I had a pleasant time last night at the holiday party thrown for NPR Science Friday guests by Ira Flatow and his staff. Lots of people there had been on the show to talk about their books, and it occurred to me that these would make great choices for any science and technology types on your holiday gift list.
My pal Stuart Firestein works on the molecular biology of olfaction at Columbia University, where he teaches a popular course on
It’s about what motivates scientists at a personal level—namely, curiosity about the unknown and striking out into uncharted waters. Now he’s written a short, very readable book called Ignorance: How It Drives Science. It’s the best account I’ve ever read of how science actually gets done—through hunches, false leads, serendipity, and following unexpected leads down an entirely different path. Stuart was on Science Friday back in June.
Diana Reiss teaches psychology at Hunter College. Her research into self-recognition in animals led to her work with bottle-nose dolphins. The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives is about her work with these remarkable animals. She also talked about it on Science Friday.
Christopher Bonanos writes at New York magazine. He showed up at the party with a vintage 1963 Polaroid camera around his neck. He’d been a guest on Science Friday earlier in the day to talk about Instant: The Story of Polaroid. It's about Edwin Land, the scientist and co-founder of Polaroid, and the rise and fall of his brilliant company. Land was truly an American original. Polaroid photography continues to have a cult following, especially among artistically inclined younger types.
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