light and radio photographs of nebulas, galaxies, and sundry deep-space phenomena with two or three paragraphs of explanatory text.

Terence DickinsonThe Universe & BeyondIn Association with Amazon.com
The Universe & Beyond, 4/e
Firefly Books, Ltd., 2004, ISBN: 1-55297-901-6, $29.95 (paperback)

The Universe and Beyond is a factual, up-to-date guide to the universe, written by bestselling astronomy author, Terence Dickinson. This book includes the most recent astronomical discoveries and events using imaginative astronomical illustration in addition to dramatic photography from the Hubble Space Telescope, space probes and the largest observatories on Earth. This fourth edition has been carefully reviewed, revised and brought up-to-date with new text and photographs. The chapter on cosmology is significantly expanded to include new information about the origin of the universe and the large-scale structure of the universe. Also included are over thirty new photographs of planets, nebulas, galaxies and galaxy clusters.

Every major topic of astronomy is described clearly and concisely. The Universe and Beyond addresses the questions that arise most often from those with a fascination for the night sky. Brimming with color illustrations, the book includes the Cassini-Huygens mission.

Other topics include: Overview of the universe; the solar system and nearby worlds; planets of other stars; galaxies and black holes; the search for extraterrestrial life; how the universe will end; telescopes for the twenty-first century.

Ken CroswellThe Universe at MidnightIn Association with Amazon.com
The Universe at Midnight: Observations Illuminating the Cosmos
The Free Press (imprint of Simon & Schuster), 2001, ISBN: 0-684-85931-9, $27

From the author of Magnificent Universe comes the story of the golden age in our understanding of the universe - the age we live in right now. Dr. Croswell writes in his first chapter, "Every star the naked eye can see races around a gigantic black hole buried behind the dust clouds of the constellation Sagittarius." He proceeds to tell the riveting story of the discoveries that have revolutionized modern cosmology, while introducing the colorful and inspiring characters behind them. The Universe at Midnight puts discoveries old and new into fresh perspective, explaining what the big bang, the Hubble constant, quintessence, and the cosmological constant really mean - and offering a forecast for the universe's ultimate fate.

Stephen HawkingThe Universe in a NutshellIn Association with Amazon.com
The Universe in a Nutshell
Bantam Books, 2001, 0-553-80202-X, $35

In this new book, Hawking takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen’s terms the principles that control our universe. Wonderful full-color illustrations by Philip Dunn help clarify this journey into a surreal wonderland where particles, sheets, and strings move in eleven dimensions, where black holes evaporate and disappear, taking their secret with them; and where the original cosmic seed from which our own universe sprang was a tiny nut.

Marcus ChownThe Universe Next DoorIn Association with Amazon.com
The Universe Next Door: The Making of Tomorrow’s Science
Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN: 0-19-514382-5, $26

The idea that an atom can be in two places at once defies logic. Yet this is now an established scientific fact. In The Universe Next Door, science writer Marcus Chown examines a dozen mind-bending new ideas that also fly in the face of reason — but that, according to eminent scientists, might just be crazy enough to be true.

Could time run backwards? Is there a fifth dimension? Does quantum theory promise immortality? To explore these questions, Chown has interviewed some of the most imaginative and courageous people working at the forefront of science, and he has come away with a smorgasbord of mind-expanding ideas. For instance, Lawrence Schulman at New York's Clarkson University believes there could be regions in our Universe where stars unexplode, eggs unbreak and living things grow younger with every passing second. Max Tegmark, at the University of Pennsylvania, believes there could be an infinity of realities stacked together like the pages of a never-ending book (with an infinite number of versions of you, living out an infinite number of different lives). And David Stevenson of Cal Tech argues that life may exist on worlds drifting in the cold, dark abyss between the stars, worlds without suns to warm them.

Dan FalkUniverse on a T-Shirt
Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything
Viking Canada, 2002, ISBN: 0670043354, $34

Universe on a T-Shirt is the story of modern science's search for a single set of equations that will, in principle, describe everything in the physical world. No scientific quest is as exciting as the search for the key to understanding the universe—the elusive unified "theory of everything."

Most books on the subject leave the reader drowning in jargon and equations, but Dan Falk tells the intriguing story in an enjoyable and easy-to-understand way. He places this search in its historical context, tracing the quest from ancient Greece to the breakthroughs of Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein, to the excitement over string theory and to today's efforts to merge quantum theory with general relativity. With as much emphasis on history as on science, Dan Falk's approach is ideal for the general reader—people who are intrigued by advances in modern physics, but who still wonder why theoretical physicists do what they do, and just what it is they are searching for.

Today's physicists use sophisticated methods, but their goal—the search for simplicity—has not changed since the time of the ancient Greeks. The search for a unified theory is a story full of quirky personalities, surprising twists and moments of brilliance—high science and high drama, brought to entertaining life by one of Canada's favorite science writers.

Richard GreenbergUnmasking EuropaIn Association with Amazon.com
Unmasking Europa: The Search for Life on Jupiter's Ocean Moon
Springer 2008, ISBN: 978-0387479361, Hardcover $27.50

Richard Greenberg tells the story of how he and his team of researchers came to believe that the surface of Europa is in fact a crust so thin that it can barely hide an ocean of liquid water below. He shows how the ocean is warmed by the friction of tidal movements in this small moon as it orbits around immense Jupiter. The implications of this interpretation- which includes the idea that there are active intermittent openings from the liquid ocean to the frozen surface- are immense. The warmth, the chemistry, and the connections from ocean to surface provide the conditions necessary for the existence of life, even at this relatively remote locale in our solar system, far beyond what's normally thought of as its 'habitable zone.'

Wil Tirion, Barry Rappaport and Will RemaklusIn Association with Amazon.com
Uranometria 2000.0 Deep Sky Atlas, Volume 1: The Northern Hemisphere to —6º
Willmann-Bell, 2001, 0-943396-71-9, $49.95

Wil Tirion, Barry Rappaport and Will RemaklusIn Association with Amazon.com
Uranometria 2000.0 Deep Sky Atlas, Volume 2: The Southern Hemisphere to +6º
Willmann-Bell, 2001, 0-943396-72-7, $49.95

Murray Cragin and Emil BonnanoIn Association with Amazon.com
Uranometria 2000.0, Volume 3: Deep Sky Field Guide
Willmann-Bell, 2001, 0-943396-73-5, $59.95

This edition (the first published in 1987) of Uranometria 2000.0 is a deep-sky atlas that plots more than 30,000 nonstellar objects and 280,035 stars to 9.75 magnitude on 220 double-page charts at a scale of 1.85 cm per degree of declination. In areas of heavy congestion, close-up charts are provided at two or three times this scale with a stellar limiting magnitude approximating 11.0. See the publisher’s website (www.willbell.com) to explore sample pages.

Denis Berthier, Translated by Klaus BraschUrban AstronomyIn Association with Amazon.com
Urban Astronomy
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-53190-X, $17.99 (paperback)

Denis Berthier has spent thirty years observing the night sky from within a city and his practical guide will enable amateur astronomers to observe and photograph stars, planets and other celestial objects from their own town. It is becoming more and more difficult to find an observing site with clear, dark skies away from light and industrial pollution. However, by choosing the right targets to observe, with patience and simple equipment, amateur astronomers can still find observing from towns and cities to be a rewarding hobby. Denis Berthier is the French journalist who has been passionate about astronomy for the last thirty years. He has been Laureate of the French Association for Astronomy and has published numerous papers on astronomical photography and instrument construction.

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Neil A. DownieVacuum BazookasIn Association with Amazon.com
Vacuum Bazookas, Electric Rainbow Jelly, and 27 Other Saturday Science Projects
Princeton University Press, November 2001, ISBN: 0-691-00986-4/0-691-00985-6, $18.95/$39.50

This book describes 29 unusual but practical experiments, detailing how they are done and the math and physics behind them. Of varying levels of complexity, the experiments are grouped in sections covering a wide field of physics and the borders of chemistry, ranging from dynamic mechanics ("Kinetic Curiosities") to electricity ("Antediluvian Electronics") and combustion ("Infernal Inventions"). More detailed explanations, along with simple mathematical models, are given in boxes accompanying each experiment.

Christopher G. DePress & Alan Alexrod, Eds.Van Nostrand's Concise Encyclopedia of ScienceIn Association with Amazon.com
Van Nostrand's Concise Encyclopedia of Science
John Wiley & Sons, 2003, ISBN: 0471363316, $40

Need the latest, most accurate information available on the West Nile virus, interstellar space, or any other important scientific or technological topic? Van Nostrand's Concise Encyclopedia of Science has the answers. This authoritative resource contains clear definitions and concise explanations of more than 5,000 vital scientific terms and concepts. Based on the new 4,000-page, two-volume Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Ninth Edition, this easy-to-use resource covers the latest advances and developments in all areas of science. And, each informative, highly readable entry can be understood completely without specialized training in a scientific discipline. Special features of this comprehensive resource include: Clear, succinct explanations of more than 5,000 vital terms and concepts; comprehensive coverage of six major scientific categories; up-to-date entries on the latest scientific advances and developments; fast, easy access to authoritative scientific information; more than 400 informative photos and line drawings; many helpful charts, graphs, and diagrams.

Sabino Maffeo, S.J.In Association with Amazon.com
The Vatican Observatory: In the Service of Nine Popes
University of Notre Dame Press, 2001, ISBN: 88-209-7242-5, $24.95 (paper)

In its historical roots and traditions the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical institutes in the world. For the first foreshadowing of the Observatory can be traced to the constitution by Pope Gregory XIII of a committee to study the scientific data and implications involved in the reform of the calendar that occurred in 1582. From that time and with some degree of continuity the Papacy has manifested an interest in and support for astronomical research.

With these rich traditions as a basis and in order to counteract the longstanding accusations of a hostility of the Church towards science, Pope Leo XIII in 1891 formally refounded the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) and located it on a hillside behind the dome of St. Peter's Basilica For a little more than four decades astronomical research, which included a prominent international program to map the whole sky, was carried out in the shadow of St. Peter's, but it eventually became obvious that the urban growth of the Eternal City was brightening the sky to such an extent that the fainter stars could no longer be studied.

Thus it was that Pope Pius XI provided a new location for the Observatory at the Papal Summer Residence at Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills some 35 kilometers southeast of Rome. It is here that the modern observatory, entrusted to the Jesuits, was refounded in the 1930s with the construction two new telescopes, the installation of an astrophysical laboratory for spectrochemical analysis, and the expansion of several important research on variable stars. With the installation of a Schmidt wide-angle telescope in 1957 research was extended to other topics such as new techniques for the classification of stars according to their spectra.

With the continuously increasing population of Rome the skies above the Observatory again became too bright. For this reason in 1981, for the first time in its history, the Observatory founded a second research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG), in Tucson, Arizona, one of the world's largest and most modern centers for astronomy.

Eli MaorVenus in TransitIn Association with Amazon.com
Venus in Transit
Princeton University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-691-11589-3, $17.95 (expanded paperback edition)

Eli Maor tells the intriguing tale of the five Venus transits previously observed and the fantastic efforts made to record them. This is a story of heroes and cowards, of reputations earned and squandered, all told against a backdrop of phenomenal geopolitical and scientific change.

With a novelist's talent for the details that keep readers reading late, Maor tells the stories of how Kepler's misguided theology led him to the laws of planetary motion; of obscure Jeremiah Horrocks, who predicted the 1639 transit only to die, at age 22, a day before he was to discuss the event with the only other human known to have seen it; of the unfortunate Le Gentil, whose decade of labor was rewarded with obscuring clouds, shipwreck, and the plundering of his estate by relatives who prematurely declared him dead; of David Rittenhouse, Father of American Astronomy, who was overcome by the 1769 transit's onset and failed to record its beginning; and of Maximilian Hell, whose good name long suffered from the perusal of his transit notes by a color-blind critic.

Moving beyond individual fates, Maor chronicles how governments' participation in the first international scientific effort--the observation of the 1761 transit from seventy stations, yielding a surprisingly accurate calculation of the astronomical unit using Edmund Halley's posthumous directions--intersected with the Seven Years' War, British South Seas expansion, and growing American scientific prominence.

John C. Mather & John BosloughThe Very First LightIn Association with Amazon.com
The Very First Light: The True Inside Story of the Scientific Journey Back to the Dawn of the Universe – Revised and Updated Edition
Perseus, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-465-00529-1, Paperback $17.95

This book recounts the incredible story of the COBE project, detailing the impressive scientific progress it made, as well as the compelling human story behind the science. Co-author Dr. John C. Mather won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his work on COBE and this book details his personal experiences with this groundbreaking project. It is a gripping story and a candid peek into the world fo the big money, big egos, tense politics, and cutting-edge technology that brought forth one of the most significant discoveries in history.

Christopher HerbertIn Association with Amazon.com
Victorian Relativity: Radical Thought and Scientific Discovery
The University of Chicago Press, 2001, ISBN: 0-226-32732-9/0-226-32733-7, $43/$16

One of the articles of faith of twentieth-century intellectual history is that the theory of relativity in physics sprang in its essentials from the unaided genius of Albert Einstein; another is that scientific relativity is unconnected to ethical, cultural, or epistemological relativisms. Victorian Relativity challenges these assumptions, unearthing a forgotten tradition of avant-garde speculation that took as its guiding principle "the negation of the absolute" and set itself under the militant banner of "relativity." Christopher Herbert shows that the idea of relativity produced revolutionary changes in one field after another in the nineteenth century, surveying a long line of thinkers including Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin, Alexander Bain, W. K. Clifford, W. S. Jevons, Karl Pearson, James Frazer, and Einstein himself.

Caroline Collins Petersen and John C. BrandtIn Association with Amazon.com
Visions of the Cosmos
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-818982, $40

From the Preface—"Visions of the Cosmos is a multi-wave snapshot album that shows how the universe looks...Each image has something to say and we invite you to ponder what you see, because the visions that the cosmos inspire are an important part of your appreciation of it. In chapters 1 and 2 we present a general introduction to the science and tools of astronomy. From there, we move out through the solar system in chapter 3, visiting some well-known landmarks along the way. Beyond the solar system lie the stars, and chapter 4 concentrates largely on the process of star birth and star death. Chapter 5 deals with galaxies, while chapter 6 discusses cosmic change the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to the present. We end our tale at chapter 7 with a brief look at the tools future astronomers will use to study the cosmos."

J. Michael T. ThompsonIn Association with Amazon.com
Visions of the Future: Physics and Electronics
Cambridge University Press, September 2001, ISBN: 0-521-80538-4, $24.95 (paper)

Leading young scientists describe their research and give their visions of the future, the contributions are derived from papers published in a special Millennium Issue of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions (the world's longest running scientific journal). Topics include: quantum physics and its relation to relativity theory and human consciousness; electronics for the future; exotic quantum computing and data storage; telecommunications and the Internet. Two companion books cover Astronomy and Earth Science, and Chemistry and Life Science.

Leslie Sage & Gail AschenbrennerA Visitor's Guide to the Kitt Peak ObservatoriesIn Association with Amazon.com
A Visitor's Guide to the Kitt Peak Observatories
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-00652-X, $15 (paperback)

This guide provides a comprehensive tour of the famous Kitt Peak telescopes and an introduction to the important research accomplished with them. For more than 45 years, astronomers have used the telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatories (KPNO) to make many remarkable discoveries about the Universe. KPNO supports the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth for nighttime optical and infrared astronomy and daytime study of the sun. It is currently the most visited astronomical observatory site in the world, including over 50,000 visitors a year from all 50 states and over 51 countries. With over twenty optical and radio telescopes, the site reveals to visitors modern astronomy's great diversity.

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Milton D. Heifetz & Wil TirionA Walk Through the HeavensIn Association with Amazon.com
A Walk Through the Heavens, 3/e
Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN: 0-521-54415-7, $12 (paperback)

A Walk through the Heavens is an easy-to-use guide to the constellations of the northern hemisphere. By following the unique simplified maps, readers will be able to easily find and identify the constellations and the stars within them. Ancient myths and legends of the sky are retold, adding to the mystery of the stars. Written for the complete beginner, this practical guide introduces the patterns of the starry skies.  No equipment is needed, apart from normal sight and clear skies.

Milton D. Heifetz and Wil TirionA Walk Through the Southern SkyIn Association with Amazon.com
A Walk Through the Southern Sky: A Guide to Stars and Constellations and Their Legends, 2nd ed
Cambridge University Press, 2007, ISBN: 0-521-68945-7 paperback $22, e-book $18.

What star is that? Where is the Southern Cross? Who was Orion? Answering these questions and many more, this book will become an essential traveling companion for amateur astronomers heading abroad. Its unique simplified maps make it easy to find the constellations in the southern hemisphere skies, and the stars within them. Clear instructions guide the user on how to gauge sizes and distances, and move easily between constellations. This new edition has been updated with additional mythology information, and a list of the planet positions up to 2016. Beautifully illustrated, this is an ideal introduction to unfamiliar stars.

Donald E. OsterbrockWalter BaadeIn Association with Amazon.com
Walter Baade: A Life in Astrophysics
Princeton University Press, November 2001, ISBN: 0-691-04936-X, $29.95

From the Preface: Walter Baade was the great observational astronomer of the middle years of the 20th century. Edwin Hubble was much better known to the general public, probably deservedly so, for his discovery of the expansion of the universe and his confirmation of the fact that our Galaxy is but one of myriads of roughly similar star systems, spread through space as far as we can "see" with our largest telescopes. Baade, much more voluble with other astronomers but much more publicity-shy with reporters, writers, and broadcasters, "discovered" the two stellar populations which turned out to be young stars and old, and thus opened up the fields of stellar evolution, star formation, and the evolution of galaxies which have contributed so much of our present knowledge of the universe.

Lisa RandallWarped PassagesIn Association with Amazon.com
Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions
Ecco/HarperCollins, 2005, ISBN: 0-06-053108-8, $27.95

Do we inhabit a three dimensional universe floating in a four dimensional space? What if the extra dimensions required by string theory were not curled up and unobservably small, but unfurled and vast, extending forever? Could an invisible universe only a tiny fraction of an inch apart in another dimension explain phenomena that we see today in our world? When Lisa Randall and Raman Sundrum proposed these ideas in 1999, while still in their mid-thirties, they shocked the worlds of cosmology and physics. The concepts were dramatic and surprising, yet plausible and appeared to solve several key mysteries of elementary particle physics. Their ideas unlocked a new era of science. Warped Passages is a book about extra dimensions. It is in part the story of how Randall, while searching for answers to particle physics puzzles, found herself in extra-dimensional worlds. It is also the story of particle physics and string theory in the last century, and how they have developed out of Einstein’s and other’s ideas.

Watermelon "Moon and Stars"
Watermelon "Moon and Stars"
Shepherd’s Garden Seeds (www.shepherdseeds.com), #G1865, $2.25 Packet

Originally from the Volga region of Russia, this big, 25-lb., dark green heirloom melon is covered with yellow moons on a field of tiny yellow stars, and the foliage is full of stars, too. Reported to have that old-fashioned sweet flavor and juicy reddish pink flesh. Best for long, hot summer areas. HEIR, 15, 100 days. We haven't actually grown this in San Francisco, a climate known for more for fog and cool breezes in the summer.

Robert Bruce KelseyIn Association with Amazon.com
Welcome to the Moon: Twelve Lunar Expeditions for Small Telescopes
Robert Bruce Kelsey, 1997, ISBN: 0-87961-245-2, $11.95 (paper)

Designed for home-based, small telescopes, the twelve lunar features visible in the evenings as the moon waxes to full are illustrated with drawings made from the author’s 60 mm, 80 mm, and 4.25" telescopes. Kelsey builds observations skills gradually, uses themes (such as following in the footsteps of the Apollo landing sites) and includes eyepiece illustrations. A special chapter also teaches how to use a small telescope to find distant objects effectively.

Michael D. GordinA Well-Ordered ThingIn Association with Amazon.com
A Well-Ordered Thing: Dmitrii Mendeleev and the Shadow of the Periodic Table
Basic Books, 2004, ISBN: 0-465-02775-X, $30

Dmitrii Mendeleev: It's a name usually recognized, but only as the disheveled scientist pictured in our high school chemistry textbook, the creator of the periodic table of elements. Until now little has been known about the man, but A Well-Ordered Thing draws a portrait of this chemist in three full dimensions. Historian Michael Gordin also details Mendeleev's complex relationship with the Russian Empire that was his home. From his attack on Spiritualism to his humiliation at the hands of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences, from his near-mythical hot-air balloon trip to his failed voyage to the Arctic, this is the story of an extraordinary man deeply invested in the good of his country. And the ideals that shaped his work in politics and culture were the same ones that led a young chemistry professor to start putting elements in order.

Mendeleev was a loyal subject of the Tsar, but he was also a maverick who thought that only an outsider could perfect a modern Russia. A Well-Ordered Thing is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Imperial Russia--and into the life of one of its most notorious minds.

Gregory N. DerryIn Association with Amazon.com
What Science Is and How It Works
Princeton University Press, 2002, ISBN: 0-691-09550-7, $18.95 (paperback)

How does a scientist go about solving problems? How do scientific discoveries happen? Why are cold fusion and parapsychology different from mainstream science? What is a scientific worldview? In this wide-ranging book, Derry talks about these and other questions as he introduces the process of scientific thinking. From the discovery of X rays and semiconductors to the argument for continental drift to the invention of the smallpox vaccine, scientific work has proceeded through honest observation, critical reasoning, and sometimes just plain luck.

Norman Sperling, with a Foreword by David Levy
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell YouIn Association with Amazon.com
Everything in the Universe (www.everythingintheuniv.com), 2003, ISBN: 0-913399-04-3, $24.95

A unique supplement to astronomy textbooks. In the author's words: It points out what astronomy doesn't know, usually omitted by overly-positive texts. For example, why does matter clump in the sizes we see? It flags out-dated paradigms. For example, if your book classifies nebulae as "emission, absorption and reflection" instead of "pre-stellar post-stellar", it's not up-to-date. Are your meteorites still "stony, iron, and stony-iron"? It clarifies astronomy's confusing terminology, especially its oxymorons. For example, "radio-quiet quasi-stellar radio sources." It presents perspectives that most texts leave out: tests that astrology flunks; how Italian salad dressing illustrates differentiation. It provides supplemental information to help students: nature makes multiple stars pair-off; spaceflight as a major means of gathering data. It suggests fresh term-paper topics for students to research and is laced with boners committed by the least-attentive students.

Stephen WebbWhere is Everybody?In Association with Amazon.com
Where is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problems of Extraterrestrial Life
Copernicus Books, 2002, ISBN: 0-387-95501-1, $27.50

During a Los Alamos lunchtime conversation that took place more than 50 years ago, four world-class scientists agreed, given the size and age of the Universe, that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations simply had to exist. The sheer numbers demanded it. But one of the four, the renowned physicist and back-of-the-envelope calculator Enrico Fermi, asked the telling question: If the extraterrestrial life proposition is true, he wondered, "Where IS everybody?"

In this lively and thought-provoking book, Stephen Webb presents a detailed discussion of the 50 most cogent and intriguing answers to Fermi's famous question, divided into three distinct groups:

The proposed solutions run the gamut from the crackpot to the highly serious, but all deserve our consideration.

Nicholas BakalarWhere the Germs AreIn Association with Amazon.com
Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari
Wiley, 2003, ISBN: 0-471-15589-6, $24.95

"'Dirty! Don't touch! Yuck! Feh! You don't know where it's been!' These admonitions ring in our ears — for some of us our earliest memories of parental exhortation, for others the indelible mark of our deepest fears. Germs, as we know, are everywhere, lying in wait to attack the inadequately vigilant or insufficiently armed, gangs of serial killers on a random search for their next victim. We do not mock. Well, maybe we mock a little, but in fact, mother (or father) does sometimes know best — some germs can be very nasty invaders indeed. Yet we live in a world of microbes — some dreadful, some harmless, some essential to our continued life on earth. Knowing which to avoid, which to eliminate, and which just to live happily with can turn fearful warnings into reasoned discourse, and trembling terror into intelligent action." — From the Preface

Wooden Books: A New Series of Small Books About Big Ideas

Robin Heath
Sun, Moon & Earth
Walker & Company, 2001, ISBN: 0-8027-1381-5, $10

Miranda Lunda
Sacred Geometry
Walker & Company, 2001, ISBN: 0-8027-1382-3, $10

Matthew Watkins
Useful Mathematical & Physical Formulae
Walker & Company, 2001, ISBN: 0-8027-1380-7, $10

Sun, Moon & EarthSacred GeometryUseful Formulae

Originally published in the UK, Wooden Books is a series of concise, accessible introductions to timeless sciences and vanishing arts, recreating the essence of medieval texts through elegant designs and writing. Sun, Moon & Earth reveals the poetic cosmology that lies within the cycles of the Sun and Moon as seen from the Earth: solstices and equinoxes, the difference between lunar and solar years, the Saros eclipse cycle, and the Earth’s wobble. Sacred Geometry is an introductory guide to traditional design principles, as seen in the designs of church windows, mosque decorations, Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramid. Useful Mathematical & Physical Formulae concisely and elegantly presents the basic formulae of mathematics and physics, detailing geometry and trigonometry, as well as formulae governing gravity, energy, sound, and light.

Charles FrankelWorlds on FireIn Association with Amazon.com
Worlds on Fire: Volcanoes on the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Venus and Io
Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN: 0-521-80393-4, $40

Anyone who has ever thought that volcanoes and volcanism were restricted to the planet Earth should open any page of this book to discover that some of the most spectacular explosions in the Solar System are not occurring close to home. Charles Frankel provides a detailed tour that describes such volcanic landmarks as the Moon's Aristarchus plateau, Mars' tallest volcano Olympus Mons, the double-cratered Sapas Mons on Venus, and the churning lava lake of Io's Pele caldera. Illustrated with the most recent imagery from spacecraft, his volume introduces the reader to the wonders and excitement of space exploration.

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Fred SchaafA Year of the StarsIn Association with Amazon.com
A Year of the Stars: A Month-by-Month Journey of Skywatching
Prometheus Books, 2003, ISBN: 1591020921, $28

According to Schaaf, the secret to learning astronomy is to begin with one night and one part of the sky or one constellation and then let the passing nights add to your framework of knowledge and sights. To that end, after a introductory primer covering the basics of astronomy, the rest of the book uses a month-by-month organization, highlighting the constellations, stars, meteor showers, and other special phenomena visible each month, with many fascinating insights into the science, history, and lore of various celestial objects. Schaaf's many years of writing for Sky & Telescope, the Old Farmer's Almanac, Mother Earth News, and other publications make him at leading expert in the monthly format of astronomy sights and the perfect guide through the year of the stars.

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Z

Clifford PickoverThe Zen of Magic Squares, Circles, and StarsIn Association with Amazon.com
The Zen of Magic Squares, Circles, and Stars: An Exhibition of Surprising Structures Across Dimensions
Princeton University Press, 2002, ISBN: 0691070415, $20.97

In this comprehensive and exciting encyclopedia of magic squares, Clifford Pickover offers a colorful history of these and similar structures, their construction, and classification along with a outstanding variety of newly discovered objects ranging from ornate inlaid magic cubes to hypercubes. Pickover surveys the importance of magic squares to Chinese emperors, Babylonian astrologer-priests, prehistoric cave people in France, and the ancient Mayans of the Yucatan, all of whom were convinced these objects held the secret of the universe.

Twenty-first century mathematicians study immense magic squares that defy ordinary human contemplation and visualization. Pickover’s book is packed with illustrated examples of tesseracts, circles, spheres and stars that convey the age-old devotion of the math-minded to the Zenlike quest. Included are some examples from the author’s own experiments with patterns.

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