Synopses & Reviews
Jennifer Kahn's "Stripped for Parts" was selected as the lead story of this year's Best American Science Writing
because, as Dava Sobel, best-selling author of Longitude
and Galileo's Daughter
, reveals, "it begins with one of the most arresting openings I have ever read." In "Columbia's Last Flight," William Langewiesche recounts the February 1, 2003, space shuttle tragedy, along with the investigation into the nationwide complacency that brought the ship down. K. C. Cole's "Fun with Physics" is a profile of astrophysicist Janet Conrad that blends her personal life with professional activity. In "Desperate Measures," the doctor and writer Atul Gawande profiles the surgeon Francis Daniels Moore, whose experiments in the 1940s and '50s pushed medicine harder and farther than almost anyone had contemplated. Also included is a poem by the legendary John Updike, "Mars as Bright as Venus." The collection ends with Diane Ackerman's "ebullient" essay "We Are All a Part of Nature."
Together these twenty-three articles on a wide range of today's most current topics in science -- from biology, physics, biotechnology, and astronomy, to anthropology, genetics, evolutionary theory, and cognition‚ represent the full spectrum of scientific writing from America's most prominent science authors, proving once again that "good science writing is evidently plentiful" (Scientific American).
"In this collection of 22 essays and one poem (by John Updike), accomplished essayists writing on subjects across the spectrum of science inform readers without talking down to them or falling into scientific jargon. Sobel (Longitude, Galileo's Daughter) canvassed periodicals as far afield as Mother Jones and Parade, deftly juggling the length, subject and tone of her choices, which include long, serious pieces, like William Langewiesche's account of the disastrous breakdown in decision making within NASA that led to the Columbia tragedy and Susan Milius's short, light-handed description of 'the unsung triumphs of creativity' in scientific experiments, such as figuring out how to leash a rattlesnake or frustrate lovelorn dragonflies. Kevin Patterson describes the spread of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis resulting from complacency within the medical profession. K.C. Cole tells of physicist Janet Conrad's search for the elusive 'sterile neutrino' using a giant vat of baby oil, and Michael Pollan recounts food scientists' efforts to save vanishing species of turkeys, oysters and corn to preserve genetic diversity as well as flavors that were common in meals long ago. One might argue that space and cosmology are overrepresented. But fans of good science writing, and of good writing of any kind, will find much enjoyment in this collection. (Sept. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From the bestselling author of "Longitude" and "Galileo's Daughter" comes thefifth in an annual series dedicated to collecting the best science writing ofthe year from the most prominent thinkers on current topics in science today.288 pp.
About the Author
Dava Sobel is the best-selling author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter. A former New York Times science reporter, she has contributed articles to Audubon, Discover, Life, and The New Yorker. She has also been a contributing editor to Harvard Magazine, writing about scientific research and the history of science. She lives in East Hampton, New York.