cover image Light Elements: Essays in Science from Gravity to Levity

Light Elements: Essays in Science from Gravity to Levity

Judith Stone. Ballantine Books, $15 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-345-36608-5

Stone, humor columnist for Discover magazine, brings a relentlessly wacky sense of humor to her essays exploring scientific questions, from how cows contribute to the greenhouse effect (they belch often, producing large quantities of ozone-depleting methane) to why scratching on a blackboard gives us the ``willies'' (it's a relic of a primal warning mechanismp. 82 ). The author asks us to ``rethink what it means to be human'' when describing a visit with Koko, a gorilla who uses sign language to express her urge for a baby. And she introduces us to eccentric scientists like Calvin Schwabe, a University of California epidemiologist who advocates alternative protein sources such as ``Earthworm Broth,'' and Alice Gray, the American Museum of Natural History's ``doyenne of cockroaches.'' Stone visits entrepreneur Corky Ra's (ne Nowell) mummification business (your choice of Egyptian, art deco or Renaissance styles), and considers the implications of research into mood-altering fragrances for the workplace. With its comic perspective, this collection makes science not only intelligible but entertaining as well. (May)