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Science Books

July 28, 2005

The Rebirth of Cold Fusion
by Steven B. Krivit, Nadine Winocur (2005)
ISBN: 0976054582

According to the authors, cold fusion promises to meet the world's energy needs many times over, with the added bonus of doing it without the pollution associated with current energy sources. While The Rebirth of Cold Fusion is written with the general public in mind, the book does not skimp on the technical details, or pull any punches in regard to cold fusion's controversial sixteen-year history. It does seem a little bizarre when Krivit and Winocur recount astonishing stories of cover-ups and bad experimentation on the part of respected independent scientific institutions charged with the task of testing cold fusion's viability. The debunking of cold fusion by such institutions has led to much doubt amongst the scientific community in regard to the process. In this respect, the book demonstrates that original science is often far more than scientific objectivity and consensus, and sometimes all that is left is the subjectivity of a determined researcher. This is cold comfort for cold fusion's initial proponents, who have had to suffer continued skepticism and ridicule. Martin Fleischmann, co-discoverer of cold fusion, says that "The Rebirth of Cold Fusion fills an evident and urgent need to inform the scientific and lay public about this topic, which has been so massively misrepresented in the literature." Krivit and Winocur address all previous objections leveled at cold fusion as a practical energy source, and have even included some fascinating new developments. As Brian Josephson, Nobel physics laureate, says: "it would be advisable for the scientific community to brace itself for the fallout that will be coming soon, when the public starts to become aware that the scientific community was engaging in an act of gross self-deception back in 1989."

The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention
by Guy Deutscher (2005)
ISBN: 0805079076

Guy Deutscher, an expert in Semitic languages at the University of Leiden in Holland, begins this extraordinary work by stating that: "Language is mankind's greatest invention - except, of course, that it was never invented." It is insights such as these, whether you agree with them or not, that keep the reader mentally engaged from start to finish. At its heart, the book is yet another example of how humans need to, have to, carve out meaning and understanding from a chaotic world that persistently beguiles us with mystery. Ironically, one of these mysteries has to do with how we obtain our language faculty at all. There is still much controversy in regard to language acquisition, especially whether our capacity for language is learned or innate; it's the old nature or nurture argument. Deutscher seems to have placed himself squarely between the two dominant schools of thought, claiming that our innate language ability is molded by the culture that we are born into. Whether language is inherent or learned, language, just like its users, has followed a complex and diverse evolutionary process. For example, what the untrained observer might consider to be a contrived linguistic structure is just as likely to be the natural and necessary progression of a language's development. An interesting and challenging feature of the book are the moments when Deutscher attempts to apply his rigorous methodology and experience to periods prior to writing. This is nigh on impossible, of course, as anyone who has tried to characterize a purely unwritten language would appreciate. Far from detracting from the overall content of the book, these moments are both fascinating and thought provoking. While tracing the evolution of language back to its roots, or as far as is possible, Deutscher analyses many of the crucial junctures that have led to the globe's current languages, and how these will continue to jostle for future relevance. Deutscher's style and narrative ability make this introduction to linguistic studies a book perfect for specialists and non-specialists alike.

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