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Science Books

November 10, 2005

Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond
Lawrence M. Krauss (2005)
ISBN: 0670033952

The existence of a multi-dimensional universe has been too irresistible a concept for writers, mathematicians, scientists and artists to ignore, but the idea has always hovered in a twilight zone between science fact and science fiction. Lawrence M. Krauss, international award-winning physicist and author, attempts to disentangle fact from fiction by outlining both the historic and current mathematical models behind extra dimensions. Krauss' historical perspective reaches all the way back to Plato's allegory of the cave, where the cave's inhabitants perceive only the shadows of reality. Continuing this theme, Krauss shows that a little knowledge can sometimes lead to great misunderstandings in science, highlighting some of popular culture's misleading representations of black holes, multi-dimensions and other weird science theories. Krauss spends a great deal of time explaining contemporary physics that encompasses brane cosmology and the ekpyrotic universe. Brane cosmology assumes that our universe resides on a four-dimensional brane that moves in an elevated dimensional space, and that our brane is just one of many which are also moving through other dimensions. Despite the many convincing arguments and mathematical models, the idea of extra dimensions is still very controversial, and it may be some time yet before the universe reveals its true nature to we cave dwellers. While Hiding in the Mirror is an astonishing and brilliantly written work of popular science, it must be remembered that many things worth knowing are often going to take some effort to understand. Those who go the distance, however, will be richly rewarded.

Gen-e-sis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
Robert M. Hazen (2005)
ISBN: 0309094321

Acclaimed science writer Professor Robert Hazen has spent much of his time researching the origins of life and delivering his findings to a popular audience. The next logical step in Hazen's dazzling career is this outstanding, significant and timely book. Hazen provides us with a fly-on-the-wall perspective of how this heated and contentious area of science is rigorous and competitive enough without having to introduce the likes of Intelligent Design and its companion Irreducible Complexity. If it is alternative and substantial hypotheses to the origin of life that you are in search of then this book is what you are after! The hypothesis that people would be most familiar with is that life began with a "primordial soup." But did you know that a competing hypothesis suggests that life began in large heated vents at the bottom of the Earth's deepest oceans? Hazen's enquiring mind even proposes how we might discover life on planets beyond our own. But the book is more than just a collection of ideas cobbled together and presented to the reader as an authoritative text. Throughout Gen-e-sis Hazen allows us to experience what it is like to make discoveries in the field, conduct experiments and hear the views, opinions and debates from leading scientists attempting to explain life's origin. This aspect of the Gen-e-sis is an important one, as it shows that there is a great deal of work behind these ideas and not just wishful thinking. Informative, revealing and a pure delight to read, Gen-e-sis is sure to ignite the scientific passions of any reader.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
James R. Hansen (2005)
ISBN: 074325631X

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became one of the most well known figures in human history, and an icon of human achievement. Yet despite these observations, Armstrong has remained somewhat of a two-dimensional character within popular culture. Historian James Hansen remedies this situation by fleshing out the details of Armstrong's life, and in doing so also holds up a mirror to late twentieth century America. Born into a middle-class family, Armstrong's life was punctuated by exceptional and significant moments. We are left wondering on some of the more personal questions that Hansen asks of Armstrong, but even these evasive responses provide some insight into the character of this very private man. Hansen moves on to Armstrong's professional achievements from receiving his engineering degree from Purdue University, up until making his one giant leap for mankind during the Apollo 11 mission. Despite Armstrong coveting his personal life, Hansen manages to give form to this reluctant celebrity by getting into the minutiae of Armstrong's achievements and endeavors. Hansen has sourced private and unpublished documents, interviewed no less than 125 people and flown many hours with Armstrong himself in order to bring to life an authentic depiction of this living legend. Given Armstrong's desire for privacy away from the limelight, First Man is likely to become as rare and important as the man himself. Highly recommended for science and history buffs alike.

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