Greg Conti : Googling Security – How Much Does Google Know About You?

I can’t remember where I saw Googling Security reviewed*, but the review made a strong impression. It exposed at least a couple of the provocative tidbits in the book, like that even if you personally refuse to use Google’s Gmail service on privacy grounds, as soon as a friend sends you a message with Gmail,Continue reading “Greg Conti : Googling Security – How Much Does Google Know About You?”

Janna Levin : How the Universe Got Its Spots

How the Universe Got Its Spots is either the most unusual science book I’ve ever read, or the most science-oriented memoir. I was delighted by both aspects. Levin, a no-nonsense, for-real, theoretical cosmologist grapples with, among other things, the shape of the universe, her acknowledgedly irrational preference for it to be finite, and a relationshipContinue reading “Janna Levin : How the Universe Got Its Spots”

Daniel H. Pink : Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Pink is an engaging writer, and I certainly was entertained by and learned useful things from Drive. It examines the difference between extrinsic motivation (e.g., “I want to earn a million by the the time I’m 35”) and intrinsic motivation (e.g., “I want to be the best criminal lawyer in the state.”), and argues, withContinue reading “Daniel H. Pink : Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”

Eduardo Porter : The Price of Everything

There are a lot of intriguing concepts in The Price of Everything, but I was bothered throughout by logic that seemed sloppy. But on the other hand, I mistrust my judgement a little bit because I had a vehement, irrational, negative emotional reaction to some of the book’s content. Porter’s key concept is that youContinue reading “Eduardo Porter : The Price of Everything”

Philip Plait: Death from the Skies!

Death from the Skies!‘s nine chapters all follow the same pattern: a brief, moderately sensationalized depiction of an astronomical disaster followed by a somewhat more sober discussion of the event, with an emphasis on how likely and/or subject to mitigation it is. The book more-or-less progresses from near-term potential events (like a meteor collision) toContinue reading “Philip Plait: Death from the Skies!”

Mary Roach: Packing for Mars – The Curious Science of Life in the Void

I enjoyed Packing for Mars a lot, and it made me guffaw and snort repeatedly — but it’s the first of Roach’s books that make me feel like her approach is in danger of becoming a schtick. Packing for Mars devotes a chapter apiece to several aspects of the ticklish business of getting human beingsContinue reading “Mary Roach: Packing for Mars – The Curious Science of Life in the Void”

Stephen R. Braun: Buzz – The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine

Braun’s lucid, entertaining, and informative book is evenly split between discussion of two molecules, ethyl alcohol and caffeine, and how they behave in the human body (particularly the brain). Despite its subtitle, it’s much longer on “science” than on “lore,” but Braun doesn’t assume any particular background in organic or neuro-chemistry; Buzz is readily accessibleContinue reading “Stephen R. Braun: Buzz – The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine”

Tom Standage: The Neptune File

In The Neptune File, Standage expertly balances personal drama and the intellectual excitement of a radical new idea. The new idea rests on the notion that the eccentricities of Uranus’s orbit can only be explained by the gravitational pull of another planet. What makes it so radical is that mathemeticians work out where the newContinue reading “Tom Standage: The Neptune File”

Steven Johnson: Mind Wide Open

Steven Johnson opens his whirlwind tour of modern brain science asserting his intent to deliver a “long-decay” idea in each chapter: the sort of thought that will resonate with you after you finish the book, even possibly altering your behavior. And he delivers at least a few that stick for me. I learned things aboutContinue reading “Steven Johnson: Mind Wide Open”

Steven Johnson: The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map is the sort of book that could be filed in a number of sections of a bookstore or library. Its wide-ranging approach convinced me that I need to read everything else Johnson writes. It’s nominally the history of the London cholera epidemic of 1854, and of the two men who traced itContinue reading “Steven Johnson: The Ghost Map”