Posts Tagged ‘Popular Science’

the man who couldn't stop

This is a fascinating insight into the world of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorders) patients, who are forced by their own minds to perform meaningless routine activities over and over again to lessen the anxiety they feel when an unrelated obsessive idea grips their mind. The author, who is an OCD patient himself and has had to suffer the personal ignominy of putting himself through such repetitive behaviour over a number of years, describes in this first-person account how the obsession takes over & overpowers all other thoughts in the mind. He cites examples and instances which, to an outsider may feel slightly humorous, but which hides the potential terror & lack of control that only the sufferer can feel.

The book describes how OCD manifests itself in people, explores how the condition has been perceived since early times and the treatment options that have evolved alongside. He writes about how some forms of obsessive behaviours are present in other species, how other forms of repetitive action can be perceived as OCD, the influence of religion, culture & traditions on OCD, the triggers for the condition to manifest itself and how it can be passed on, sometimes, in families.

The book concludes by looking at how OCD has now been classified as a mental disorder, with a growing awareness among the medical fraternity on how to treat patients with the condition. David talks about his own struggles with the disease, how he has now learnt to deal with the compulsive thoughts that still intrude and concludes on a positive note that patients and others who may know someone who potentially has OCD have a light at the end of their dark tunnel.

The book is interspersed with incidents, sanitised stories of sufferers and enough new information to keep the reader interested all along. I found it quite fascinating. A condition that I would otherwise just label as quirky and a sufferer as crazy is now something I can look at in a new light.

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What a fascinating and enjoyable book this is! The periodic table is something that we all learn about first in school and then for most of us, its relegated to a corner of the brain hardly ever figuring in our daily lives.
We know the table exists but it barely registers on the surface. In this brilliant book, Sam Kean brings it back with a bang and takes us on a journey across the rows and down the columns of the table, giving us a view of its history, how the table got its present shape and the elements that make it up. In the process, we are re-introduced to the elements, their characteristics & general properties, how they relate & intermingle with other elements, what makes them interesting or unique, etc. The chapters in the book group elements by properties that we can relate to, for instance their use in money or in medicine. The author has also avoided repeating the same elements in chapters, so each chapter presents a new set of stories & incidents around a fresh set of elements. Sam Kean’s writing style is light, easy & witty and he avoids getting into too much technical detail, so the lay person who last came across the periodic table in school can still enjoy this book and share the thrill of the early chemists & scientists in their discoveries & inventions.

This book deservedly made it to the shortlist for the Royal Society’s award for Science books in 2011.

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Review of The Edge of Reason by Anil Ananthaswamy

If there is one book-trip that I would like to go on, this is it! Anil Ananthaswamy takes us on a fascinating trip around the world as he explores those far frontiers where scientists are working to widen our understanding of the universe and the way it functions. The book takes us to some of the most forbidden places on the planet – from the freezing deserts of Lake Baikal in Siberia in the Northern Hemisphere and the Antarctic ice-plates in Southern Hemisphere to the arid landscape of the Karoo in South Africa, from mountaintops in Chile & the Himalayas that host observation platforms & the latest telescopes to deep underground in Minnesota & under the shadows of the Alps in Switzerland and finally to that most remote of all frontiers – the vacuum of space. The experiments being performed in all these locations is explained keeping the layman in mind, with just the right levels of technical and scientific information. Anil has a rare ability to blend the description of the landscape with the nature of the experiments being performed and bring in the human element into what is essentially a cutting-edge science experiment. Its still not easy to understand all that is going on and some of the paragraphs do have to be read twice to get a grasp, but then that is what makes this book so fascinating. Through Anil’s excellent narrative, we get a chance to travel to these exotic locations, see the landscape through the eyes of the scientists there, get a feel for the determination, the perseverance and the doggedness that drives them as they seek to expand the frontiers of our knowledge.

Anil takes the reader on a truly exhilarating journey in this book. The locations are truly extreme that they sometimes go beyond common adjectives, but its important to understand that these extremeties are only serving as intermediate stops & platforms for our finest scientists. They are the real heros of this book.

The scientific explanations behind each of the experiments is no doubt heavy stuff, but Anil is perhaps the best placed to lay it out as clear as it can get. With solid credentials as a science editor at New Scientist, Anil uses clear language and repeats his explanations in each chapter so that the reader comes away with a sense of awe at not just the location but also the nature of the experiments that are being performed.

Hats off to this book! This is clearly for the layman, though students of science will probably enjoy it more than anyone else.


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