A Whole World Out There
edited by Elizabeth Kolbert
This is the second year in a row I have read the science volume of the "Best of..." series, and I love it. As a kid I loved biology and other life sciences, but shied away from science courses as I got older because I was intimidated by the math tied in with chemistry and physics. It is fun now to read about science just for the fun and learning of it. I'm already looking forward to the 2010 volume, and these compilations have prompted me to subscribe to Discover magazine.
One minor complaint that I had about the 2009 volume is that there was an overabundance of articles about climate change. Of course I am concerned about global warming, and we need to know the latest developments in combating it. However, some of the articles seemed repetitive to me, even though they were all interesting and well written. The gripping thing about the 2008 volume was the depth of topics addressed, and 2009 seemed narrower to me.
Nevertheless, there were some non-climate articles that were good. Atul Gawande's The Itch, is absolutely haunting. Imagine scratching yourself so hard you scratch through your skull and drill into your brain. It is rare, but it has happened. Shudder. Wasteland, which takes the reader through the process of human waste disposal, is gross but oddly fascinating. Walter Isaacson's essay on Einstein's often misinterpreted role in the development of the atomic bomb is informative and heartening. Is Google Making Us Stupid? is an article that raises questions about the possibility that quick reading, in short bursts, is over time actually rewiring our brains and making us less able to think in depth. These are just a few examples of the subjects tackled.
I am increasingly interested in the connections between science and the spiritual life, not to mention the scientific experiments being conducted about spirituality itself. I think part of my fascination with science has to do with an attempt to understand the order of not just our world, but our universe, and possibly glimpse the mind and intentions of God in that order. Plus it is all just really, really interesting.