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Science Books

March 13, 2008

Physics Of The Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into The World Of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, And Time Travel
Michio Kaku (2008)
ISBN: 0385520697

Science fiction worlds filled with death-rays, invisibility garments and force fields can really get the imagination running wild. But mercifully, the likelihood that you will fall victim to your invisibility cloaked, death-ray wielding archenemy is highly implausible. Or is it? In Physics Of The Impossible, Michio Kaku, a Professor of Theoretical Physics, and cofounder of string theory, considers what devices from the world of science fiction might one day become reality. For our convenience, Kaku has developed a plausibility scale - Class I, II, and III - to rate a long list of technologies and powers common to the world of science fiction, and how likely (if at all) they are to be realized. According to Kaku, telepathy and psychokinetic abilities (two characteristic abilities of persons blessed with "the force" referred to in the Star Wars films) may not be such a ridiculous concept after all. Kaku claims that one day we may only need to use our minds to move objects and communicate with each other. Well, our minds and future advances in MRI, computing, superconductivity, and nanotechnology. Antimatter engines, laser sails, and nanorockets capable of taking us to distant stars are also on the cards, as are time machines (though only to civilizations where beings are endowed with suitably bulbous frontal lobes). Kaku's Physics Of The Impossible is a wonderfully entertaining blend of informative science fact, exhilarating adventure, and heady imagination that fleshes out what may or may not be possible in the near to distant future.

Welcome To Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How To Drive And Other Puzzles Of Everyday Life
Sandra Aamodt & Sam Wang (2008)
ISBN: 1596912839

It's taken millennia, but finally someone has written a much needed owner's manual for the human brain. But just think how long it would have taken to arrive if, as the old folkloric expression suggests, we really did use only 10 percent of our brains. The old 10 percent myth is one of many that neuroscientists Aamodt, editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, and Wang, of Princeton University, debunk, while noting that most of our knowledge of the brain is based on folklore. Disentangling myth from reality is one of the most entertaining, informative, useful, and relieving (especially the sections regarding intoxicating substances) aspects of Welcome To Your Brain. In it you'll find out how to beat jet lag, how your brain affects your religion, what's going on when we have dreams, and how our brains differ to those of other species. Welcome To Your Brain also tackles the often contentious issues of how the brains of men and women differ, and what role genes and environment play in affecting our potential intelligence quotient. The book is also filled with practical bits of advice, such as how we can protect our brains as we grow older. Peppered throughout with trivia, charts, and quizzes, Welcome To Your Brain is equally enjoyable whether you read it cover-to-cover or use it as a quick reference guide.

Quiz: How well do you know your brain?
(answers at end of page)

1.When are the last neurons born in your brain?

a) before birth
b) the age of six
c) between the ages of 18 and 23
d) in old age

2. Which of the following strategies is the best one for overcoming jet lag?

a) taking melatonin the night after you arrive at your destination
b) avoiding daylight for several days
c) getting sunlight in the afternoon at your destination
d) sleeping with the lights on

3. Your brain uses about as much energy as -

a) a refrigerator light
b) a laptop computer
c) an idling car
d) a car moving down a freeway

4. Which of the following activities before a test might help you to perform better? (you may choose more than one)

a) having a drink
b) having a cigarette
c) eating a candy bar
d) telling yourself with great conviction that you are good at this kind of test

5. You are in a noisy room, attempting to talk to your friend on your cell phone. To have a clearer conversation you should -

a) talk more loudly
b) cover one ear and listen through the other
c) cover your ear when you talk
d) cover the mouthpiece when you listen

6. Which of the following is the hardest thing your brain does?

a) doing long division
b) looking at a photograph
c) playing chess
d) sleeping

7. Memory starts to get worse in which decade of life?

a) 30s
b) 40s
c) 50s
d) 60s

8. Which activities kill neurons?

a) drinking three bottles of beer in an evening
b) smoking a joint
c) dropping acid
d) all of the above
e) none of the above

9. Which depiction of neurological damage is least realistic?

a) Guy Pearce's character Leonard in Memento
b) Drew Barrymore's character Lucy in 50 First Dates
c) Dora the Fish in Finding Nemo
d) John Nash in A Beautiful Mind

Answers: 1) d, 2) c, 3) a, 4) b and d, 5) d, 6) b, 7) a, 8) e, 9) b

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