THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE WRITING 2004

Dava Sobel, Author . Ecco $27.50 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-072639-3 ISBN 978-0-06-072640-9

In this collection of 22 essays and one poem (by John Updike), accomplished essayists writing on subjects across the spectrum of science inform readers without talking down to them or falling into scientific jargon. Sobel (Longitude , Galileo's Daughter ) canvassed periodicals as far afield as Mother Jones and Parade , deftly juggling the length, subject and tone of her choices, which include long, serious pieces, like William Langewiesche's account of the disastrous breakdown in decision making within NASA that led to the Columbia tragedy and Susan Milius's short, light-handed description of "the unsung triumphs of creativity" in scientific experiments, such as figuring out how to leash a rattlesnake or frustrate lovelorn dragonflies. Kevin Patterson describes the spread of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis resulting from complacency within the medical profession. K.C. Cole tells of physicist Janet Conrad's search for the elusive "sterile neutrino" using a giant vat of baby oil, and Michael Pollan recounts food scientists' efforts to save vanishing species of turkeys, oysters and corn to preserve genetic diversity as well as flavors that were common in meals long ago. One might argue that space and cosmology are overrepresented. But fans of good science writing, and of good writing of any kind, will find much enjoyment in this collection. (Sept. 20)

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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