Looking for good intro science books. I'm thinking Kaku?

In summary: Kaku's claims by fans who take him at face value.In summary, the conversation is about the individual's interest in science, specifically in areas such as neuroscience, biological engineering, nanotechnology, bionics, AI, and body-computer interfaces. They mention being inspired by shows, games, and movies, and are currently reading "Visions" by Michio Kaku. They are looking for recommendations for their next book and mention that they have seen mixed reviews for Kaku's other books. Some users advise them to read actual science texts instead of pop science books, while others mention that Kaku has credentials but his pop science books should not be taken too seriously. In conclusion, the conversation highlights the importance of
  • #36
Myself, I don't hate pop-sci with a passion.
I think Kaku's books are fine for your stated purpose of creating a mind map of concepts used in the areas that interest you. As long as you'll keep in mind that everything you read there might be inaccurate and shouldn't be relegated to the 'I know this' bucket in your memory, you should be fine.

I'm not sure if this is something that you'd consider, but you could always look up introductory courses on the net. A lot of universities provide such courses, or recordings of lectures, free of charge. Youtube itself has got a slew of those.
Ideally, what you want is a course for people who are not taking it as a part of their specialist career, but more like a peripheral knowledge from another field. For example, there's a course called 'Human Behavioural Biology' on Youtube, aimed at medical students rather than biologists. You'll get a nice, low-level, but broad introduction to the subject, including basics of neuroscience. And if the lecturer is a good conversationalist, you might get plenty of anecdotes about current and historical discoveries to look into.
I know there's a neuroscience course on EdX, and MIT Opencourseware has a number. I'm sure there's more.

The main drawback being that these are not books. But, usually there's also some reading recommended for such courses that you might look up, and some of them can be treated as a sort of an audiobook to listen to.
 
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  • #37
Bandersnatch said:
Myself, I don't hate pop-sci with a passion.
I think Kaku's books are fine for your stated purpose of creating a mind map of concepts used in the areas that interest you. As long as you'll keep in mind that everything you read there might be inaccurate and shouldn't be relegated to the 'I know this' bucket in your memory, you should be fine.

I'm not sure if this is something that you'd consider, but you could always look up introductory courses on the net. A lot of universities provide such courses, or recordings of lectures, free of charge. Youtube itself has got a slew of those.
Ideally, what you want is a course for people who are not taking it as a part of their specialist career, but more like a peripheral knowledge from another field. For example, there's a course called 'Human Behavioural Biology' on Youtube, aimed at medical students rather than biologists. You'll get a nice, low-level, but broad introduction to the subject, including basics of neuroscience. And if the lecturer is a good conversationalist, you might get plenty of anecdotes about current and historical discoveries to look into.
I know there's a neuroscience course on EdX, and MIT Opencourseware has a number. I'm sure there's more.

The main drawback being that these are not books. But, usually there's also some reading recommended for such courses that you might look up, and some of them can be treated as a sort of an audiobook to listen to.

Coursera is also a good resource.
 
  • #38
Bandersnatch said:
Myself, I don't hate pop-sci with a passion.
I think Kaku's books are fine for your stated purpose of creating a mind map of concepts used in the areas that interest you. As long as you'll keep in mind that everything you read there might be inaccurate and shouldn't be relegated to the 'I know this' bucket in your memory, you should be fine.

I'm not sure if this is something that you'd consider, but you could always look up introductory courses on the net. A lot of universities provide such courses, or recordings of lectures, free of charge. Youtube itself has got a slew of those.
Ideally, what you want is a course for people who are not taking it as a part of their specialist career, but more like a peripheral knowledge from another field. For example, there's a course called 'Human Behavioural Biology' on Youtube, aimed at medical students rather than biologists. You'll get a nice, low-level, but broad introduction to the subject, including basics of neuroscience. And if the lecturer is a good conversationalist, you might get plenty of anecdotes about current and historical discoveries to look into.
I know there's a neuroscience course on EdX, and MIT Opencourseware has a number. I'm sure there's more.

The main drawback being that these are not books. But, usually there's also some reading recommended for such courses that you might look up, and some of them can be treated as a sort of an audiobook to listen to.
THANK YOU! XD

Yes, there's a few parts parts in the book I have of his that I'm skeptical of. For the most part though, I think he's done his research and know's what he's talking about. It would be really awkward if it turned out there wasn't a basis for something he said.
 
  • #39
micromass said:
It is related to science, but it isn't the same as actually doing science. It will not give the same level of understanding. Just like looking at a painting is fun and enriching, but it is not the same as actually making a work of arts. Many people content themselves with just watching arts though, and many don't care at all. Nothing wrong with that.

Can you define "actually doing science" in this context?
 
  • #40
TranscedentKid said:
Can you define "actually doing science" in this context?

Reading a science textbook. Working through the problems. Reading research papers. Etc.
 
  • #41
micromass said:
Reading a science textbook. Working through the problems. Reading research papers. Etc.

You mean grinding the fundamentals. While that is a true base, I fail to see how it is vastly different from a well researched and thought out "pop-sci book" (apart from the obvious learning of the underlying math).
 
  • #42
TranscedentKid said:
You mean grinding the fundamentals. While that is a true base, I fail to see how it is vastly different from a well researched and thought out "pop-sci book" (apart from the obvious learning of the underlying math).

OK, then we have a fundamental disagreement about how we see science. And I'm afraid we won't really get anywhere in this conversation other than arguing back and forth. So I'll just leave this thread to people willing to give you book recommendations.
 
  • #43
micromass said:
OK, then we have a fundamental disagreement about how we see science. And I'm afraid we won't really get anywhere in this conversation other than arguing back and forth. So I'll just leave this thread to people willing to give you book recommendations.

Good day, and Good luck
 
  • #44
TranscedentKid said:
It would be really awkward if it turned out there wasn't a basis for something he said.
Let me tell you how pop-sci truthfulness works from the point of view of a field I know a bit more about than what you're looking for.

Say, you read a book describing the Big Bang, and at some point it says it was like an explosion. The part that is factual is that there is a theory called Big Bang, and it has to do with the evolution of the universe, so the book does inform in this respect, as otherwise you might never even have heard of it. But the part about it being an explosion is misleading - a word chosen for whatever reason, be it laziness, en effort to simplify too much, etc.
So, after reading this hypothetical book, you should keep the keywords, and if there's something you think would interest you, look it up in more detail. See if the explanations given can be reinforced, or should be rejected.
If, however, you end up taking away the sound bite 'the BB was an explosion', you'll end up mislead and possibly misleading other people if asked about the concept.

Or, maybe you're reading a book where the author is a fan of the idea of zero energy universe. His bias will permeate the book, and you might end up thinking that's just how it is, whereas in reality it's not at all as clear-cut as it was portrayed.
And again, if the book whose goal is to popularise science prompts you to look up and learn more about the concept mentioned, then it worked rather well. If it makes you believe you now know that the universe has zero energy, it has failed.

People here have a beef with Kaku, because more than many he writes to entertain, often about stuff that is about as good as fantasy. And an uninfomed reader may not be able to tell the difference between where a documentary ends and Michael Bay begins.

So, let me repeat - read his books to get the handle of what concepts are out there, and in what context they exist. But keep a sceptical mind, don't fool yourself into thinking that you now know the field, and do your own research later on. It's easy when you know what to look for.
 
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  • #45
Bandersnatch said:
Let me tell you how pop-sci truthfulness works from the point of view of a field I know a bit more about than what you're looking for.

Say, you read a book describing the Big Bang, and at some point it says it was like an explosion. The part that is factual is that there is a theory called Big Bang, and it has to do with the evolution of the universe, so the book does inform in this respect, as otherwise you might never even have heard of it. But the part about it being an explosion is misleading.
So, after reading this hypothetical book, you should keep the keywords, and if there's something you think would interest you, look it up in more detail. See if the explanations given can be reinforced, or should be rejected.
If, however, you end up taking away the sound bite 'the BB was an explosion', you'll end up mislead and possibly misleading other people if asked about the concept.

Or, maybe you're reading a book where the author is a fan of the idea of zero energy universe. His bias will permeate the book, and you might end up thinking that's just how it is, whereas in reality it's not at all as clear-cut as it was portrayed.
And again, if the book whose goal is to popularise science prompts you to look up and learn more about the concept mentioned, then it worked rather well. If it makes you believe you now know that the universe has zero energy, it has failed.

People here have a beef with Kaku, because more than many he writes to entertain, often about stuff that is about as good as fantasy. And an uninfomed reader may not be able to tell the difference between where a documentary ends and Michael Bay begins.

So, let me repeat - read his books to get the handle of what concepts are out there, and what in what context they exist. But keep a sceptical mind, don't fool yourself into thinking that you now know the field, and do your own research later on. It's easy when you know what to look for.

I'm 2/3ds of the way through "Visions". I've read things that still don't make sense to me, but he's also explained things to me the that make clear sense. I'm well aware that I should remain skeptical.

If his conclusions aren't correct, then the reasoning behind the reasoning should have nuggets, and that's what I put in the "bucket".
 
  • #46
TranscedentKid said:
I'm 2/3ds of the way through "Visions". I've read things that still don't make sense to me, but he's also explained things to me the that make clear sense. I'm well aware that I should remain skeptical.

If his conclusions aren't correct, then the reasoning behind the reasoning should have nuggets, and that's what I put in the "bucket".

The bold part is where you miss out on part of the beauty. Some ideas are elegant and seem simple.
But then you dive into it and it turns out to be quite the contrary.

While you get some information on the science, it can confuse you later if/when you get deeper in the actual science.
Another danger is people that think they got all information from pop-sci books and start fantasizing, coming up with 'theories' which fully/partially contradict the established methods and results. And what's worse is that these people do not accept any information refuting their arguments.

tl;dr pop-sci only gets you so far.
Compare it to reading about cars in a magazine (how well they handle etc.), you won't learn how to race a ferrari on a race track (or more far-fetched fix engine problems)
 
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