Posts tagged with ‘science’

Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre’s previous book, Bad Science, was effectively an adaptation of his Guardian columns of the same name, and although it wasn’t a straightforward compilation, it had something of the same character: a bit of a grab-bag of subjects, held together by the broad theme of bad science and bad science journalism, with a emphasis […]

Drugs Without The Hot Air by David Nutt

David Nutt became somewhat famous in the UK when he was chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs [ACMD], the statutory body which is responsible for advising the government on drug policy, and specifically on the appropriate legal classification of different drugs. He was criticised and eventually fired for being rather too vocal […]

Dazzled and Deceived by Peter Forbes

This is a book about mimicry and camouflage; principally in nature but also in human use — i.e. the military. I heard about it because it won the Warwick Prize for Writing 2011, and the subject sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s certainly pretty good, but I wasn’t blown away by […]

Scary research

Genuinely terrifying: Researchers [in Israel] looked at 1,112 rulings involving requests for parole (or for changes of incarceration terms) presented to eight judges. They heard cases daily, interrupting for a morning snack and lunch. The odds of an inmate receiving a favorable decision started at 65%, first thing in the morning, then steadily dropped until […]

Life Ascending by Nick Lane

Full title: Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. The ten ‘inventions’ are: The origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death. Lane explains how each of these work and how they evolved, at least as far as current knowledge can take us — which in some […]

A passing thought on the Nutt business

Politicians are always quick enough to invoke ‘scientific advice’ when they want to deflect responsibility for an unpopular policy decision, like the availability of different treatments on the NHS, or the mass slaughter of animals during a foot and mouth outbreak. And as long as they actually are acting on good scientific advice, fair enough. […]

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

Full title: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. I don’t need any persuading about the fact of evolution, but Dawkins is always worth reading on the subject. And Amazon had it at 50% off, so as much as I dislike hardbacks I thought I’d give it a go. Since I’ve read so […]

The Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey

The Earth: An Intimate History is big, fat (480 page) book about geology. Richard Fortey writes extremely well and it’s an impressive attempt to make a fairly dense subject exciting. I have to admit though I nearly didn’t finish it; by about halfway though I’d had about as much as I could take of schist, […]

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Your Inner Fish is a book which uses comparisons between human anatomy and the anatomy of other animals, living or extinct, to show how evolution helps explain the way we are and the way our bodies develop. Shubin is the palaeontologist who discovered Tiktaalik, one of the key fossils in understanding the fish/tetrapod transition, so […]

Links

the small science collective via Carl Zimmer, sciencey mini-zines (del.icio.us tags: science zines ) Earth, observed – The Big Picture – Boston.com ‘The Earth Observatory is a website run by NASA’s Earth Observing System Project Science Office. Bringing together imagery from many different satellites and astronaut missions, the website publishes fantastic images with highly detailed […]

A good day to collide some hadrons

So the Large Hadron Collider has finally been switched on; very much later than originally scheduled, but then it’s a staggeringly big, complicated, expensive piece of kit, so it was just as well to make sure they got it right first time. It really is pure geek porn: the sheer size of it, just as […]

Microcosm by Carl Zimmer

Full title: Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life. The bacteria Escherichia coli is best known for occasionally causing food poisoning outbreaks, but most strains of it are harmless and indeed a normal part of our gut flora. It’s also one of the most-studied life forms on earth because, like fruit flies and […]

The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker

This is the latest of Pinker’s books on various aspects of language and psychology. Specifically, it looks at what language can tell us about the ways the human mind understands the world. For example, the various tenses available to us might tell us something about the human brain’s inherent models for understanding time. Or different […]

Links

Silver Lake on Flickr – Photo Sharing! Autochromes are a kind of early colour photography. This one is particularly fabulous, but check out the whole set. (del.icio.us tags: autochromes photos ) Running for Office: It’s Like A Flamewar with a Forum Troll, but with an Eventual Winner OK, fair's fair, this is quite funny. (del.icio.us […]

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What are some mindblowing scientific concepts? | Ask Metafilter via somewhere: 'I'm looking for some scientific concepts that people who are stoned or drunk will find absolutely incredible. Something that will captivate their strange attention spans. Any thoughts?' (del.icio.us tags: science )

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CERN Podcast Science porn. (del.icio.us tags: cern physics podcasts science )

Bones, Rocks and Stars by Chris Turney

Or to give it its fuller, more informative title: Bones, Rocks and Stars: The Science of When Things Happened. It is what it sounds like: a brief (under 200 pages, including the index) overview of dating technologies for a general audience: radio isotope dating, dendrochronology, Antarctic ice cores and so on. And I enjoyed it; […]

More on the atheism/science malarkey

At Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers comments on the Jake Young article I linked to earlier. The bit of his post I would pick out is this: Once again, science is a method. It’s a general set of procedures that rest on skepticism, induction, empiricism, and naturalism. Atheism is a conclusion. We look at the universe using […]

Science ≠ Atheism

There’s a post over at Pure Pedantry about the dangers of presenting science and atheism as equivalent or too closely connected; suggesting, for example, that atheism is the natural or inevitable end result of a scientific mindset. It’s understandable that they sometimes get run together. There is a connection; it’s not a coincidence that scientists […]

How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties!

I’ve just started a book called ‘Irrationality’, about the irrational behaviour of human beings. So far, much of the general drift has been fairly familiar, but no matter how many times you get told about the untrustworthy tendencies of the human mind, the specific experiments are still startling. Three that happened to jump out at […]

The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner

This book was recommended to me when I was in the Galapagos; I finally got round to reading it and I’m really glad I did. It’s an account of Peter and Rosemary Grant’s long-term study to measure the effects of natural selection on finches in the Galapagos. When this book was published in 1994, the […]

Fucking bootiful

It takes a lot to make me have sympathy for Bernard Matthews, whose company represents everything that’s worst in industrial food production, both the way they rear the turkeys and the revolting processed foods that they make from them. But I did get a twinge of sympathy when bird flu started killing all their turkeys. […]

Crappy journalism in action

I nearly posted a link to this story on the BBC website about cows having regional accents because I thought it was mildly interesting. But the internet linguistics police quickly debunked it. The BBC story starts by saying “Cows have regional accents like humans, language specialists have suggested.” What actually happened was that a PR […]