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Math and Science - Related Books You Can Read, page 9
Recommended by Mr. Brandenburg

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1. Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers
By Jan Gullberg
(Norton, 1120 pp, 1996)
GFBR**** HS-Adult
"If a family is to have only one mathematics book on the reference shelf, then this is the one... " Not really something you would read from cover to cover, but more like an encyclopedia. Very well written, and has some quirky little drawings.

2. Necessary Numbers
By Mary Blocksma, Lewis Kahn
(Portable Press, 258 pp, 2002)
GFBR*** Teen-Adult
"Do numbers leave you feeling -- well, numb? This compendium of fascinating data will bring figures to life while answering lots of questions you've wondered about. Discover which is higher in sodium: fast food french fries, the hamburger, or cherry pie; why it's Route 66, not Route 67; why you can't mail things second class; what the four extra digits on your zip code stand for; and much more. "


If you cannot find any of the other 140 + books I recommended, then try looking up these names in the "author" category. If you find a title on math or science by any one of them, but it's not on the list, then bring it to class and see if Mr. B will approve it.
1. Isaac Asimov (not the science fiction!)
2. Calvin C. Clawson
3. Keith Devlin
4. George Gamow
5. Martin Gardner
6. James Gleick
7. Douglas Hofstadter
8. Lancelot Hogben
9. Eli Maor
10. Theoni Pappas
11. Ivars Peterson
12. Clifford Pickover
13. Simon Singh
14. Ian Stewart
15. Norbert Wiener


1. Ancient Inventions
By Peter James and Nick Thorpe
(Ballantine, 672 pp, 1994)
GFBR**** General audience
"From Greek steam engines to Roman fire engines, Aztec chewing gum to Etruscan false teeth, earthquake detectors in China to electric batteries in Iraq... Stone age brain surgery to Middle Age hand grenades ... the Pharaoh's canals to the Cretans' lavatories... here's a lively and fascinating look at the genuine wonders of the past."

2. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
By Carl Sagan
(Random House, 452 pp, 1999)
GFBR**** General audience

3. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
By Eric Schlosser
(Harper-Collins, 400 pp, 2002)
GFBR***** General audience
"In this fascinating sociocultural report, Schlosser digs into the deeper meaning of Burger King, Auggie's, The Chicken Shack, Jack-in-the-Box, Little Caesar's and myriad other examples of fast food in America. Frequently using McDonald's as a template, Schlosser, an Atlantic Monthly correspondent, explains how the development of fast-food restaurants has led to the standardization of American culture, widespread obesity, urban sprawl and more. In a perky, reportorial voice, Adamson tells of the history, economics, day-to-day dealings and broad and often negative cultural implications of franchised burger joints and pizza factories, delivering impressive snippets of information (e.g., two-thirds of America's fast-food restaurant employees are teenagers; Willard Scott posed as the first Ronald McDonald until higher-ups decided Scott was too round to represent a healthy restaurant like McDonald's). According to Schlosser, most visits to fast-food restaurants are the culinary equivalent of 'impulse buys,' i.e., someone is driving by and pulls over for a Big Mac. But anyone listening to this audiobook on a car trip and realizing that the Chicken McNugget turned 'a bird that once had to be carved at a table' into 'a manufactured, value-added product' will think twice about stopping for a snack at the highway rest stop."

4. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
By Jared Diamond
(Norton, 480 pp, 1997)
GFBR***** HS-Adult
Ground-breaking work. Shows how local availability of plants and animals that could or could not be domesticated strongly influenced the course of human societies all over the world, and why, around 1500, it was Europeans with guns and deadly diseases who invaded and nearly wiped out the inhabitants of the Americas, rather than the other way around.

5. The Hidden Forest: The Biography of an Ecosystem
By Jon R. Luoma
(Holt, 288 pp, 1999)
General audience
This book is a study of a very old, untouched forest. "The forest--the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon--is in fact eminently visible, consisting of huge, old-growth conifers. But the researchers who have studied it closely since 1948 'have discovered a host of species previously unknown to science, and interactions in the forest ecosystem that no one previously imagined,' Luoma writes, and that is the hidden forest. The studies, here and elsewhere, have dealt with the effects of the great diversity of materials that fall to the ground from the forest canopy; of the forest's insect life; of rotting logs; of flood, fire and clear-cutting; of volcanic eruption. Luoma, a contributing editor to Audubon magazine, thinks the work may lead to 'a new sort of ecoforestry' that 'could allow a nation to protect wild forests and have some lumber too.'"

6. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
By Matt Ridley
(Penguin, 1995)
General audience
"A former editor of The Economist asks how sexual selection has molded human nature. The title here alludes to a scene in Lewis Carroll in which Alice and the Red Queen run as fast as possible to remain in the same place. Ridley looks first at current thinking on why sexual reproduction exists at all, when many organisms manage quite well without it. The answer has to do with disease: a species must rebuild its defenses from one generation to the next merely to keep from falling behind in the race against opportunistic viruses. Sex, by allowing a new shuffle of the genetic material with each generation, improves the chance of survival. But the predators also improve with each generation, so the race (vide Lewis Carroll) is never over. Turning to animals, Ridley describes mating patterns with an eye as to whether mates are selected for health and vigor, or for esthetics. He concludes that both play a role: neither sickly fashion-plates nor healthy wallflowers will pass on their genes as often as those who combine both beauty and health. Given the contrast between a brief sexual act and long years of child- rearing, aggressive males will tend to have more children, while nurturing women will have healthier ones. Those who select mates with these qualities will transmit them to ensuing generations, along with other qualities affecting offspring survival. Ridley contends--not a popular thesis in recent decades--that such genetic programming is far more central to human nature than social conditioning. Extensively researched, clearly written: one of the best introductions to its fascinating and controversial subject."

7. Robots: Bringing Intelligent Machines to Life?
By Ruth Aylett
(Barron's, 144 pp, 2002)
"Although robots are inherently mechanical things, Aylett explains that researchers find themselves drawing on nature's own biomechanical innovations to change the way robots move, sense their environments, think, learn, and make decisions. She explains this through illustrated two-page spreads, each devoted to a robotics topic-such as smelling the world or determining locations. She also discusses obstacles confronting the robotics community, including the need for better energy sources and the fears that robots will supercede people."

8. The Secret Garden: Dawn to Dusk in the Astonishing Hidden World of the Garden
By David Bodanis
(Simon & Schuster, 187 pp, 1992)
GFBR***** General audience
The author "guides us through the terrain of the familiar yet unseen world around us and brilliantly transforms it. Written with the same witty style that The Washington Post called 'marvelously captivating' and illustrated throughout with state-of-the-art microphotographs, The Secret Garden is an astonishing book that will fascinate and delight anyone who has ever set foot in a garden."

9. The Secret House: Twenty-Four Hours in the Strange and Unexpected World in Which We Spend Our Nights and Days
By David Bodanis
(Simon & Schuster, 224 pp, 1986)
GFBR***** General audience
A fascinating look at how a house creaks and breathes, the lives of the dust mites that eat the skin that flakes off your body, and other things you never, ever thought about, inside your house or apartment.

10. Sensory Exotica: A World Beyond Human Experience
By Howard C. Hughes
(MIT Press, 344 pp, 1999)
General audience
"Can a dog sense in advance that its owner is about to have an epileptic seizure? A dog described in a recent news report does that, evidently by detecting certain chemicals associated with the onset of a seizure. It is an example of a sensory capability beyond the human range. Many animals can sense things that people are unaware of or sense weakly. Such animals are the subject of the story recounted by Hughes, who is a professor of psychology at Dartmouth College. He describes sonar in bats and dolphins, biological compasses (based on the sun or stars or geomagnetism) in birds and insects, electricity sensing in fish, and pheromones (chemical signals) in insects and apparently in people. And he takes pains to pin down the mechanism of the sensory capability in each case. 'We don't yet have all the answers,' he says, 'but at least we are learning how to ask the right questions.'"

11. The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-Line Pioneers
By Tom Standage
(Walker, 227 pp, 1998)
General audience
"Imagine an almost instantaneous communication system that would allow people and governments all over the world to send and receive messages about politics, war, illness, and family events. The government has tried and failed to control it, and its revolutionary nature is trumpeted loudly by its backers. The Internet? Nope, the humble telegraph fit this bill way back in the 1800s. The parallels between the now-ubiquitous Internet and the telegraph are amazing, offering insight into the ways new technologies can change the very fabric of society within a single generation. In The Victorian Internet, Tom Standage examines the history of the telegraph, beginning with a horrifically funny story of a mile-long line of monks holding a wire and getting simultaneous shocks in the interest of investigating electricity, and ending with the advent of the telephone. All the early 'online' pioneers are here: Samuel Morse, Thomas Edison, and a seemingly endless parade of code-makers, entrepreneurs, and spies who helped ensure the success of this communications revolution. Fans of Longitude will enjoy another story of the human side of dramatic technological developments, complete with personal rivalry, vicious competition, and agonizing failures."

[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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