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Best American Science And Nature Writing, The

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Product Details

  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publishing date: 05/10/2005
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780618273416
  • ISBN: 0618273417

Synopsis

The Best American series has been the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction since 1915. Each volume's series editor selects notable works from hundreds of periodicals. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the very best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected -- and most popular -- of its kind.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2005 includes

Natalie Angier • Jared Diamond • Timothy Ferris • Malcolm Gladwell • Jerome Groopman • Bill McKibben • Sherwin B. Nuland • Jeffrey M. O'Brien • Oliver Sacks • Michael J. Sandel • William Speed Weed • and others

Jonathan Weiner, guest editor, has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and many other honors. He lives in New York City and teaches science writing at the Columbia School of Journalism.

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  • Uneven selection of science essays
    From Amazon

    I agree with other 3 star reviews, the selections are becoming dated but some like the Easter Island story,remain important. Popular science articles fail to use any of the techniques in the science literature. There are no abstracts,no defined conclusions, no graphs,tables or illustrations and no editing for brevity.

  • Science and Nature writing 2005
    From Amazon

    I'm writing this review in July 2008, about an anthology of magazine articles published in 2004 - I probably would have given it 4.5 or 5 stars when it first came out, but 4 years on makes a difference. Many of the pieces - as chosen by guest editor Jonathan Weiner (The Beak of the Finch) - are about current events, in particular Bush (anti) science policies which have since played out in new directions. As a Guest Editor, there is a pull between choosing pieces with lasting value, and those that are flashy period pieces soon forgotten. Weiner seemed to focus on pieces with an ideological bent, or more accurately, pieces that attacked ideologies, either way politics of 2004 was a central theme. My favorite articles include: Jared Diamond, "Twilight at Easter", a classic re-telling of the Easter Island parable of planet earth. I read this same account in his long book Collapse but I think in this shorter form it is more powerful and concise. Malcolm Gladwell's "Getting Over It" suggests that most of us get over traumatic experiences fairly well and don't need to dwell on it. Reinforcing this is Jerome Groopman's "The Grief Industry" which shoots giant holes in the whole PTSD theory and the industry it has spawned. Sherwin Nuland's "The Man or the Moment?" is a historiography piece about approaches to history, in particular the social historian who looks at the "zeitgeist" as the main driver, and the "great man" historians who focus on individual actions. Although the Great Man theory has largely gone out of favor, he makes some surprising observations how individual personalities do in fact drive history at a certain level. Michael Specter in "Miracle in a Bottle" takes on the vitamin industry which is mostly unregulated and makes claims with little scientific basis. This is an important piece because it clarifies how free market capitalism without government controls can cause problems. I used to be big into supplements but have since focused on eating a balanced healthy diet. A similar article by William Weed "106 Science Claims and a Truckful of Baloney" underscores the barrage of scientific-sounding stuff we are exposed to every day and how 90% of is just plain, well, baloney. Two other pieces are memorable for good stories - "The Curious History of the First Pocket Calculator" which was designed by a Jewish concentration camp inmate in Germany during WWII - and "To Hell and Back", the story of Bill Stone a cave explorer and all around polymath, who may someday end up on the moon.

  • great collection
    From Amazon

    Another great year of science writing. There is a lot of great stuff in this collection. I read these books every year and this one never disappoints.

  • a text book i won't try to re-sell
    From Amazon

    this book has alot of heavy science talk, but the lamen issues are easy to follow. the articles are most interesting, and after i read them i felt smart.

  • A focussed farrago
    From Amazon

    This collection of essays shifts from the usual scattered melange of topics in this series. Weiner has opted to focus rather more closely on selected areas. In this volume health and medicine gained much of the ink. Given the sources and market, the decision has merit. Certainly the issues discussed are worthy of close attention. The narrower topic approach hasn't allowed any slipshod writer to sneak in. All the articles command your attention - and are worthy of it. Well-written, informative and current, the selection is a treasure of quality. Weiner opens the collection recalling his childhood fascination with atoms. He actually thought he saw some in a moment of dizziness. This "insight" leads him to note how physics and biology are gently merging through the growing field of molecular biology. Understanding genes means understanding molecular activities. More importantly, there are medical implications that we are only now beginning to understand. At the very root of our existence, organic molecules exist as both contributers and threats to life. Robert Kunzig's essay on deep sea sediments and other holdings of microscopic life show these places are also storehouses for methane. Once likely the dominant gas in our atmosphere, global warming may release floods of it again, compounding the "greenhouse effect". In a step up on the molecular complexity ladder, Sherwin Nuland discusses innovative "enhancement" technologies to improve appearance and prolong life. Various hormone "therapies" are already in use with more to come. Jenny Everett's essay on prompting children's growth using manufactured growth hormone struck a nerve with this reviewer. My son endured the daily injection programme for many years. And essays on stem cell research show how the research has become more political than scientific in the US. In the US, space research is an on-going topic, but the loss of the Columbia during its return from orbit re-ignited the debate over manned versus robotic missions. In an unusually [for him] ascerbic essay, Timothy Ferris declares the use of astronauts costs far more than multiple robot spacecraft missions, and adds that threats to human life aren't worth the risk. The issue of "private enterprise" in space is examined, while the true aim of space exploration, providing an alternative home for our species is also discussed. One of the significant prompts for our emigration, climate change, is the topic of a book review essay by Bill McKibben. There are pieces dealing with lighter issues, perhaps the most entertaining being the account of "The Homeless Hacker". Adrian Lamo made sport of the security walls of corporations, the military and the mighty New York Times - the Grey Hat invaded the Grey Lady. Lamo faced a prison sentence when the essay went to press. Clifford Stoll of "The Cuckoo's Egg", tracked down the history of the first "pocket calculator". Stoll's account seems almost humorous, until you discover how the calculator was designed. Finally, as nearly always appears in one of these collections, Natalie Angier lays down a challenge. Are scientists remaining unwarrantedly mute as religion challenges their foundations? It's a question fraught with wide-spread implications - from funding to whether schools will be able to continue producing highly qualified researchers. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

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