Nitric Oxide and the Control of Firefly Flashing

As a physical chemist, I was amazed when it was discovered that the diatomic free radical, nitric oxide (NO) was intimately involved in the transmission of neurological information in mammals. Now a group led by Barry Trimmer at Tufts University has demonstrated that it is the key that turns on bioluminescence in fireflies.

The Mosquito Killer

What do you think of when someone mentions DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane)? Chances are that your mind immediately goes to the damage the use of this chemical has done to bird populations, Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring", and the effort to ban or control its use.

Off the Planet: Surviving Five Perilous Months Aboard the Space Station Mir

The word "Surviving" should probably be underlined in the title of this first-hand account by an American astro/cosmonaut of his experiences aboard Mir. There is precious little science in this book, but a great deal about living at the mercy of technology and Russian bureaucracy.

The Shaken-Soda Syndrome

Try this! Take two identical cans of soda (or some other beverage). Roll then down a slight incline to confirm that they roll at about the same speed. What do you think will happen if you shake up one can and roll them again? Make a prediction. Then try it. Have your students do it. Develop hypotheses and test them. This is a terrific experiment that anyone can do.

Impact Event at the Permian-Triassic Boundary: Evidence from Extraterrestrial Noble Gases in Fullerenes

It has been twenty years since Luis Alvarez suggested that the dinosaurs were extinguished by a meteor impact that killed much of the life on earth. His evidence was in a thin layer of iridium-rich soil that corresponded with the extinction, and the fact that iridium is much more abundant in some meteors than it is on earth.

Hidden Evidence: Forty true crimes and how forensic science helped solve them

Even readers who already know something about forensic science are likely to learn from "Hidden Evidence" about historic cases that have been solved by science. Unfortunately, there are so few details provided in the book that the most interesting questions often remain unanswered.

The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimte Reflections on Natural History

I find it surprising that this is the first book by Stephen Jay Gould to have been selected as a "Hal's Pick", since I own and have enjoyed reading many of them. I have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Professor Gould speak several times and I wish I could write as well as he speaks extemporaneously.