Down to a Science Book Club Reads

Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers Why Zebra’s Get Ulcers By Robert Sapolsky
San Francisco recently ranked as the 5th most stressful city in the world. And this data came before the current economic meltdown (and probably doesn’t even take a ride on the 38 Geary into account). It’s no wonder we suffer from chronic stress related diseases. In our next book, we tackle stress and why don’t zebras get ulcers–or heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases–when people do. In a fascinating look at the science of stress, biologist Robert Sapolsky presents an intriguing case, that people develop such diseases partly because our bodies aren’t designed for the constant stresses of a modern-day life–like sitting in daily traffic jams or growing up in
poverty. Rather, they seem more built for the kind of short-term stress faced by a zebra–like outrunning a lion. Sapolsky concludes with a hopeful chapter, titled “Managing Stress.” Sapolsky highlights the studies that suggest we do have some control over stress-related ailments, based on how we perceive the stress and the kinds of social support we have.

The Botany of Desire The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
We’ll continue on our science book discussion with book by a local hero: Michael Pollan. Pollan has become one of the foremost experts/critics on food policy and eating habits after he wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. We’re going to rewind the clock and take a look at one of his earliest works: The Botany of Desire – A fascinating account of four everyday plants and their coevolution with human society. Using the histories of apples, tulips, potatoes and cannabis to illustrate the complex, reciprocal relationship between humans and the natural world, Pollan shows how these species have successfully exploited human desires to flourish. Check out Michael’s TED Talk on looking at the world through a plant’s eye view.

How We Decide How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
Ever had a experience of option paralysis? Like when you are looking at the 11 different types of Cheerios in the cereal aisle? If you’re anything like me, decision making is an “interesting” process. Jonah Lehrer tackles the neurobiology of decision making and points out a few ways you may be able to overcome that paralysis. Watch Jonah discuss decision making at the Commonwealth Club or listen to him discuss Choice on RadioLab. Or see him try to discuss choice with Colbert (much funnier).

Your Inner Fish Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
Fish paleontologist Shubin illuminates the subject of evolution with humor and clarity in this compelling look at how the human body evolved into its present state. Shubin was co-discoverer of Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old fossil fish whose flat skull and limbs, and finger, toe, ankle and wrist bones, provide a link between fish and the earliest land-dwelling creatures. Shubin excels at explaining the science, making each discovery an adventure, whether it’s a Pennsylvania roadcut or a stony outcrop beset by polar bears and howling Arctic winds. I can imagine few things more beautiful or intellectually profound than finding the basis for our humanity… nestled inside some of the most humble creatures that ever lived, he writes, and curious readers are likely to agree.

Down to a Science Speakers’ Books

Physics for Future Presidents Physics for Future Presidents by Richard Muller
Imagine it: You are the President and a terrorist has planted a dirty bomb in midtown Manhattan. What do you do? How do you react? If you don’t know anything about Physics you won’t be able to act quickly or wisely. But if you do. . .

Future presidents (and voters) can’t afford to be ignorant about nuclear weapons. Physics for Future Presidents gives you the knowledge necessary to survive in today’s political and increasingly nuclear world. What is the difference between a Uranium bomb, a Plutonium bomb, and a Hydrogen bomb? What are the real dangers of nuclear waste? Find out what you need to know about radiation and nukes. Physics is also critical to our understanding of Energy, Space, and Global Warming.