Updates to the Science Shelf Book Review Archive (Nov-Dec’07)

The latest Science Shelf Newsletter is now available. A version without images and with some links not active is reproduced here.

News about the Science Shelf archive of book reviews, columns, and comments by Fred Bortz

Issue #24, November-December 2007 edition

Dear Science Readers,

It’s been a month and a half between updates (click here to read the previous newsletter), and I may not have another until next year. I’m getting slightly fewer book review assignments from my major newspaper clients these days. That’s symptomatic of the newspaper business as a whole. Many major metropolitan newspapers are cutting back their book coverage, and some clients tell me to expect further cuts next year unless their readership complains. I’m still the science “go-to guy” for one major paper, so you can expect on the average of one new review each month from me with updates like this every 6-8 weeks, at least for the short term.

Let me share some “inside baseball” here: a request that you contact your hometown newspapers to protest the decline in book reviews, especially reviews of popular science books. Letters like that can make a big difference.

Here’s what I’ve learned or noticed of late: One excellent client newspaper used to have science reviews once or twice a month. They bought from me as well as other good freelancers whose names I began to recognize and whose work I came to appreciate. That paper has not run a science review in many weeks. I suspect they needed to cut back their book review space and made a strategic decision to focus on fiction plus areas of nonfiction other than science.

Another client editor told me he expects to lose his book reviews next year. He has other responsibilities and book coverage has been losing the priority battle.

I would like to maintain The Science Shelf as a site where people come to discover interesting new science books, so I welcome e-mails recommending titles to other science readers (see http://www.scienceshelf.com/news24.htm for link). I will post those recommendations with names, pseudonyms, or anonymously. A brief description of the books’ contents or comments on why you liked them would be useful.

But enough complaining. Thanksgiving is coming, with the year-end holiday season to follow. Let’s celebrate with some interesting science books that you might want to add to your gift list or wish list.

My most recent review actually made it into four newspapers, despite the cutbacks. That is a testimony to the book’s topic, Machiavellianism, and its quirky title, Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley.

Another book that should have wide appeal is The Design of Future Things by Don Norman. I have submitted my review, which will be added to the Science Shelf archive when that review appears in print.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

It’s a common experience: You push on a door and it refuses to budge. Then you notice its inscribed one-word direction: “Pull.”

“How stupid!” you chide yourself. And then, especially if you have read Donald A. Norman’s classic The Design of Everyday Things, you realize that the blame belongs not with you but with the design of the entranceway. A door, after all, should not require an instruction manual.

Now the Northwestern University Professor is back with a more informal byline, Don Norman, and an equally insightful and entertaining look ahead at the opportunities and foibles inherent in The Design of Future Things.

This book, like its predecessor, will disabuse anyone of the notion that a book about engineering has to be dull. Don Norman’s delightful humor, inviting prose, and choice of topics and examples are guaranteed to make a connection with anyone who has ever driven a car, used a microwave oven, or searched for hidden treasures in a refrigerator….

Upcoming reviews:

A Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford by Richard Reeves

Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming by Mark Bowen

What Bugged the Dinosaurs: Insects, Disease, and Death in the Cretaceous by George Poinar, Jr., and Roberta Poinar

Click here for the Science Shelf review of the following books that challenge “String Theory.”
The Trouble With Physics

Not Even Wrong


My new title for middle graders in Lerner’s “Cool Science” series, Astrobiology has been published in classroom paperback edition for the very affordable price of $8.95. When I last checked, the paperback edition was not on either the Amazon.com website or the publisher’s website.

If the paperback alternative does not yet appear or if you want an autographed copy of either edition, e-mail me. I will gladly sign and sell to you for the retail price and not charge for shipping in the U.S.


Thank you to the growing number of people who are kind enough to buy some of the books that they discovered here through the Science Shelf links. They’ve even used the link on the Science Shelf homepage to enter and buy other products including, most recently, some skin lotion.

I never find out who is buying; I just find out what they have bought, how much they paid, and how much my commission amounts to. At the current pace, monthly commisions cover the cost of the web address, webhosting, and enough to buy me a two-topping large pizza. I’ll never expect commissions to cover the time I spend maintaining the archive of book reviews and sending out messages like this. That’s a labor of book- and science-love, and your feedback (in terms of increasing numbers of clicks) tells me you appreciate it.

As always, happy science reading, and thanks in advance for your support!

Fred Bortz

1 thought on “Updates to the Science Shelf Book Review Archive (Nov-Dec’07)”

  1. A new popular science book reveals that God does play dice with the universe. The new discovery may finally solve Zeno’s paradoxes and the quantum puzzle.

    Science has made a mighty advance since it originated in ancient Greece more than 2500 years ago. Yet we still live in Plato’s cave today; we think everything around us moves continuously, but continuous motion is merely a shadow of real motion. Now an unusual popular science book God Does Play Dice With the Universe, which has just been published, may lead us to walk out the cave along a logical and comprehensible road. After passing Zeno’s arrow, Newton’s inertia, Einstein’s light, and Schrödinger’s cat, the readers of the book will reach the real world, where every thing in the universe, whether it is an atom or a ball or even a star, ceaselessly jumps in a random and discontinuous way. In a famous metaphor, God does play dice with the universe. This reveals a startling new picture of the world, which Einstein could not believe but you can understand. The new discovery may finally solve Zeno’s paradoxes and the quantum puzzle. A single particle can indeed pass through two slits at the same time in the double-slit experiment. It needs not be divided, but only needs to move discontinuously. As the eminent quantum physicist Bernard d’Espagnat commented on the back cover of the book, “Its very existence is at any rate, an excellent illustration of the extent to which physical data force us to depart from commonsense ideas when we try to depict reality ‘as it really is’.”

    The book is now available on Amazon. More information can be found on the website http://www.quantummotion.org/

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