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The Best American Science Writing 2002 (2002)

by Matt Ridley

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Matt Ridley notes in his introduction that he has a soft spot for contrarians. He picked a fair number of articles for their contrarian scientific views. But the problem with that approach is that the writing then tends to focus on the controversy and the personalities rather than the science. While I love me some good drama, I really like science. In a few cases, I felt pretty short-shrifted by how shallow the actual science coverage was in the article. You can sort of see that by the number of articles that come from culture magazines such as The New Yorker or Esquire as compared to science magazines like Science or Scientific American. The lack of science is hardly the fault of the individual writers. Generally, they were writing what their editors needed to fill the magazines. Ridley could have used different selection criteria, and so the responsibility must lie with him.

(Full review at my blog) ( )
  KingRat | Jun 17, 2008 |
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Table of Contents
• Dr. Daedalus, by Lauren Slater
• Crimson tide, by Atul Gawande
• The made-to-order Savior, by Lisa Belkin
• A desire to duplicate, by Margaret Talbot
• Medicine's race problem, by Sally Satel
• The thirty years' war, by Jerome Groopman
• The soft science of dietary fat, by Gary Taubes
• Brothers with heart, by Joseph D'Agnese
• I love my glow bunny, by Christopher Dickey
• Rethinking the brain, by Michael Specter
• Penninger, by Mary Rogan
• Mothers and others, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
• Of altruism, heroism and nature's gifts in the face of terror, by Natalie Angier
• Pirate utopia, by Julian Dibbell
• Code red for the web, by Carolyn Meinel
• What brings a world into being?, by David Berlinski
• Quantum shmantum, by Tim Folger
• Shadow science, by Oliver Morton
• Can science explain everything? anything?, by Steven Weinberg
• The Eco-optimist, by Nicholas Wade
• George Divoky's planet, by Darcy Frey
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060936509, Paperback)

If, as Matt Ridley suggests, science is simply the search for new forms of ignorance, then perhaps it follows that with science's advances come new questions. Will human genetic engineering become commonplace? Will human cloning ever be safe? Are there many universes? How much will the climate change during the coming century?

The Best American Science Writing 2002 gathers top writers and scientists covering the latest developments in the fastest-changing, farthest-reaching scientific fields, such as medicine, genetics, computer technology, evolutionary psychology, cutting-edge physics, and the environment. Among this year's selections: In "The Made-to-Order Savior," Lisa Belkin spotlights two desperate families seeking an unprecedented cure by a medically and ethically unprecedented means -- creating a genetically matched child. Margaret Talbot's "A Desire to Duplicate" reveals that the first human clone may very likely come from an entirely unexpected source, and sooner than we think. Michael Specter reports on the shock waves rippling through the field of neuroscience following the revolutionary discovery that adult brain cells might in fact regenerate ("Rethinking the Brain"). Christopher Dickey's "I Love My Glow Bunny" recounts with sly humor a peculiar episode in which genetic engineering and artistic culture collide. Natalie Angier draws an insightful contrast between suicide terrorists and rescue workers who risk their lives, and finds that sympathy and altruism have a definite place in the evolution of human nature, David Berlinski's "What Brings a World into Being?" ponders the idea of biology and physics as essentially digital technologies, exploring the mysteries encoded in the universe's smallest units, be they cells or quanta. Nicholas Wade shows how one of the most controversial books of the year, The Skeptical Environmentalist, by former Greenpeace member and self-described leftist Bjorn Lomborg, debunks some of the most cherished tenets of the environmental movement, suggesting that things are perhaps not as bad as we've been led to believe. And as a counterpoint, Darcy Frey's profile of George Divoky reveals a dedicated researcher whose love of birds and mystery leads to some sobering discoveries about global warming and forcefully reminds us of the unsung heroes of science: those who put in long hours, fill in small details, and take great trouble.

In the end, the unanswered questions are what sustain scientific inquiry, open new frontiers of knowledge, and lead to new technologies and medical treatments. The Best American Science Writing 2002 is a series of exciting reports from science's front lines, where what we don't know is every bit as important as what we know.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:10 -0400)

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