Cells make up you, your friend, your hamster, and your mom's broccoli surprise. If it's alive or ever was alive, it is made of cells. Space scientists looking for life on Mars are trying to find microbes made of simple cells—not little green men—and biologists who search for cures to diseases work with cells. Small as they are, cells determine how life unfolds from its beginning to its end.
Dr. Daniel Wallace is a human factors engineer for the U.S. Navy. He is active in teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to children through demonstrations and teaches a science camp for a week every year at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Colonial Beach, VA. He is now in his 14th year as a member of the Westmoreland County Public School Board. He is also a musician, playing violin in the praise and worship band at his church.
We are very happy that he has agreed to share some of his favorite books with CRRL readers. To begin, here are favorites from his childhood:
Seventeen years ago, young Rose Franklin landed on a mysterious crater in South Dakota. Instead of falling to her death, Rose lands on a giant, glowing mechanical hand with ambiguous symbols and pictures carved in the metal.
Richard Feynman was one of the younger scientists entrusted to work on the atomic bomb, but the graphic novel biography Feynman shows that there is so much more to his life than just those few years.
For one thing, the Nobel-winning physicist was equally fascinated with art, using diagrams to explain his science in a way for which he could not always find the right words. What better representation for an artistic scientist's life than a graphic novel?
Chemistry appears to be the coldest, most sterile field of science, breaking down all the values that we as humans hold most dear. When we look close enough, these basic drives of ours, love, money, entertainment, courage, are just the combinations of different elements. Thanks chemistry, for sucking the fun out of the party.
But Sam Kean’s new book, The Disappearing Spoon, manages to take the history of the periodic table of elements, that impenetrable fortress from your high school chemistry class, and relate some of the most amazing, unbelievable, hilarious stories that have ever existed.
Almost episodic in nature, the crux of each story is often how a particular element was discovered, and then how humankind has chosen to put it to use. Sometimes it is for public welfare (copper is used on doorknobs and stair railings because most bacteria that land on it die with in a matter of hours), other times for warfare (high demand for the metals used to construct cell phones have contributed to five million deaths in war-torn central Africa since the mid-90’s).
There are a lot of stories out there: boy wizards, girl detectives, wimpy kids, and underpantsed captains. Despite the many possibilities and numerous titles to read, there may be that ever-lurking fear that there is not a story out there for you. In this is the case, you might want to avoid a panic attack by taking a note from Dr. Cuthbert Soup, head of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice.