Archive for: December, 2010

Best Science Books 2010: The New Yorker

Dec 16 2010 Published by under best science books 2010, science books

Another list for your reading, gift giving and collection development pleasure.

  • Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg
  • Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership by Lewis Hyde
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu

I'm always looking for recommendations and notifications of book lists as they appear in various media outlets. If you see one that I haven't covered, please let me know at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

I am picking up a lot of lists from Largehearted Boy.

Earlier entries in this year's list of lists can be found here and the 2009 summary post here.

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Open Science Digital Computation Research

Two recent announcements that are worth noting here.

The first is for Digital Science, a Macmillan / Nature Publishing Group project involving some of the usual science online suspects like Timo Hannay and Kaitlin Thaney and some others in a really dynamic-looking multi-disciplinary team.

The press release is here and the about page here.

Digital Science provides software and information to support researchers and research administrators in their everyday work, with the ultimate aim of making science more productive through the use of technology. As well as developing our own solutions, we also invest in promising start-ups and other partners, working closely with them to help them realise their full potential.

*snip*

The activities of Digital Science combine in-house software development and domain expertise with technologies and services created in collaboration with a range of world-class partners, including academic research groups, start-up businesses and established companies.

This is a bit on what they're trying to accomplish:

Digital technologies are transforming all areas of our lives -- commerce, education, the arts -- and science, too, is changing. The web has already revolutionised the way we produce, publish and disseminate scientific knowledge. It also provides fundamental new opportunities for processing, annotating, curating, querying and sharing information, as well as organising our laboratories and the research process itself.

But we're still much nearer the beginning of this journey than the end. For all the recent progress, we're not even close to fully realising the potential of information technology to accelerate the discovery and and application of scientific insights. At Digital Science, we aim to to contribute to these important developments by providing tools and services that will make researchers more productive through state-of-the-art software.

In that sense we're very different to the content-based businesses normally associated with a publishing company like Macmillan. But we will also be working closely with scientific publishers -- not least our colleagues at Nature Publishing Group -- to make the most of their scientific expertise and carefully curated content, because only by combining expert human judgement with the best technology can we hope to have the impact that we seek.

Very interesting and very ambitious. It'll be worth watching to see what they come up with in the next year or two.

The other project worth mentioning is a new BioMed Central open access journal, Open Research Computation, with Cameron Neylon as editor-in-chief and a whole host of usual suspects on the Editorial Board.

There's lots of information on the Instructions for Authors, About page, FAQ:

Aims and scope
Open Research Computation publishes peer reviewed articles that describe the development, capacities, and uses of software designed for use by researchers in any field. Submissions relating to software for use in any area of research are welcome as are articles dealing with algorithms, useful code snippets, as well as large applications or web services, and libraries. Open Research Computation differs from other journals with a software focus in its requirement for the software source code to be made available under an Open Source Initiative compliant license, and in its assessment of the quality of documentation and testing of the software. In addition to articles describing software Open Research Computation also welcomes submissions that review or describe developments relating to software based tools for research. These include, but are not limited to, reviews or proposals for standards, discussion of best practice in research software development, educational and support resources and tools for researchers that develop or use software based tools.

Cameron also has a blog post talking about the new initiative:

Computation lies at the heart of all modern research. Whether it is the massive scale of LHC data analysis or the use of Excel to graph a small data set. From the hundreds of thousands of web users that contribute to Galaxy Zoo to the solitary chemist reprocessing an NMR spectrum we rely absolutely on billions of lines of code that we never think to look at. Some of this code is in massive commercial applications used by hundreds of millions of people, well beyond the research community. Sometimes it is a few lines of shell script or Perl that will only ever be used by the one person who wrote it. At both extremes we rely on the code.

We also rely on the people who write, develop, design, test, and deploy this code. In the context of many research communities the rewards for focusing on software development, of becoming the domain expert, are limited. And the cost in terms of time and resource to build software of the highest quality, using the best of modern development techniques, is not repaid in ways that advance a researcher's career. The bottom line is that researchers need papers to advance, and they need papers in journals that are highly regarded, and (say it softly) have respectable impact factors. I don't like it. Many others don't like it. But that is the reality on the ground today, and we do younger researchers in particular a disservice if we pretend it is not the case.

Open Research Computation is a journal that seeks to directly address the issues that computational researchers have. It is, at its heart, a conventional peer reviewed journal dedicated to papers that discuss specific pieces of software or services. A few journals now exist in this space that either publish software articles or have a focus on software. Where ORC will differ is in its intense focus on the standards to which software is developed, the reproducibility of the results it generates, and the accessibility of the software to analysis, critique and re-use.

It's a bit of synchronicity that these two announcements came at around the same time. The ground is shifting in the way science is done and the way it is reported. Both these projects represent (re)evolutionary steps along the path towards greater and greater computational influence on scientific practice.

Neither project seems to have any direct librar* involvement, although I can think of one or two librarians who'd fit in nicely on ORC's editorial board. I can also see that libraries could be partners with Digital Science in promoting and implementing the kinds of products that they'll likely be experimenting with.

We live in interesting times and I can hardly wait to see what happens.

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Best Science Books 2010: Salon.com

Dec 15 2010 Published by under best science books 2010, science books

Another bunch of shorter lists for your reading, gift giving and collection development pleasure.

Salon.com

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Concurring Opinions (Privacy books)

  • The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors by Hal Niedzviecki
  • The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick
  • Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger

New York Magazine

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

(The Skloot book probably deserves a special award for so often being the only science book on a list.)

I'm always looking for recommendations and notifications of book lists as they appear in various media outlets. If you see one that I haven't covered, please let me know at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

I am picking up a lot of lists from Largehearted Boy.

Earlier entries in this year's list of lists can be found here and the 2009 summary post here.

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Around the Web: Blackboards or PPT, Sharing data on the web, Scientific journalism and more

Dec 15 2010 Published by under around the web

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Best Science Books 2010: Amazon.ca

Dec 15 2010 Published by under best science books 2010, science books

Another list for your reading, gift giving and collection development pleasure.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
  • Packing For Mars by Mary Roach
  • The Legacy by David Suzuki
  • Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg
  • Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth by James M. Tabor
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
  • Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
  • Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are at Risk and what We Can Do to Save Them by Laurence Packer

I'm always looking for recommendations and notifications of book lists as they appear in various media outlets. If you see one that I haven't covered, please let me know at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

I am picking up a lot of lists from Largehearted Boy.

Earlier entries in this year's list of lists can be found here and the 2009 summary post here.

No responses yet

Best Science Books 2010: New Statesman

Dec 14 2010 Published by under best science books 2010, science books

Another list for your reading, gift giving and collection development pleasure. I've cobbled this together from the critic-by-critic list I point to above.

  • You Are Not a Gadget: a Manifesto by Jaron Lanier
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self by Thomas Metzinger
  • The Plundered Planet by Paul Collier

I'm always looking for recommendations and notifications of book lists as they appear in various media outlets. If you see one that I haven't covered, please let me know at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

I am picking up a lot of lists from Largehearted Boy.

Earlier entries in this year's list of lists can be found here and the 2009 summary post here.

No responses yet

Best Science Books 2010: The Washington Post

Dec 13 2010 Published by under best science books 2010, science books

Another list for your reading, gift giving and collection development pleasure.

  • Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester
  • Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik
  • Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean by Julia Whitty
  • Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Gun by C.J. Chivers
  • The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons by Richard Rhodes
  • Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery by Stephen J. Pyne

I'm always looking for recommendations and notifications of book lists as they appear in various media outlets. If you see one that I haven't covered, please let me know at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

I am picking up a lot of lists from Largehearted Boy.

Earlier entries in this year's list of lists can be found here and the 2009 summary post here.

No responses yet

Best Science Books 2010: Toronto Star / Public Policy Forum

Dec 13 2010 Published by under best science books 2010, science books

Another list for your reading, gift giving and collection development pleasure. This list is the Holiday Reading list from the Toronto Star Public Policy Forum, picked from individual lists in today's print newspaper. Bizarrely, I wasn't able to find the list online.

  • Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
  • Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It by Robert Glennon
  • The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
  • Carbon Shift: How Peak Oil and the Climate Crisis Will Change Canada (and Our Lives) by Thomas Homer-Dixon

I'm always looking for recommendations and notifications of book lists as they appear in various media outlets. If you see one that I haven't covered, please let me know at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

I am picking up a lot of lists from Largehearted Boy.

Earlier entries in this year's list of lists can be found here and the 2009 summary post here.

One response so far

From the Archives: King of infinite space: Donald Coxeter, the man who saved geometry by Siobhan Roberts

Dec 12 2010 Published by under book review, mathematics, science books

I have a whole pile of science-y book reviews on two of my older blogs, here and here. Both of those blogs have now been largely superseded by or merged into this one. So I'm going to be slowly moving the relevant reviews over here. I'll mostly be doing the posts one or two per weekend and I'll occasionally be merging two or more shorter reviews into one post here.

This one, of King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry, is from December 11, 2006.

=======

I'm reading a lot of science auto/biography these days, and generally enjoying it a lot. While generally not much of a fan of the "great man" theory of science history, I also tend to like a really good story. Siobhan Roberts's biography of mathematician Harold Scott MacDonald "Donald" Coxeter is a little more heavily weighted on the "great man" side of the equation a perhaps a little light on the "good story" but I enjoyed it tremendously nevertheless. Not least because I have a rather interesting personal connection to this book, but more on that later.

So, who was Donald Coxeter? In a sense, he was the Einstein of geometry in the 20th century, in the sense that Einstein demonstrated that science wasn't exhausted in the 19th century, Coxeter demonstrated that classical geometry wasn't exhausted either, that there was a lot of interesting avenues for important research and applications, both in science and the arts.

A nice quote from page 4, giving a sense of the man and his life's passion.

Coxeter was also known to be both instructive and entertaining in revealing the hidden symmetry of an apple. Around the dinner table with colleagues gathered for the American Math Society conference in 1981, he asked: " Did you know t hat apples do not have cores?" They thought he was pulling their legs, until the hostess, Marjorie Senechal, a mathematics professor at Smith College, procured an apple and placed it before him with a knife, as requested. He filleted the fruit into thin horizontal sections, demonstrating that there was no stem-to-stern core, but rather elongated pods of seeds within. The piece de resistence occurred when he reached the center of the apple and sliced through the equator. There lay it's secret symmetry -- not nature's sloppy attempt at spherical symmetry, as suggested by an apple's exterior, but rather perfect fivefold symmetry, hidden at the apple's heart: the apple seeds were arranged in a five-point star. Everyone around the table gasped when they saw it. "It just shows," said Senechal, "that he was looking everywhere, and looking deeply. Coxeter delighted in the geometry of everyday objects, and, because he was so curious and astute, he found symmetries and regularities in these objects that the rest of us never suspected."

And this is what Benoit Mandelbrot had to say about Coxeter style and place in history (p127):

"He was viewed as a throwback...He was a bit marginal...I remember feeling the strength of his style. The enjoyment Coxeter always had handling shapes, models, and letting models help him dream, is something I find very attractive and very important -- the spirit of loving shapes and the role of the eye and the hand, that what I found so marvellous in Coxeter."

"Most people are not strong enough to have a well-defined personal style...The should bend according to fashion or circumstance and he clearly did not bend. He kept with his classical tradition of geometry, wich had been totally flattened -- pulverized would be even closer -- by Bourbaki. to learn mathematics without pictures is criminal, a ridiculous enterprise."

So, what is it about Roberts' book that makes it worth reading? First of all, it's quite a good outline of Coxeter's life, if a little shallow on his non-mathematical life. We hit the high points, like birth, death & marriage, but we see his children on stage only peripherally until the end when his daughter Susan starts taking care of him. To me this is a bit of a weakness of the book, the lack of color and emotion in the tale of Coxeter's life. Maybe there wasn't much, perhaps the life of a mathematician is like the life of a novelist, where all the good stuff happens between their ears rather than on a grander stage. And there are hints that Coxeter was a bit cold and distant. But still, remarkably little seemed to have happened in a life of over 90 years.

On the other hand, the story of Coxeter's intellectual life is absolutely griping, entwined as it was with the history of mathematics in the 20th century, especially the place of geometry in that history. In a way, you can almost see the story of Coxeter's life as the intellectual history of geometry in the last century, rising from the doldrums to take it's place in as a driving force in physics, ecommerce, databases and even bioinformatics. The overriding theme of the book is the interrelationship of geometry and life, the visual elements that we interact with in film, in art, in science, in architecture, in virtually every aspect of our lives. Coxeter's lifelong battle was to bring the visual sense back into math and math education, rejecting the more algebra-based ideas of the French Bourbaki collective, making math more understandable and accessible. And it was very clear that Coxeter was passionately concerned with the teaching of math and geometry and that cared a great deal about this students. There's a great story about how one of his students, Asia Ivic Weiss, now of York University, was a bit leary of telling him about an error he'd made. When she did, he was actually delighted that she'd found the error and even gave her a wedding gift that commemorated the occasion (p129-130).

Yes, the more math, especially geometry, you know, the more you will enjoy this book. It doesn't shy away from challenging the reader to grasp subtle concepts, to make connections, to understand and enjoy geometry for it's own sake. But, we are rewarded by our efforts. We see how Coxeter's life intersects those of various notable personalities, both scientific and artistic and how Coxeter always takes something away to improve his own work. The artist M.C. Escher is a perfect example. He and Coxeter had a wonderfully odd, mutually beneficial relationship, a relationship well explored in the book as was Coxeter's relationship with Buckminster Fuller.

So, yes, this book is not perfect. I would have appreciated a bit more about Coxeter the man It's also a bit strange how much information was packed into 80+ pages of endnotes, almost like a parallel book actually more about Coxeter's life. I would have appreciated it if a lot of the material in the notes was expanded and pulled into the main narrative. Also, a couple of times a glossary would have been helpful.

But, overall this is a great book that tells a very important story. At the beginning I said I wasn't too fond of the "great man" theory of science history. That's certainly true, but at the same time I realize that so much of the intellectual history of an age can be seen through the works of individual scholars, that to ignore their stories is as great a error as to glorify them. And this book does strike a balance between the man, his work and the intellectual currents that surrounded him.

(A note to the math librarians out there reading this -- the bibliography is a wonderful source for collection development in the roots of classical geometry, in particular I guess we should all make sure our libraries are full of Coxeter!)

I guess I should elaborate on my personal connection to this fine book. In my capacity as Mathematics librarian at York University, I've obviously gotten to know many of the math profs at York and one of them is Asia Ivic Weiss, who happens to have been Coxeter's last grad student at the University of Toronto. Prof. Weiss was the graduate program director in the math department for a few years, including around when Coxeter passed away. As it happens, before he died Coxeter donated a significant amount of his mathematical papers to the Math Department at York, to be housed in their Coxeter Reading Room. Well, a few years ago, after Coxeter had passed away, Asia approached me for some advice on what to do with these papers. They were nice to have, and scholars certainly took advantage of them, but she was not sure if this was the best place. So, we met and discussed the situation. We quickly saw that the issue was larger in scope, that really we should come to terms with all of Coxeter's papers, most of whom were at his house in the Rosedale neighbourhood in Toronto. So, Asia, Coxeter's daughter Susan Thomas, Coxeter's mathematical executor Arthur Sherk and I all met at the Coxeter house where Susan was still living. I also consulted with one of York's archivists, Susanne Dubeau, to get her advice on the situation. After that meeting and subsequent conversations we all agreed that Coxeter's papers belonged at the University of Toronto Archives, including the ones that were currently at York. And so, that's where they are now. It was gratifying that everytime I checked a footnote in Robert's book and saw that the source was from the UofT archives that I played a small part in making sure that Coxeter's papers are accessible to scholars and journalists. It's also great to see the names of so many of the profs know from my work mentioned, like Lee Lorch, John Andraos from Chemistry and Walter Whiteley. Walter was probably the most interviewed person in the book, with many insights on the role of Coxeter's work in other areas of math and science and on the "geometry gap" -- the idea that if we don't teach geometry to scientists, they'll miss out spacial or geometric connections in their work.

Tomorrow, December 12, 2006, there's a book launch at the Fields Institute in Toronto. I hope to be there and report back my experiences.

Update 2006.12.16: I went to the book launch at the Fields institute on the 12th and it was a very nice event. Not a reading, more of a cocktail party with a short talk/film clips in the middle. The relaxed atmosphere was very congenial; it was nice to see my York colleagues Asia Ivic Weiss and Walter Whiteley as well as to meet Susan Thomas, Coxeter's daughter, again after a couple of years. As usual at such events, it's always a treat to shake the author's hand and say how much you enjoyed the book.

Roberts, Siobhan. King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry. Toronto: Anansi, 2006. 399pp.

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From the Archives: Screams of reason: Mad science and modern culture by David J. Skal

Dec 11 2010 Published by under book review, history, science books

I have a whole pile of science-y book reviews on two of my older blogs, here and here. Both of those blogs have now been largely superseded by or merged into this one. So I'm going to be slowly moving the relevant reviews over here. I'll mostly be doing the posts one or two per weekend and I'll occasionally be merging two or more shorter reviews into one post here.

This one, of Screams of Reason: Mad Science in Modern Culture, is from January 18, 2007.

=======

A little pop-cultural analysis is never a bad thing, taken in small doses. In larger doses, however, it can be a bit problematic. The good news is that it can be breezy and light, fun and frivolous while still making some good points and containing a few nuggets of real wisdom. On the other had, it can be plagued with shallowness, of research and analysis, lacking in both depth and breadth. David J. Skal's Screams of reason is a good example of both the strengths and weaknesses of this approach, although in the final analysis I would have to give it more plusses than minuses.

So, what's Skal trying to achieve here (p.18):

A prototype outsider, shunted to the sidelines of serious discourse, to the no-man's-land of B movies, pulp novels, and comic books, the mad scientist has served as a lightning rod for otherwise unbearable anxieties about the meaning of scientific thinking and the uses and consequences of modern technology. The mad scientist seems anarchic but often serves to support the status quo; instead of pressing us to confront the serious questions of ethics, power, and the social impact of technological advances, he too often allows us to laugh off notions that science might occasionally be the handmaiden of megalomania, greed and sadism. And while he is often written off as the product of knee-jerk anti-intellectualism, upon closer examination, he reveals himself (mad scientists are almost always men) to be a far more complicated symbol of civilization and its split-level discontents.

And I would submit that he does a pretty good job of it, each chapter exploring a different aspect of the image of mad scientists (and science/scientists in general) in modern culture. In chapter 1, Skal presents the history of the prototypical mad scientist, Dr. Frankenstein. He does a good presentation of the history of the novel and the various films based on the novel, relating them to his thesis fairly well. He also touches upon some other creations from the same period, such as Dracula. Chapters 2 and 3 touch on the Frankenstein story some more, this time focusing on artificial life such as robots, electricity and mostly B movies from the 30s and 40s. Chapter 4 doesn't quite see us moving on from Dr. Frankenstein, but we do continue discussing B movies, mostly related to nuclear weapons and fear thereof. Finally, chapter 5 moves on from our favourite mad scientist and discusses the phenomenon of aliens, UFO and abductions. And yes, a lot of B movies and a bit of TV. Chapter 6 is about mad medical doctors and the fears they conjure up. The Nazis get a few mentions, as does, you guessed it, Dr. F. Robin Cook, Hannibal Lecter and AIDS all get name-checked here. Chapter 7 is one of the most interesting, as Skal discusses the whole posthuman movement, with lots of fast and furious commentary on Rock Horror, David Cronenberg and others.

While this is good work, there are some serious weaknesses in Skal's approach. First of all, so much of the ambitious analysis he sets up for himself on page 18 really boils down into a lot of film history. That's understandable, because that's what he's known for with important books on Tod Browning (Dark Carnival), Dracula (Hollywood Gothic) and horror film (The Monster Show) but he really needed to broaden his approach for this project. He barely touches on the science fiction and horror pulps era of the 1930s onwards. Comics, almost nothing, when you consider the importance of several EC titles in horror and sf this is really too bad. Novels also get short shrift, unless a film was made out of it. Even tv didn't get too much coverage. Obvious shows like Star Trek and X Files are touched on only briefly while others like Night Stalker not at all. Even non-US film gets little attention, such as the various Hammer Films getting only brief coverage. Like I said, these are a serious weaknesses. It's like he had a lot of notes left from some of his film projects and thought he could cobble them together into another book.

Some other weaknesses? The tendency to recite film history and plot summary in the place of analysis is amusing and fun, but not really what he's trying to get at. As I allude to above, while Frankenstein may be the most important example I think he relies on the various film versions a bit too much.

Finally, at the end of the book, he gets all post-moderny on us, something that I found kind of surprising. Some quotes (p312-317):

[Carl] Sagan does not seem to appreciate that many people find scientific material threatening and dehumanizing, not because of ignorant apprehensions but because of what science explicitly states. Most people don't want to think of themselves as temporary mechanism destined for the scrap heap of oblivion...Sagan does a commendable job...in debunking pseudoscience...But in rationalizing the abduction stories into absurdity, he completely misses their metaphorical dimensions and significance. They are the ultimate symbolic expressions of twentieth-century fears about being immobilized and dehumanized by "scientific" authority figures.

*snip*

In her book Science as Salvation the British moral philosopher Mary Midgley notes that "increasing technicality in the sciences...leaves unserved the general need for understanding, and whatever spiritual needs lie behind it." Ironically, "The promise of satisfying those spiritual needs has played a great part in establishing the special glory of the abstraction 'science' in our cultures." But as scientific complexity increases, general understanding wanes. As Midgley elaborates, "Many scienitists will now say flatly that most of us cannot expect to understand what is happening [in science] at all, and had better not even mess around with the popularizations. This gloomy estimate must extend, of course, far beyond the uneducated proles to the scientists themselves, when they deal with anything outside their own increasingly narrow provinces. There cannot, in this view, ever be such a thing as a scientifically-minded public.

And, well, a lot more like that in the last few pages of the book. After such a lively, but limited, journey through pop culture I find it interesting that the last chapter reads like a bad undergrad paper in the philosophy of science by a 19-year-old that has just discovered postmoderism. In a sense, Skal is saying we're stuck with the image of science and scientists in pop culture because scientists are too smart, arrogant and condescending for their own good and that the "little people" are justified in their fear and suspicion because of their own ignorance and lack of intellectual curiosity. Sheesh. Read a book, pay attention in school, watch a documentary, for god's sake.

Anyways, in the final analysis, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it with some reservations. It's got lots of fun B movie history and a few interesting things to say about the place of science in modern culture, even if Skal seems to fall into some of the same traps at the end that he bemoans in the middle. Just skip the conclusion.

Skal, David J. Screams of Reason: Mad Science in Modern Culture. New York: Norton, 1998. 368pp. ISBN-13: 978-0393045826

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