The Best American Science Writing 2007

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 29%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 87%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (49) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $1.99   
  • Used (43) from $1.99   


Provocative and engaging, this collection brings together the premiere science writing of the year. Featuring the imprimatur of bestselling author and New York Times reporter Gina Kolata, one of the nation's foremost voices in science and medicine, and with contributions from Atul Gawande, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Oliver Sacks, among others, The Best American Science Writing 2007 is a compelling anthology of our most advanced, and most relevant, scientific inquiries.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Like its predecessors, the ninth installment of this science anthology spotlights the very best journalistic science writing of the year. The range of articles is wide; the prose, accessible; the subject matter, riveting. The roster of contributors for the 2007 number include Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, Sylvia Nasar, David Gruber, Barry Yeoman, Elizabeth Kolbert, Jonathan Keats, and Jennifer Cousin. Everything from obstetrics to the expansion of the universe.
Boston Globe
“These articles are of varying depth, tone, length, and quality, but all of them are interesting. ”
Boston Globe
“These articles are of varying depth, tone, length, and quality, but all of them are interesting. ”
Publishers Weekly

Edited by New York Timesscience writer Kolata, this volume celebrates writing that captures the excitement of scientific discovery and also its human consequences. Tyler Cabot's "The Theory of Everything" spotlights theoretical physicists awaiting "the greatest, most anticipated, most expensive experiment in the history of mankind." By contrast, "Manifold Destiny" by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber tells of Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, who quietly announced a solution to one of the field's most elusive problems: Fermat's Last Theorem. Atul Gawande's "The Score" looks at the all-too-often painful history of obstetrics, and "Truth or Consequences" by Jennifer Couzin examines the bitter fallout for innocent graduate students and postdocs when their adviser is accused of falsifying data. Oliver Sacks's "Stereo Sue" explores the marvel of binocular vision, and Barry Yeoman's "Schweitzer's Dangerous Discovery" profiles unconventional paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer, discoverer of tissue remnants in dinosaur bones. These articles, culled mainly from general interest publications like the New Yorkerbut also from science magazines like Discover, showcase articles that show, in Kolata's words, how "[a]dvances in science have changed who we are as human beings and... are changing what we will become," and readers will indeed find them as exciting as they are compelling. (Sept. 18)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061345777
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/18/2007
  • Series: Best American Science Writing Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Gina Kolata is an award-winning senior writer for the New York Times. The winner of numerous writing awards, she has authored several books, including the bestselling Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It. Her latest book is Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting.

Jesse Cohen is a writer and freelance editor. He lives in New York City.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Best American Science Writing 2007

Chapter One

Tyler Cabot

The Theory of Everything

From Esquire

String theory. M-theory. Loop quantum gravity. The holographic universe. Several theories are competing for the solution to physics' ultimate problem: finding a single theory to unify all of the forces of nature—a theory of everything. Tyler Cabot looks in on what the contending theories' proponents are thinking as a new particle collider gets ready to test their hypotheses.

Eighteen months to go. And now some nights Nima Arkani-Hamed can't sleep. Because in eighteen months someone will flip a switch in something called the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. And when that switch is flipped, billions of protons will fly around a seventeen-mile loop at nearly the speed of light until they smash together hard, harder than any subatomic particles have ever been smashed together on earth. It's the greatest, most anticipated, most expensive experiment in the history of mankind. And if Arkani-Hamed is right, it could help prove that the laws that govern the universe at every scale—from the smallest quarks to the largest black holes—are one and the same. Or else, of course, it could prove that Arkani-Hamed is full of shit.

It's a fool's errand, this quest for a theory of everything. And Arkani-Hamed is only the most recent of thousands of theoretical physicists to embark on it. The idea seemed logical enough when Einstein first set out on it in the 1920s. If general relativity explains the universe from afar—why gravity pulls the earth around thesun—and quantum mechanics explains the world up close—how atoms, protons, and neutrons react to electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces—surely there must be a way to put the two theories together. After all, whether cosmic in size or minuscule, the particles and forces that govern our universe were all born at the same primordial moment. Yet Einstein failed. And in the interim, armies of physicists, equipped with similarly well-intentioned yet ultimately faulty or unprovable ideas, have followed him to the same well-trod dead end.

Since the mid–1980s, the leading contender for a grand unifying theory has been string theory. The idea is deceptively simple: At the core of every particle in the universe is a tiny thread of energy. Each of these filaments vibrates like a violin string, and its rate of vibration determines its vital characteristics, or tone. There are neutrino strings and electron strings, photon strings and graviton strings. When played together, they compose the symphony of the universe. Or at least, that's the theory.

There's a problem, though. The strings have too much range. So much, in fact, that for string theory to agree with the established laws of physics and mathematics, there must be not three but at least ten dimensions (including time) that are curled up and tucked away. And because each of these multidimensional landscapes requires a different string tuning, there are potentially billions and billions of different versions of string theory relating to billions and billions of different universes.

Then there's the problem of testing string theory. That's how science works. We hypothesize, then we test. And if a hypothesis passes muster, it becomes law. But the strings that supposedly make up our universe are so infinitesimal—one string is to an atom as a single atom is to the entire solar system—that critics argue that we may never be able to build a collider powerful enough to find them, even the collider that Arkani-Hamed stays up all night thinking about.

So here's the latest tally: Number of years since string theory became dominant: 20. Number of potential string-theory solutions: 10500 (the number of atoms in the galaxy squared and then squared again). Number of testable theories: 0. In other words, Arkani-Hamed better be at least partially right, because the natives are getting restless.

If the problem with string theory, as some critics claim, is that it's a closed-minded boys club whose lifetime members hopelessly shuffle and redeal the same deck of equations ad nauseam, then the solution may be found at the Jane Bond, a bar in the staid Canadian college town of Waterloo. The Jane Bond has a decidedly grungy 1970s flair. Tattooed hipsters talk with awed reverence of Brooklyn while DJs spin eclectic and esoteric music next to the bathroom, near the disco ball. And then there are the physicists from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics who have made the Jane Bond their watering hole. They talk theory sometimes. But mostly they just bullshit. "You want to know the true story?" goads a young postdoctoral researcher at that magical hour in any bar when only bad things can happen. "It's the post-9/11 theocons." Just like the rest of America, he continues, the science establishment is afraid of anything new. It doesn't want to consider any alternatives. "The string theorists just masturbate to their same ideas." At this, the rest of the table—a mixed group of young cosmologists, quantum-information theorists, and quantum-gravity buffs—breaks into nervous laughter. Yes, their friend is drunk. But he's right in a general sense, they concede. There is a growing fissure in the physics world between the haves (string theorists) and the have-nots (everyone else). But not at Perimeter, they caution. Perimeter is different.

The first thing you notice when walking through the concrete-and-glass hallways of PI are the lounges with blackboards. They are ubiquitous. And at each one there are usually two or three young physicists—mostly men, most in their late twenties or thirties—arguing over equations. The feeling is more dorm-room TA session than serious discussion about the origins of the universe. Sneakers and jeans rule. The researchers come and go as they please, and they work as they please. And when they grow too tired of drilling through equations and erasing equations and drilling through them some more, they might take a break. There's a squash court near the billiard table, a few floors below the bistro and bar. But don't get the wrong idea. Foosball aside, the physicists at PI are doing serious work.

The Best American Science Writing 2007. Copyright © by Gina Kolata. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction   Gina Kolata     vii
The Theory of Everything     1
Manifold Destiny     15
Looking for the Lie     44
Face Blind     67
Stereo Sue     82
Probing a Mind for a Cure     106
A Depression Switch?     121
With Lasers and Daring, Doctors Race to Save a Young Man's Brain     136
Being There     144
God or Gorilla     158
The Score     186
Truth and Consequences     211
The Man on the Table Was 97, But He Devised the Surgery     223
Butterfly Lessons     234
In Ancient Fossils, Seeds of a New Debate on Warming     252
John Koza Has Built an Invention Machine     260
Mind Games     270
Schweitzer's Dangerous Discovery     287
Cooking for Eggheads     299
Hollywood's Science Guru     309
About the Contributors     317
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)