Since this is the “best American science writing” of the year, you know it’s going to be good. What’s amazing is the variety of subject matter that just the term “science” covers. The result is a collection of incredible articles covering the latest discoveries and breakthroughs in the many different fields of science.
While this collection may not be for the average person who has little-to-no knowledge of science – some background is necessary – the beauty of a collection of articles, like a collection of short stories, is if you don’t like the particular article or find it too complicated, you can simply skip to the next. The first article, “The Theory of Everything” by Tyler Cabot covers the completion next year of a vastly superior particle accelerator in Switzerland. With the results from this giant machine, physics and science may be advanced greatly, with astonishing discoveries made. Cabot talks about this new device, as well as providing a summary of the important theories in science right now proposing possible answers to the famous Unification Theory: the theory linking relativity and quantum mechanics, or in Douglas Adams’ words: “Life, the Universe, and Everything.”
Robin Marantz Henig provides the latest ideas and technology on telling whether someone is lying or not in “Looking for the Lie.” Joshua Davis discusses the unique condition of prosopagnosia, or “face blindness.” A lot of people don’t even realize they have it; some develop it after a severe head wound or a stroke. It is a condition where the person simply does not recognize faces at all, as if they are blank pages that mean nothing to that person. The people suffering from this condition often have to use clues like clothes and the sound of a voice to recognize a person. But now with online groups linking these people together, breakthroughs are being made, as science goes one step closer to finding out the root cranial cause of this condition.
In “A Depression Switch,” David Dobbs talks about a new technique for helping patients who suffer from a form of depression so severe that no medication will help, and they are left with no choice but to remain in a padded cell. The procedure involves implanting tiny electrodes to a specific point in the brain, known as Area 25, attached to a small pacemaker that emits a minute four-volt charge. Miraculously, patients feel the depression go away, and whatever was missing in their lives returns instantly. It really seems to act like a switch and be as simple as that. With almost twenty patients, the new procedure is very much still in its infant stages, but could one day be a successful cure to this form of severe depression.
Oliver Sacks, Elizabeth Kolbert, Sylvia Nasar and Atul Gawande are just a few of the authors whose articles are featured in this collection, running the gamut from space and the universe, to mathematics, to neuroscience, to global warming and environmental awareness, to what science aids on blockbuster movies like The Hulk actually do. The Best American Science Writing 2007 will teach you things you never even knew were being studied, as well as give you hope that there are still many people out there working to make this world a better place.
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Originally written on October 21st 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.