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Book by Volti, Rudi
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In 900 alphabetically arranged entries, this title aims to be "a presentation of the social settings in which science and technology have emerged, been developed, and put to use." It is not a technical encyclopedia, per se, but the entries can contain some technical information. It includes articles on a wide range of topics, such as the origin and chemistry of cheese, the historical development of software, and the rise and fall of drive-in movies. The entry on gunpowder "explodes" the myth of its Chinese origins. The focus is on science and technology successes, but there are notable failures as well. For example, polywater was a new form of water "discovered" by a Soviet scientist in 1961; after much international scrutiny, its properties were shown to be caused by contaminants. Examples of other entries include airbags, arches and vaults, Bhopal, bubonic plague, cholesterol, eyeglasses, nylon, quark, resource depletion, space probe, and wheel.
Entries were written by more than 90 contributors, almost all of whom have academic affiliations. Most entries are at least a page; a number (e.g., cloning, DNA) are more than three pages. Both U.S. customary and metric units are used for measurements. See also references and, in some cases, suggestions for further reading are listed at each entry's end. Occasionally, these citations are older. For example, the suggested reading at the end of the AIDS article is from 1989. There is a 13-page bibliography in volume 3. The index that concludes each volume is cumulative but refers only to page numbers, not volumes.
In the crowded field of science encyclopedias, this title is less technical than McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology [RBB S 15 97] or Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia [RBB My 1 95], but its focus on society and science will give it a niche in public libraries or with freshmen or sophomore undergraduates, particularly nonscience majors.
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