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Science Books

March 16, 2006

The Electric Life of Michael Faraday
Alan W. Hirshfeld (2006)
ISBN: 0802714706

The Electric Life of Michael Faraday is an inspirational tale of a self-made man who had an unquenchable thirst for science and a passionate desire to share his discoveries with others. Faraday managed to rise above his humble beginnings and make history by showing that electricity, magnetism and light are all linked. His father was a blacksmith and Faraday's career interests may never have involved science if not for a series of fortuitous meetings. During his youth, Faraday took the first unlikely step toward scientific greatness by working as an apprentice bookbinder. Not content to just bind books, Faraday began reading them too, especially the ones of a scientific nature. Perhaps seeing his genius even at this early age, Faraday's supervisor advised him to seek out assistance with his newfound fascination with science. Fortune smiled on Faraday yet again, as he found himself working for renowned scientist Sir Humphry Davy. Faraday's scientific achievements flourished in this favorable environment, and he made one significant scientific discovery after another. But it wasn't until Faraday found that he could create an electric current with a magnet and a coil of wire - which ultimately led to the invention of the electric motor - that he finally assured his place in the history books. Faraday couldn't prove mathematically his later hypothesis on electromagnetism, but the respect that he had garnered from his peers ensured that his hypothesis eventually attracted the attention of James Clerk Maxwell, and the rest, as they say, is history. An illuminating, energetic and beautifully structured biography that will engage scientists and general readers alike. Highly recommended.

China Syndrome: The True Story of the 21st Century's First Great Epidemic
Karl Taro Greenfeld (2006)
ISBN: 0060587229

When SARS broke out in January 2003, Hong Kong's Time Asia editor Karl Taro Greenfeld - like Jane Fonda's Kimberly Wells in that other China Syndrome - unwittingly found himself at the center of a red-hot news story. Greenfeld's China Syndrome is predominantly concerned with the way in which the Chinese government managed, or mismanaged, the SARS outbreak by downplaying the severity of the virus and deliberately hiding the number of reported cases. Greenfeld takes us to all the relevant hot-zones that emerge once an emergency of this nature is in full swing - from an infected friend's bedside, to the World Health Organization (WHO) - and leaves us wondering what might have been, had officials acted more swiftly. This of course leads one to wonder what the current levels of disclosure are in regard to the impending avian flu threat. Greenfeld remains pessimistic, claiming that China has learned nothing from the SARS outbreak. He believes that it's entirely possible that the next pandemic will be more virulent and contagious than the infamous influenza of 1918. Greenfeld's report on the SARS story as it unfolded, including a number of candid personal accounts, is both a gripping and chilling thriller of a read.

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