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sjmccreary's science reads

Mini-Challenge: Popular Science- 6 Books In 2009

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1sjmccreary
May 6, 2009, 11:30am Top

I'll join in. Considering how much I hated science in school, I've come to be pretty fascinated by it ever since. I'm going to go back and see what I've read so far this year that will fit here.

2sjmccreary
May 6, 2009, 11:41am Top

Well, that was fast. Most of the science I remember reading recently was last fall. It looks like the only science book I've read so far in 2009 is

Book #1

Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes.

This gets into the genographic project research, and proposes the theory that all native Europeans are decended from a very few prehistoric women. (Sykes is British). He spends most of the book describing how the theory came about, and how he proceeded to "prove" it. No math or chemistry required. Turns out, Europe has only 7 "mothers", and worldwide, there are only a couple of dozen. I have recommend this book to everyone I've mentioned it to.

3sjmccreary
May 6, 2009, 11:44am Top

For the remainder of the challenge, I'll just record books as I read them. I'm not going to prepare a "reading list" in advance - for me, that is the surest way to make a book unappealing.

4sjmccreary
Jun 6, 2009, 11:37am Top

Book #2

ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine by John LaPuma

This book falls under the medical sciences heading in the Dewey decimal system as "promotion of health". Close enough for me - I'm counting it. This is written by the same guy who did the food & diet stuff in the popular "You" books. For a "big" book, it is really quite short for reading cover to cover. It talks about the things in food that are good for you, the things that are bad for you, provides a list of about 50 powerhouse foods, an 8-week program for changing your diet and eating habits, a short recipe section, and then (my favorite part) a section that lists quite a few medical problems (including diabetes, diverticulitis, high cholesterol, etc) and provides lists of foods that can help prevent or relieve that condition and another list of foods to avoid that will aggrevate the condition. Tons of easily accessible information for anyone interested in understanding better how our diet can influence our health.

5VisibleGhost
Jun 12, 2009, 2:18am Top

sjmccreary, I haven't read a lot of nutritional books. One of my favorite food books is On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, 2nd edition. It's more of a reference book than one to be read straight through. But it has all kinds of very interesting sections in it.

6sjmccreary
Jun 12, 2009, 10:08am Top

#5 That one does look good - I'm going to try to find it.

7sjmccreary
Jul 12, 2009, 6:20pm Top

Book #3

The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook by James A Duke

This is another in the medical science heading, as "pharmacology". I'm going to count this one, too, as I did the last one, since I seem to be light in the science reading this summer. I think the touchstone for the title might be wrong, the subtitle should be "the comprehensive referece to the best herbs for healing". This is really just a listing of nearly 200 different herbs from around the world which have medicinal properties. The author lists them alphabetically by common name (but includes a cross-index by medical condition), briefly describes the plant, lists the therapeutic uses supported by science and the folk remedies that aren't, discusses the reasons why the plant may be effective and compares the plant to commercially available pharmaceuticals, provides an interesting safety rating (more or less risky than a cup of coffee), and offers dosage suggestions and lots of warnings about drug interactions. Surprisingly, many medicinal herbs are just as effective as synthetic pharmaceuticals, or even more so, often with fewer side effects. Many medicinal herbs are not approved by the FDA, but are commonly available in Europe. Germany seems to the be most progressive in the use of medicinal herbs among western nations. Fascinating.

8VisibleGhost
Jul 19, 2009, 2:17am Top

I find it interesting how much drug companies spend on finding new natural pharmaceuticals in the wild. In some countries I think they are even being sued or prosecuted for their activities. I read an article once about a guy who decided to try all the natural hallucenogenic plants he could find. He almost killed himself more than once. It was quite intriguing.

9sjmccreary
Oct 6, 2009, 12:58pm Top

Book #4

Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery by David Attenborough

I'm not reading much hard science this year, so I'm again counting something just because it is in a dewey decimal science category. This one is in #508 Natural History, in the Natural Science and Mathmatics category. It more closely resembles an art book than science. It is an introduction to 5 different artists who are well-knon for their drawings and paintings of plants and animals mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries, when scientific exploration and study was quite popular. A beautiful book to look at, pretty dull for reading, and dispite being classified as natural science, there really isn't any scientific discussion at all in the book.

10VisibleGhost
Oct 8, 2009, 8:43am Top

sjmccreary, you only need two more to finish. Go! I need to update mine but I think I'm behind.

11sjmccreary
Oct 17, 2009, 6:42pm Top

I spend a little time at the library this afternoon, waiting for my son to finish browsing at the music store. While I was there I jotted down titles of 13 science books that I thought looked interesting and added them to my wishlist when I got home. Hopefully, I'll finish the challenge more strongly than I've been going at it so far!

12sjmccreary
Feb 3, 2010, 2:26pm Top

Well, I didn't get finished before the end of 2009, but only one more to go, so I'll stick with it.

Book #5

This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J Levitin

Written by a neuroscientist who began life as a music recording engineer. He provides a short explanation of music theory in each chapter, then progresses into the scientific evidence of how that aspect of music is processed by the brain. Both scientific and musical concepts are explained very well. Recommended.

13VisibleGhost
Feb 3, 2010, 11:39pm Top

Book # 5 sounds interesting. Somehow, in the lottery of life I wasn't awarded any musical abilities. I had to look at the first post here to see the date. Five science books since May 2009 is good progress. Congrats.

14sjmccreary
Feb 4, 2010, 12:10am Top

Well, you may be interested to learn, then, that Levitin offers evidence that even nonmusicians' brains are able to "hear" the different details in musical compositions, such as rhythm, phrasing, keys, and harmonics. He claims that music was a basic step in the evolution of modern humans - even before spoken speech.

I guess I was thinking the same thing - even though the challenge said 6 books in 2009, I am justifying my failure by saying that it hasn't been an entire year yet, so I've still got some time!

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