cover image Chasing Science

Chasing Science

Frederik Pohl. Tor Books, $23.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86711-9

Pohl (The Far Shore of Time, The Way the Future Was), recipient of the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction, offers a personal glimpse of his ongoing ""love affair"" with science in this affectionate exploration of the natural world. The tour begins ""where science happens""Din visitor-friendly national laboratories like Fermilab, which contains an atom-smashing particle accelerator, and in colleges and universities like MIT, where the first computer game prototypes were developed. As Pohl notes, however, some of the most fantastic sights can be observed from one's own backyard. Whether one is scanning the skies with the naked eye or using a child's spyglass to examine the craters of the moon, the wonders of the cosmos, Pohl shows, are readily accessible to amateur stargazers. Volcanoes and earthquakes are equally impressive phenomena that serve as reminders that the earth's surface is forever in motion, floating on a semiliquid core of magma like ""patches of fat on the surface of a pot of cooling chicken soup."" This tectonic motion also affects the flow of water, causing aquifers to form in the midst of a desert and producing tsunamis that ravage many of Japan's seaside cities. From the tranquil to the deadly, the forces Pohl expertly examines shape both the planet and humankind's appreciation of it. Written in a delightful colloquial style, this witty reference/memoir (replete with an extensive index of science and technology centers worldwide) will receive a considerable boost from Pohl's loyal fans while attracting amateur scientists of all stripes. (Dec.)