Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 500s

511: Mathematical Fallacies and Paradoxes by Bryan Bunch

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511.3: Bunch, Bryan. Mathematical Fallacies and Paradoxes. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1997. 210 pp. ISBN 0-486-29664-4.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 510: Mathematics
  • 511: General principles of mathematics
  • 511.3: Mathematical logic

About every month or so, diagrams go around social media proving various paradoxes. From proving 2 = 3, or that certain infinite series converge to -1/12, these proofs often use fallacious logic or hidden steps to achieve their ends. Bryan Bunch’s Mathematical Fallacies and Paradoxes collects eight such examples to help broaden our understanding of both logic and math. Be wary, though, this is not for the faint heart.

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563: The Star-Crossed Stone by Kenneth McNamara

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563.95: McNamara, Kenneth J. The Star-Crossed Stone: The Secret Life, Myths, and History of a Fascinating Fossil. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011. 2312 pp. ISBN 978-0-226-51469-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 560: Paleontology and paleozoology
  • 563: Miscellaneous fossil marine and seashore invertebrates
  • 563.9: Echinodermata and Hemichordata
  • 563.95: Echinozoa

In March 1887, a grave was discovered in England. It was an old grave, the interred had been there for thousands of years. But the two occupants weren’t the only creatures there: they had been buried with hundreds of fossilized sea urchins. Historians and archaeologists were puzzled. Why were these fossils buried with the ancient humans? What was their significance? Kenneth McNamara’s The Star-Crossed Stone looks into the discovery, history, and folklore surrounding fossil urchins.

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575: The Panda’s Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould

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575.0162: Gould, Stephen Jay. The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1980. 323 pp. ISBN 0-393-30819-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 570: Biology
  • 575: Specific parts of and physiological systems in plants
  • 575.0162: Natural selection (Darwinism)

Stephen Jay Gould’s Panda’s Thumb is a collection of thirty-one essays all looking at how the natural world has adapted to its circumstances and how we as humans perceive, interpret, and understand those adaptations. Gould’s work on evolution helps to show that sometimes scientists get it wrong, and other times, scientists get it very wrong. Even the science of evolution is evolving, which is the overall premise of this collection. We see how the early investigations of those with Down Syndrome changed the way people viewed doctors and men of science, how Mickey Mouse’s changes over the years mirror the growth of human beings, and how history of organisms on this planet is not a steady affair.

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587: Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks

587.097274: Sacks, Oliver. Oaxaca Journal. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002. 159 pp. ISBN 0-7922-6521-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 580: Botany
  • 587: Pteridophyta
  • +097274: North America—Mexico—Oaxaca

 

First of all, this book is about ferns. It’s about people from all walks of life, all educational backgrounds, and all nationalities who love ferns. Oliver Sacks, noted neuroscientist and author, counts himself among their number. He is a legitimate card-carrying member of the American Fern Society. Ferns don’t get a lot of love from supposed plant lovers and botanists. They belong to the plant group Pteridophyta, reproduce by spores, and don’t have flowers. But Sacks loves them all. Some time back, he got to go on a “fern foray” to Oaxaca, Mexico with some fellow enthusiasts from the AFS. Oaxaca Journal takes us with him.

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541: The Periodic Kingdom by P.W. Atkins

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541.24: Atkins, P. W. The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements. New York: Basic Books, 1995. 149 pp. ISBN 0-465-07266-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 540: Chemistry
  • 541: Physical chemistry
  • 541.2: Theoretical chemistry
  • 541.24: Atomic structure

I’ve yet to read a book on science that was one giant metaphor. Normally, authors want to just educate the reader on a concept, flesh it out with rich histories and context, and then move on to the next thing. P.W. Atkins’s The Periodic Kingdom is a completely different beast altogether. He imagines the periodic table, on display in classrooms and science labs around the world, as a geographic map. The eastern borders house the nobility and the western shores are home to the most explosive elements. In between are the Metallic Desert, the southern island (transuranic elements), and the Eastern Rectangle (gaseous elements). And Atkins takes it upon himself to be the tour guide of this strange but rather organized kingdom.

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556: Fieldwork by Christopher Scholz

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556.883. Scholz, Christopher. Fieldwork: A Geologist’s Memoir of the Kalahari. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997. 190 pp. ISBN 0-691-01226-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 550: Earth sciences (geology)
  • 556: Earth sciences of Africa
  • 556.8: Earth sciences of Southern Africa and the Republic of South Africa
  • 556.88: Earth sciences of Namibia, Botswana. Lesotho, and Swaziland
  • 556.883: Earth science of Botswana and the Kalahari Desert

In 1974, Dr. Christopher Scholz, a newly-minted professor of geology at Columbia University, received a rather interesting and unexpected phone call. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization called to ask him if he would want to serve as an earthquake consultant in Botswana. The U.N. was trying to run an agricultural project in the Okavango Delta and wanted to know what, if any, threat was posed by earthquakes changing the way that the delta flows and drains. A simple enough project, everyone thought. As Scholz writes in Fieldwork, “Africa is a continent like no other.” And his work there would be like no other as well.

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570: Signs of Life by Ricard Sole and Brian Goodwin

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570: Sole, Ricard and Brian Goodwin. Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 303 pp. ISBN 0-465-01927-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 570: Biology

If you’ve ever seen an array of beetles in a natural history museum or gone snorkeling, you have no doubt marveled at just how complex biology can be. There are millions upon millions of species on Earth, each following their own patterns. Those patterns encounter and interfere with other patterns to create the massive biosphere we have today. Ricard Sole and Brian Goodwin, in Signs of Life, try to parse out those patterns and how the science that occurs at the intersection of chaos, mathematics, and biology.

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