Armchair Science is a Kindle ebook available at Amazon. It contains over 120 short mysteries of science that can be solved from a single observational clue, without the need for experimentation.
Science is not a collection of facts. Science is what facts teach us; what we can learn about our universe, and ourselves, by deductive thinking. From observations of the night sky, made without the aid of telescopes, we can deduce that the universe is expanding, that the universe is not infinitely old, and why black holes exist. Without resorting to experimentation or mathematical analysis, we can deduce that gravity is a curvature in space-time, that the particles that compose light have no mass, that there is a theoretical limit to the number of different elements in the universe, and that the earth is billions of years old. Likewise, simple observations on animals tell us much about the migration of continents, the evolutionary relationships among classes of animals, why the nuclei of cells contain our genetic material, why certain animals are long-lived, why the gestation period of humans is 9 months, and why some diseases are rare and other diseases are common. In “Armchair Science”, the reader is confronted with 129 scientific mysteries, in cosmology, particle physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine. Beginning with simple observations, step-by-step analyses guide the reader toward solutions that are sometimes startling, and always entertaining. “Armchair Science” is written for general readers who are curious about science, and who want to sharpen their deductive skills.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Clue 65. Cells from animals can be grown in the laboratory to produce more cells, indefinitely.
Deduction. It is possible to make hamburgers without killing cows.
Illustration. Tissue culture flasks. The red fluid is nutrient culture medium. On the inside-bottom of each flask, bathed by red culture medium, is a monolayer of growing cells that can be visualized, as live cells, using a phase contrast microscope. Source: U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Illustration. Live Chinese hamster ovary cells grown as an adherent monolayer on the bottom of a tissue culture flask containing nutrient medium. The photograph was taken using a phase contrast microscope. Source: Wikipedia, donated to the public domain by its author, Alcibiades.
Resolution. Although billions of people, throughout human history, have subsisted entirely on food whose preparation does not involve killing animals, many of us stubbornly believe that the diet of healthy humans must include animal meat. In the 21st century, enthusiasm for vegetarian diets is far outpaced by the growing demand for meat from pigs, poultry, cows, and so on. Virtually every animal species, even the endangered ones, are considered fair game for hungry humans.
Advances in tissue culture have brought us to the point where meat can be prepared, in the laboratory, or the factory, without killing animals. A small biopsy of tissue, from virtually any type of living organism, can be grown in cell culture. The cells will grow rapidly when supplied with a chemically defined solution of nutrients. Techniques exist whereby cultures grown from animals can be manipulated to grow as muscle cells. Such cultures can be harvested, cooked, and eaten; all without sacrificing animals.
Today, we can make attractive, warm clothing from synthetic materials (e.g., nylon), or from plants (e.g., cotton), or from composite fabrics. We do not need to kill minks and sables and foxes and beavers to keep warm. Though the demand for fur is in decline, the fur industry persists, supported by a loyal base of fur-loving consumers.
Thanks to advances in the science of human nutrition, it is now possible, even preferable, to live on a plant-based diet. If there is a requirement for animal protein, it can be satisfied with milk-based foods and eggs (i.e., a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet). If you believe that consuming animal meat is necessary for maintaining health, the non-discriminating palate could choose from a variety of protein-rich animals drawn from the lower rungs of the food chain (e.g. grubs, worms, snails, insects). The tissue culture option delivers our favorite sources of meat (e.g., pork, beef, chicken, fish), without the necessity of killing animals. Wouldn't it be nice if we humans chose an available alternative to the needless slaughter of billions of sentient creatures?
I urge you to read more about this book. There's a good "look inside" of the book at the Amazon store.
- Jules J. Berman, Ph.D., M.D.
tags: deductive science, science mysteries, deductive reasoning, ebook, general science reading, general science book, science puzzles, scientific amusements