Monday, September 21, 2009

Best American Science Writing 2009: Itchy Scalps, Memory Algorithms and Treating Violence as an Epidemic

Every year Ecco releases a collection of some of the best articles and essays written about science that year. The 2009 collection is sure not to disappoint. Edited by bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times science columnist Natalie Angier and longtime series editor Jesse Cohen, this volume features 24 thought-provoking, compelling, and timely essays from some of America’s leading scientists and writers.

Though I’ve only had as much science as proscribed by my university’s general education requirements, I was unable to put down many of the essays in this collection thanks to the engaging writing style and how applicable so many of them are to the real world.

One of my personal favorite essays, that I’m sure students will enjoy as well, is enticingly titled, “Want to Remember Everything You’ll Ever Learn?” by Gary Wolf. The subject of Wolf’s essay, Piotr Wozniak, created an algorithm-based computer program called SuperMemo capable of calculating the moment a person will forget something he has learned. The idea is that if you can relearn something at that moment, you can train yourself to remember anything. Though much of the article describes how this method of memory training is incompatible with the way humans live – perfect application of the algorithm leaves no time for spontaneous activity or multitasking – the applications of this theory will be useful and interesting to students and teachers alike.

Other contributors include Sallie Tisdale, Annie Murphy Paul, Oliver Sacks, David Wolman, Jina Moore, Jennifer Kahn, John Horgan, Marina Cords, Martin Enserink, J. Madeline Nash, David Quammen, Jennifer Margulis, Margaret Talbot, John Seabrook, Catherine Price, Gregg Easterbook, Denniis Overbye, Karen Olsson, and Theresa Brown. Their articles have appeared in prestigious publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Discover, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Wired, Smithsonian and many more, even The Onion.
“It is rare to be offered such a diverse collection of science writing, even more, one that can be enjoyed by laymen, scientists, and writers alike.” — Nature

If you’d like to consider The Best American Science Writing 2009 for one of your classes, please order an examination copy. If you’ve already assigned the book as a required text, please order a desk copy.


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