A Positron Named Priscilla: Scientific Discovery at the Frontier

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A Positron Named Priscilla is a book of wonder, offering a fascinating, readable overview of cutting-edge investigations by many of today's leading young scientists. Written for anyone who loves science, this volume reports on some of the most exciting recent discoveries and advances in fields from astronomy to molecular biology.
This new book is from one of the world's most prestigious scientific institutions, the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy provides an annual forum for the brightest young investigators to exchange ideas across disciplines--an exchange that was the spark for A Positron Named Priscilla.
Each chapter is authored by a popular science writer who offers helpful historical perspectives, clear and well-illustrated explanations of current scientific thinking, and previews of future developments. The scope of topics and breadth of discussion ensure interest at all levels. Topics include
  • Planetary science and the compelling glimpse through the clouded atmosphere of Venus afforded by the spacecraft Magellan.
  • Astrophysics and the emergence of helioseismology, a new field that allows researchers to probe the interior workings of the sun.
  • Biology and what we have learned about DNA in the 40 years since its discovery; our current understanding of protein molecules, the "building blocks" of living systems; and the high-tech search for answers to the AIDS epidemic.
  • Physics and our new-found ability to move and manipulate individual atoms on a surface. The book also tells the remarkable story of "buckyballs," or buckminsterfullerenes, a form of carbon discovered only a few years ago, that have the potential to be used in a variety of important applications, from superconductivity to nanotechnology.
  • Mathematics and the rise of "wavelet" theory, and how mathematicians are applying it in sometimes startling ways, from assisting the FBI with fingerprint storage to coaxing the secrets from a battered recording of Brahms playing the piano.
  • Geosciences and the search for "clocks in the earth" to make life-saving earthquake predictions.
A Positron Named Priscilla is a "must" read for anyone who wants to keep up with a broad range of scientific endeavor.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The nine National Academy of Sciences scholars represented in these challenging papers are mostly mid-career researchers in emergent areas, like David Holzman, whose ``Fold, Spindle and Regulate!'' looks at the workings of proteins, and Elizabeth J. Maggio, who writes about buckyballs in ``Bouncing Balls of Carbon.'' The frivolous title does not really serve an anthology of papers which falls just shy of the format and level of a scientific journal: graduate readings are prerequisite for most entries with the possible exception of Addison Greenwood's ``Clocks in the Earth?: The Science of Earthquake Prediction.'' With such a wide range of fields (from physics to mathematics to geoscience to biology), few popular science readers will be able to absorb more than two or three of these reports from ``frontiers'' without futher reference. Publisher W. H. Freeman's Scientific American Reader series has often brought this level of research into better focus by keeping to one discipline. 20,000 first printing. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In this readable collection of reports, science writers review U.S. researchers and the questions they are working hard to answer, all at the upper limits of scientific knowledge. Topics include physics (manipulating individual atoms; fullerenes/buckyballs as a new form of carbon; the Higgs particle research that aims toward a true theory of mass); mathematics (amoebic wavelets; a new mathematical language of compressing information); geoscience, planetary science, and astrophysics (the Venusian history afforded by the Magellan spacecraft; recording the sun's interior activities through heliotremors; predicting earthquakes); and biosciences (DNA research; understanding and designing proteins, the ``building-blocks'' of life; AIDS and related high-tech studies). Though attempts to supply analogies from the nonscientific world vary, some are fun, and the material is generally clear and well written. This book is successfully aimed at readers who want to know what is happening in modern research but don't want their science in ``predigested and denatured journalistic teaspoons.''-- Diane M. Fortner, Univ. of California Lib., Berkeley
A popular account of some of the more esoteric research being done on such topics as the surface of Venus, sub-atomic particles, earthquakes, the disguises of HIV, and industrial applications of Buckyballs (soccer-ball-like molecules of Buckminsterfullerene). Priscilla is a positron being held captive and interrogated by a physicist. Includes books recommended for the public as well as technical works. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780309048934
  • Publisher: National Academies Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1994
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 8.32 (w) x 10.27 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Shake, Rattle, and Shine: New Methods of Probing the Sun's Interior 2
2 A Positron Named Priscilla: Trapping and Manipulating Atoms 34
3 AIDS: Solving the Molecular Puzzle 60
4 Doubling Up: How the Genetic Code Replicates Itself 98
5 Magellan's Venus: A World Revealed 124
6 Clocks in the Earth?: The Science of Earthquake Prediction 154
7 The Mathematical Microscope: Waves, Wavelets, and Beyond 196
8 A Family Affair: The Top Quark and the Higgs Particle 236
9 Bouncing Balls of Carbon: The Discovery and Promise of Fullerenes 258
10 Fold, Spindle, and Regulate: How Proteins Work 290
App. A: Abstracts of Additional Sessions of the Frontiers of Science Symposia 316
App. B: Symposia Programs 328
App. C: About the Authors 332
Index 335
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