Monday, August 23, 2010

What I'm Reading - Lost in Wonder: Imagining Science and Other Wonders


Reading is one of the great pleasures of the moment. I am savoring the first half of Lost in Wonder by Colette Brooks. Colette read at Elliott Bay Book Company this summer and although I only occasionally read creative non-fiction - this is one of those happy occasions. Brooks made it clear that she's writing for the non scientist --- the English major (perhaps) that took "Botany for Poets" as an undergraduate. It's hard to explain this book as it is both a history of great scientific moments, an explanation of flight, and something Brooks calls "thought experiments."  Here is a brief excerpt on the discovery of the X-ray.

"Accordingly, against her better judgement, Frau Roentgen allows her husband to shoot a beam of high-powered particles into her body, where they move through her skin and flesh at unimaginable velocities until they hit bone. The resulting image is unlike anything that she has seen before: In place of her hand, there are now five skeletal fingers joined to a skeletal wrist. One of the fingers bears Frau Roentgen's wedding ring, which like the bones, has blocked the rays. Were it not for the ring, which she recognizes, she could almost hope that her husband had tricked her. But she cannot deny the truth: He has peered almost indecently into a living human body, exposing to view that which is better left to the imagination."

from Lost in Wonder: Imagining Science and Other Mysteries by Collette Brooks, Counterpoint Press, 2010.

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