2 January 2011

Let’s Hope 2011 is a Brighter Year for Science than 2010 Turned Out To Be

Posted by Dan Satterfield

I write this blog because the natural world is  amazing and I want to share what I find out with others. My background is in atmospheric science but I try to post frequently on any aspect of science that meets my definition of wild.

It’s sad that so many people get caught up in these end of world myths like 2012. Even more are seduced by such laughable myths like astrology or magic bracelets. The History Channel’s  programs on the Mayan calendar (silliness) and even Nostradamus (One reason I removed that network from my program guide)  perpetuate these myths.

I usually do a post about some great popular science books in December, but there was a lot of weather going on,  so  I decided to wait. There have been a treasure trove of really fabulous books in the last couple of years. They range from astronomy to quantum physics, and to climate science.

So here’s a selection of those I’ve read and really enjoyed. If they are listed here, they get my 5 star recommendation. These books require no understanding of advanced maths, but they do require you to use your imagination. They will leave you with an understanding of Nature herself that very few have. Not because it’s hard but because the vast majority of people lack the curiosity, or the patience to think hard about something.

Be different.

First, is a book that’s not new. It’s IMHO the greatest book about science in the last 30 years. It’s a MUST read and I’ve spoken of it frequently here.

The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan

If you ever read one book on science, read this one.

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Grand Design is among the best books on cosmology this year, but there are others even better.

Present At The Creation by Amir Aczel relates the quantum world to the beginning of the Universe. If I had to choose the best poplar science book of 2010, this is it. Cosmology and quantum physics are rapidly merging it seems into one grand search for the origins of everything.

Until recently, there have been few really great popular science books on the strange world of quantum physics.

No more. The last two years have yielded some incredibly well written texts.

Besides Aczel’s book, the books below are all 5 star.

Frank Close has written NEUTRINO. Also a great read.

There are a couple of books on climate science. They are more about the battle against political ideologues who find scientific results inconsistent with deeply held political and religious beliefs.

The late Stephen Schneider’s Science As A Contact Sport- The battle to save Earth’s climate is tops.

Naomi Oreskes has written Merchants of Doubt. It’s about a handful of scientists who have spent years manufacturing doubt about tobacco smoke, the ozone hole and now climate change. It’s a stunning indictment of how these few created public doubt about these issues in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus.

Last, but not least, are two books by the best ambassadors for science in the first decade of the 21st century. Strangely, each are well known in their respective countries but almost unheard of in the other; Neil de Grasse Tyson and Brian Cox. We science bloggers must do more to change that!

During my chat with Neil deGrasse Tyson in December, he said something that really made me think. “Since when did it become popular to want our leaders to be just like us…I want my leaders to be smarter than me.”

We live in an age where science is under attack. Climate scientists get death threats, and some in congress are so stunningly illiterate of even basic science that it’s hard to comprehend. A good example is below.

These books are sorely needed.

Let’s hope 2011 is a brighter year for science than 2010 turned out to be.