Paul Braterman’s book selected for Scientific American Book Club

We congratulate Paul Braterman, Glasgow-based HSS member, whose first non-technical book, From Stars to Stalagmites; How Everything Connects, has been selected for the Scientific American Book Club.

Paul is a former chemistry professor, now devoting himself to science writing for a general audience and other educational activities. He is an honorary Research Fellow in Chemistry at Glasgow University, and serves as a committee member of the British Centre for Science Education and an adviser to the HSS education committee.

His book concerns not only what we know, but how we came to know it, and the historical and social contexts that promoted (and at times hindered) the process of discovery. Subjects of special interest to members include the nature of uncertainty, the age of the Earth and the formation of the elements, and the evolution of photosynthesis and colour vision (with explicit rebuttal of the claims of Intelligent Design). Our many members concerned about the human impact on the environment will also be particularly interested in chapters on the history of the ozone hole, the effect of climate change on civilisations, and the current reality (and alas, Paul leaves no doubt that it is a reality) of global warming. Other topics covered include the development of atomic theory in both ancient and modern forms; the emergence of chemistry as a modern science, with reference to the colourful characters involved (Lavoisier, Dalton, G.N Lewis and others); the wetness of water; and how the detailed nature of chemical bonding makes life possible. There are chapters on metallurgy from Neolithic times to the present, and on the Haber process for ammonia and nitrates, developed for high explosives but essential for Green Revolution agriculture, as a case study in the moral dilemmas of the scientist.

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