A Soupçon of Science

Don't laugh, but my original major in college was going to be either biology or chemistry. Journalism eventually won out, but I have always loved books and shows about science. On TV, I'm currently crazy about Curiosity and Through the Wormhole. These three books also fit the bill, presenting their topics in an engaging and, most importantly for me, easy-to-understand format.

How I Killed Pluto,
and Why It Had It Coming

by Mike Brown
The author, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, has always had one dream. Despite the idea that an astronomer always stares at the stars, Mike Brown spent his career searching the skies for planets. The ability to discover, and name, a planet is the pinnacle of many a scientist's career. Little did Brown know that his success would make him famous, and infamous. In 2005, he discovered a 10th planet and named it Eris. But the fact that Eris was bigger than the then-9th planet, caused a huge controversy that ended with Pluto getting a demotion. With a very wry sense of humor, Brown describes the craziness that ensues as he finds himself one of the most hated men in 3rd-grade classes across the country. (2010 - Random House)

The Disappearing Spoon
by Sam Kean
Think chemistry can't be fun? This book will prove you wrong. Science magazine writer Sam Kean divides the very familiar periodic table into new and interesting groupings, with the common theme offering a surprise each time. There's intrigue, adventure, poisonings (of course), and a few Nobel prizes along the way. Learn why the metal gallium dissolves in hot water (a.k.a. the disappearing spoon), find out just how far someone will go to win a Noble prize, and count how many of our most famous scientists were poisoned by their own studies. The book goes through 118 elements and 150 years with a fast pace and sharp wit. (2011 - Little Brown & Company)

The Poisoner's Handbook
by Deborah Blum
Welcome to the Jazz Age - a time filled with music, bullets, alcohol, and poison. And sometimes it was the alcohol doing the poisoning, intentionally or not. To determine the difference between a murder and an accident, the city of New York required new experts. Stepping into the fray was the city's first chief medical officer, Dr. Charles Norris, and the first toxicologist, Andrew Gettler. Together, the two men made a formidable team, devising new methods to determine the presence of poisons such as cyanide, carbon monoxide, and arsenic. Along the way, they also discovered why bootleg alcohol had such a high death count during Prohibition. (2011 - Penguin Books)

1 comment:

  1. Speaking as a forensic chemistry fan, The Poisoner's Handbook is awesome.