Favorite "Intro" books?

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13 Mar 2018 04:10 #318558 by Locksley
Locksley created the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
Hey science folks!

What are some of your favorite books that break down complex scientific realms into manageable bite-sized lumps for the average layperson? I'm thinking of anything that gives you a grounding in concepts, techniques, and overall processes of inquiry but focuses on non-academic writing and more than basic math concepts.

Personally, though it's dated, one of my favorites is Carl Sagan's Dragons of Eden.

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13 Mar 2018 04:32 #318559 by Rex
Rex replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
What sorts of fields?

My go to before any sort of sciencing begins is Karl Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. They help give a sort of idea of what science is/isn't on a philosophical level.

After that, honestly it just depends on what level you understand something. Reading Carl Sagan is going to mean nothing unless you have a relevant, scientific foundation to base it on. Calculus (and lin alg, set math, etc.) is a linchpin for most fields, so I'd start there.

I have a load of old textbooks, but I doubt you want to drop upwards of a hundred dollars each.

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13 Mar 2018 04:54 #318561 by Locksley
Locksley replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
Well, any subjects, really!
There's a lot out there that's designed specifically for people who don't have the overall background to work their own way through the science, step by step, but who have an interest in learning the concepts and being introduced to the theories/realities. That's one of the things I appreciate most about Sagan -- he was a consummate scientist who strongly believed that scientific literacy among the average layperson was important, one of the reasons why he often wrote for the wide audience much of the time (to say nothing of Cosmos, which has done so much in way of introducing people to the both scientific principles across numerous fields as well as scientific thinking as a whole.

Both of the books you mentioned, especially Structure of Scientific Revolutions sound interesting, I'll check them out!

I'm interested in locating more works that don't require a large body of knowledge to understand, and which are focused on helping people ease into various areas of study as well as scientific thought. textbooks, in my opinion, rarely manage to do this -- they tend to be more helpful to people who are actively studying a field at a specific level, in a specific way, for a specific purpose (usually to continue studies and/or work in a scientific field). I wouldn't ask anyone to read the books I was working with when I was studying Astronomy, even if I found them valuable, simply because they weren't very accessible. It was hard, practical data absorption, and if I hadn't already had a strong internal interest I probably wouldn't have acquired one by reading the textbooks (the same, I've found, is true for texts written by Academics for Academics). Even books like Guns, Germs, and Steel which I finally got around to reading in its entirety, recently, wouldn't have been as accessible if I didn't already have some exposure through books like Dragons of Eden.

So, perhaps what I'm asking for are recommendations for popular science books, haha. Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is another good example. Anything in physics, mathematics, biology, geology, anthropology... etc.

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13 Mar 2018 04:55 #318562 by Carlos.Martinez3
Carlos.Martinez3 replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
Hands down
library.templeofthejediorder.org/library...m_from_the_Known.pdf

And
library.templeofthejediorder.org/library...owley-Meditation.pdf

And The hero with a thousand faces! Top three for me !
To use these three in my own balance : PRICELESS!

Ps I'm not a Segan fan myself !

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13 Mar 2018 13:04 - 13 Mar 2018 13:40 #318576 by Twigga
Twigga replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
I love Russell Stannard's "Uncle Albert" trilogy - The Time and Space of Uncle Albert, Black Holes and Uncle Albert, and Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest.

By love I mean, I have a genuine warm feeling, remembering reading them as a kid. For "process of enquiry" I'm not sure you could do better! I got copies somewhere if you want them posting :)

Kuhn is, I think, rightly considered a must for the serious enquirer. But personally I appreciate how the scientific process is both simple and complex. You can get a lot out of well written kids books. I can also post you a well worn Kuhn, if you need.

"Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare" (Colinvaux) is a nice one for Ecology too.
Last Edit: 13 Mar 2018 13:40 by Twigga. Reason: Cred for Kuhn, introducing Colinvaux
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13 Mar 2018 15:56 #318595 by Kyrin Wyldstar
Kyrin Wyldstar replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?

Carlos.Martinez3 wrote: Hands down
library.templeofthejediorder.org/library...m_from_the_Known.pdf

And
library.templeofthejediorder.org/library...owley-Meditation.pdf

And The hero with a thousand faces! Top three for me !
To use these three in my own balance : PRICELESS!

Ps I'm not a Segan fan myself !



Im not sure if those are science books???

I like the "Physics of Star Wars" by Patrick Johnson. You get the best of both worlds because it looks at Star Wars concepts and then explains them in real Physics concepts.

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13 Mar 2018 18:07 - 13 Mar 2018 18:19 #318604 by Locksley
Locksley replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
These are great, guys! That Russell Stannard's "Uncle Albert" trilogy looks seriously wonderful. One of the best ways to learn a subject, in my opinion, is to teach what you've learned to other people, so anything where adults get to have fun teaching kids about science is superb (it'll energize the adult's interest in the field just as much as the kid's). I'm not sure how I haven't read Kuhn before! Probably because this is an amateur hobby for me (most of my interest in, and training with the basics of science, took place through a series of low-level Astronomy courses I took and then worked for as a Teaching Assistant). I love seeing all the the great pieces are mentioning here.:)

Paul Colinvaux's book has been on my radar for a while, adding it to my list of "must read" ecology books!

"Physics of Star Wars," is perfect, considering our context, lol. I have a well-worn copy of "The Physics of Star Trek" on my bookshelf, too. That's also exactly what I'm aiming for -- books which come at a topic "sideways" and help teach people the principles through uncommon means (or just very simple, generalized, and abstract means). Get someone excited about learning, first, and then start teaching them the more advanced stuff as they go (or simply help them seek the knowledge and training after they've learned to enjoy the subject matter).

A book that did this for me was The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz (professor of applied mathematics at Cornell). A great little introduction to the basics of a wide range of concepts. It's not going to make anyone a math whiz on its own, but it can definitely inspire someone, and it explains a lot of concepts in very relatable and easy-to-understand ways.

Also, Twigga, how could I say no to that offer?! I'd be happy to accept a well-worn Kuhn. :)
Last Edit: 13 Mar 2018 18:19 by Locksley.
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13 Mar 2018 19:09 #318607 by Carlos.Martinez3
Carlos.Martinez3 replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
Science is my ... vice- this is where your TM gets stuck often Odin. As a man of the "robe" I love what exist in "The universe in a single Atom" by the Dalai Lama ... so wonderful to see someone institute both their findings and their faith in their own practice . It's a got to for me as a reference to how I can do it myself

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13 Mar 2018 19:33 #318612 by Locksley
Locksley replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
I haven't read The Universe in a Single Atom yet, that sounds great! Anything that helps people engage with science is good, in my book. That's where I think learning about science and scientific thinking can become less of a vice and more, just, fun! :)
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13 Mar 2018 21:04 #318619 by Carlos.Martinez3
Carlos.Martinez3 replied the topic: Favorite "Intro" books?
Another go to for me in the strictly science robe is Einstiens Dream by Alan Lightman

It's listed and categorized as a novel but here's the deal

The novel fictionalizes Albert Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905.
This is a work of fiction. Of imagination. Of speculation. But the author teaches physics and writing (read that again: physics and writing!) at MIT. OK.
So it's true from a ceartain point of view - cue Jedi smaileyface from under a hooded robe !

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