Posts Tagged ‘educational’

The Hidden Reality

March 28, 2012

Author: Brian Greene

Title: The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos

Genre: Non-Fiction, Popular Science, Science Writing

Publication Date: January, 2011

Number of Pages: 384

Geographical Setting: The Cosmos

Time Period: Present

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Physicist and popular science writer Brian Greene successfully takes ideas and theories on the cutting-edge of modern-day physics and makes them accessible to a wide audience in The Hidden Reality.  The purpose of the writing is to introduce the scientific theories in physics that allow for parallel universes and to explain how scientists came to them.  Greene demonstrates how, rather than seeking out any possible scientific excuse to talk about alternate realities, scientists came to these various theories reluctantly. According to Greene, while trying to make mathematical sense of strange phenomena uncovered in quantum physics and cosmology, scientific theories that allowed for parallel universes began to emerge.

To accomplish the goal of the book, Greene reviews, in accessible language, the chains of scientific discoveries in math and physics from the 19th century to the present day.  The ever growing complexities of the scientific findings he outlines are sure to challenge most readers.  Greene takes great care, however, to shield the reader with poignant analogies and simple language.  For the more mathematically adept, he includes the formulas behind the theories he references in the notes section.  Once he is satisfied the reader has the requisite understanding of the questions and gaps in scientific understanding, he introduces readers to the exotic theories scientists have come up with to explain and fill those gaps.  Finally, Greene brings the reader up to speed on the current debates and experiments in physics and cosmology.  He explains what discoveries scientists, working at CERN and elsewhere, may uncover that could advance or dispel confidence in the various theories in The Hidden Reality.

Subject Headings: Physics, Theoretical Physics, Cosmology, Quantum Physics, General Relativity, Astronomy

Appeal: fascinating, compelling, educational, scientific, well-researched, challenging, engaging, thought provoking, scientific theory, accessible, analogous writing, academic, complex, awe-inspiring, mysterious

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: challenging, scientific writing, thought provoking

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking

Hawking takes the concepts of multiple universes and string theory and explains how scientists are using them to create a unified theory on why the universe exists the way it does.

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions (2005) by Lisa Randall

This book is also a popular physics book that uses analogies to explain the current theories in quantum physics.  Randall focuses on string theory and its multiple hidden dimensions, a large topic in Greene’s book.

– Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information (2010) by Vlatko Vedral

This popular science book explores the theory that the mysteries of quantum physics can be better understood through the idea that information is physical and is the basic building block of the universe.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Spin (2005) by Robert Charles Wilson

This science fiction book runs wild with the theory of general relativity with a plot that involves aliens suspending the entire planet Earth in time.  It also deals with cosmologically ideas on the eventual death of our solar system and galaxy.

Properties of Light: A Novel of Love, Betrayal and Quantum Physics (2000) by Rebecca Goldstein

One of the gaps in modern physics that Greene outlines in his book is the failure of scientists to link general relativity with quantum mechanics.  The characters in this literary fiction novel attempt to do just that.

The Light of Other Days (2000) by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

This science fiction novel expands on the current understanding of quantum physics. The story involves scientists with an advanced knowledge of quantum physics who can create wormholes. The wormholes can bridge distant points, even into the past.

Name: Noel M.


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

November 9, 2011

Author: Mary Roach

Title: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Genre: Non-fiction

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 303

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Contemporary, With Some Visits to the Past

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: In Stiff: The curious Lives of Human Cadavers, author Mary Roach does the impossible and makes the story of human cadavers humorous. Most people are very uncomfortable discussing what happens to the body after death, and the subject becomes even more difficult when religion is thrown in. Roach approaches the subject with a light-hearted approach and it soon becomes apparent that one needs to keep a sense of humor when it comes to corpses. Roach delves into some history, from the grotesque practices of pre-20th century anatomy labs to the infamous 19th century case of Burke and Hare, who murdered their victims in order to sell the bodies to anatomy labs. Roach looks at modern-day medical school practices when it comes to corpses, which are thankfully handled with much more dignity and with the consent of the deceased. In one particularly colorful chapter, Roach visits the cadaver farm at the University of Tennessee, where decomposing bodies are studied to help advance criminal forensics. Roach also looks at other ways corpses can be useful, including tests to see how humans are affected by car and airplane crashes, and the impact of bullets and bombs on a body. Stiff is really a tribute to the anonymous people who decide that they want their bodies to have a purpose after death, to help save millions of lives, since our bodies will all decompose eventually anyway.

Subject Headings: Cadavers, Human Remains, Death, Human Dissection, Medical Study

Appeal: Relaxed Pace, Lighthearted, Humorous, Macabre, Accessible, Engaging, Detailed, Colloquial, Well-researched, Witty, Educational, Informative

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Humorous, Macabre, Well-researched

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1) The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford. Besides being referenced numerous time in Stiff, readers will enjoy the similar humorous tone of this exposé about the American funeral industry.

2) Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab, the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. This book describes in more detail the body farm mentioned in Stiff, narrated in a witty and humorous tone by the doctor who founded the farm.

3) Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese. For readers craving more strange scientific experiments like the ones mentioned in Stiff, these short and amusing stories will satisfy their cravings.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1) Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales (Oxford World’s Classics) by Robert Louis Stevenson. This classic story is evocative of the dark streets of 19th century London, a world in which the murderers and corpse thieves, Burke and Hare, thrived.

2) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This classic tale of science experimentation gone bad is reminiscent of some of the experiments mentioned in Stiff, such as trying to resuscitate a freshly guillotined head.

3) Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs. This book is part of the Temperance Brennan mystery series. Brennan is a forensic anthropologist and in this story, goes to a crash site in the North Carolina mountains to identify bodies of the victims, but finds a body that was not on the plane. Readers of Stiff will enjoy this detailed look at the work of a forensic anthropologist.

Name: Elizabeth Allen

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

March 30, 2011

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Author: Dale Carnegie
Title: How to Win Friends & Influence People
Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology
Publication Date: Original 1936; Revised, 1982
Number of Pages: 260
Geographical Setting: United States
Time Period: 20th Century

Plot Summary: This is the classic “how-to” book for understanding and improving communication between yourself and others, whether it be in the business world, or with a spouse.  Carnegie originally wrote this book at the end of the Great Depression, with intent to help inspire those he felt were bored by other ‘self-improvement’ books, and its last revision was in 1982.  With classic and timeless advice in dealing with difficult people and situations, persuading others with techniques to help you achieve success, the overall theme is reminding us to treat people with respect and courtesy. Carnegie provides countless examples of situations to illustrate his theories and offers real world advice on how people reading the book can use it in their lives.  Different sections include “Fundamental Techniques in Dealing with People,” “Six Ways to Make People Like You,” “How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking,” and “Be a Leader.”  Following each section is a concise recap with key points to consider and remember.  An index at the end of the book allows the reader to quickly look up by name, a particular example.

Subject Headings: NonFiction; Success; Persuasion, Psychology; Leadership; Business Communication

Appeal: fast paced, conversational, practical, introspective, self-improvement, persuasive, inspiring, useful, realistic, communicative, straightforward, influential, educational, earnest, psychology, leadership, classic, timeless

3 terms that best describe this book: communication techniques, business advice, human behavior

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

  • Think Like a Champion by Donald Trump is a collection of Trump’s most profound essays on dealing with business challenges, life struggles and his view on how to achieve success through what is called an “informal education.”
  • Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in life) by Cathie Black; Black is the president of the Hearst Magazine empire, and through this motivational book, shares her secrets to success geared towards women in business.  She discusses negotiating and leadership while describing ways to better achieve balance at home and work.
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, also the author of the bestseller, Blink.  In this book, he identifies the qualities of successful people, posing theories about the cultural, family, and idiosyncratic factors that shape high achievers with examples in business and popular culture.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

  • Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra is a fictional account of the life of the Buddha, written for western readers, traces his spiritual journey while explaining how his experiences and teachings have changed the world and continue to influence every facet of life.
  • Playing With Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriquez is a story of three Latin-American women in their late twenties, including an actress, a suburban mother, and a music manager, and the tales of their success and failures of their relationships and business lives in Los Angeles.
  • Company by Max Barry is a fictional and humorous satire of the corporate world told from the perspective of Stephen Jones, who works at the the Zephyr Holding Building, and where he finds a company defined by its lack of clarity, a building numbered in reverse, and an invisible CEO.

–Jennifer Peterson

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

June 16, 2010

June 16, 2010

Author: Mary Roach
Title: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Genre: Nonfiction
Date of Publication: 2003
Geographical Setting: U.S. & Global
Time Period: Present
Plot Summary: “Death. It doesn’t have to be boring.” Writes Mary Roach as she takes a scientific approach (sprinkled with humorous commentary) to the subject of human bodies donated to research. What the public doesn’t know (or want to know?) are the various forms of scientific research for which human cadavers are used. When a body is donated to science, the donor and/or the donor’s family really have no say as to the area of research in which the body will be used. Roach covers several areas in her book, and she does so using very accessible language coupled with a wry sense of humor. She is neither disrespectful nor irreverent in her tone. Her descriptions and comments are delivered in a conversational manner, and her observations are objective. Stiff can be read in chapter order, or can be “dipped into” as one might read a collection of short stories. Roach begins by sharing an experience of observing a seminar for surgeons seeking to hone their skills in facial surgery. The doctors will only be working on the head of a patient, so they will practice exclusively on that part of the cadaver. This means that the heads used for the class are separated from their bodies. This first chapter ended with an unanswered question referring to the pupil less eyes of the cadavers. In another chapter, Roach discusses the obsolete practice of body snatching and the selling of corpses. The process of human decomposition is covered in disgusting detail. Cadavers are used as human crash test dummies and the military uses human cadavers to study the effects of bullets, weapons, and explosives on the human body. Casualties from a plane crash can tell their own story of the crash. By studying the victims’ wounds, an injury analyst can piece together fragments of events involved in the crash. “Beating-heart cadavers” are discussed as a relatively new term. This term refers to a person who has been declared brain-dead, after which their organs may be “harvested” for donor recipients. Roach follows this process with a female patient she calls “H” expressing that “H” is “a living, breathing, thriving person. It is strange, almost impossible, really, to think of her as a corpse.” In the historical period before death could be clinically and scientifically confirmed, the primitive methods for determining death are described, from jamming needles under toenails to thrusting a sharp pencil up the deceased’s nose. Of course, the only reliable way to determine absolute death was to delay burial of the body. The wait period had to be long enough to confirm the telltale signs of decomposition. This prevented the possibility of live burials, at least. Stiff even delves into the scientific study of the soul, its location in the body, and its weight. Decapitation, reanimation, and human head transplant theories are discussed. Roach describes experiments done in France with real human heads of decapitated criminals. The transplant experiments were done with animals. Experiments using human cadavers to simulate the effects of crucifixion have also been performed. In the last part of the book, Roach discusses medicinal cannibalism (not done in the U.S.). She writes about the medicinal use of mummified humans to benefit the living. The grossest details of uses of other body parts and/or byproducts (which will not be detailed here) are given as well. In China, aborted human fetuses are believed to have medicinal benefits when consumed. The final chapter deals with environmental issues surrounding traditional cremation, which consumes lots of energy. There are now safe and energy saving “green” methods that can be used to organically break down a corpse. What option is the author considering? She expresses some humorous considerations, but remains undecided.
Subject Headings: Human experimentation in medicine, dead, and human dissection.
Appeal Terms: morbidly fascinating, informative, humorous, medical, technical, enlightening, revealing, educational, unsettling, detailed, engaging, bizarre, and quirky.
Three terms that best describe this book: morbidly fascinating, human dissection, and humorous.
Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is probably the funniest book available about the history of science. Bryson, a well-known humor writer, discusses the Big Bang Theory, particle physics, geology, evolution, and science throughout history to the present. He takes his experiences observing, gathering, and researching, and turns them into funny stories.
Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures by Carl Zimmer is a thorough study of the relationship between humans and parasites. Zimmer gives disturbing accounts of parasites that are dangerous to humans as well as those that are beneficial. He artfully balances the disgusting and the scientific.
The Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell takes the reader to various historical landmarks and museums that have become significant due to assassinations. She covers the Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley assassinations with her trademark wit and sarcastic humorous commentaries compiling a rather bizarre travel guide.
Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
The Immortals by Tracy Hickman is a medical thriller that depicts governmental extermination of targeted citizens who have contracted a dreaded virus in epidemic proportions. Chilling accounts of the main character’s discoveries make it a gripping read.

Crisis by Robin Cook takes place in the courtroom and the hospital as a malpractice trial unfolds. In this spellbinding story, the wife of the defendant asks her medical examiner brother to exhume the body in question and perform an autopsy in hopes of clearing her husband. All are surprised at results of the autopsy and their significance.

Deadly Harvest by Leonard S. Goldberg portrays forensic pathologist Joanna Blalock urgently seeking a liver for her dying sister. She retains the services of what she believes to be a legitimate organ-transplant service, but discovers that the business obtains its donors through questionable means. While the mystery unravels, time is running out for Joanna’s sister. This is the second book in a medical/detective series.