Author Topic: Science Books for Beginners  (Read 8367 times)

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Offline Aric

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Science Books for Beginners
« on: May 14, 2008, 12:43:54 PM »
I've seen a few topics on peoples favorite skeptical books, but this is a bit different.

I haven't been up on my science since high school, which is a bad way to leave your scientific education. I took some biology in college, but that was more to fill time between sleeping and playing Goldeneye.

So my question is, what are some good basic science books to restart a scientific education with? Biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, anything. Textbooks sound like a horrible place to start, and it seems that there must be a much better option out there to increase my knowledge and understanding.

Thanks for the help, everybody!
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Offline dnacid

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2008, 07:35:11 PM »
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin is a definite read if you are interested in evolutionary biology. :D

Offline MisterMarc

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2008, 08:01:18 PM »


I can recommend this series. ;)


Seriously, for light reading on heavy topics of education I recommend this one:

It covers a really broad range of topics in English, History, Science, Philosophy, Culture, etc. and gives quick run downs on the basic concepts. Very comprehensive, and a good start to see what subjects you want to get into more heavily.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2008, 08:04:29 PM by MisterMarc »

Offline squidinajar

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2008, 09:05:46 PM »
I definitely agree on the Origin of Species pick.  I am currently reading it right now.  I think I though I knew what Darwin's theory was all about but after I started reading the book I realized that there was a lot more to it then what was skimmed over in high school.
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Offline janusroad

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2008, 08:25:31 PM »
Jim Al-Khalili has a book on quantum physics, lots of pretty pictures that help if ure a visul learner like myself

Offline door

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2008, 09:09:37 AM »
On The Origin of Species is rather flawed, and definitely not my first pick for beginners.

Anyways for astonomy: Stephen Hawking - The Universe in a Nutshell

Lots of pretty pictures here too :)

Offline spiney

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2008, 01:26:49 PM »
In my opinion, older is better (usually), so a time machine is best, otherwise try 2nd hand bookshops and internet.

Lancelot Hogben's 2 brilliant books: Mathematics for the Million, and Science for the Citizen.

http://www.bikwil.com/Vintage15/Lancelot-Hogben.html

"Maths" has NEVER been out of print. "Science" IS, but it's online here:

http://www.questia.com/library/book/science-for-the-citizen-a-self-educator-based-on-the-social-background-of-scientific-discovery-by-lancelot-hogben-j-f-horrabin.jsp

(( Hogben was one of the "Cambridge Marxists", ideological, but with a fine and humane belief in "self-improvement" (particularly through the WEA).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancelot_Hogben

http://www.wea.org.uk/ )).

More recently, Asimov's New Guide to Science (see the reviews!):

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Asimovs-Guide-Science-Penguin-Press/dp/0140172130

And - just recently -  and much lighter:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Short_History_of_Nearly_Everything

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Giants%27_Shoulders

You might also like the BBC "In Our Time" science archive (audio, needs Realplayer, set connection speed to 28kb/s for UK to USA listening):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_science.shtml
« Last Edit: May 18, 2008, 01:52:55 PM by spiney »

Offline whitedevilbrewing

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2008, 08:57:02 PM »

Offline seanahan

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2008, 11:25:25 PM »
Any collection of essays by Isaac Asimov, or really, any of his non-fiction works.  They are somewhat dated, but the concepts are treated simply and clearly.
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Offline wastrel

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2008, 08:02:35 PM »
On The Origin of Species is rather flawed, and definitely not my first pick for beginners.

I agree it may not be the best first pick, but On The Origin of the Species gets a whole hell of a lot right, especially for a field that has seen such huge growth in the past 100+ years.  A lot of it is still very relevant.

Offline 2112

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2008, 05:11:28 PM »
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin is a definite read if you are interested in evolutionary biology. :D

I wouldn't read The Origin as your first book on evolution. Try Evolution for Everyone by David Sloan Wilson or What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr.
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Offline Dacks

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2008, 08:13:56 PM »
Books by Stephen Jay Gould. He's a bit out of favor now, but I started understanding how evolution doesn't explain every adaptation by reading his writing. And he is very easy for the lay reader to follow.

Gun, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. A radical look at how cultures evolve in response to environment. Controversial but good.

For climate research, go to the IPCC homepage - you can find links to any aspect of climate change that you are interested in.

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Offline ricree

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2008, 12:21:13 PM »
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is an excellent book to get an overview of science.  If you also read one of Steven Hawking's books (I liked A Briefer History of Time), you'll get a fairly good overview of science.

Edit:
And I'd also like to agree with those who say that On The Origin of Species is probably not the best choice for a beginner.  It certainly has historical value, and it is fairly impressive how much it did get right for its age, but it is still very out of date, and you would almost certainly be better off with something that is more current.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2008, 12:24:07 PM by ricree »

Offline Espresso Frog

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2008, 07:39:00 PM »
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is an excellent book to get an overview of science.  If you also read one of Steven Hawking's books (I liked A Briefer History of Time), you'll get a fairly good overview of science.

Oh yes, some people might argue about a few details but it's a nice walk down Science Park and a great presentation about the different fields.  Now what about adding to that an old dinosaur of a title like James Burke's Connections from the late 1970s?  I like James Burke, really fun guy and his approach to the evolution of ideas was pretty interesting.  I also loved his columns in SciAm.  This isn't just science of course, it's more like the story of how one invention inspired a discovery and how that changed the times and how people built better mouse traps then and how those triggered more new ideas and finally how technology got us to where we are... and the cycle goes on.   Old School or not, his series (available on book) got me to understand how things got discovered and had me reading up on old books like De Magnete.  It's a great 'motivational speech' for the amateur scientist.   

He also mentioned the technology trap in which we live in and how it can all collapse back into the stone ages if we aren't careful.  Sure, end of the world tales were big in the 70's (Stand on Zanzibar, Soylent Green, Logan's Run) but this one rings true each time there is a massive power outage... and then we forget.


PS: Oh yeah, De Magnete by William Gilbert 1600, the mother of all modern science books.  Get it too.  It's a revolutionary theory like what the Earth is this huge magnet floating in space and that this might be why the needle of a compass points where it does. He mentions some new thingy he calls "electrical". New Age cult thing, I'm sure.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2008, 07:45:51 PM by Espresso Frog »

Offline vikki_400

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Re: Science Books for Beginners
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2008, 06:12:14 AM »
I read 'The Big Bang' by Simon Singh and loved it.

 

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