The 2005 edition of this series is an especially fine collection of excellent writing for armchair scientists. Essays range from a narrative about a life-threatening adventure in seeking earth’s deepest underwater caves to the story of the “mechanically elegant” Curta calculator. Some of the essays make powerful pairings: Sherwin B. Nuland summarizes Sheila and David Rothman’s The Pursuit of Perfection, urging the public to slow the hysterical rush into medical and cosmetic “miracles,” while Jenny Everett, in “My Little Brother on Drugs,” shares her qualms about growth-hormone treatments. “Hollywood Science” tells the story of Proposition 71, California’s initiative into private stem cell research, while James McManus imagines a cure for his diabetic daughter in “Please Stand By While the Age of Miracles Is Briefly Suspended.”


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