Joe Schwarcz is the director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society, and he also hosts a popular radio show in Canada, in which he answers questions about science he has posed to his listeners. "Dr. Joe and What You Didn't Know" is the fourth in a series of books in which his answers are compiled.
Most people would be surprised to learn that, by the time of his death in 1955, the FBI had compiled a file of more than fourteen hundred pages on the world's most famous and most revered scientist, Albert Einstein.
In his surprise 1959 bestseller about Kepler, The Sleepwalkers, Arthur Koestler claimed that Nicolaus Copernicus' book, De Revolutionibus had very little influence on the other astronomers of his time because it was little-read.
Robert Hooke's name is familiar to most of us only because of "Hooke's Law", f = - kx, which describes the potential for a harmonic oscillator. I became aware of some of the other contributions of this remarkable man by reading one of Lisa Jardine's previous books, "Ingenious Pursuits", which was my pick for May, 2000.
Many have pointed out the similarity between the science of chemistry and the art of cooking. I'm sure that there is a lot of truth in that; some of the best amateur chefs I know are professional chemists. I don't happen to know any professional chefs who are amateur chemists, but Robert Wolke comes pretty close to that.
About half of the carbon dioxide from anthropogenic sources since the beginning of the industrial revolution is no longer in the atmosphere. For a long time, it has been recognized that the oceans have been absorbing the gas, and this is often viewed positively by environmentalists, because the impact on climate change would otherwise be much larger.
Readers of Hal's Picks will know that I have a strong interest in pseudosciences and believe that teachers should address our students' beliefs in them. When I ran across "Debunked!" by Nobel laureate Georges Charpak well-known skeptic Henri Broch, I bought a copy.
This is a terrific book. I thoroughly enjoyed every page written by distinguished string theorist Brian Greene, who also wrote the book and Nova TV series, "The Elegant Universe", which is available in paperback.
What would you say are the greatest scientific ideas that mankind has discovered? Most of us chemists would say that the notion that matter consists of atoms would have to be one of them, and physical chemist Peter Atkins does not disappoint us on that score. He also treads ground familiar to us when he describes entropy and energy, and evolution and DNA.
A widely-held misconception is that people, in general, are getting taller. Another one is that Americans are the tallest people in the world. A handful of anthropologists led by John Komlos, a professor at the University of Munich, is using the average heights of people as a unique historical and contemporary index of health and nutrition.