While exploring a rich variety of topics, from climate change to Einstein, this collection of scientific thoughts lacks...

A New Science

FROM LIGHT TO ETERNITY

A scientific freethinker draws on his Usenet posts to argue for reinterpretations of mainstream theories.

In this book, Prasad (God vs. the Universe, 2015, etc.) challenges scientific orthodoxy on subjects ranging from the role of carbon dioxide in shaping the Earth’s climate to the physical characteristics of the human soul. In presenting his arguments, the author also celebrates the culture of Usenet and other online discussion forums, where he developed and honed his theories over several decades. Prasad approaches established science with a contrarian’s enthusiasm, disputing the particle-wave dual nature of light, the conclusions of climate change studies, the customs of academic publishing, and Albert Einstein’s role in developing scientific theory. The book draws on a broad range of published research, though the papers’ authors would likely dispute many of Prasad’s interpretations of their work. Prasad writes in an excitable style, with more than 90 exclamation points appearing throughout the nearly 140 pages of the book’s body, and with unfettered confidence: “Judged on the basis of this principle [Occam’s Razor], my theory of light is superior to existing theories.” There is also a hint of the conspiracy theorist in the volume’s approach, particularly in the discussion of government-funded research into climate change, described as “massive corruption.” The author accuses climate researchers of ignoring the complexities of the system immediately before supporting one of his arguments with “This is what happened in reality, though the actual data are different, and these graphs are merely an example to clarify what really happened.” With its overabundance of exclamation points, italics, and all-caps text, along with its sense of entitlement (“My objection and my answers to all the other questions, including my explanation of light, need to be on the record and fully acknowledged”) and incredulity (“I felt that the totality of online information on these subjects was somehow subtly changing”), the book retains close ties to its origins in online postings without moving beyond Usenet into a more refined and coherent scientific argument.

While exploring a rich variety of topics, from climate change to Einstein, this collection of scientific thoughts lacks polish.

Pub Date: May 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5309-4838-3

Page Count: 152

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2016

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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THE GREAT BRIDGE

THE EPIC STORY OF THE BUILDING OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

It took 14 years to build and it cost 15 million dollars and the lives of 20 workmen. Like the Atlantic cable and the Suez Canal it was a gigantic embodiment in steel and concrete of the Age of Enterprise. McCullough's outsized biography of the bridge attempts to capture in one majestic sweep the full glory of the achievement but the story sags mightily in the middle. True, the Roeblings, father and son who served successively as Chief Engineer, are cast in a heroic mold. True, too, the vital statistics of the bridge are formidable. But despite diligent efforts by the author the details of the construction work — from sinking the caissons, to underground blasting, stringing of cables and pouring of cement — will crush the determination of all but the most indomitable reader. To make matters worse, McCullough dutifully struggles through the administrative history of the Brooklyn Bridge Company which financed and contracted for the project with the help of the Tweed Machine and various Brooklyn bosses who profited handsomely amid continuous allegations of kickbacks and mismanagement of funds. He succeeds in evoking the venality and crass materialism of the epoch but once again the details — like the 3,515 miles of steel wire in each cable — are tiresome and ultimately entangling. Workmanlike and thorough though it is, McCullough's history of the bridge has more bulk than stature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1972

ISBN: 0743217373

Page Count: 652

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972

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