Brains and Brew – a perfect combination in this city of microbrewers and techies. I am a huge fan of science writing in the vein of Stephen J. Gould, Carl Sagan and E. O. Wilson. The only drawback I’ve ever found to science books is the lack of immediacy. It takes years for a scientist to do the work, write up the results, get those results peer reviewed and then, hopefully, write about their research in an exciting and approachable popular format. And in this impatient world I want to know about the interesting research NOW!
Along comes Science on Tap. Sit down in a local pub with a beer or a cup of coffee and listen to working scientists from all over the scientific map discuss their current work. It doesn’t get much more immediate or more interesting. And it’s totally nonthreatening. Just a bunch of brainy folks chatting about an interesting topic over a few drinks at their local.
Of course, if you would rather read about the interesting discoveries or grand unified theories of everything I’ve got some suggestions.
- The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian M. Fagan
“Climate has helped shape civilization, but not by being benign.” Fagan presents, in chilling detail, the links between the rise and fall of civilizations and the world’s weather. He wants us to use the information he presents to think about the future of our civilization. He repeatedly makes the point that ultimately it doesn’t matter why the globe is warming – we are still going to have to deal with the consequences. Very readable and slightly scary.
- The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann Two math educators do what all my math teachers couldn’t. They intrigued me, delighted me and explain a fundamental math concept to me. If you have an inquiring mind then this book will start it spinning. Fibonacci numbers are everywhere. Are they the fundamental organizing principal of the universe? Lots and lot of equations, but you can skip them.
- Nature Revealed: Selected Writings, 1949-2006 by Edward O. Wilson
A sample of writings by one of the most beloved of science writers of our time. From ants and to the broadest ramifications of diminishing biodiversity, Wilson is a thinking person’s thinker. He never fails to get me interested in his ideas.
- Fear of Physics: A Guide for the Perplexed by Lawrence M. Krauss
For some reason great writers in physics aren’t as common as great biology writers. Tthat’s okay because Krauss covers the field wonderfully. Not only does he explain this dense and difficult subject with great clarity but he makes a compelling case for the usefullness of physics in our everyday lives.
- A Natural History of Time by Pascal Richet, translated by John Venerella
Humans didn’t get serious about measuring the age of the Earth until the Enlightenment, says Richet. And he uses literature, history, geology, biology,chemistry and physics to tell the story of the human quest to understand time. Written in a leisurely style and with a sense of humor. This book has one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve run across in a long time.