Science Shelf Newsletter for August 2005

Reproduced from News page of The Science Shelf Book Review Archive


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

Issue #10, August, 2005: Hot Times at the Science Shelf

Read the July Science Shelf newsletter, which has a link previous issues.

Dear Science Readers,
July was a busy month for The Science Shelf, with plenty of new additions and changes. My reviews of coverMaster Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare by Daniel Charles and coverStargazer: The Life and Times of the Telescope by Fred Watson have appeared in print, which means that the excerpts have been replaced by full reviews.
The Master Mind review includes this: “Even as Fritz Haber blazed [his] now faded trail guided by determination and purpose, even as he passed milestones that had once seemed beyond his reach, even as he left behind one identity in the quest to achieve another, he was approaching an unseen precipice…. [The book’s] final pages lay out the author’s conclusions, but they also allow readers to puzzle over Haber’s story and what his life and times can tell them about their own. What lingers when they put this book down are not the facts that Mr. Charles so carefully presents, but questions that only they can answer.”

As for Stargazer, my review states, “As Astronomer-in-Charge at the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Dr. Fred Watson is responsible for the scientific work at Australia’s largest optical telescope. But to the great pleasure of those who pick up his new book, Stargazer: The Life and Times of the Telescope, this very practical scientist still understands what it means to be starry-eyed.”

Upcoming Science Shelf Reviews

I also wrote reviews of two books, which are scheduled for publication. Meanwhile you can find excerpts of my comments by clicking on the covers of coverThe Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney and coverThe Planets by Dava Sobel.

Still on my reading table are
coverOur Inner Ape by Frans de Waal (Riverhead, October), coverSpook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (Norton, October), and coverClassic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard Feynman, edited by Ralph Leighton (also Norton, October)

New Guest Reviews

I recently sent out three of my advanced reading copies to a Science Shelf reader who wants to try being a reviewer. While I am still waiting for those, I followed the suggestion of space artist David A. Hardy and have added a sub-section of Space Art books to my space/astronomy section. It includes Hardy’s reviews of two books and a review of his magnificent Futures: 50 Years in Space, the Challenge of the Stars.

Another guest review, republished with permission of reviewer David Laskin, discusses coverClimate Crash: Abrupt Climate Change and What It Means for Our Future by John D. Cox. I also created a new weather and climate books section of The Science Shelf, which I recommend to “weather weenies” or anyone interested in global climate change. Of course, if you have kids who are budding meteorologists or who are just looking for a different kind of science project, you might want to look into Dr. Fred’s Weather Watch: Create and Run Your Own Weather Station by yours truly and NASA meteorologist Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd.

Reviewer Still Wanted for Shuttle Rising

I’m still looking for a guest reviewer for an interesting self-published space adventure novel. As noted last month, I normally shy away from self-published books, but Charles Boyle looks like he understands what it takes to write — and edit — so that readers will enjoy his work. He also has a very intriguing biography and a great sense of humor. (He attributes his success as a record-holding Senior Oympian to competing against old men.)
If you’re interested, send me e-mail from the Science Shelf main page.

Here’s an edited version of what Boyle sent me about the book:


NASA’s recent launch of Space Shuttle Discovery to the space station coincided with the launch of Shuttle Rising, a space adventure novel by one of NASA’s own, author Charles Boyle, a veteran of 32 years with the space agency.

“The mutual timing is uncanny,” said Boyle, “given that I’ve been working on this story off and on for nine years.” Asked why the novel took that long to complete, Boyle said, “Decades of writing for the government were not good preparation for writing a novel.”

Subtitled To Rendezvous With A Rumor, Boyle’s gripping science fiction/techno-thriller/romance rings with authenticity, clarity, drama and excitement. Set in the near future, its plot is driven by the behavior of a Russia that has returned to Communism and is undermining a proposed UN treaty to inspect all nations for weapons of mass destruction, saying the integrity of its word alone makes inspection unnecessary….

Charles Boyle served as Educational Programs Manager for Earth Sciences at the Goddard Space Flight Center, near Washington, DC. Prior to NASA, he worked at Bell Labs, Esso, Scott Paper, Western Electric, and US Steel. Boyle’s writing has appeared in Science and Omni magazines. He served as space flight editor for the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, wrote a column called “Space Appreciation” for the Journal of Aerospace Education and has been a contributing editor to various space advocacy publications including Space World, Ad Astra, and Aviation/Space Magazine. Time Magazine quoted from “Boyle’s Other Laws,” a gathering of his aphorisms.

Boyle received a Mechanical Engineering degree from Tulane, an M.B.A. in Business Administration from N. Y. U., and a physics major Masters in Education from Harvard. A scuba diver, sailboat racer, and “ancient athlete,” Boyle won two gold medals in track at the 2001 National Senior Olympics. In 2004, he set a new American age-group record in the USA Track&Field Masters 3000 meter racewalk.

He served with the U.S. Maritime Service and the U.S. Navy, 1943-1947.

I’ll close with the usual appeal for Science Shelf clicks, since I need a little more support than I have been getting for the work necessary to maintain the site.

I’m not very good at making sales pitches, because I think that the value of a service ought to be apparent. But I realize that even my most loyal readers need a reminder that they can help me recover the cost of this site and generate a small amount for my efforts without spending a penny more than they normally would. I have added a prominent gateway link to on the main page of The Science Shelf. If you have some book shopping to do, or if you want to buy anything else that Amazon sells (even a George Foreman grill for those spring and summer cookouts), please use your Science Shelf bookmark — you do have it bookmarked, don’t you? — and click that link to Or this one.

Please consider updating your bookmarks or favorites to replace your old entry point with that URL (

And remember, if you learn about a book through a page on the Science Shelf site, you can make sure my efforts are rewarded by using the links on the Science Shelf page to buy that title.


Please feel free to send the Science Shelf URL ( to your friends. And don’t forget, you and they can join the Science Shelf’s e-mail list to be alerted to the latest news at the site by sending an e-mail from any page of the site. Please be assured that I will not share your name or e-mail or use them for other purposes.

Happy summer science reading!
Fred Bortz

Browse reviews and “Science Shelf” columns organized by

I also write children’s science books, which you can learn more about at “Dr. Fred’s Place”.

1 thought on “Science Shelf Newsletter for August 2005”

  1. I seem to be getting quite a few readers of this page. I’ll post future reviews here as well as on my Science Shelf web site after they are published in print.

    Thanks for reading, and watch for more news from the Science Shelf!

    Fred Bortz — Science and technology books for young readers ( and Science book reviews (

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