It’s been a while since we highlighted our physical space, but we’ve done a little refresher of our reading room in College Park, Maryland that we’re feeling quite proud of. We used to have a large wall of shelves covered in journals, but even before COVID-19 changed the way everything worked, very few people were coming into the library to browse our print journals. Most of our library collections are on the floor above the reading room (come visit, we are open to the public and the library is browsable for anyone!) and it can be hard to show them off when you have to tell people to go upstairs to look at them. So, we decided to bring some of our favorite sections of the library - organized by our unique call numbers from our home-grown classification system (designed in the 1960s specifically for our history of physics focused library collections) downstairs for anyone and everyone to see.
Here are just some of the books we have on display now:
From the publisher: "Based on the popular Harvard University and TEDx course, Science and Cooking explores the scientific basis of why recipes work. The spectacular culinary creations of modern cuisine are the stuff of countless articles and social media feeds. But to a scientist they are also perfect pedagogical explorations into the basic scientific principles of cooking. In Science and Cooking, Harvard professors Michael Brenner, Pia Sörensen, and David Weitz bring the classroom to your kitchen to teach the physics and chemistry underlying every recipe. Why do we knead bread? What determines the temperature at which we cook a steak, or the amount of time our chocolate chip cookies spend in the oven? Science and Cooking answers these questions and more through hands-on experiments and recipes from renowned chefs such as Christina Tosi, Joanne Chang, and Wylie Dufresne, all beautifully illustrated in full color. With engaging introductions from revolutionary chefs and collaborators Ferran Adria and José Andrés, Science and Cooking will change the way you approach both subjects--in your kitchen and beyond."
This was a charming surprise when I saw it sitting on the shelf. I’d never heard of Miss Pickerell before, but it was a relatively well-known children’s fiction series based in science. It makes me think of a more sedate version of Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus. The author, Ellen MacGregor, was a librarian, who spent her career working in different libraries all over the country from Florida to Hawaii. She published her first book in the Miss Pickerell series, Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars, in 1951 and she was only able to complete three more in the series before her death in 1954. However, she left such comprehensive notes that her successor, Dora Pantell, was able to pick up where she left off and complete the series, including this one. Miss Pickerell and the Weather Satellite is an exploration of meteorology science and technology for children, including cutting edge (but rather dodgy to some of the characters in the book) technology like satellites and computers. The book (and series) is a work of fiction but is absolutely grounded in scientific facts and research. I will definitely be searching out some of the others in the series to add to the collection, most especially Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars, Miss Pickerell and the Geiger Counter, Miss Pickerell on the Moon and Miss Pickerell Tackles the Energy Crisis. I’m hooked!
From the publisher: “In this book, a scientist and dedicated film enthusiast discusses the portrayal of science in more than one hundred films, including science fiction, scientific biographies, and documentaries. Beginning with early films like Voyage to the Moon and Metropolis and concluding with more recent offerings like The Matrix, War of the Worlds, A Beautiful Mind, and An Inconvenient Truth, Sidney Perkowitz questions how much faith we can put into Hollywood's depiction of scientists and their work; how accurately these films capture scientific fact and theory; whether cataclysms like our collision with a comet can actually happen; and to what extent these films influence public opinion about science and the future… Bringing together history, scientific theory, and humorous observation, Hollywood Science features dozens of film stills and a list of the all-time best and worst science-fiction movies. Just as this genre appeals to all types of viewers, this book will resonate with anyone who has been inspired by science-fiction films and would like to learn how fantasy compares to fact.”
From the publisher: "Body art meets popular science in this elegant, mind-blowing collection, written by renowned science writer Carl Zimmer. This fascinating book showcases hundreds of eye-catching tattoos that pay tribute to various scientific disciplines, from evolutionary biology and neuroscience to mathematics and astrophysics and reveals the stories of the individuals who chose to inscribe their obsessions in their skin. Best of all, each tattoo provides a leaping-off point for bestselling essayist and lecturer Zimmer to reflect on the science in question, whether it's the importance of an image of Darwin's finches or the significance of the uranium atom inked into the chest of a young radiologist."
If you want to look at some of the physics and astronomy tattoos, head to the end of this post to look at the slideshow.
From the publisher: “This is the first systematic exploration of the intriguing connections between Victorian physical sciences and the study of the controversial phenomena broadly classified as psychic, occult and paranormal. These phenomena included animal magnetism, spirit-rapping, telekinesis and telepathy. Richard Noakes shows that psychic phenomena interested far more Victorian scientists than we have previously assumed, challenging the view of these scientists as individuals clinging rigidly to a materialistic worldview. Physicists, chemists and other physical scientists studied psychic phenomena for a host of scientific, philosophical, religious and emotional reasons, and many saw such investigations as exciting new extensions to their theoretical and experimental researches. While these attempted extensions were largely unsuccessful, they laid the foundations of modern day explorations of the connections between physics and psychic phenomena. This revelatory study challenges our view of the history of physics, and deepens our understanding of the relationships between science and the occult, and science and religion.”
From the publisher: “Of all the radioactive elements discovered at the end of the nineteenth century, it was radium that became the focus of both public fascination and entrepreneurial zeal. Half Lives tells the fascinating, curious, sometimes macabre story of the element through its ascendance as a desirable item - a present for a queen, a prize in a treasure hunt, a glow-in- the-dark dance costume - to its role as a supposed cure-all in everyday twentieth-century life, when medical practitioners and business people (reputable and otherwise) devised ingenious ways of commodifying the new wonder element, and enthusiastic customers welcomed their radioactive wares into their homes. Lucy Jane Santos--herself the proud owner of a formidable collection of radium beauty treatments--delves into the stories of these products and details the gradual downfall and discredit of the radium industry through the eyes of the people who bought, sold and eventually came to fear the once-fetishized substance. Half Lives is a new history of radium as part of a unique examination of the interplay between science and popular culture.”
From the publisher: “An observatory and a lighthouse form the nexus of this major new investigation of science, religion, and the state in late Ottoman Egypt. Astronomy, imperial bureaucrats, traditionally educated Muslim scholars, and reformist Islamic publications, such as The Lighthouse, are linked to examine the making of knowledge, the performance of piety, and the operation of political power through scientific practice. Contrary to ideas of Islamic scientific decline, Muslim scholars in the nineteenth century used a dynamic tradition of knowledge to measure time, compute calendars, and predict planetary positions. The rise of a 'new astronomy' is revealed to owe much to projects of political and religious reform: from the strengthening of the multiple empires that exercised power over the Nile Valley; to the 'modernization' of Islamic centers of learning; to the dream of a global Islamic community that would rely on scientific institutions to coordinate the timing of major religious duties.”
From the publisher: "Studying meteorology as a means to examine the historical identity of prediction, Katharine Anderson offers here an account of forecasting that analyzes scientific practice and ideas about evidence, the organization of science in public life, and the articulation of scientific values in Victorian culture. In Predicting the Weather, Anderson grapples with fundamental questions about the function, intelligibility, and boundaries of scientific work while exposing the public expectations that shaped the practice of science." "A cogent analysis of the remarkable history of weather forecasting in Victorian Britain, Predicting the Weather will be essential reading for scholars interested in the public dimensions of science."
From the publisher: “Well before Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against nuclear weapons, African Americans were protesting the Bomb. Historians have generally ignored African Americans when studying the anti-nuclear movement, yet they were some of the first citizens to protest Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Now for the first time, African Americans Against the Bomb tells the compelling story of those black activists who fought for nuclear disarmament by connecting the nuclear issue with the fight for racial equality…By expanding traditional research in the history of the nuclear disarmament movement to look at black liberals, clergy, artists, musicians, and civil rights leaders, Intondi reveals the links between the black freedom movement in America and issues of global peace. From Langston Hughes through Lorraine Hansberry to President Obama, African Americans Against the Bomb offers an eye-opening account of the continuous involvement of African Americans who recognized that the rise of nuclear weapons was a threat to the civil rights of all people.”
From the publisher: “Historian David K. Johnson here relates the frightening, untold story of how, during the Cold War, homosexuals were considered as dangerous a threat to national security as Communists. Charges that the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were havens for homosexuals proved a potent political weapon, sparking a "Lavender Scare" more vehement and long-lasting than McCarthy's Red Scare. Relying on newly declassified documents, years of research in the records of the National Archives and the FBI, and interviews with former civil servants, Johnson recreates the vibrant gay subculture that flourished in New Deal-era Washington and takes us inside the security interrogation rooms where thousands of Americans were questioned about their sex lives… .The Lavender Scare shatters the myth that homosexuality has only recently become a national political issue, changing the way we think about both the McCarthy era and the origins of the gay rights movement. And perhaps just as importantly, this book is a cautionary tale, reminding us of how acts taken by the government in the name of "national security" during the Cold War resulted in the infringement of the civil liberties of thousands of Americans.”
From the publisher: “Female scientists, doctors, and engineers experienced independence and responsibility during the First World War. Suffragists including Virginia Woolf's sister, Ray Strachey, aligned themselves with scientific and technological progress, and mobilized women to enter conventionally male domains such as engineering and medicine. Profiles include mental health pioneer Isabel Emslie, chemist and co-inventor of tear gas Martha Whiteley, Scottish army doctor Mona Geddes, and botanist Helen Gwynne Vaughan. Though suffragist Millicent Fawcett declared triumphantly that "the war revolutionized the industrial position of women. It found them serfs, and left them free," the truth was very different. Although women had helped the country to victory and won the vote for those over thirty, they had lost the battle for equality. Men returning from the Front reclaimed their jobs, and conventional hierarchies were re-established. Fara examines how these pioneers, temporarily allowed into an exclusive world before the door slammed shut again, paved the way for today's women scientists.”
From the publisher: “Scientists have always kept secrets. But rarely have the secrets been as vital as they were during World War II. In the middle of building an atomic bomb, the leaders of the Manhattan Project were alarmed to learn that Nazi Germany was far outpacing the Allies in nuclear weapons research; Hitler, with just a few pounds of uranium, would have the capability to reverse the entire D-Day operation and conquer Europe. So they assembled a rough and motley crew of geniuses – dubbed the Alsos Mission – and sent them careening into Axis territory to spy on, sabotage, and even assassinate members of Nazi Germany’s feared Uranium Club. No theater of the war, from battlefields to laboratories, was considered off-limits, and for good reason: the entire outcome of the war rested on its shoulders…. Thrust into the dark world of international espionage, these scientists and soldiers played a vital and largely untold role in turning back one of the darkest tides in human history.”
From the publisher: “The riveting and mesmerizing story behind a watershed period in human history, the discovery of the startling size and true nature of our universe.
On New Years Day in 1925, a young Edwin Hubble released his finding that our Universe was far bigger, eventually measured as a thousand trillion times larger than previously believed. Hubble’s proclamation sent shock waves through the scientific community. Six years later, in a series of meetings at Mount Wilson Observatory, Hubble and others convinced Albert Einstein that the Universe was not static but in fact expanding. Here Marcia Bartusiak reveals the key players, battles of will, clever insights, incredible technology, ground-breaking research, and wrong turns made by the early investigators of the heavens as they raced to uncover what many consider one of most significant discoveries in scientific history.”
From the publisher: “The first biography of a pioneering scientist who made significant contributions to our understanding of dark matter and championed the advancement of women in science…In Vera Rubin: A Life, prolific science writers Jacqueline Mitton and Simon Mitton provide a detailed, accessible overview of Rubin’s work, showing how she leveraged immense curiosity, profound intelligence, and novel technologies to help transform our understanding of the cosmos. But Rubin’s impact was not limited to her contributions to scientific knowledge. She also helped to transform scientific practice by promoting the careers of women researchers. Not content to be an inspiration, Rubin was a mentor and a champion. She advocated for hiring women faculty, inviting women speakers to major conferences, and honoring women with awards that were historically the exclusive province of men.”
Check out our Q&A with Jacqueline Mitton and Simon Mitton back in 2021 to learn more about how the authors researched at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.