Saturday, September 23, 2006

Handy guides

Flicking through my copy of A Guide to Science Reading (1st ed, 1957, revised 1964) shows how things have changed for pop-science in fifty years. There were perfectly readable popular books then, though many still dated from the first half of the century. On the other hand, the 900 odd titles listed in this handy guide prepared for the American Association for thr Advancement of Science include a hefty proportion of technical primers which would hardly get a look in now.

Take "Atomic and Nuclear Physics", for example. Pretty important subject in the '50s and '60s. The eager reader might try Bohr, Neils, Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, "a collection of articles written by the author on various occasions over a period of 25 years. The general theme of the papers is the lessons in theory of knowledge (epistemology) which have been provided by the modern development of atomic physics".

If that doesn't grab you, try Norman Lansdell, The Atom and the Energy Revolution, (Penguin!), "based on an investigation and report of a management consultant who was commissioned to make a study of the implications of atomic energy". Thrilling stuff, no doubt.

Now we have, probably, thousands of more reader-friendly titles (and Roger Penrose). And to guide the curious to the right ones?

That is harder. Waterstones published a quite lengthy Guide to Popular Science Books in 2000, but they were all good, according to them. The British Council's Hunting Down the Universe: A select science and literature bibliography, also highlights good stuff, as long as it was written by a Brit - which is something of a limitation in this area. Still downloadable, though.

And Brian Clegg's Popular Science website has a growing list of reviews, and only one of his own books gets five stars (along with Armand Leroi, Matt Ridley, and, I fear, Stephen Hawking).

Are there any others?


Blogger Martin Griffiths said...

How about this?

9:40 AM  
Blogger Jon Turney said...

re: Martin's comment - see the post below headed A Longer List...

10:17 AM  

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