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Mr. Brandenburg's List of
Recommended Books on Math and Science

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Mr. Brandenburg compiled a list of math and science related books, mostly recent, for his geometry students to choose from, read, and do a report on, using recommendations from others and his own reading as well. His original list was organized alphabetically. Following is the assignment he gave to his students and also the new list organized by topic with links to

If you prefer to download the document it is available:

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"You are lucky to be alive during a real boom in good, popular math and science writing. Some of these books are very recent, which means that they may not yet have reached the shelves of public libraries.

"For each book, I have listed the title, author, publisher, the number of pages, and a copyright date, reading level, and a short review. If the review is in quotes, then I did not write the review myself but found it on one of the following sites: Daedalus Books, Hamilton Books, Mathematical Association of America (MAA), Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

"If I personally read the book, you will see the code GFBR and some asterisks, indicating my personal opinion of the book. Five asterisks (*****) is my highest rating, and one asterisk (*) is the lowest. Approximate reading levels are indicated - teen, adult, middle school ages, adult, and so on.

"Some books, especially popular ones, change publishers and go through several different editions over the years, so the publisher and date of publication of a copy that you find may not be same as the ones given here. You will be given guidelines and a rubric for your report later. For now, concentrate on finding a book that suits your interests, informing your teacher of your choice, and starting to read it. No more than four students may read the same title."

Mr. Brandenburg

[astronomy]   [bad science]   [biography: mathematicians + scientists]
[biology/life science/evolution]   [chaos theory]   [codes and code-breaking]
[computer science/robotics/game theory]   [earth science/geology]
[history of mathematics]   [how-to: mathematics]   [how-to: science]
[mathematics - general]   [novels + short stories]   [number theory]
[physical chemistry]   [physics]   [probability + statistics]   [puzzles + problems]
[reference - mathematics]   [reliable, prolific authors on science + math]   [science - general]  


1. 365 Starry Nights: An Introduction to Astronomy for Every Night of the Year
By Chet Raymo
(Prentice-Hall, 225 pp, several editions)
GFBR***** Teen-Adult
"365 Starry Nights is a unique and fascinating introduction to astronomy designed to give you a complete, clear picture of the sky every night of the year. Divided into 365 concise, illustrated essays, it focuses on the aesthetic as well as the scientific aspects of stargazing. It offers the most up-to-date information available, with hundreds of charts, drawings, and maps-that take you beyond the visible canopy of stars and constellations into the unseen realm of nebulae and galaxies. This simple yet substantial text is full of critical information and helpful hints on how to observe the stars; describe their position; calculate their age, brightness, and distance; and much more. Whether you observe the sky with a telescope or the naked eye, 365 Starry Nights makes the infinite intimate and brings the heavens within your grasp. Keep this invaluable, informative guide close at hand, and you'll find that the sky is the limit 365 nights a year."

2. The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas About the Origins of the Universe
By John D. Barrow
(Pantheon, 361 pp, 2001)
"From our modern perspective, it is easy to deride the wranglings of medieval scholars over the number of angels that could dance of the head of a pin and whether Nature abhors a vacuum. But as John Barrow reveals in this timely and important book, new discoveries in science have shown that these scholars were right to suspect that Nothing has hidden depths.It is a concept shot through with paradoxes: even innocent-looking phrases like 'Nothing is real' flip their meanings as we ponder them, like those illusions that look like a vase one moment, and opposing faces the next. Nothing is fertile, too, as Barrow shows via a stunning trick that allows every number one can think of to be built out of nothing at all. But his book is about far more than mind games. Arguably, the most important discovery of 20th-century physics is that there is no such thing as nothing: even the tightest vacuum is teeming with subatomic particles popping in and out of existence, according to the dictates of quantum theory. Now, many astronomers suspect that such 'vacuum effects' may have triggered the Big Bang itself, filling our universe with matter. Indeed, the very latest observations suggest that vacuum effects will dictate the ultimate fate of the universe. As an internationally respected cosmologist, Barrow does a fine job of explaining these new discoveries. The result is a book that is required reading for anyone who wants to understand why there will be much ado about Nothing among scientists in the years ahead."

3. Celestial Treasury: From the Music of the Spheres to the Conquest of Space
By Marc Lachieze-Rey, et al.
(Cambridge, 210 pp, 2001)
General audience
This book "is an impressive coffee-table book surveying the history of man's exploration of the stars. The informative and engaging text is wonderfully enhanced with 380 full-color illustrations as the reader is treated to a full spectrum history of astronomy from antiquity down to the present day. Along the way such questions are addressed as how philosophers and scientists approach explaining the order that governs celestial motions; how geometers and artists measure and map the skies; when and how the Earth came into being; who inhabits the heaves; and more. Celestial Treasury is especially recommended as a 'Memorial Gift' acquisition for both academic and community library astronomy and history of science collections."

4. First Light: The Search for the Edge of the Universe
By Richard Preston
(Random House, 275 pp,1987)
GFBR**** General audience
"First Light is first of all a love letter to the Palomar Observatory and to the astronomers and civilians who are using it to plumb a few of the details of our situation here in the universe. It is one of the finest accounts of scientists at work that I have read. Most writers say they want their books to read like a novel, but Preston actually delivers."

5. A Guide to the End of the World: Everything You Never Wanted to Know
By Bill McGuire
(Oxford, 224 pp, 2002)
General audience
Describes the terrible catastrophes that could put an end to the world as we know it - a volcanic blast, global warming, or an asteroid impact.

6. Newton's Clock: Chaos in the Solar System
By Ivars Peterson
(W.H. Freeman, 317 pp, 1993)
GFBR*** Advanced HS-Adult
The author examines a mystery that has fascinated and tormented astronomers and mathematicians for centuries: are the orbits of planets and other bodies stable and predictable, or are there elements affecting the dynamics of the solar system that defy calculation? It is "an uncommonly readable new history... readers will find no more inviting introduction to a subject that asks some of the biggest questions of all."

7. Rogue Asteroids and Doomsday Comets: The Search for the Million Megaton Menace That Threatens Life on Earth
By Duncan Steel, Arthur C. Clarke
(Wiley, 308 pp, 1995)
General audience
"Could a giant asteroid or comet crash into Earth and destroy life as we know it? Many astronomers who once discredited the risks are now convinced. A chilling and utterly convincing account of a cosmic menace that must not be ignored any longer."

8. Secrets of the Night Sky. The most amazing things in the universe you can see with the naked eye
By Bob Berman
(Morrow, 320 pp, 1996)
GFBR***** General audience
"You don't need expensive instruments to appreciate the beauty of the night sky, as Bob Berman exuberantly demonstrates in Secrets of the Night Sky. Berman takes you on a tour of the night sky, pointing out its highlights and its history, along with a wealth of practical tips and tricks, such as how to categorize satellites that appear overhead. Secrets of the Night Sky is not only a how-to manual for enjoying the celestial sphere but is also a painless introduction to the science of cosmology. With a flair for analogies, Berman imparts a visceral understanding of the scale of stellar objects. And in case your explorations do lead you to buy a telescope, the book's appendices contain a variety of no-nonsense advice that may save you from getting fleeced."

9. Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens
By Richard Panek
(Viking, 198 pp, 1998)
GFBR**** HS-Adult
"Journalist Richard Panek begins his historical essay on the telescope with the Hubble Deep Field. This extended exposure by space telescope is a picture that looks out of our galaxy--farther, immeasurably farther, than the human eye has seen before. It exemplifies the purpose of all telescopes: 'To address our place in the universe, literally. To size up all of space and figure out where we are in it.' How and why did this particular technology have such profound effects? Panek first considers Galileo, who 'raised his new instrument toward the night sky and understood at once that there was more to see--and more to seeing--than meets the eye.... Unlike spectacles or magnifying lenses, the optic tube offered not just a distortion of what was already there, but more. It revealed evidence that was different from what the naked eye could see, evidence that wasn't otherwise there.' Panek goes on to look at the, ahem, luminaries of observational astronomy--William Herschel, George Ellery Hale, Edwin Hubble--showing how faith in the telescope grew and our mental image of the universe expanded until 'all the assumptions safely based on observation are gone.' Panek's prose is vivid and beautiful, sustaining this (curiously) unillustrated book as it traces the astronomer's quest for light and dark, sight and belief."

10. Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril
By Timothy Ferris
(Simon & Schuster, 379 pp, 2002)
General audience
"Amateur astronomers are the heroes of this latest opus from one of the country's best-known and most prolific science writers. Ferris (Coming of Age in the Milky Way) has a special place in his heart for these nonprofessionals who gaze into space out of wonderment and end up making discoveries about comets, the moon and the planets that change our understanding of the galaxy. Ferris recounts how he, as a boy growing up in working-class Florida, was first captivated by the spectacle of the night sky. He then looks at the growing field of amateur astronomy, where new technologies have allowed neophytes to see as much of the cosmos as professionals. The book introduces readers to memorable characters like Barbara Wilson, a one-time Texas housewife who turned to astronomy after her children were grown and has since helped found the George Observatory in Houston (where a number of new asteroids have been discovered) and developed a reputation as one of the most skilled amateur observers. Ferris also takes stock of what we know today about the cosmos and writes excitedly about the discoveries yet to come. With a glossary of terms and a guide for examining the sky, this book should turn many novices on to astronomy and captivate those already fascinated by the heavens."

11. Sky Phenomena: A guide to Naked-eye Observation of the Stars
By Norman Davidson
(Lindisfarne, 206 pp, 1993)
General audience
"This book shows how the sky works - the daily trail of the sun and nightly travels of stars, the phases and placement of the moon, the mechanisms of eclipses, the vagrancies of the planets, and more. It's an owner's manual for the sky."

[astronomy]   [bad science]   [biography: mathematicians + scientists]
[biology/life science/evolution]   [chaos theory]   [codes and code-breaking]
[computer science/robotics/game theory]   [earth science/geology]
[history of mathematics]   [how-to: mathematics]   [how-to: science]
[mathematics - general]   [novels + short stories]   [number theory]
[physical chemistry]   [physics]   [probability + statistics]   [puzzles + problems]
[reference - mathematics]   [reliable, prolific authors on science + math]   [science - general]  

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