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Science, Fiction, and points in between
December 1998

Top Scientific Advances of 1998

CNN reports Science magazine's selections of the top science stories of the past year. The top choice is the conclusion that the universe will continue to expand at a constantly accelerating rate -- rather than eventually collapsing back together in a reversal of the 'big bang' called the 'big crunch'. The conclusion was reached by astronomers who measured light from distant exploding stars. CNN quotes Science editor in chief Floyd E. Bloom: ''Rarely could we expect a dramatic breakthrough in one of these grand, fundamental questions. Yet this year, early but hard evidence has shown that the universe is flying apart at ever-greater rates.''

Other top scientific stories of 1998 include a Japanese experiment proving that neutrinos have weight, a demonstration that quantum information about a particule can be transferred from atom to atom (a story widely reported earlier this year as perhaps rationalizing Star Trek's transporter), and advances in developing micromachine biochips.

CNN's own choices for the Top 10 Sci-Tech Stories of 1998 include the discovery of water on the moon, the Y2K threat, evidence of oceans on Jupiter's moons, the launch of the ion-engine propelled Deep Space 1, and the assembly of the first modules of the International Space Station.

(Mon 21 Dec 98)

Best Books 1998

The New York Times Book Review's Editors' Choice of the 11 best books of 1998, given in the Review's December 6th ''Holiday Books'' issue, are:

  • Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (Knopf)
  • Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks (Harper Flamingo)
  • Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth, Richard Fortrey (Knopf)
  • The Love of a Good Woman, Alice Munro (Knopf)
  • The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (Harper Flamingo)
  • Preston Falls, David Gates (Knopf)
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Ron Chernow (Random)
  • To End a War, Richard Holbrooke (Random)
  • The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse: The Early Years, 1869-1908, Hilary Spurling (Knopf)
  • Victor Hugo, Graham Robb (Norton)
  • We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Three of these are novels (Banks, Kingsolver, and Gates), two are short story collections (Moore and Munro), and one (Fortrey) is about science. Fewer of this year's titles are popular or high-profile critical successes than those on last year's list (which included books by Roth, Pynchon, DeLillo, Krakauer, etc.). Indeed the most notable omission from the top list might be Tom Wolfe's A Man In Full, which was both popular and critically acclaimed, though not unanimously -- some critics, notably John Updike, have dismissed it as mere entertainment rather than true literature. The winner of this year's National Book Award for fiction, Alice McDermott's Charming Billy, also missed the top group. The winner of Britain's Booker Prize, Ian McEwan's Amsterdam, has only just been published in the US and was not reviewed by the NYT in time for this compilation.

    The NYTBR's much longer list of ''Notable Books of 1998'' is divided by genre: fiction & poetry (including the Wolfe and McDermott novels), nonfiction, children's books, mysteries, and science fiction. The SF titles are listed in News. The nonfiction list includes E. O. Wilson's widely-reviewed but somewhat controversial Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. Other books about science, or fringe topics of scientific or SFnal interest, are Sylvia Nasar's biography of John Nash, A Beautiful Mind, Phil Patton's Dreamland: Travels Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51, Mike Davis's Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont's Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, Judith Rich Harris's The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid's Scientific Guide to Art (edited by JoAnn Wypijewski), Pat Shipman's Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight, and two books on clones.

    (Wed 2 Dec 98)

    November 1998

  • More 100 Best Books Lists

    October Vibrations

  • Bruce Sterling's manifesto
  • Booker prize
  • Writing for Hollywood
  • eBooks
  • Weird science
  • Taliban Online
  • Aetherlogs
  • Modern Library's Readers' Poll
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