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Science Books

June 1, 2007

Lost History: The Enduring Legacy Of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, And Artists
Michael H. Morgan (2007)
ISBN: 1426200927

Muslims have received some bad press of late, which perhaps has blinded people to the many valuable contributions that early Muslim culture made to Western society. Now, Michael Hamilton Morgan, an award-winning author and former diplomat, reminds us of the rich legacy that its talented scientists and thinkers left behind. In Lost History, Morgan recounts how the European Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modern Western society in general would not have happened as they did without Muslim advancements in science and culture. Yet how many people have ever heard of the Muslim astronomer, engineer, mathematician, and physicist Ibn Al-Haytham (965-1039 CE), who discovered the pinhole camera, the camera obscura, developed the earliest overall formula for integral calculus, and paved the way for telescopic astronomy? All remarkable achievements in their own right, and all darn good reasons why the moon's Alhazen crater is named in his honor (which is probably yet another little-known fact). So while we can list the big names in Western mathematics, astronomy, and medicine, why should their Muslim forerunners - such as Ibn Sina, Al-Tusi, Al-Khwarizmi, and Omar Khayyam - be forgotten? Lost History does a more than admirable job of resurrecting these long forgotten heroes of modern science, and gives credit where credit is due.

Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages
Alex Wright (2007)
ISBN: 0309102383

As the Internet grows, the hardware to access it gets faster, and PC storage capacities increase on a daily basis, cries of information overload abound. But before we hit the brakes on the information superhighway, information architect Alex Wright - who has shared his valuable insights with IBM, Harvard University, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, the Internet Archive, California Digital Library, and the Long Now Foundation - reminds us that we humans have been gathering, organizing, and processing information for well over 100,000 years. Painting in broad brush strokes, Wright takes a multidisciplinary approach to information, drawing on information systems found in evolutionary biology, cultural anthropology, and computer science and technology. Wright not only has a good grasp of his subject matter, but also knows how to synthesize and integrate this knowledge to arrive at unique ideas and novel arguments. Interestingly, Wright explains how the familial organization and bonds found in early Greek culture have continued to influence human information systems. Furthermore, Wright draws a parallel between the tumultuous history of libraries and the revolutionary nature of modern hierarchical information systems, where one system supersedes another. This out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new approach serves to show how information systems are always doomed to be outmoded. In this respect, Wright devotes space to some of the old hands of modern information gathering, such as John Wilkins, who not only played an early and important role in the development of the Internet, but also foresaw many of its future failings. Glut is a fascinating historical, scientific, and anthropological study of our relationship with the bits and bytes of information that surround us.

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