Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Mary Roach

Book Cover

Larger view

"What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that - the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my laptop?"

In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

This was a charming book! Neither credulous nor scoffing she entertains & informs - recommended!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon

James J. Harford

Book Cover

An amazing book:

A mysterious figure, virtually unknown even in his own country, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev masterminded not only the historic launch of Sputnik and the first intercontinental ballistic missile, but Yuri Gagarin's epochal space flight, and, ultimately, the Soviet attempt to beat America to the moon. Who was Korolev? Where did he come from? Why is so little known about him?

This is a great entry into the world of the Soviet space program, a fascinating history and an amazing man - recommended!