Movie Review: Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire


Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire

[Rating = 3]

This 4 DVD documentary from the History Channel covers the period from the end of the Roman Republic to the end of the Roman Empire. It is more or less divided up by Emperor, describing each in turn as it takes you through the rise, expansion, division and ultimate collapse of the Roman Empire. It provides a decent overview of the various stages and the Emperors in power at each point. While not as detailed as most, it is still sufficient to make one familiar with the overall history of the Roman Empire. A good starter for the student of Roman history.

 

Book Review: The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origin of Atoms


The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms

This book tells the story of the search for the origins of atoms, from the first concept of atoms as indivisible particles to our present day understanding. There is a great deal of the history of science in this book without it being overly technical or dry. The origins of atoms of various elements, from the big bang, in the hearts of stars or in their cataclysmic deaths as supernovae, are all addressed in an interesting and informative manner. If you are interested in the origins of atoms or physics or astronomy there is something in this book for you and you will enjoy reading it.

[Rating=5]

Book Review: The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850

The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850

[rating=4]

Published in 2000, this gives a historical account of climate conditions between the Roman Warm Period and the Industrial Revolution. Fagan describes the period of substantially cooler weather in terms of agriculture, habitable regions and weather patterns from an archeological perspective. He presents evidence for the natural causes of cooling – volcanic activity, solar activity – predating any manmade causes (albeit with a nod to Anthropogenic Climate Change claims, as any book from the early 21st Century must to in order to survive politically correct scrutiny) without making any unsubstantiated assertions.

All in all a good read.

Book Review: Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud


Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

Covering numerous topics including Joe Newman’s energy machine, cold fusion, homeopathic medicine, anti-vaccination movement, power line cancer, magnetic therapy and assorted other items ranging from questionable to absurd, this book from 2000 describes the lengths the self-deluded to criminal will go to in the pursuit of vindication or to perpetrate a scam. The various categories of voodoo science, be it pathological self-delusion, pseudoscience, junk science or plain old superstitious mumbo jumbo are discussed thoroughly in a humorous and perhaps snarky presentation (one of the best lines in the book is “the attempt to extract the oxygen you need from water is called ‘drowning'”) that will evoke a snicker or two. You will wonder why anybody, perhaps even you, fell for some of these claims. But you will like the book.

[Rating=4]

Book Review: The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear


The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear

Beckmann discusses the issues surrounding the use of nuclear power in this still-relevant book from 1976. He proceeds not by whitewashing the potential dangers of nuclear energy, but by comparing it to other existing sources of energy in an apples-to-apples fashion. Beckmann makes the case that nuclear energy, while not totally clean and not totally safe, is actually both cleaner and safer than viable large-scale energy production from other sources. Even though the book is now 40 years old, it provides a comprehensive analysis of the relative risks and rewards of nuclear power versus the others with a degree of prescience regarding the technological advances in the energy industry.

[Rating=5]