Molecular Thoughts

The Science of Intelligent Non-Fiction

Molecular Thoughts

Experts tell us that one of the best ways to stave off the forgetfulness of old age is to keep challenging our minds. So, not only are these non-fiction books interesting and enjoyable to read, but they’re also good for us.

There are so many things to love about New York City, but nothing is more wonderful than the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. No less of a treasure is the Planetarium’s director, Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson. Dr. Tyson is a world renowned astrophysicist, and his latest book, SPACE CHRONICLES, is a must have for anyone who values the future of our nation’s exploration into the unknown. I personally find it shocking that in 2011 our space-shuttle program was discontinued. It’s a blow not only for science, but for the imagination and daring that made this country great. This collection of Tyson’s commentaries argues persuasively that we must regain our place in the race for space. As an advisor to NASA, and spokesman for restoring the space program, he is regarded as not only one of the most brilliant scientists of our time, but also as a great communicator.

Once you’ve been inspired by Dr. Tyson, travel on to THE QUANTUM UNIVERSE (AND WHY ANYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN, DOES). Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw are both professors of physics at the University of Manchester. They’re also bestselling authors, and masters at making the incomprehensible reasonably accessible. By borrowing Feynman’s clock faces, which he used to represent complex numbers, the authors are able to make the abstract more tangible. There is no doubt that this is not the book you keep in the bathroom for a quick read during commercial breaks in the big game, but it’s well worth the time and effort it takes to grasp the concept of what makes our world tick.

It can be argued that money makes the world go ‘round, too. David Wolman’s THE END OF MONEY explores our faith in the cash system we accept virtually without question. Beginning with the fascination paper notes held for Marco Polo, the award winning journalist travels around the world to examine how money works- or doesn’t- in countries as diverse as Iceland, India, and Japan. We get a glimpse into the highly profitable universe of counterfeiting, the reasons why “dirty money” may actually contribute to disease, and insight as to why the author decided to live for a year nearly cash free.

In my opinion, real wealth can be summed up in one word: water. Without it, nothing else counts. To Blaine Harden, the mighty Columbia is A RIVER LOST. Starting out in his hometown of Moses Lake, Washington, the author chronicles the destruction that was caused by, among many others, his own father. The Columbia stretches 1,214 miles, from the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. During the Depression, Harden’s dad was trained as a welder, and helped build the dams that upset the ecosystem. But could our country have survived without the energy, irrigation, and jobs provided by tampering with nature?

The recent re-release of the movie “Titanic” proves that we’re still fascinated with this doomed ship and curious about what really happened. Daniel Allen Butler’s “UNSINKABLE” THE FULL STORY OF THE RMS TITANIC gives us new information. So powerful was the belief that the ocean liner couldn’t go down, the newspaper the Evening Star ran a headline on April 15th which read “All Saved From Titanic After Collision.” Butler has included not only the latest theories and findings, but also an examination of why we still care so much today. Butler is a military historian and a renowned authority on maritime affairs; no one less knowledgeable could shed new light on a story we all thought we knew.

I love to learn, and to expand my powers of thought. The skilled authors of these books make that experience a real pleasure for those who take the time to read their work.

Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle.

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