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Science Books

August 22, 2009

13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries Of Our Time
Michael Brooks (2009)
ISBN: 0307278816

These days science is often interchanged with knowledge and fact, so it's sometimes forgotten that what actually drives scientific discovery is inexplicable phenomena. Respected science writer Michael Brooks, who holds a PhD in quantum physics, reminds us that science is brimming with eyebrow-raising experimental results that leave experts scratching their heads in bewilderment. From cosmology to psychology, Brooks explores 13 inscrutable problems baffling scientists today, and how these problems provide a window on the direction and future of science. Why, for instance, does medical science rely so heavily on the placebo effect? Is an old 70s signal from space evidence of aliens trying to make contact with Earth? Brooks also addresses what is known as the Pioneer Anomaly, where the velocities and trajectories of US satellites Pioneer 10 and 11 are no longer behaving as predicted. Other phenomena Brooks addresses include: our apparent lack of free will; what appears to be evidence for life on Mars; working cold fusion experiments that are theoretically impossible; the incongruence between evolution and sexual reproduction; the biological effects of homeopathy; and a surprising relationship between life and non-life. Brooks' fascinating, and at times contentious, foray into the dark recesses of science is like taking a cattle prod to the imagination.

The Tunguska Mystery
Vladimir Rubtsov (2009)
ISBN: 0387765735

Ever since the huge explosion occurred over Podkamennaya Tunguska River, Siberia in 1908, the Tunguska Event, as it is known, has been shrouded in mystery. To many in the West there is no mystery, and the Tunguska Event can be explained away as the forest-leveling effects of an Earth-bound comet or meteorite (with an energy factor of anywhere between 5 to 30 megatons). Vladimir Rubtsov, Director of the Research Institute on Anomalous Phenomena, has other ideas, however, concluding that approaching the Tunguska Event as either unsolvable or solved is misleading and unhelpful. This is not to say that there are not other, admittedly controversial, explanations available. Some of these alternative hypotheses include black holes, antimatter, UFOs, a "natural H-bomb," or even one of Nikolai Tesla's ambitious experiments gone awry. Rubtsov is no stranger to controversial research himself. After receiving his M.S. degree in computer science in 1972, Rubtsov joined the laboratory of Dr. A. V. Zolotov, where he researched the Tunguska Event for three years. In 1980, he successfully gained a PhD from the renowned Academy of Sciences of the USSR, but only after he successfully defended a paper entitled: "Philosophical and Methodological Aspects of the Problem of Extraterrestrial Civilizations". Rubtsov now believes that the meteorite explanation no longer cuts the mustard, and that science must now look to what are considered unconventional models of the Tunguska Event. While the rigorous and scholarly Rubtsov investigates some pretty far out hypotheses, The Tunguska Mystery isn't the usual absurdist rant from the tin foil hat brigade.

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