Science And Religion
As human beings, we have always used our brains to gain an advantage in the struggle for
survival in this world. Even before the so called age of science, practical men and women
have invented ways to use what nature has provided to invent and create ways to make life
easier. In addition we create just for the sake of creating. Of what practical use is art, poetry
and music but we create them. We have used philosophy and religion to try to understand
why we are here and what is our place in creation. When the age of science began and we
began to get real answers about the true nature of this creation that we all inhabit, religion and
science came into conflict Some early scientist died for their beliefs. Religious leaders were
powerful and saw science as a threat to their power. I was born Catholic and as I gained
knowledge in science I began to question religion. Conflict between religion and science exist
to this day. Just consider the conflict on the theory of evolution as an example. Eventually I
realized that there should be no conflict because science and religion answer different
questions. Science answers the question how. We study our world our universe and we learn
more and more about how things work. Science can never answer the question why? Why
are we here? Why does it exist? Why does it work the way it does? These are questions that
have to be left to religion or philosophy. Unlike religion, with science you cannot decide what
to believe. You must believe that which is proven scientifically. We live in a modern world
created by an understanding of how things work through science. Yet many are totally
ignorant of the scientific principles that let us create this world. If you would like to know
more about what science has found out then read the books that I am reviewing here.  
The Scientific Method
This modern world that we live in, with it's many wonders, was brought to us through the
scientific method. Let's examine the scientific method and see how it works. The scientific
method starts with accurate observation and/or experimentation. With some sciences, like
astronomy, we are limited to mostly observation. With other sciences, like chemistry, we can
rely heavily on experimentation with of course observation of the results of the experiments.
The ancient Greeks came up with ideas about the behavior of the natural world but their
science failed because they relied on thinking instead of observation and experimentation in the
real world. It wasn't until we came up with ways of making accurate measurements, that real
science could begin. But the scientific method requires more than observation and/or
experimentation. Humans have done that for many thousands of years. We could follow the
heavenly bodies, predict eclipses, and made many discoveries and inventions. The thing that
was missing was theories that could tie large numbers of facts together. A theory needs to fit
the facts, be fairly simple and be able to predict. A scientist looks at a group of facts and
forms a hypothesis. This is a model or working idea of how the scientist thinks things work.
If it fits the facts and can explain and predict, it becomes a theory. Simplicity is best. If it can
be reduced to a simple formula, a theory becomes even more accepted. But if new facts come
along that don't fit a theory then it has to be modified or replaced. Sometimes a theory can be
completely overthrown but often it is only modified or even stilled used in some  
circumstances. Newtons laws of motion are still good and useful but where they fall short
Einstein's Theory of Relativity takes over.
From Aristotle To Kepler
The ancient Greeks had competing ideas of the universe. One put the sun at the center, with
the earth and other planets revolving around the sun. The other put the earth at the center with
every thing revolving around it.  Sun at the center was simpler but with orbits believed to be
perfect circles was little better at fitting the facts than earth at the center. Earth at the center
fit the human ego better. The second century Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy built his model
based on Greek philosopher  Aristotle's teaching and it was accepted until the sixteenth
century. Even though it was a wrong theory, it could still be used to plot the positions of
heavenly bodies and make predictions. The fact that the church believed that the bible required
the earth to be the center of creation gave idea of the earth centered universe a lot of power.
As a matter of fact you could be burned at the stake for blasphemy for teaching otherwise. It
was a very complicated system and Copernicus (1473-1543) simplified it by putting the sun at
the center. But he did this with a thought experiment like the Greeks with orbits as perfect
circles so his model was little better than Ptolemy's at plotting the heavenly bodies. It took the
observations of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) who was history's greatest naked eye astronomer
to give Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) the observations he needed to discover the truth. The
orbits of the planets are ellipses with the sun at one focus of the ellipse. Now, the model fit the
observations and we had a real scientific theory that worked.
The Story of Science
"The Story of Science, Newton At The Center" by Joy Hakim is a Smithsonian book written
to make science come alive for the teenage reader. With it's many sidebars, charts, maps
diagrams and pictures, it will surely capture the interest of the young reader. But it's also a
good book for a reader of any age, who has missed out on a getting a good background
education in science. There is no better book for understanding how the scientific method
came to be and how it works. It starts with Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) the first true user
of the scientific method. He used experiments to back up his theories and made many
discoveries and inventions. It's too bad that a man of such genius was born at the beginning of
the scientific age. Many stood on his shoulders. Think what he might have done if he could
have stood on the shoulders of others.
Classic Feynman
I read this book because I know who Richard P. Feynman was. I am writing this review to
encourage those who don't know to read this book and meet this fascinating and unique
character. Richard was a noble prize winning physicist prominent enough to be honored with
a commemorative US postal stamp. He is a graduate of MIT and Princeton. He taught at
Cornell and then Caltech. He began his career as an unknown at Los Alamos during World
War II, joining in the effort to build the atomic bomb. Two years before his death in 1988 the
now famous Mr. Feynman was asked to serve on the Shuttle Commission and help in the
investigation into the cause of the Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion. This book is not about
Feynman's science except in passing. It's about the many adventures of this drum playing,
lock picking, irreverent character who loved to tweak the noses of pompous authority.
Feynman presented his share of scientific papers. But most famous were his talks on his
adventures. The book contains a CD of one of these talks given at the University of California,
Santa Barbara on February 6 1975. It's called Los Alamos From Below because while he was
there he was the unknown, not yet famous Richard Feynman. He talks about some of the
science in a human interest kind of way., like how he probably prevented them from blowing
themselves up at Oak Ridge. But he also talks about how he played with the censors and
security people. He discovered the workers had a hole in the security fence as a shortcut to
get to work. So he kept going out the hole and back in through the security gate showing that
all that security literally had holes in it. In his talk Safecracker Meets SafeCracker he tells how
he got secret documents out of locked file cabinets and safe, to show how insecure the
security measures were. These entertaining lectures of his many amusing adventures are all
gathered into this one book edited by his friend Ralph Leighton. Classic Feynman contains
new lectures and lectures from previous two previous books, Surely You Are Joking Mr.
Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think? If you think scientist are boring
and dull, read this book and change your opinion.
Before The Dawn
When all we had was the physical evidence of fossils and artifacts it wasn't possible to pin
down the origins of the human race. But now that we are able to unravel the genetic code of
ourselves and other creatures, the picture is becoming much clearer. The genetic code tells us
how closely we are related to every other person on earth. The consensus is that every human
on earth is descended from a small group of people who lived in Africa 50,000 years ago. The
author Nicholas Wade is a New York times reporter, has worked for both Nature and Science
and has written five other books. He mines every field of study dealing with us to show our
origins and how we spread over the earth. Indians of the Americas, Eskimos, people of India,
all the mid east and far east, Australian aborigines, Europeans, Polynesians, orientals, everyone
in the world today, we are all related, we are all one. There were others that survived to fairly
recent times such as the Neanderthals. They were a close relative but a different species. It is
unlikely that we could breed with them and produce offspring. They were already in Europe
when we arrived. They were very intelligent but may not have had language. We replaced
them. If you want to learn about the origins of the human race and how we are all brothers
under the skin, this book is a good place to start.
My technical career was in material science. I used very high temperature furnaces either
vacuum or inert gas atmospheres to fire exotic ceramics. But you could say that material
science began more than ten to twenty thousand years ago, when humankind learned how to
fire clay. It could be considered the start of all science as it was the first time that humankind
had learned to change the properties of something by adding energy. Clay can be molded wet
an dried to a hard state, but put it in water and it will fall apart. But fire it at a high enough
temperature and it becomes a new hard material that can hold water. This modern world that
we live in would not be possible if we had not first learned to work with clay. Cooking,
sanitation, farming, and architecture  would not have been possible. Without humankind
learning how to fire clay and make materials able to withstand high temperatures, we could
not have gotten to the next stage, the age of metals. For electricity to work you need
insulators as well as conductors. Before the recent invention of plastics, only ceramics played
that role. Even today in certain applications such as spark plugs only high quality ceramics will
do.I worked on he Apollo project. Travel to the moon would not have been possible without
ceramics. If you want to learn about the materials we use to create our modern world, there is
no better place to start than with learning about clay. It is the first material that we learned to
alter to our advantage and ceramics still play a vital role in our society today. From art to
science, clay is a fascinating material that you should know more about. The first book "The
Big Book Of Ceramics" is a nice introduction to traditional ceramics. The second book
"Introduction To Ceramics" is a college level book on technical ceramics. Is is often used as a
course text book. It would only be of interest to someone who is really interested in a career
in material science.. It was my bible, when I worked in the field.
Science Books
Einsteins Telescope
Just a few years ago, we thought we knew quite a bit about the composition of the universe.
Recent discoveries tell us that the normal matter that we know, the matter we can weigh and
measure is a very small part of all that there is. Only about 5 percent of the universe is normal
matter. The rest is mysterious dark matter (23%) and dark energy (72%). This book takes
you on a journey from the universe of Einstein to the universe as it is understood today to the
edge of what is unknown and maybe unknowable. Evalyn Gates is the perfect person to take
us on this journey. She is the assistant directer of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics
and also a senior research associate at the University of Chicago. She is the former astronomy
director of the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum. She makes a complex subject
accessible to the average reader. She doesn't assume that you have the prior knowledge and
background to understand the subject matter. While many of you may be familiar with
Einstein's theory and of relativity and the fact that massive objects in space distort space and
bend light from objects that are further out in space, all the background knowledge that you
need is contained in the book. Einstein and others predicted that massive objects in space
could act as lenses to bring into view objects much further out in space. It took over forty
years and much better telescopes to make this knowledge useful. Stars or galaxies can act as a
lenses but it is clusters of many galaxies that let us estimate the amount of dark matter in the
universe. Not only does a cluster allow us to observe objects twice as far out in space as the
cluster but the angle of the bending of the light from that distant object allows us to estimate
the amount of dark matter in the cluster. If you want to get the latest knowledge for
understanding what is known about our universe, this book with it's accessible explanations,
many illustrations and beautiful  color plates of actual telescope images is one you should get.