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A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery At The Frontier
by Marcia F. Bartusiak
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From Publishers Weekly
The nine National Academy of Sciences scholars represented in these challenging papers are mostly mid-career researchers in emergent areas, like David Holzman, whose "Fold, Spindle and Regulate!" looks at the workings of proteins, and Elizabeth J. Maggio, who writes about buckyballs in "Bouncing Balls of Carbon." The frivolous title does not really serve an anthology of papers which falls just shy of the format and level of a scientific journal: graduate readings are prerequisite for most entries with the possible exception of Addison Greenwood's "Clocks in the Earth?: The Science of Earthquake Prediction." With such a wide range of fields (from physics to mathematics to geoscience to biology), few popular science readers will be able to absorb more than two or three of these reports from "frontiers" without futher reference. Publisher W. H. Freeman's Scientific American Reader series has often brought this level of research into better focus by keeping to one discipline. 20,000 first printing.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this readable collection of reports, science writers review U.S. researchers and the questions they are working hard to answer, all at the upper limits of scientific knowledge. Topics include physics (manipulating individual atoms; fullerenes/buckyballs as a new form of carbon; the Higgs particle research that aims toward a true theory of mass); mathematics (amoebic wavelets; a new mathematical language of compressing information); geoscience, planetary science, and astrophysics (the Venusian history afforded by the Magellan spacecraft; recording the sun's interior activities through heliotremors; predicting earthquakes); and biosciences (DNA research; understanding and designing proteins, the "building-blocks" of life; AIDS and related high-tech studies). Though attempts to supply analogies from the nonscientific world vary, some are fun, and the material is generally clear and well written. This book is successfully aimed at readers who want to know what is happening in modern research but don't want their science in "predigested and denatured journalistic teaspoons."-- Diane M. Fortner, Univ. of California Lib., Berkeley
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Capitalizing on an annual forum to showcase young investigators, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences is publishing science-writer versions of ``frontier'' research in 10 fields ranging from particle physics to AIDS. The writers are seasoned pros--prize-winning book or magazine authors and editors or correspondents for science journals. Frequently they also hold degrees--e.g., in engineering (T.A. Heppenheimer) or geology (Elizabeth Maggio) or physics (Marcia Bartusiak). Should be a winning combination, no? Not entirely, for a couple of reasons: Sometimes the writing is pitched too high for the general reader (Scientific American is clearly the model). Sometimes it is the nature of the subject: Fourier analysis and Fourier transforms are wondrous things of beauty in mathematics, but their extension to signal processing and wavelet analysis may leave the reader who has only elementary familiarity with sine and cosine curves floundering. Finally, the very frontier under discussion is frustrating: Do we really need to know, thanks to many space probes and samplings, that, ``no matter which hypothesis you mention, Venus maddeningly seems to offer both support and contradiction''? Having said that, let us acknowledge praiseworthy chapters. Certainly the title piece: It is all about the scanning tunneling microscope that allows investigators to trap and photograph atoms and elementary particles--Priscilla the positron for one. That same instrument has revealed the charms of fullerenes--the new soccer-ball shaped form of carbon (named after Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes) that Science named Molecule of the Year in 1991. Finally, the chapter on AIDS offers one of the clearest expositions on the nature of HIV and its insidious undermining of the immune system. Chapters on earthquake prediction, protein folding, DNA duplication, the search for the top quark, and the nature of the sun's deepest interior provide intriguing clues, if not the last roundup, on frontier science. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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