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NS 176: First Paper - Book Review (Due by Wed., March 14)

Assignment: Read a book and write a review of it.
Topic: The subject of the book can be anything related to this course (it doesn't have to be about astronomy or physics - this course is broad in scope and touches upon many areas and the selection of books that can be read is similarly broad.) The point is to find something you are interested in and will enjoy reading and writing about. For those looking for a starting point, a list of suggested books that I think would be appropriate is attached: if you choose one of these, you can start reading right away. If you decide to choose a book not on the list, I do ask that you show me the book ahead of time, just to make sure it's suitable.
Format: Your review should focus mainly on your interpretation of the book. What did you find interesting? Dull? What previous knowledge was assumed? Naturally, the content of the book must be included, but it should not be the primary focus of your review. When writing the review, assume that an intelligent audience will be reading it, but not one who already knows intimately about your book's subject.
Length: Anything you want. Quality counts more than quantity (but note that these are not mutually exclusive - it's possible to write a long, excellent report, or a short crummy one!).

I am essentially looking for two things with this paper:

  1. How well written your report is. That is, are you able to express your thoughts in an understandable way? Remember, you are explaining to me the subject you are writing about - don't assume I know it already! (A good way to see how well you are conveying your ideas is to read the report to a friend, and see if they can follow your thoughts.) The more clearly you write, the more I get the sense that you thought about what you read and took the time to make it understandable.
  2. Content of the report. Did you effectively strike a balance between discussing the information content of the book and your own opinions about it? Remember, though the bulk of the review should be your appraisal of the work, enough background information should be provided to understand why you have the opinions you do. Also, did you understand the book? Were some parts confusing to you? Why?

To get an idea what type of report to shoot for, I've placed on reserve at the Library Center sample reviews from former students that I thought were particularly good. You will see that they vary quite a lot in content and form from one another.

Book Review Suggestions

Here's a list of some books I think would make suitable choices to review. Note that while you do not have to chose a book from this list, I think you'll find a wide variety of topics covered here. If you decide on a book that's not listed here, just show it to me to make sure it's appropriate.

Many of these books on this list are available right here at Hampshire, and nearly all of the others may be found within the Five College Library System (I've listed the call numbers). Local bookstores also sell them as well. This list should give you a sense of what makes an appropriate book. It's OK to choose a book not on this list, but just be sure to check it with me first.

Strange weather: culture, science, and technology in the age of limits / Andrew Ross (Q175.R5547 1991). State of scientific counter cultures in the modern era.

Galileo : a life / James Reston, Jr. (QB36.G2.R27 1994). Biography

Trust in numbers : the pursuit of objectivity in science and public life / Theodore M. Porter (Q175.5.P67 1995). A bit technical at times

Nature's body : gender in the making of modern science / Londa Schiebinger (QP81.5.S35 1993). Role of gender and race, especially in 18th century science

The scientific revolution / Steven Shapin (Q125.S5166 1996). ``There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this book is about it'' - first line

Fire in the mind : science, faith, and the search for order / George Johnson (BL240.2.J547 1995). Explores border between science and religion

Longitude : the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time / Dava Sobel (QB225.S64 1995). Entertaining history of science and discovery

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space / Carl Sagan Space exploration and human survival

Gehennical fire : the lives of George Starkey, an American alchemist in the scientific revolution / William R. Newman (QD24.S73.N49 1994). Bizarre history of the double existence of this colonial American

Creative couples in the sciences / Helena M. Pycior, Nancy G. Slack, and Pnina G. Abir-Am, editors (Q141.C68 1996). Interplay between marriage and scientific work in 17 marriages. Women in science.

American technological sublime / David E. Nye (T14.5.N93 1994). Influence of technology on society

Moon Time: The Art of Harmony with Nature and Lunar Cycles / Johanna Paungger and Thomas Poppe. The influence of the moon and other natural rhythms on health and healing

The emperor's new mind : concerning computers, minds, and the laws of physics / Roger Penrose (Q335.P415 1989). Artificial intelligence and physics, by this eminent physicist

Shadows of the mind : a search for the missing science of consciousness / Roger Penrose (Q335.P416 1994). Physical basis of human mind

Science Without Limits: Towards a Theory of Interaction Between Nature and Knowledge/ James Perlman. The human factor in scientific discovery

Catching the light : the entwined history of light and mind / Arthur Zajonc (QC352.Z35 1993). Nature of light from ancient to modern times

The Eagle's Quest: A Physicist finds Scientific Truth at the Heart of the Shamic World / Fred Alan Wolf. How new physics can illuminate the mysteries of Shamanism. The author's journey through the Himalayas and the jungles of Peru. Same author as our text.

God, Chance, and Necessity / Keith Ward, 1996. Refutation of scientific atheism

Alternative Science: Challenging the Myths of the Scientific Establishment / Richard Milton, 1996. Forbidden fields of science

Insights of genius : imagery and creativity in science and art / Arthur Miller. Nature of creativity. Quantum physics. Cubist painting. Philosophy.

The structure of scientific revolutions / Thomas S. Kuhn. 3rd ed. (Q175.K95 1996). Very influential work (originally published in 1961) in philosophy of science.

From grunts to gigabytes : communications and society / Dan Lacy (P91.L313 1996). Communication through the ages. History

Measure for measure : a musical history of science / Thomas Levenson (Q125.L44 1994). Relationship between science and music. History of science.

Godel, Escher, Bach : an eternal golden braid / Douglas R. Hofstadter (QA9.8.H63 1980). Pulitzer Prize winning book. Intertwines the mathematician, artist, and composer. Rather famous.

The end of science : facing the limits of knowledge in the twilight of the scientific age / John Horgan (Q175.H794 1996). Have we reached the end? A controversial work.

The unexpected universe / Loren Eiseley (Q171.E39 1969). Natural history, Neanderthal man

Reinventing the future : conversations with the world's leading scientists / Thomas A. Bass (Q141.B32 1994). Interviews with 11 leading scientists

Behind the crystal ball : magic, science, and the occult from antiquity through the New Age / Anthony Aveni (BF1589.A9 1996). How science and ``the occult'' have parted ways

The astonishing hypothesis : the scientific search for the soul / Francis Crick (BF311.C745 1994). Nobel Laureate discusses an astounding idea

Paradigms lost : images of man in the mirror of science / John L. Casti (Q173.C351 1989). Variety of subjects, including quantum mechanics

The artful universe / John D. Barrow (BH301.N3.B37 1995). Art and science

The left hand of creation : the origin and evolution of the expanding universe / John D. Barrow, Joseph Silk (QB981.B2795 1983).

The origin of the universe / John Barrow, 1994. Readable account of physics and astronomy

Relatively speaking : relativity, black holes, and the fate of the universe / Eric Chaisson ( QC173.55.C46 1988). Modern physics as told by a modern astrophysicist

The alchemy of the heavens : searching for meaning in the Milky Way / by Ken Croswell ( QB857.7.C76 1995). History of figuring out our place in our Galaxy

Theism, atheism, and big bang cosmology / William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith ( BT102.C73 1993). God and modern science and creation

The mind of god: scientific basis for a rational world / Paul Davies, 1992. Science and philosophy, astronomy

The last three minutes : conjectures about the ultimate fate of the universe / Paul Davies ( QB982.D38 1994). How it all might end.

A brief history of time : from the big bang to black holes / Stephen W. Hawking ( QB981.H377 1988). Supposedly readable account of modern cosmology and astrophysics

The big bang never happened / Eric J. Lerner (QB991.B54.L47 1991). Controversial work refuting the dominant scheme of creation for the Universe

The supernova story / Laurence A. Marschall ( QB843.S95.M37 1994). The history and importance of these remarkable astronomical events

Galileo heretic = Galileo eretico / Pietro Redondi; translated by Raymond Rosenthal (Q125.2.R4313 1989). Biography

Never at rest : a biography of Isaac Newton / Richard S. Westfall ( QC16.N7.W35). Complete biography

The Tao of physics : an exploration of the parallels between modern physics and eastern mysticism / by Fritjof Capra ( QC6.C277). Famous work

Cosmos / Carl Sagan (QB44.2.S235). Classic work by the late astronomer

The fourth dimension : a guided tour of the higher universes / Rudy Rucker ( QA699.R79 1984). Engaging tour of other dimensions beyond Euclidean space

Black holes and time warps : Einstein's outrageous legacy / Kip S. Thorne (QC6.T526 1994). What these phenomena tell us about the Universe, by a famous physicist

Chaos : making a new science / James Gleick ( Q172.5.C45.G54 1987). Description of the new infant scientific approach that may one day be a giant

Pi in the sky : counting, thinking, and being / John D. Barrow (QA36.B37 1992). History of mathematics

The mathematical experience / Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh (QA8.4.D37). History of math

Five equations that changed the world : the power and poetry of mathematics / by Michael Guillen ( QC24.5.G85 1995). How major equations changed the way people thought about the world; math

A history of God : the 4000-year quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam / by Karen Armstrong ( BT98.A65 1994). Why does God exist? Traces through Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic religions. Philosophical aspect of this important question

Mysticism : holiness east and west / Denise Lardner Carmody, John Tully Carmody (BL625.C33 1996). Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and mysticism

Archetypes of the zodiac / Kathleen Burt, 1988. Astrological signs and mythological origins. Practical astrology

The fate of place / Edward Casey. Philosophical questions from Plato to the present

Darwin's dangerous idea : evolution and the meanings of life / Daniel C. Dennett ( QH375.D45 1995). Biology and philosophy

Consciousness explained / Daniel C. Dennett (B105.C477.D45 1991). Old and new ideas on consciousness

The trial of Socrates / I.F. Stone ( B317.S76 1988). The facts and evidence surrounding Socrates trial and death

Alternate Project: Class Presentation on a Non-Western Culture

For a maximum of 5 students interested in sharing with the class the astronomical achievements of a non-western culture, an alternative to the book review is available. This project consists of reading one of the 19 articles (each about a different society) contained in the wonderful, new book edited by Hampshire's own Helaine Selin, Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Astronomy, and presenting to the class a brief, 15-minute review of what you learned.

If you are interested in this option, go to the library and check the book out (it's on 3-hour reserve); page through it, and find the article that most interests you. Stop by my office, and we'll talk more about the project. The bulk of the preparation for the talk should be completed by March 14 (the due-date for the book review), and you will also hand in an assignment on that day (I will tell you more about the nature of this assignment when you sign on to do this). Then, after break we will meet again to go over your topic, and help prepare for your class presentation on Friday, April 6.

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douglas leonard
Mon Feb 12 21:38:18 PST 2001