Science Shelf Newsletter for October: Spooks, ETs, and more

Dear Science Readers,

It’s the beginning of a new month and time to visit the new Science Shelf newsletter again at

As noted in last month’s newsletter, I spent much of September immersed in writing a book manuscript that is due by year’s end. Still, I always write better when I have something on my reading table. That means that although I will not be adding as
many new reviews to the Science Shelf for the next few months, I will always have something good, like

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
Life as We Do Not Know It by Peter Ward to share with you. I’ve got review assignments for both books, and I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival at my door.

Those are two reasons why I call this month’s Science Shelf Newletter “Spooks and Other Life Forms.” Another is the ongoing issue of whether to teach “Intelligent Design” in science classes. I read and got permission to reprint “Debating Darwin,” great book-centered column on that topic by Dallas Morning News critic Jerome Weeks, whose entertaining style has gained him a national following. You can find the column at

While you’re waiting to hear about those new titles by Roach and Ward, you might
enjoy my reviews of the authors’ earlier efforts. Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is guaranteed to produce guilty guffaws, and Ward and Donald Brownlee’s The Life and Death of Planet Earth will leave you with a sense of appreciation for this planet at this time in its life.

I’m looking for a reviewer for Halley’s Quest: A Selfless Genius and his Troubled Paramore by Julie Wakefield. I also have review copies of a few other titles, such as Weighing the World: The Quest to Measure the Earth by Edwin Danson. If you think you can deliver a review that your fellow Science Shelf readers would enjoy, look over the Books Received page and send me an e-mail from there with your request.

Repeating last month’s “tooting my own horn” department, the library-bound edition of Beyond Jupiter: The Story of Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel, part of the “Women’s Adventures in Science” series for middle-grade readers, has been published by Scholastic Library Publishing. For some reason, it is slow to be available on, but that should soon change. Please tell your favorite young-readers’ librarians about this one, and check it out for yourself as well. The binding may make the price a little steep for most book buyers, but not for libraries. If you’re waiting for a less expensive editon, the book is currently scheduled for paperback publication in spring 2006 from the Joseph Henry Press of the National Academy of Science.

Happy science reading from your ever-evolving correspondent,
Fred Bortz

1 thought on “Science Shelf Newsletter for October: Spooks, ETs, and more”

  1. Mary Roach has to be one of the most talented writers out there. Her ability to take any ordinary fact and draw you in is much to be admired.

    This well-written book tackles the search throughout the ages to “prove” that there is some sort of “life” after death. It goes through many historical, and some more recent, attempts to do this. Some were obvious frauds: table rappers, estoplasm extruders, etc., but some have no real explanation, even if they are not conclusive on the subject. The author takes a light-hearted approach in many instances, so whether or not you believe in any of the findings, you will have an enjoyable read along the way.

    – – – – – –
    don’t buy World of Warcraft Gold, make’em….

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