Tag Archives: science

Leighton, Ralph, Feynman, Richard. Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character as Told to Ralph Leighton


Winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965, Richard Feynman was one of the world’s greatest theoretical physicists, but he was also a man who fell, often jumped, into adventure. An artist, safecracker, practical joker and storyteller, Feynman’s life was a series of combustible combinations made possible by his unique mixture of high intelligence, unquenchable curiosity and eternal scepticism. Over a period of years, Feynman’s conversations with his friend Ralph Leighton were first taped and then set down as they appear here, little changed from their spoken form, giving a wise, funny, passionate and totally honest self-portrait of one of the greatest men of our age.

Publisher: Vintage
Year: 1992
ISBN-10: 009917331X

Perry, Sarah. The Essex Serpent

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London 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one, and she never suited the role of society wife. Accompanied by her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, where she hopes fresh air and open space will provide the refuge they need.

When they take lodgings in Colchester, rumours reach them from further up the estuary that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, is immediately enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a previously undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar.

Like Cora, Will is deeply suspicious of the rumours, but he thinks they are founded on moral panic, a flight from real faith. As he tries to calm his parishioners, he and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart, eventually changing each other’s lives in ways entirely unexpected.

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Year: 2016
ISBN-10: 178125544X


Conner, TD. Nazi Medical Experiments


Nazism cursed the European continent and tried to dominate the world. It was a racist dogma established and enforced by ruthless bullies and brutal criminals. Before Adolf Hitler was crushed, 60 million people died. Nazis murdered people around the clock on their treadmills-of-death after developing fast, modern ways to kill large masses of human beings quickly. They extended their cruelties into the realm of medicine, grinning doctors–many of them once distinguished professors with advanced degrees– torturing thousands, including children, to death in grisly ways in filthy back rooms in the many Nazi camps or in special murder “clinics.” This book discusses some of the hideous crimes against humanity they committed, all with a clear conscience and without a second thought. There is also a section on medical “experiments” and atrocities carried out, even in the days of the 21st Century, in a developed country near you.


Schmidt, Ulf. Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments

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From the early 1990s, allegations that servicemen had been duped into taking part in trials with toxic agents at top-secret Allied research facilities throughout the twentieth century featured with ever greater frequency in the media. In Britain, a whole army of over 21,000 soldiers had participated in secret experiments between 1939 and 1989. Some remembered their stay as harmless, but there were many for whom the experience had been all but pleasant, sometimes harmful, and in isolated cases deadly.

Publisher: OUP Oxford
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 019929979X


Dawkins, Richard (ed). The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing

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Selected and introduced by Richard Dawkins, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is a celebration of the finest writing by scientists for a wider audience – revealing that many of the best scientists have displayed as much imagination and skill with the pen as they have in the laboratory.

This is a rich and vibrant collection that captures the poetry and excitement of communicating scientific understanding and scientific effort from 1900 to the present day. Professor Dawkins has included writing from a diverse range of scientists, some of whom need no introduction, and some of whose works have become modern classics, while others may be less familiar – but all convey the passion of great scientists writing about their science.

Publisher: OUP Oxford
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 0199216819




Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World

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Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 0099518473


Enders, Giulia. Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ

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“The key to living a happier, healthier life is inside us. Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and let s be honest somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important, and even miraculous parts of our anatomy. And scientists are only just discovering quite how much it has to offer; new research shows that gut bacteria can play a role in everything from obesity and allergies to Alzheimer’s. Beginning with the personal experience of illness that inspired her research, and going on to explain everything from the basics of nutrient absorption to the latest science linking bowel bacteria with depression, Enders has written an entertaining, informative health handbook. Gut definitely shows that we can all benefit from getting to know the wondrous world of our inner workings. In this charming book, young scientist Giulia Enders takes us on a fascinating tour of our insides. Her message is simple if we treat our gut well, it will treat us well in return. But how do we do that? And why do we need to? Find out in this surprising, and surprisingly funny, exploration of the least understood of our organs.”

Publisher: Greystone Books
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1771641495


Valenstein, Elliot S. The War of the Soups and the Sparks: The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate


The War of the Soups and the Sparks tells the saga of the dispute between the pharmacologists, who had uncovered the first evidence that nerves communicate by releasing chemicals, and the neurophysiologists, experts on the nervous system, who dismissed the evidence and remained committed to electrical explanations.
The War of the Soups and the Sparks reveals how science and scientists work. Valenstein describes the observations and experiments that led to the discovery of neurotransmitters and sheds light on what determines whether a novel concept will gain acceptance among the scientific community. His work also explains the immense importance of Otto Loewi, Henry Dale, and Walter B. Cannon’s achievements in our understanding of the human brain and the way mental illnesses are conceptualized and treated.

Publisher: Columbia University Press
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 0231135890

Miller, George (dir). Lorenzo’s Oil


A boy develops a disease so rare that nobody is working on a cure, so his father decides to learn all about it and tackle the problem himself.

Producers: Doug Mitchell, George Miller
Year: 1992
Director: George Miller
Writer: George Miller, Nick Enright

(spoiler alert)

Goldacre, B. Bad Science

How do we know if a treatment works, or if something causes cancer? Can the claims of homeopaths ever be as true – or as interesting as the improbable research into the placebo effect? Who created the MMR hoax? Do journalists understand science? Ben Goldacre masterfully dismantles the dodgy science behind some of the great drug trials, court cases and missed opportunities of our time, but he also goes further: out of the bulls***, he shows us the fascinating story of how we know what we know, and gives us the tools to uncover bad science for ourselves.

Emma Mironska (HYMS): I’d like to recommend ‘Bad Science’ By Dr Ben Goldacre. I reread it over the Summer and it is both hilarious and shocking at the same time. It goes through why it is essential that medicine has a reliable evidence base. Should be standard reading for any doctor. He also has a website which is definately worth a look http://www.badscience.net/ He puts into words everything i’ve ever wanted to say to a homeopathist…

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0007240198

Viewer Comments:


Agree with that; this is TCC material which makes you laugh aloud; can’t be bad

Levi, Primo. The Periodic Table

A chemist by training, Primo Levi became one of the supreme witnesses to twentieth-century atrocity. In these haunting reflections inspired by the elements of the periodic table, he ranges from young love to political savagery; from the inert gas argon – and ‘inert’ relatives like the uncle who stayed in bed for twenty-two years – to life-giving carbon. ‘Iron’ honours the mountain-climbing resistance hero who put iron in Levi’s student soul, ‘Cerium’ recalls the improvised cigarette lighters which saved his life in Auschwitz, while ‘Vanadium’ describes an eerie post-war correspondence with the man who had been his ‘boss’ there. All are written with characteristically understated eloquence and shot through with deep humanity.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year: 2000
ISBN: 0141185147

(afraid Hull currently only has in the original Italian
“Il sistema periodico”, but you are a cosmopolitan bunch.)

Viewer Comments:


This was the first book I read by Primo Levi, it is a real mix. Each chapter has the title of an element, and develops (loosely) round that topic. If you find one chapter ‘heavy’ (the first one can seem a bit dull on first read) try another, they are all free-standing and all very different. I just re-read the chapter on ‘carbon’ that simply tells the life-story of a carbon atom. I don’t think this is Levi’s best work – his writing on his time in Auschwitz ‘If this is a Man’ is, for me, one of
the last century’s truly great books – but, sticking to our brief of the suggestions for where art throws lights on science and medicine I think its the best fit for ‘Worth a Look?’

Watson, J. The Double helix

A personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA

Author: Watson, J and Bragg, L
Title: The Double helix

Viewer Comments:


The classic account.  Notable for many things but for me the moment when they walk into a Cambridge pub and announce that they had found the secret of life!