The Swerve: how the world became modern

From Ellen Druda
Author:  Stephen  Greenblatt
The Swerve: how the world became modern ( sound recording CD)
This book traces the Roman work by Lucretius, entitled “De Rerum Natura”, or “On the Nature of Things.” The original work was lost, found, destroyed, and rediscovered throughout history, and Greenblatt focuses on the book lover who ultimately saved it from oblivion. On the way we learn about the history of civilization and how we have dealt with radical ideas. Even more startling than the ignorance and brutality that can befall those who refuse to conform were the surprising insights within “On the Nature of Things,” which talks about the true physical structure of our world – atoms and their apparent randomness.

A fly for the prosecution : how insect evidence helps solve crimes

From Andrea Kalinowski
author: Goff, M. Lee
A fly for the prosecution : how insect evidence helps solve crimes
A fly for the prosecution : how insect evidence helps solve crimes by M. Lee Goff was a book right up my alley.  The title, a play on Witness for the Prosecution, drew me in and captured my full attention.  This book explores the cycle of life and death in the bug kingdom and how it can assist forensic scientists, and therefore the police, in determining time of death.  Flies come to a body in an orderly sequence that has been documented in an empirical manner.  They are irrefutable witnesses to the crimes man commits against man.  The evidence offered by the flies cannot be refuted successfully and is therefore invaluable to law enforcement.  A quick and enjoyable read

The Greatest Show on Earth

From Christian Fogarazzo
author: Dawkins, Richard
The Greatest Show on Earth
The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins, is one of many written by him about the Theory of Evolution.  Dawkins is a strong advocate for Darwin’s Theory and he offers an enormous amount of scientific evidence to support the theory.  Dawkins is an exceptional writer who is capable of explaining difficult scientific concepts to the average layperson.  He clearly identifies and clarifies common misconceptions about evolution.  His mastery of the multiple disciplines of science is also truly amazing.  His frustration with individuals who disagree with his position is palpable and is regularly demonstrated with his sarcastic and at times, condescending tone.  This book is not a quick read, but if you are interested in this topic and wish to learn more about evolution, I suggest reading this well written book.

Once bitten, twice dead

From Andrea Kalinowski
author: D’Arc, Bianca
Once bitten, twice dead
Zombies, zombies everywhere just in time for Halloween.  The first Bianca D’Arc novel to introduce the reader to this newly revived character was “Once bitten, twice dead” followed by “Half past dead” which contains two novellas, one of which is Bianca D’Arc’s “Simon says”. The latest installment of zombies is contained within “The Beast within” and the novella is entitled “Smoke on the water”. The military wanted to make their soldiers indestructible but something went horribly wrong and they became zombies. Some of the scientists, those for whom the term “evil genius” was coined, are interested in using the zombies for personal gain. One of the scientists uses the zombies to enact revenge against her adulterous husband and his new love interest.  The books are fun and a little hair-raising.  The battle between good and evil is featured and
thankfully, for humankind anyway, the zombies and their evil creators are temporarily halted but the next installment of the battle is due soon inthe book “A Darker shade of dead”. Will evil triumph over good, avarice over sacrifice? Stay tuned …

Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void

From Ellen Druda
author: Roach, Mary
Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void
This book was funny. Each chapter took a look at the different ways NASA prepared the astronauts to handle certain personal functions in space: sleeping, going to the bathroom, eating, air sickness, claustrophobia, etc., and how successful they were.  Along the way we learn about the history of the space program both here and in the Soviet Union, some interesting trivia, and the author’s personal experiences researching the book.  Roach focuses on the absurd and the comic in the very serious world of space travel, and the results are enlightening and entertaining.

Art and Physics

From Ellen Druda:

Art & Physics, by Leonard Shlain

I heard about the author after his recent death on a BoingBoing blog post, and decided to give him a try.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Shlain spends most of the book supporting his thesis about artists expressing ideas about light, space, and time years before the physicists express the same ideas using science and math.  He takes us from the Greeks and Romans up through the 20th century, carefully paralleling the movements in painting and sculpture with the discoveries of Newton, Einstein, and beyond.  Because the author was so well versed in art, he was able to explain some of the more intangible ideas in physics in terms that were a bit easier to picture.  What does the world look like when you travel at the speed of light?  Now I know.

What I loved about this book was the way it stretched my mind trying to grasp the connections, and the theories about the collective mind Shlain puts forth at the end of the book.  A brave and brilliant work.

The Brain, human and otherwise

I’m in the middle of  Human: the science behind what makes us unique, by Michael Gazzaniga.  What I like most about it are the insights into how the things we think are so human are really just reflexes that have evolved from our chimp ancestors.  Right now he’s discussing morality.  There’s more later, but so far it’s all chemistry and biology.  When I couple these ideas with my work of weeding the religion collection at the library it makes an interesting contrast in my (human) mind.  Lots to think about, and I can’t wait to get deeper into the book.