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19 November 2017 - 2 Kislev 5778 - ב' כסלו ה' אלפים תשע"ח
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The Planets
By Dava Sobel
2005, Penguin Books, New York, New York, 276 pages

The energy of God’s intent fl ooded the new heaven and earth with light on the very fi rst day of Genesis. Light’s potential good thus pervaded the evenings and the morning when the seas separated from the dry lands, and the earth brought forth grass and fruit trees- even before God set the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament on the forth day.

This is a artistic and unique book that creates its own genre of scientifi c literature. Sobel lets the reader experience the beauty she sees in space and science. She successfully offers an astronomy lesson to the layman and blends together the worlds of scientifi c knowledge with popular culture, mythology, poetry, religion, literature, science fi ction and music. Sobel gives a personal voice to each of the nine planets and her own voice comes through as well. It is a book that allows readers of all disciplines to connect with science.

 (Reviewed in JTA Issue April 2008)

 

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FLU
By Gina Kolata
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
1999, 330 pages

“The Asian flu virus of 1957 was thought to resemble a virus that spread through the world in 1889. The Hong Kong flu virus of 1968 was thought to resemble the virus that caused the influenza pandemic of 1898. In 1979…it should not be surprising to see a flu that resembled that of 1918.”

“The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It” is the subtitle of this short book. Gina Kolata (science reporter for the New York Times) examines not only the 1918 flu that killed anywhere from 20 to 100 million people, but a number of pandemics (including cholera and bubonic plague) that have changed the course of human history. The scariest part of the story is the lessons that were not learned by the various medical establishments. With the current media hype and government hysteria surrounding avian flu, now is a good time to read this book.

(Reviewed in JTA Issue August 2006)

 

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The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth
2001, New York, Touchstone Books, 226 pages

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The Science of God
1997, New York, Broadway Books, 226 pages
Both by Gerald L. Schroeder

[Wisdom’s] origin is told in the three-thousand-year-old opening word of Genesis, Beraesheet. Not the superficial reading, “In the beginning,” but the far deeper reality, Be’raesheet, “‘With wisdom God created the heavens and the earth.”  The substrate of all existence is wisdom.

Gerald Schroeder holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, works at the Weizmann Institute, and lives in
Jerusalem. These two slender books deal with reconciling Creation and the existence of G-d, with the theory of evolution and modern science. Schroeder looks at things with the heart of a believing Jew but with the mind and eyes of a scientist, and his conclusions are startling.

 

Schroeder discusses current scientific theories of the universe’s inception, quantum mechanics, how the human nervous system works, carbon dating, and meiosis. He discusses Nachmanides’ comment that when G-d “breathed into his nostrils the neshama of life and the adam became a living soul (Genesis 2:7),” it transformed humans into different beings altogether – spiritual beings – in contrast to a less advanced human race.

He asks what it is that makes a cell work, what is this “information” that seems to act of its own accord in human development and the wave/particle dichotomy of light. Neither book is a simplistic attempt at getting six twenty-four-hour days to correspond to science’s proposed age of the universe; both are absorbing, thought provoking, and should be part of any thinking Jew’s library.

(Reviewed in JTA Issue September 2006)

 

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