You Should be Reading:
Love Notes to Science
Are you curious about the world around you? Do you think there’s just too much to learn to know about the world? Do you want to try anyway? Do you get lost in explanations that seem dry, but know there are people who are passionate out there? If this is your position, these books are for you.
Cosmology is considered the ‘queen’ of the sciences, exploring things happening in the universe, it’s beginning, structure, and space-time, affecting how things work on earth. There’s a lot out there, but one good place to start is “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is a brief but clear introduction to the universe. Another good book is “We Have No Idea” by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson, which explores how much we have learned and how much more is left to learn, not as a bad place, but as an exciting continuation to our journey as people.
Chemicals are the basis of the world, of everything we touch and interact with. Learning about them helps you decipher headlines. “The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean and Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik explore the development of the periodic table and how these elements became part of the modern world, including why spoons don’t seem to have a taste and how we can build tall structures.
Biology is how carbon does things that we call life. It’s also amazing that our bodies manage to work at all, especially when you consider all the weird things we carry around, as shown in “Human Errors” by Nathan Lents. It’s also remarkable that we managed to survive as long as we have with as many things as are trying to kill us, as explored in “Get Well Soon” by Jennifer Wright.
Science affects history and the development of the world in many ways. Deborah Blum explores a couple of points in “The Poisoner’s Handbook” (the development of modern forensics in New York City during the 1920s) and “The Poison Squad” (about the development of the FDA in the 1890s-1900s). Another way to explore history is to look at alternate possibilities, explorations that push the boundaries of current interpretations, such as in “Magicians of the Gods” by Graham Hancock, which explores the circumstantial evidence of a cataclysm at the end of the last ice age that might have caused the fall of a great civilization. While not mainstream, there are scientists exploring the possibilities.
“A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson is the culmination of the author’s childhood desire to learn about everything by meeting with and learning from experts and write the book his younger self wanted. “What If?” by Randal Monroe is a book of absurd questions that are given serious answers, the kind any child (or child at heart) would appreciate.
Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them that isn’t always best supported by the education they receive. Books give us the opportunity to learn from those who are passionate about their fields, or those who can interview those who are passionate and are able to write it in a captivating way for the general population. I love learning, but school isn’t always the best place to learn, especially when my interests went deeper than the class went or when I had trouble with the language of math or when I wanted to know how things fit together. More recent curriculum, like the Big History Project, helps fit things together, serving as a great survey of all the sciences and how they fit together, but that is a new development that many of us didn’t have that access to and now, may want to explore more.