Posts Tagged ‘Scientific’

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

November 7, 2012

Spook CoverTitle: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Author: Roach, Mary

Publication Date: 2005

Pages: 311

Geographical Setting: This world or the next

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  With a heavy dose of wit and humor, Mary Roach examines the subject of life-after-death, delving into the science and the history of humanity’s search for the soul.  Roach’s search for evidence finds her to some curious and oftentimes hilariously strange circumstances—tracking down stories of reincarnation in India, examining “ectoplasm” at Cambridge, medium school—leading the reader on an amusing quest for the truth amongst the odd and the misguided.  Each chapter ends with a teaser that leads smoothly into the next making for compelling read.  And Roach’s ability to esteem both quacks and true scientists equally is charming and wonderfully engaging.  But readers looking for solid evidence and definitive answers beware.  Spook is impressively researched and deftly told.  It doesn’t promise enlightenment.  But it does infuse a great sense of wonder and delight into the world of science.

Appeal Characteristics: humorous, spiritual, scientific, accessible, witty, engaging, funny, well-researched, quirky, unconventional, thought-provoking, engrossing, unpretentious, smart, entertaining, history of science

Subject Headings: Life after death, soul, paranormal phenomena, Religion and Science

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Funny, scientific, engaging

Similar Non-fiction:

The Disappearing Spoon, and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean

Readers who enjoyed Roach’s obscure anecdotes in Spook will find a wealth of similar stories in this tale about the building of the Periodic Table.  Brimming with whimsy, wit, and authority, this book will appeal to those looking for a good story as much as those looking for scientific history.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Combining history and science, this story brings to life the woman whose cells became one of humanity’s most important medical tools and details the history of medical ethics and the good of society versus the rights of the individual.  Skloot maintains an objective tone evincing compassion and respect for both sides of the debate.

Death by Black Hole, and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

In this series of essays, Tyson cheerfully explains the complex fields of astrophysics, relativity, and quantum mechanics with engaging humor, accessible language, and a Star Trek reference or two.  Readers who wished for more “hard science” in Roach’s writing, look no further.

Similar Fiction:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Fans of Roach’s vividly depicted oddballs and outcasts will find their fictional counterparts in droves in this sci-fi cult classic.  Adams tells the story of displaced Earthling Arthur Dent with a serious flair for the wacky, the outlandish, and the odd bit of science.  Prepare yourself for an onslaught of witty one-liners (which is Adams’ case may actually take up an entire paragraph).

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A darkly funny tale about a neurotic man who becomes a widower, a father, and a sort of grim reaper all in one day, this story takes a comical look at our soul’s inevitable slide toward the undiscovered country.  Readers of Roach will find in Moore a shared philosophy that perhaps death and dying should be approached with less trepidation and more humor.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The first novel in Pratchett’s famed Discworld series, The Color of Magic introduces readers to a universe so richly detailed it seems like it could be real enough if alchemy and suspicion had won over science and reason.  Readers of Roach may enjoy Pratchett’s thought-provoking satire as well as the outrageously funny situations his characters find themselves in.

Name: Jessica

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Jurassic Park

July 30, 2012

Author: Crichton, Michael

Title: Jurassic Park

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1991

Number of Pages: 399 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple Locations in the United States and Costa Rica

Time Period: 1989

Series: Has a sequel, The Lost World

Plot Summary: In this thrilling, fast-paced science fiction story, a genetic engineering corporation, InGen, successfully clones 15 species of dinosaurs.  Hoping to feature these previously extinct creatures in the greatest theme park of all time in an island off the west coast of Costa Rica, the visionary of the project, John Hammond, brings a group of people to evaluate it, including a paleontologist, Alan Grant, a paleobotanist, Ellie Sattler, an investment banker, Donald Gennaro, a mathematician, Ian Malcolm, a computer system analyst, Dennis Nedry, and Hammond’s two grandchildren, Lex and Tim Murphy.  While the theme park initially lives up to its fascinating premise, the underlying instability and chaos of the organization are apparent when an employee turns off the park’s power and security grid to steal dinosaur embryos for a competing genetic company, Biosyn.  The action that follows is a nightmarish fight for survival against several Tyrannosaurus rex, velociraptors, and other dinosaurs as every character tries to leave the island alive.  The novel alternates between the points of view of many different characters, although Ian Malcolm and his illustrations often serve as the main narrator and framework of Michael Crichton’s concerns regarding unregulated science and technology. As in many of his novels, Crichton uses clear language and technical details to tell a suspenseful and compelling story about the dangers of bioengineering and people’s desire to use science and math to control nature and the world.

Subject Headings: Genetic Engineering; Clones and Cloning; DNA; Dinosaurs; Prehistoric Animals; Amusement Parks; Business Sabotage; Scientists; Eccentric Men; Billionaires; Islands — Costa Rica; Science Fiction; Suspense Stories; Adventure Stories; Thriller Stories;

Appeal: fast-paced, compelling, dangerous, dramatic, foreboding, menacing, suspenseful, thought-provoking, thrilling, multiple points of view, flawed and recognizable characters, strong and interesting secondary characters, sympathetic characters, action-oriented, cinematic, violent, imaginative, issue-oriented, descriptive, detailed, informative, intelligent, persuasive, scientific, thoughtful, unique, vivid, well-crafted

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: unique, thrilling, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Rex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life by Peter Larson and Kristin Donnan is an intriguing book about the politics and legal issues surrounding a real significant dinosaur discovery and excavation.

A Clone of Your Own?: The Science and Ethics of Cloning by Arlene Judith Klotzko is an informative and thought-provoking book about the moral and legal issues and history of stem cell research and cloning.

Blindsided: Surviving a Grizzly Attack and Still Loving the Great Bear by Jim Cole is a fascinating book about a grizzly bear that attacks the author during a trip to Yellowstone National Park and how despite his injuries, he still has empathy for grizzly bears and other animals that are still trying to survive in the wild.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston is an action-oriented, detailed science fiction thriller about Tom Broadbent who receives a journal from a dying man, Stern Weathers, in New Mexico that a murderer and the government is determined to get because of its description of the location of a special completely preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Shock by Robin Cook is a suspenseful and thought-provoking story about two Harvard graduate students Joanna Meissner and Deborah Cochrane, in Boston, Massachusetts, who investigate the use of their eggs at a fertility clinic and in the process, confront firsthand the hazards of cloning.

Esau by Philip Kerr is a fast-paced scientific story about Stella Swift, a paleontologist, who receives a fossilized skull from America’s greatest mountain climber, Jack Furness, and organizes an expedition to the Himalayas to investigate the possible new species that the skull represents.

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.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded

June 17, 2009

Author: Thomas L. Friedman

Title: Hot, Flat, and Crowded

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 400

Geographical Setting: America, China, the world

Time Period: 20th & 21st century

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Friedman discusses America’s lack of direction and purpose post 9/11, the global environmental crisis and it’s causes and effects. He relates how the solution to America’s identity crisis and the global environmental crisis are linked together. Because the United States is a world leader, Friedman argues that we must take action to replace our wasteful practices with more efficient, innovative efforts in order to preserve the future of our blue planet.

Subject Headings: Energy policy, Global warming, Climatic changes, Energy resources, Energy conservation, Sustainable society, Population, Energy industries

Appeal: entertaining, informative, historical, environmental, scientific, liberal, rational, forward-thinking, foreboding, alarming, scholarly, well-researched, political

Three terms that best describe this book: foreboding, informative, entertaining

Relevant Fiction: Lies, Inc. by Phillip K. Dick (overpopulation, global crisis, science fiction), Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Robinson (environmental crisis, international disaster, political), The Doomsday Report by Rock Brynner (global warming, politicals, hysteria)

Relevant Nonfiction: Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability by Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon (environment, sustainability, oil industry), Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment by James Gustave Speth (environment, globalization, policy), It’s Not Easy Being Green: and Other Things to Consider by Jim Henson (entertaining, informative, grassroots).

Name: Stephen Koebel

Psychological Suspense

June 11, 2009


Psychological Suspense

Title: Scarpetta

Author: Cornwell, Patricia

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 500

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Geographic Setting: New York City

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Kay Scarpetta

Plot Summary: Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta leaves her practice in South Carolina to accept an assignment at Bellevue Hospital psychiatric prison ward, where her  husband works. An injured man, Oscar Bane, turns himself in to authorities claiming that he had been attacked by a stalker who had just killed someone else. He requests that only Dr. Scarpetta examine him. Is Oscar Bane a murderer, paranoid victim, or obsessed stalker fixated on Dr. Scarpetta? The only thing known for sure is that a woman had been tortured and murdered. There are bizarre twists and turns throughout the book. Dr. Scarpetta uses her technological skills to unravel the mystery and eventually reveal the  horrifying truth that threatens her entire family.

Subject Headings: Scarpetta, Kay (fictitious character) –Fiction, Medical examiners (law) –Fiction, Forensic pathologists – Fiction, Women physicians –Fiction

Appeal: Suspenseful, Multiple Plotlines, Complex plots, Scientific, Layered, Bizarre, Twists and Turns, Shocking, Horrifying,  Dark tone, Feminist, Intense.

Three terms that describe this book: Suspenseful, Scientific, Complex.

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction)

Reichs, Kathy – Bare Bones. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist and uses her scientific training and research to solve this mystery.

Patterson, James – 1st to Die. This is the first in the Women’s Murder Club. Four women, a medical examiner, detective, reporter, and an attorney are friends who team up to solve crimes.

Cook Robin – Chromosome 6. The main character, Dr. Jack Stapleton, a forensic pathologist, and Dr. Laurie Montgomery use their medical training to solve a bizarre crime.

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction)

Denega, Danielle – Skulls and skeletons: true life stories of bone detectives. Forensic anthropologists who use their skills to solve mysteries are featured in this book.

Hunter, William – Solving Crimes with Physics.  Introduces and explains how forensic science associated with blood splatter, bullet ballistics, explosions, and other physical evidence can be used to understand crimes.

Nova – “The Perfect Corpse,” a DVD originally aired on television. Forensic scientists examine a headless Iron Age male corpse in Ireland. It is theorized that he had been a sacrificial victim of Celtic ritual.

Name: Donna Mihovilovich