Tag Archives: Science

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books That Did a Great Job of Explaining Science to Non-Scientists

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Three DNA strandsI’ve mentioned my interest in science in previous posts here. There’s nothing like finding new books about various branches of science that were written for people who are not experts on the topic.

All of these titles were good reads that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about their subject matter.

 

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Branches of Science It Covers: Medicine, Public Health, and Sociology

This is one of those books that made me very grateful to grow up in a time and place when vaccinations, antibiotics, and clean water exist.

 

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

Branches of Science It Covers: Astronomy

Since I’m currently reading this book, I won’t provide any commentary on it yet other than to say that it’s as educational as it is humorous. Scientists are still debating whether to designate Pluto a planet again, but it never stopped being a planet in my opinion. Ha!

 

Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be The Only Humans on Earth by Chris Stringer

Branches of Science It Covers: Biology and Paleoanthropology

Longterm readers might remember my never-ending fascination with how and why the various types of humans evolved over time. Every time a new book comes out on Neanderthals, Archaic humans, or any other closely related species, I simply must read it. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to actually meeting the people that eventually lead to the birth of modern humans.

 

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Doidge

Branches of Science It Covers: Neuroscience, Medicine, and Psychology

Is anyone else fascinated by neuroplasticity? It’s been a while since I read this, but I do recall being surprised by how much the human mind can adapt when accidents, injuries, or other issues cause damage to it.

 

American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree by Susan Freinkel

Branches of Science It Covers: Botany, Mycology, and Ecology

The American Chestnut is a tree that has been driven nearly to extinction by a fungus called the chestnut blight. Since this was published, there have been a few signs of hope for this species. My fingers are crossed that scientists will find a way to keep it alive either by killing the fungus or figuring out a way for the remaining American Chestnut trees to no longer be so susceptible to it.

 

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Rest in Peace, Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking in 2006. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I’m assuming all of my readers heard this news yesterday, but the famous physicist Stephen Hawking is dead.

The world is a dimmer and sadder place without him. I doubt any of his friends and loved ones will read this, but I’d like to extend my sincere condolences to them if they do.

A Brief History of Time was one of my all-time favourite pop-science reads. The only science classes I took in high school were Biology and Chemistry, so he was my first introduction to Cosmology and Physics.

He explained everything so clearly and concisely in the things he wrote for a general audience. By far the best part of A Brief History of Time in particular was the section on black holes. Mr. Hawking’s theories about how they worked and why it’s actually possible for some material to escape a black hole blew my mind.

It sounded like something from a science fiction novel, yet it was happening in our universe and it could be explained in purely scientific terms. There’s something special about touching the far reaches of current human knowledge like that.

Not every physicist is capable of explaining his or her work so well to people who have little to no understanding of what physics is about or how physicists are slowing figuring out more and more details about how the universe works and how it began.

In 2014, Stephen Hawking asked science fiction writers to incorporate his ideas about imaginary time into their stories.  To the best of my knowledge, no one has taken him up on that challenge yet.

(If any of my readers know of any plausible hard science fiction books, movies, or TV shows that are based on Stephen Hawking’s work, do mention them in the comment section below! Everything I could find online about this topic involved soft science fiction like Futurama or Doctor Who.

Mr. Hawking, thank you for everything you did for the scientific community. Thank you for inspiring generations of science fiction authors, too. May you rest in peace.

I’ll end this post with a quote from Mr. Hawking himself:

It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.

 

A Tale of Six Pies

six pies
Photo credit: Alpha.

I have two basic kinds of dreams: ordinary ones about the somewhat-boring things everyone has to do in life and and pulse-pounding, action-adventure tales where I narrowly outrun zombies, ghosts, or other malevolent forces. (Sometimes I don’t outrun them, of course, and then I get to see what life is like as a sci-fi monster. But I digress).

Then there is my bizarrely specific dream about buying pies from a few nights ago. How many pies, you ask? Six of them, and each one a different flavour.

What two adults with small-to-moderate appetites could be expected to do with so many pies before they grew stale remains to be seen, but dream-me was thrilled with what I’d picked up at the grocery store. I thought we’d start with the lemon meringue, and then move onto the chocolate one that looked a lot like this festive pie pictured above. Just before I woke up, I was imagining how content we’d feel with bellies full of pie. It was the nicest thing I could possibly think of at the time.

This was one of those dreams that  took me a moment or two to separate from reality when I woke up. Did we really have six pies sitting on the counter in the kitchen? No, thank goodness. Our kitchen was as pie-free as it ever is.

The dream has stuck with me, though, as I wonder what could have caused it. I’m not craving this type of dessert. I haven’t actually been craving many sweets at all. If I were going to eat them, Halloween candy would be closer to what I’d want at this time of year. There are only so many weeks when you can get certain types of it, after all!

I wish there were more scientific studies about what dreams mean. Almost everything I’ve found on this topic is infused with woo or spiritual beliefs that I don’t share. Those interpretations are great for people who believe in those things, but I’d love to see someone come up with explanations that don’t rely on them.

If I ever win the lottery or sell so many books that I become independently wealthy, I’m going to study this as scientifically as I possibly can. My theory is that the emotions we feel when we’re dreaming are far more important than the content of the dreams themselves.

I’ve had peaceful dreams about zombies and terrifying dreams about something as simple as trying to find a clean, dry, available toilet in a building that seems to contain everything else in the entire world but that.

What odd things have you been dreaming about lately? How do you interpret them?

And more importantly, has this post made you crave pie? 🙂