Science reading list

Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, authors of Universal: A Guide to the Cosmos, pick 6 scientific reads that inspire them.

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'What do you care what other people think?'

Richard P. Feynman

Feynman was a wonderful writer – his books are all very engaging and inspiring, and they had a big impact on us both. This book is particularly noteworthy because of the superb essay on the value of science at the end, which should be taught in every school.

   

The Double Helix

James Watson

This is an exciting book about one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. It reads almost like a movie script. Watson’s intimate and personal account is controversial, but that shouldn’t detract from his ability to capture the thrill of doing science. 

   

Cosmos

Carl Sagan

A joyful celebration of science and civilization, but also a powerful polemic. Sagan views our existence from the perspective of an astronomer, and implores us to behave as a unified global civilisation on a small planet which must take responsibility for its own survival. 

 

   

The First Three Minutes

Steven Weinberg

Still the best book explaining what happened just after the Big Bang. Weinberg has a no nonsense, almost dead-pan style and his writing is lucid. Not surprising since he is one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century.

   

The Blind Watchmaker

Richard Dawkins

This is a brilliant exposition of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and how complex organisms can emerge from simple rules. The biomorph computer program is great fun.

 

   

The Age of Wonder

Richard Holmes

A beautiful description of why we do science - Davy, Banks, Darwin - they were all correct: science is a romantic pursuit, and the more cynical 21st century view of science as some sort of vehicle for economic progress is plain wrong!

 

More about the authors

 

Universal

Brian Cox (and others)

An awe-inspiring, unforgettable journey of scientific exploration from Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, the top ten bestselling authors of The Quantum Universe.

We dare to imagine a time before the Big Bang, when the entire Universe was compressed into a space smaller than an atom. And now, as Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw show, we can do more than imagine: we can understand. Over the centuries, the human urge to discover has unlocked an incredible amount of knowledge. What it reveals to us is breathtaking.

Universal takes us on an epic journey of scientific exploration and, in doing so, reveals how we can all understand some of the most fundamental questions about our Earth, Sun, Solar System and the star-filled galaxies beyond. Some of these questions - How big is our solar system? How fast is space expanding? - can be answered from your back garden; the answers to others - How big is the Universe? What is it made of? - draw on the astonishing information now being gathered by teams of astronomers operating at the frontiers of the known universe.

At the heart of all these questions - from the earliest attempts to quantify gravity, to our efforts to understand what dark matter is and what really happened at the birth of our universe - is the scientific process. Science reveals a deeper beauty, connects us to each other, to our world, and to our Universe; and, by understanding the groundbreaking work of others, reaches out into the unknown. What's more, as Universal shows us, if we dare to imagine, we can all do it.

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