What we're about

I am a software engineer with a background in Physics and interest in all the sciences to help make me a better writer and I would like to have extra motivation to read science-related books and discuss them outside of work. These wouldn't be textbooks, they would be more "popular science" that are educational and entertaining as well! Authors will include Richard Dawkins, Natalie Angier, E.O. Wilson, Carl Sagan, and Rachel Carson among others. There are many of these that have been on my "to-do" list for a long time.

Of course scientists, engineers and teachers of science would be great for this group, because we could talk about our jobs too. But anyone who is interested in science reading is welcome!! No prior science knowledge is necessary, I promise.

The books chosen for this group are 65% life science, sociology and environmental science books. Some books, such as by Bill Bryson and Carl Sagan, include some chemistry and/or physics, but we will not be reading many books that only pertain to physical science or mathematics. We will try to keep books of this nature to about 2 to 3 a year.

Upcoming events (4)

[Physics] Relativity: Special and General AND Reality Is Not What It Seems

This month, we are doing a DOUBLE FEATURE, with two books up for discussion. The first is a new translation of Einstein's Theory of Relativity: [Physics] Relativity: The Special and General Theory [New Edition with Readable Equations] (2010) by Albert Einstein, Robert W. Lawson, 74 pages • Hardcover • Paperback • Kindle • Audiobook (Abridged!) • Library (https://fcplcat.fairfaxcounty.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/57/5/3?searchdata1=201918{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER) General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics. General relativity generalises special relativity and Newton's law of universal gravitation, providing a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time, or spacetime. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to the four-momentum (mass-energy and linear momentum) of whatever matter and radiation are present. The relation is specified by the Einstein field equations, a system of partial differential equations. Einstein's theory has important astrophysical implications. For example, it implies the existence of black holes-regions of space in which space and time are distorted in such a way that nothing, not even light, can escape-as an end-state for massive stars. There is evidence that such stellar black holes as well as more massive varieties of black hole are responsible for the intense radiation emitted by certain types of astronomical objects such as active galactic nuclei or microquasars. -------------------------------------------------------- And to bring us up to date, we have Carlo Rovelli's book about Quantum Gravity: [Physics] Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity (2017) by Carlo Rovelli, Simon Carnell, Erica Segre, 288 pages • Hardcover • Kindle • Audiobook • Library (https://fcplcat.fairfaxcounty.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/57/5/3?searchdata1=744507{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER) Review “Some physicists, mind you, not many of them, are physicist-poets. They see the world or, more adequately, physical reality, as a lyrical narrative written in some hidden code that the human mind can decipher. Carlo Rovelli, the Italian physicist and author, is one of them… Rovelli's book is a gem. It's a pleasure to read, full of wonderful analogies and imagery and, last but not least, a celebration of the human spirit.”—NPR Cosmos & Culture “If your desire to be awestruck by the universe we inhabit needs refreshing, theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli… is up to the task.”—Elle “[Reality Is Not What It Seems] is simultaneously aimed at the curious layperson while also useful to the modern scientist… Rovelli lets us nibble or gorge ourselves, depending on our appetites, on several scrumptious equations. He doesn’t expect everyone to be a master of the equations or even possess much mathematical acumen, but the equations serve as appetizers for those inclined to get their fill, so to speak.”—Raleigh News & Observer “With its warm, enthusiastic language and tone, [Seven Brief Lessons on Physics] is also deeply humanistic in approach, using words like elegant and beauty about a subject… that can seem impenetrably dense and abstract… Reality Is Not What It Seems takes much the same approach.”—New York Magazine “Rovelli writes beautiful prose while walking the reader through the history and concept of 'reality' and what it all means for the yet to be discovered universe and thus our own lives.”—Pasadena Star-News “Rovelli offers vast, complex ideas beyond most of our imagining—‘quanta,’ ‘grains of space,’ ‘time and the heat of black holes’—and condenses them into spare, beautiful words that render them newly explicable and moving.”—On Being with Krista Tippett

[Evolution] A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the…

…Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth (2015) by Peter Ward,‎ Joe Kirschvink, 400 pages • Hardcover • Paperback • Kindle • Audiobook • Library (https://fcplcat.fairfaxcounty.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/57/5/3?searchdata1=702264{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER) Review “Ward describes the disastrous changes that can be expected as sea levels continue their accelerating rise due to global warming… a blunt, vivid warning.”—Kirkus Reviews on The Flooded Earth “A beautifully written, thoroughly research and relentlessly terrifying work, and a must-read for anybody with an interest in the environment or the future of our planet.”—Salon.com on The Flooded Earth “Ward describes the disastrous changes that can be expected as sea levels continue their accelerating rise due to global warming… a blunt, vivid warning.”—Kirkus Reviews on THE FLOODED EARTH “A beautifully written, thoroughly research and relentlessly terrifying work, and a must-read for anybody with an interest in the environment or the future of our planet.”—Salon.com on THE FLOODED EARTH

[Physics] The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far: Why Are We Here? (2017)

by Lawrence M. Krauss, 336 pages • Hardcover • Kindle • Audiobook NOTE: WE ARE MEETING ON A SATURDAY BECAUSE OF MOTHERS' DAY! Review “Krauss beautifully explains how our refusal to believe that there are unknowable cosmic truths has rewarded humanity with brilliantly precise answers to puzzles previously obscured by the fog of dogmatic assurance… The scope of this book is truly impressive."—Science Magazine "The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far ranges from Galileo to the LHC and beyond. It's accessible, illuminating, and surprising—an ideal guide for anyone interested in understanding our accidental universe."—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction "As Bard of the Universe, physicist Lawrence Krauss may be uniquely qualified to give us the Greatest Story Ever Told — a masterful blend of history, modern physics, and cosmic perspective that empowers the reader to not only embrace our understanding of the universe, but also revel in what remains to be discovered."—Neil deGrasse Tyson, American Museum of Natural History “College students, hippies, squares, christians, muslims, democrats, republicans, libertarians, theists, even atheists—all of us—sit around BS-ing like: 'So, how did all this, I mean everything, all of us, the whole universe, you know, man, everything, how did this all get here?' While we were doing that, Lawrence Krauss and people like him were doing the work to figure it out. Then Krauss wrote this great book about it. 'Wow, man, you mean, like we’re getting closer to really knowing? I guess we’ll have to back to talking about politics and sex.'”—Penn Jillette, author of Presto! "In the span of a century, physics progressed from skepticism that atoms were real to equations so precise we can predict properties of subatomic particles to the tenth decimal place. Lawrence Krauss rightly places this achievement among the greatest of all stories, and his book—at once engaging, poetic and scholarly—tells the story with a scientist’s penetrating insight and a writer’s masterly craft."—Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe, and Director, Center for Theoretical Physics, Columbia University "Unlike some very clever scientists, Lawrence Krauss is not content to bask on the Mount Olympus of modern physics. A great educator as well as a great physicist, he wants to pull others up the rarefied heights to join him. But unlike some science educators, he doesn’t dumb down. In Einstein’s words, he makes it 'as simple as possible but no simpler.'"—Richard Dawkins, author of The Magic of Reality "A rich, definitely not-dumbed-down history of physics… An admirable complement to the author's previous book and equally satisfying for those willing to read carefully.”—Kirkus “This truly is the greatest story: how the universe arose, what it’s made of, how it works. Krauss is a warm and authoritative guide to what future generations will surely say is one of our species’ greatest accomplishments.”—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate "Discovering the bedrock nature of physical reality ranks as one of humanity's greatest collective achievements. This book gives a fine account of the main ideas and how they emerged. Krauss is himself close to the field, and can offer insights into the personalities who have led the key advances. A practiced and skilled writer, he succeeds in making the physics 'as simple as possible but no simpler.' I don't know a better book on this subject."—Martin Rees, author of Just Six Numbers "I loved the fight scenes and the sex scenes were excellent."—Eric Idle, comedian

[Mathematics] Are Numbers Real? : The Uncanny Relationship of Mathematics and…

…the Physical World (2016) by Brian Clegg, 304 pages • Hardcover • Kindle • Library (https://fcplcat.fairfaxcounty.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/57/5/3?searchdata1=744049{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER) Review "In Are Numbers Real Clegg tackles a very deep question in his usual way; with clarity, wit and a wonderfully clear narrative writing style. For me, numbers are like natural language: they obviously don’t exist in a physical sense―you cannot trip over the number '2' in the street – yet numbers are at the heart of understanding the universe. Clegg covers a wide variety of subjects to seek out the truth of the matter in an engaging and hugely accessible way. I personally couldn’t put it down, and as an active researcher in the field itself, it has provided me with some very real (?) food for thought."―Dr. Peet Morris, University of Oxford "Brian Clegg’s Are Numbers Real? Is a compact, very readable, and highly entertaining history of the development and use of mathematics to answer the important practical questions involved in advancing civilization… Even for the reader not versed in the vector calculus used in the statement of Maxwell’s Laws, simply seeing the four Laws mathematically stated will induce (certainly the mot juste here) the feeling that this is the way the Universe is meant to be understood. And that sense of wonder permeates the entire book… a superb introduction to mathematics, science, and that branch of philosophy devoted to exploring the nature of reality."―Dr. James Stein, California State University, Long Beach Praise for Brian Clegg: "Satisfying soul food for your inner geek: an enjoyable tour of science fact and fiction by a writer who obviously revels in both."―Kirkus Reviews on Ten Billion Tomorrows "Clegg accomplishes the impressive feat of persuading readers that ESP might exist, while delivering a delightfully astute examination of… evidence."―Kirkus Reviews (starred) on Extra Sensory "feeblest of the… universal forces, gravity is the only one we experience continuously. Every inquisitive person should read a book about it, preferably this one… lucid and free of jargon, bad jokes, and math phobia."―Kirkus Reviews (starred) on Gravity "Clegg's accessible presentation offers insight into everything from Aristotelian science to black holes and string theory as it reveals the complexities… of a familiar force."―Publishers Weekly on Gravity "Final Frontier is an enjoyable romp across space and time… A timely reminder of what might be possible in the light of current discussions about the commercial exploitation of the Moon and asteroids."―John Gribbin, author of In Search of Schrödinger's Cat

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