Sunday, 26 December 2010

Boxing Day reading

My book of the year

I am foregoing the teenage Jennifer Agutter's waving her red petticoat on the television, in favour of the best book that I have read over 2010, Richard A. Muller's Physics for future presidents: the science behind the headlines.

Wonderul to read some real science. It takes a physicist to avoid reductionism, and to see the moral, social and political dimensions too. Oh, for some real science in CE.

I have no intention to run for anything, other than the bus, but any sensible citizen in a modern liberal democracy should feel obliged to know the sort of things that Professor Muller outlines – and he does this in such a deft and entertaining way.

The main pillar of this book is contained in an aphorism often attributed to Mark Twain but actually coming from the nineteenth-century humourist, Josh Billings –

The trouble with most folks isn't their ignorance. It's knowing so many things that ain't so.

As in so many walks of life, there is an awful lot of this in CE too.

I do wholeheartedly recommend this book – of you can find a copy of it, that is. In the UK anyway, it has been a sell-out. The book was first published two years ago but renenewd interest may have been spurred by attention on BBC Radio 4's More or less on 12 December. By the afternoon of Christmas Eve, only two copies were left in all the branches of Waterstone's bookshops, across the whole of central London, at Greenwich and Piccadilly. Mine is the Picadilly one. Thank you Ben and Becca for getting it.

Reference

Muller, R. A. (2008) Physics for future presidents: the science behind the headlines, New York and London, Norton
http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=8647

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