22 December 2011

Last Minute Gifts For That Science Geek You Know

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Approaching the Dry Valley's of Antarctica. Dan's photo. The HD video in the BBC Series Frozen Planet is the closest you can get to this beautiful place without going there.

My wife tells me that I should have written this post three days ago, because that is Christmas “last-minute” in her mind. Being a guy, last-minute is closing time on Christmas Eve, so here we go with a few gift ideas for someone who likes to learn new things! Fair warning up front, though, these ideas are going to be a bit lame for your Uncle Ralph who has a library of every conspiracy theory ever written on “chem-trails”, HAARP, or any books by Lord Monckton and Ian Plimer!

So with the old caveat emptor out-of-the-way…


Why E=MC Square, by UK rock star astrophysicist Brian Cox, is a must read for anyone who likes cosmology, and some deep thinking about the Universe.

Dr. Richard Alley’s Two Mile Time Machine is one of the best books on how we know what we know about our past climate. The implications of this past, on our future, is perhaps the most important scientific question of the young century.

The late Dr. Stephen Schneider’s Science As A Contact Sport, is a fascinating read about how those who do research in the field of climate science have been attacked by those who fear the implications of their research. Schneider died suddenly last year and was an instrumental member of  the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Schneider’s book does it’s part of dispelling the number one scientific myth in America. That being that scientists are divided and unsure of whether for not greenhouse gases are warming the planet. If anyone tells you that, they have not read any real science lately. Dr. Naomi Oreskes has a book out that explains just how this myth developed and who was behind it. Another good read.


Many in the UK have already seen the BBC’s fabulous Frozen Planet series with Sir David Attenborough. It will be airing in America, but they will likely replace the great Attenborough with someone who speaks “‘Merican”. Lord knows, you can’t ask people in the USA to listen to someone who speaks with an accent! (I am climbing back down off my soap box now)

You can order the full program (with Attenborough) from the BBC shop, but beware that it will likely be set for the European region DVD players. I find it ridiculous that you buy a DVD player only to find that it will only play DVD’s from North America! You can buy all region players or find the code to set your machine to play DVD’s from any region.

I freely emit that I did the latter, so come and get me Sony!


If this video of Brian Cox from a previous post kindles your interest in learning more about the physics of the very small/large, then the Teaching Company has some superb lectures.

Alex Filippenko’s Introduction To Astronomy is nothing short of fantastic but wait until it is on sale and get it for 70% off!

Particle Physics for Non-Physicists by Steven Pollock is guaranteed to keep any science geek smiling as well.


Scientific truth received its present just in time. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has been subject to a storm of criticism over alleged censorship of a Rice University Oceanographer’s paper on sea level rise. The Houston Chronicle is reporting that scientific method won out over  censorship this week.