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Science Books

November 29, 2007

The Age Of Everything: How Science Explores The Past
Matthew Hedman (2007)

We all get pretty obsessive when it comes down to knowing the "age" of stuff, except when it gets personal, in which case the old adage "you're only as young as you feel" holds. Our age obsession shouldn't come as a big surprise, considering all of the birthdays and date-laden history lessons we've had to endure over the years. But while records can show how old we are, how old our respective nations are, or even how long an ancient civilization reigned for, how do scientists determine the age of anything before recorded history? In The Age Of Everything, Matthew Hedman, a research associate in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University, shows exactly how scientists go about the process of aging anything from Mayan civilizations, to the age of the universe itself. In clear and enlightening prose, Hedman explains how some of the world's greatest mysteries are succumbing to advanced dating techniques. The Great Pyramids typify this kind of mystery, exciting the imagination of both scientist and layman alike. But now, we are told, the pyramids can be read like a tome, with their exact age and building method finally revealed. We all know that the rings of a tree can tell us their age, but trees can also tell scientists how the surface of the sun has changed over the previous ten millennia. On an even grander scale, Hedman explains how scientists, using the ancient light from stars, and, surprisingly, the static from your TV, can reveal the origins of the Earth and the Solar System.

The Genius Of China: 3,000 Years Of Science, Discovery, And Invention
Robert Temple, with foreword by Joseph Needham (2007)
ISBN: 1594772177

In this fully updated, color edition of this multi-award winning international bestseller, Robert Temple, visiting professor of the history and philosophy of science at Tsinghua University in Beijing, recounts the unrivaled accomplishments of ancient Chinese inventiveness. From medicine to entertainment, the Chinese have dominated invention for over 3,000 years, pretty much inventing everything that's ever been worth inventing. Printing, the decimal system, paper money, immunology, the crossbow, the rudder, chess, playing cards, whiskey, matches, porcelain, the mechanical clock, the compass, the wheelbarrow, and even the humble umbrella. The list of ingenious Chinese inventions is endless, but the book narrows the field somewhat, focusing on 100 inventive Chinese "firsts" in the areas of technology, music, medicine, engineering, astronomy, warfare, agriculture, and mathematics. The Genius Of China is based upon the work of the late John Needham, a renowned Sinologist, and author of Science And Civilization In China. Perhaps it's because the Chinese seemed to invent just about everything before anyone else that credit is not often given where it is due. Chinese discovery and invention was broad and sweeping, encompassing many disciplines, which led to the creation of the iron plough, the discovery of blood circulation, deep drilling for natural gas, and the parachute. Temple, a member of the Royal Historical Society, goes on to explain that Chinese invention and discovery was no doubt the biggest inspiration for the European agricultural and industrial revolutions. With five literary gongs to its name, and translated into 43 different languages, The Genius Of China is a genuine first-rate read.

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