Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cautionary Tales of Science

I just heard one of my all-time favorite authors, Michael Crichton, just died after a bout with cancer.

I loved Crichton's books ever since I read The Andromeda Strain as a child. Despite it being written before i was born, it still read as current and futuristic at the same time.

Chriton's books always managed to get the right mix of suspense, science and opinions thrilling the reader thrilled, while educating him at the same time. When you finish a Crichton novel, you always feel like you've learned something new about the world.

Mixing cautionary tales of science running amok (Jurassic Park and Next), with his own political and personal agenda (A State of Fear - a book that reads from beginning to end like an anti global-warming manifesto, to the point the story devolves into long, tedious speeches), Crichton always managed to grab my interest. I found myself reading his books with a pad (and later a laptop), jotting down names and facts for further reading.

Despite my disappointment with A State of Fear, the epilogue of the book stands on its own, and should be read by every scientist out there. Using some samples from history, Crichton demonstartes what happens to the scientific community, and indeed, the entire human race, when everyone decide to blindly follow a single voice in science, to the exclusion of all other voices.

I'll miss Crichton's unique writing style. Here's my Michael Crichton must-read list:
  1. The Andromeda Strain - his first, and one of his best, dealing with a possible alien pandemic
  2. Jurassic Park - watch Spielberg for the effects, read Crichton for the science
  3. Sphere - what IS real?
  4. Congo - just a great adventure book
  5. Next - read my review
  6. Airframe: a Novel - what lengths would a corporation go to, to hide its culpability in an accident?

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