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Texts on the beach: What scientists recommend for summer reading

-- "Dante's Equation" by Jane Jensen (2003). "I was captivated by the mysticism of Kabbalah, blended with physics and good old Defense Department weapons development. The book asks, 'Is luck just a statistical coincidence?' "

Nonfiction:

-- "Biographies of Scientific Objects" edited by Lorraine Daston (1999). "This book of essays on how an object or phenomenon becomes of interest to scientists shows that what we choose to learn about is influenced by culture and personal experiences."

-- "Limits to Medicine: Medical Nemesis, the Expropriation of Health" by Ivan Illich (1976). "This was one of the first times I was exposed to the idea (besides from my mother) that the actual practice of medicine and the 'heroics' we do could be detrimental. I learned the concept of iatrogenic disease -- illness caused by physicians."

Dean Kamen, an inventor who holds more than 440 patents, created the first portable insulin pump and the Segway.

Nonfiction:

-- "Number: The Language of Science" by Tobias Dantzig (1930). "Albert Einstein said, 'This is beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands.' "

-- "The Great Equations: Breakthroughs in Science From Pythagoras to Heisenberg" by Robert P. Crease (2009).

Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and scholar in residence at Middlebury College, is the author of "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet."

Fiction:

-- "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood (2003). A "great, clear" dystopian novel about "the future we're heading towards."

Nonfiction:

-- "A Sand County Almanac" by Aldo Leopold (1949). "The great summation of ecological wisdom by as fine a writer as American science ever produced."

-- "Naturalist" by Edward O. Wilson (1994). This memoir of the Harvard entomologist is "for anyone thinking of heading for a life in science."

David R. Montgomery, University of Washington geomorphologist and author of "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations."


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