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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It just came on the news that Stephen Hawking has been hospitalized.  He's already survived with his illness far longer than is the norm, but it's sad to think the world may be losing someone like that.

It reminded me that some years ago I cried when I heard on the radio that Carl Sagan had died.  There are so few scientists who can make their field accessible to non-scientists, and we need more of them.

Who else has that skill (Richard Feynman comes to mind), and who else in the scientific/technical/medical community has inspired you? 
 

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While I wouldn't put him in the same field as Hawking and Feynman, I've enjoyed the earlier writings of Douglas  R. Hofstadter.  In particular - Metamagical Themas, and Godel, Escher, and Bach; an Eternal Golden Braid.  I haven't read anything by him in years though.

- Walter.

 

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One book I really enjoyed was The God Particle by Leon Lederman. It's a very accessible read for the interested lay person (i.e. it avoids the vast majority of the math ;) ).

An interesting thing I heard about Hawking is that if you asked physicists to make their top 10 lists of the most important theoretical physicist of the 20th/21st century, Hawking would probably not show up on the vast majority of them (and likely not on a majority of top 20 lists). Not that he has not been an important contributor to the field, but his personal story plus the fact that he did write a very good book for the non-technical has given him an inordinate reputation outside of the field as a leading physicist. Feynman, on the other hand, would be on most/all of them, and if you want an enjoyable read, get your hands on Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!. I've also worked my way through his QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, though it's a bit more work to get through.

PS: Another book in the field I enjoyed was Wrinkles in Time by George Smoot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
To me, the books for the non-technical and non-scientist ARE a very important contribution.  When you look at the general public's lack of interest in science, and the misconceptions that abound, anyone who can make technical/scientific topics accessible to the layman is doing civilization a huge favor. 
 

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NogDog said:
Feynman, on the other hand, would be on most/all of them, and if you want an enjoyable read, get your hands on Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!.
Second that, and also his other bio, What Do You Care What Other People Think? It's not as funny, but he's still a fascinating character, and it fills in some of the gaps in Joking, like his relationship with his first wife, Arlene. It also tells about his involvement on the Challenger investigation, which I loved, since I remember the explosion, but I was far too young to understand the investigation.
 

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marianner said:
Second that, and also his other bio, What Do You Care What Other People Think? It's not as funny, but he's still a fascinating character, and it fills in some of the gaps in Joking, like his relationship with his first wife, Arlene. It also tells about his involvement on the Challenger investigation, which I loved, since I remember the explosion, but I was far too young to understand the investigation.
You're right - I'd almost forgotten that one. It was not as consistently enjoyable as "Joking", but certainly worth a read.

Another book that just popped into my mind (more in the general science field) is Voodoo Science by Robert L. Park (subtitled "The Road from Foolishness to Fraud"). This is one that I wish every congressman, other decision-maker, editor, etc. who has anything to do with scientific policy/reporting was somehow required to read.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
NogDog said:
Another book that just popped into my mind (more in the general science field) is Voodoo Science by Robert L. Park (subtitled "The Road from Foolishness to Fraud"). This is one that I wish every congressman, other decision-maker, editor, etc. who has anything to do with scientific policy/reporting was somehow required to read.
Oh, fantastic! You just solved my birthday gift problem for DD's dad. We both loved Sagan's Demon-Haunted World; this one sounds like a similar kind of book.
 
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