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Science Books

November 2, 2006

Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality
Ronald L. Mallett, Bruce Henderson (2006)
ISBN: 1560258691

Against the backdrop of one man's inspirational struggle against the odds, University of Connecticut physics professor Ronald Mallet outlines his basic equation for time travel. While a theory for time travel is in itself extraordinary, Mallet's own story of how he became one of the first African-American PhDs is just as remarkable. Mallet lost his father when he was 10, and subsequently spent much of his life having to cope with racism, poverty and depression. Intertwined with Mallet's personal story is his discovery and insatiable thirst for Einstein's work on space-time, and how such a theory may permit time travel. After 30 years of research in theoretical physics, Mallet's own work on circulating laser light has led him to his theory that suggests the development of a time machine should be possible. Mallet's highly readable prose on how "space and time can be manipulated" makes understanding his theory almost effortless; no mean feat. There have been a number of time travel books published of late, but this is one of the more accomplished. His theory is the first serious and practical attempt at making the impossible possible. Time Traveler is about far more than theory, however, and will undoubtedly serve as inspiration to budding scientists and the general reader alike.

Skin: A Natural History
Nina Jablonski (2006)
ISBN: 0520242815

Skin has a lot of social currency within human culture, as it is a marker of our health, age, and identity. In Skin, Nina Jablonski, Curator of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, takes us on a scintillating exploration of three major themes concerning the epidermis: biology, utility, and cultural expression. Jablonski begins by providing an outline of skin's evolutionary development over the last 300 million years, marveling at how both its composition and functionality has led to the way humans interact. How the simple act of touching can trigger a spectrum of feelings and emotions, and how these emotions subsequently excite the skin to provide expressions of its own. The importance of these reflexive actions and reactions are perhaps what prompted Jablonski to write about the effects that aged and wrinkled skin can have on our perceptions of others, and of ourselves. Among many lesser-known biological curiosities presented in Skin is the concept of how geography determines physical stature. Jablonski explains that people living in very warm climates tend to be taller and leaner because this body-weight ratio helps cool the body more efficiently. Completing Jablonski's trinity is her analysis of how we choose to adorn and draw attention to our skin, from a simple piece of jewelry or make-up, to something more permanent like a tattoo. Aside from Jablonski's culturally embedded biological analysis of the skin, there are a wealth of illustrations to complement her lucid prose, which also help provide instruction on specific skin conditions. An intriguing read that provides plenty of insight into the nature of our biggest organ. Perhaps more than you ever wanted to know.

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