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Posts Tagged ‘science’

19. “Spider Bones,” Kathy Reichs

July 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t know why I keep reading these books. The prose style does nothing for me, and the Temperance Brennen of these books is nothing like those of the television show.

Page count: 302
Page total: 5,386

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9. “Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut,” Mike Mullane

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Very funny, with good insights into the astronaut program.

Page count: 400

Page total: 2,617

7. “Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void,” Mary Roach

December 24, 2010 1 comment

Mary Roach looks at the history of the US (and Russia’s) space program to feel out the feasibility of a future peopled mission to Mars.

This is the sort of thing Mary Roach does well: exhaustive Googling paired with access to important people and a willingness to ask questions that embarrass both of them. Poop factoids abound and it is a fun and quick read.

Note to self: Read Mike Mullane’s biography. Apparently he is one of the astronauts most willing to make a good poop joke.

Page count: 321
Page total: 1,865

61. “First the Dead,” Tim Downs

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Forensic entymologist Nick Polchek is one of the first responders of the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), who help in cases of mass fatalities. The day before Hurricane Katrina hits, Nick and DMORTs from around the country are dispatched to Louisiana to await the empending disaster. Their orders are clear, if unusual: first, save the living. Then return for the dead. But Nick isn’t great with the living, and when he comes across bodies showing signs of foul play, he violates the orders of his team leader, of over-involved DEA agents and, oh yeah, the psychologist keeping tabs on him.

This is in a similar vein to the previous Tim Downs book I read. I found it slightly more enjoyable, even if Nick himself is sort of insufferable with his constant slick stand-offishness.

Page count: 368
Page total: 16,857

54. “A Fish Caught in Time,” Samantha Weinberg

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment

A quick and very readable history of the re-discovery of the coelacanth, a fish more than 80 million years old and which was believed until 1938 to be extinct.

Weinberg tells the story of the coelacanth through the people who become obsessed with finding it, entwining their lives and their search. I think I caught coelacanth fever, because I keep finding myself fantasizing about how fucking amazing it would be to catch a living fossil, something people believed no longer existed, and something people still hope can tell us more about the moment we climbed from the deep.

Page count: 226
Page total: 14,602
Call number: QL638.L26 W45 2001x

48. “The Lost Symbol,” Dan Brown

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Robert Langdon is once again unraveling the well-guarded secrets of an ancient and highly-influental order whilst being stalked by a violent white dude. This time it’s Freemasons in Washington, DC.

I know I am supposed to be above Dan Brown, but I do find the Robert Langdon books enjoyable. They are fast, they make you feel smart and smug, and they are many pages. And if you are a page-counter like me, fast, long books are what it is all about.

Page count: 509
Page total: 13,122

43. “Code Name Ginger,” Steve Kemper

July 5, 2010 Leave a comment

“Code Name Ginger” is the first-hand story of Dean Kamen’s invention of the Segway, from his inception of the device through its design and testing and its eventual release.

I have no idea how Kemper did it, but he managed to make not only Segways, with which my only previous non-Arrested Development experiences had been with a handful of douchebags riding them on the streets of Boston with a smug air somehow devoid of the self-loathing that I would associate with such an absurd form of transportation, seem interesting but actually to make me interested in full chapters about people grumbling over stock options or how the company should be divided up (Steve Jobs at $63 million and 10% of the company? $50 million and 10%? $38 million and 5%?). And not only THAT, but I kept finding myself swept up and in quiet moments, the terrible thought would enter my head: “I kind of want a Segway?” (There was always a question mark at the end, because just how did Kemper and Dean Kamen get that thought inside my brain?!)

Sadly, the book ends shortly after the Segway is released, which leaves unanswered the question “how did an innovation that was supposed to change the world for the better become the chariot of douches?” Was it the $5,000 price tag? The fact that it offers a response to what is for most people an invented problem (“I can stand under my own will for a long time but walking— I just don’t see that happening”)? Dean Kamen’s territorial grandstanding? It seems that Segway, Inc. was sold at the beginning of this year, which makes me sad for the people I came to know from this book.

Overall, this book was an unexpectedly compelling read. I’d recommend it.

Page count: 317
Page total: 10,925
LOC Call number: TL 410.K46 2003