Picks

The Physics of Gridlock

How is automobile traffic like a gas? No, it's not because the collisions are inelastic. Researchers in chaos theory, especially Dirk Helbing and Boris Kerner, both theoretical physicists, have been working on traffic flow, using models similar to those of particle dynamics.

A Friend of the Earth

"A Friend of the Earth" is a novel that alternates in time between the near-present and about twenty-five years in the future, when the worst nightmares of the environmental movement have come to pass. Global warming has turned Southern California into a terrible place to live; violent storms alternate with 130 degree days.

Report of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (Glenn Commission Report)

This report is potentially very important. On the other hand, it could have no impact whatsoever. If Washington reads the Commission findings and recommendations, and funds the five billion dollar programs it recommends, science and mathematics education in the United States could get the "shot in the arm" that it so desperately requires. "A Nation at Risk" was published in 1983.

False Promise

Computers play an increasing role in the life of children (along with everyone else). How much is too much? More and more educators, physicians, and child development professionals are beginning to recognize that time in front of CRT (whether on a computer or a TV) is time that is not spent in interaction with the real world.

The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer

I have to admit that I haven't finished reading this book. With over six hundred, large-format pages and relatively small type, it would probably not have made "Hal's Picks" until next year if I had waited until I had completed it. However, it is entirely possible to dip in for a chapter here and a chapter there.

The Book on the Bookshelf

Henry Petroski, Professor of Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University, is a master at "humanizing" engineering by writing about the history and development of familiar objects such as paperclips and pencils. He seems to relish the challenges involved in writing engagingly to non-engineers about some of the most mundane objects in everyday life - things that we take for granted.

High Stakes are for Tomatoes

We all, and both candidates for President, agree that that our educational systems need to adhere to the highest standards of excellence, that "social promotion" in schools is a bad thing, that students should have to demonstrate basic competences before they receive high school diplomas, and that schools, teachers, and students ought to be rewarded or punished on the basis of judgements render