History/Philosophy

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier

One of the pioneers in digital media and networks is disquieted by the dominance of the digital landscape by a few Siren Servers, who capitalized not on their superior products or expertise, but solely on their ability to extract a profit from each of the bits that make up Big Data. He thinks we all should be paid for our contributions, or at least the system be changed so as to provide incentives real contributions.

The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know has an Expiration Date

Samuel Arbesman, a mathematician and network scientist, uses the idea a half-life as an analogy for the changes in human knowledge that science brings. He discusses both the changing rate at which new science is done and the speed at which old results are replaced by newer ones. The analogy is far from perfect, but it emphasizes some critically important aspects of the processes of science.

The Information: A History. A Theory. A Flood.

If information about information is metadata, that's what we have here. As most of us are trying to drink from a firehose of information that clogs our eyes, ears, and every mailbox, James Glieck (author of "Chaos") helps us to step back to view the larger picture, with a longer perspective.

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth of America

The BCCE in 1994 was at Bucknell University, not far from the US home of Joseph Priestley, and I was one of a group that went there to see his place. While I knew some of his scientific contributions, I did not at the time appreciate how important a role he had played in the intellectual life of the nascent republic.

The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist

I bought "The Archimedes Codex" (the cloth cover edition, no less) because of the recommendation of Dick Pagni in the Summer Reading article in July, 2008. The book is available in paper beginning next month (January), but it is the kind of book that you might want to keep permanently in your library.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments

Lists of "the best" movies, books, sports stars, American Idols, etc. etc. are often intriguing and controversial. Science has its own lists, be they Nobelists or most-cited publications. Just a little while ago (could it really have been November, 2005?) Philip Ball's list of "elegant" chemistry experiments was my choice of the month.