Friday, December 11, 2009

A Few Books of Note...

There are two books I've been reading recently that I would like to recommend to anyone with some curiosity and open mind.

First, there is "Trick or Treatment", by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, MD.
I finished it a few weeks ago, and it was a jackpot!!! This is a very well written, popular research book on a number of alternative medicine therapies. Included are: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbal medicine, and a few others in lesser detail. Since the two authors represent two opposed sides of the equation (Singh being a scientists and a journalist, and Ernst being an alternative medicine practitioner), it gives this piece additional credibility. As the authors proclaim at the beginning, their goal was to objectively evaluate the above therapies, showing their history, scientific background and the state of current research. While I sort of knew what the outcome would be, it was very interesting to learn about the exact historical background of those modalities, and to see what research has been done so far. Not surprisingly, all of the therapies discussed in the book, did not yield any real results in many scientific test, beyond a simple placebo effect. Some interesting outcomes were found for acupuncture and chiropractic, associated with pain management and back problems. Herbal medicine, being what it is: a sloppy, uncontrolled application of real drugs, shows some use, but one must be careful, watching for drug interactions and dosage.

Secondly, I enjoyed "Confessions of an Alien Hunter" by Seth Shostak, which is an incredibly entertaining account of the last 50 years of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), as told by one of the most authoritative individuals of the field. From history of the research, to some politics, and outlooks for the future, it's a pure fun to read. The best part of this book is that it really shows SETI being so much more than most of the people would think: biology, anthropology, physics, and many other fields, make up this broad, scientific approach to finding our neighbors in the Universe.