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Science Books

August 17, 2006

Kicking the Sacred Cow: Heresy and Impermissible Thoughts in Science
James P. Hogan (2006)
ISBN: 1416520732

Throughout history scientists have had to contend with religious zealots condemning their life's work as heretical and dangerous. Blind religious faith ruled the day and scientific ideas that questioned the status quo were a no-no, regardless of their merit. Now, James P. Hogan, whose extensive background in science and technology led to a successful writing career, presents detailed and documented evidence that suggests science has accumulated quite a number of its own untouchable statements. Hogan's long and esteemed list of divisive science topics includes global warming, Darwinism, relativity, ozone holes and the cause of AIDS; all of which many would consider rock-solid science and not candidates for open-debate. It is the lack of willingness to look at alternative theories that has Hogan suspicious. If the foundations of science are really based upon reason, objectivity and curiosity, then why does science shy away from equally valid paths of scientific discovery? You would think that if the prevailing theories were as concrete as they are made out to be then they would be impervious to fresh intellectual insight. And even if a theory does need to be updated, what has science lost, save for an erroneous bit of data. Unfortunately, what Hogan discovers is that those who dare question the scientific status quo are given what is, ostensibly, a public flogging and condemned as modern-day heretics. Hogan hints that much of the problem stems from the intellectual purity of science being usurped by political figures and lobby groups eager to use its persuasive powers of "truth" as a lever for their own ends. Kicking The Sacred Cow is a book brimming over with novel ideas, fascinating explanations of established science theories and the reasons why they have become controversial.

The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth
William E. Burrows (2006)
ISBN: 0765311143

We're all gonna die! Well, that's the impression you get after reading veteran science journalist William E. Burrows' comprehensive list of nasty ways that civilization on this little blue planet could come to a horrific and abrupt end. After getting over the initial shock and you begin accepting your fate as a consequence of an asteroid, bioterrorism or nuclear holocaust, Burrows explains that salvation is in fact at hand. At least it would be if NASA got their act together. Burrows wonders when we're going to stop sticking our heads between our legs and hoping for the best each time an asteroid whizzes past Earth, and we finally start making plans to colonize space. It would be an understatement to say that the colonization of space is both costly and logistically difficult, but Burrows believes that such an endeavor is not constrained by either of these concerns. Burrows claims that there has been a political unwillingness to commence such an audacious mission, and a subsequent social failure in understanding the risks involved in staying on Earth. According to Burrows, it is not a question of our technological capabilities keeping us Earthbound, as a newly invigorated space program could easily begin the initial stages of space colonization. "The obstacle to this goal is not technological. The tools necessary to reach space and stay there are well understood and at hand," says Burrows. Burrows' cascade of original and thought-provoking ideas is coupled with an urgency of writing perhaps only possible with the thought that an Earth bound asteroid is only days away from its life purging rendezvous. The Survival Imperative is an interesting take on the don't-keep-your-eggs-in-one-basket argument, and its lively writing style, intelligent arguments and sharp insights are sure to keep even the most skeptical of readers engaged.

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