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kottke.org posts about John Horgan

Some science book reading lists

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2015

From John Horgan, a list of 25 Terrific Science(y) Books. There are some unorthodox picks here (next to some no-brainers):

Ulysses, by James Joyce, 1922. Yeah, it’s a work of fiction, but as I argued a few years ago, Joyce was a more astute observer of the mind than anyone before or since. He exemplifies Noam Chomsky’s dictum that we will always learn more about ourselves from literature than from science.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, 1962. This sneaky, subversive assault on conventional notions of scientific truth and progress triggered a revolution itself within the philosophy of science. Be sure to note where Kuhn compares scientists with drug addicts.

From Steven Weinberg, a list of the 13 best science books for the general reader. Solid list. But The Origin of Species is more than a little tough for the lay reader; I tried reading it a few years ago and it was a slog. I recommend The Elegant Universe and The Making of the Atomic Bomb w/o reservation.

When science goes backward

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2010

John Horgan argues that in some areas, science and technology are moving in the wrong direction. Among those areas are space colonization, the origin of life, and ending infectious disease.

Decades ago antibiotics, vaccines, pesticides, water chlorination and other public health measures were vanquishing diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, polio, whooping cough, tuberculosis and smallpox, particularly in First World nations. In The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance (Penguin, 1995), the journalist Laurie Garrett noted that in 1967 U.S. Surgeon General William Stewart said that it was “time to close the books on infectious diseases” (Garrett’s words) and shift resources toward non-infectious killers such as cancer and heart disease. The global eradication of smallpox in 1979 seemed to fulfill Stewart’s vision. Hopes for the end of infectious disease were soon crushed, however, by the emergence of AIDS, mutant flu viruses and antibiotic-resistant forms of old killers such as tuberculosis.