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Unlocking the Treasures

Great Calculations: A Surprising Look Behind 50 Scientific Inquiries. By Colin Pask. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2015. ISBN 1633880281. 414 pp. Softcover, $18.00.

Back when I taught high school physics, I’d lug those giant Stephen Hawking anthologies down from the shelf a few times every year. During the gravity unit, for instance, I’d select On the Shoulders of Giants, all 1,264 pages, and pass it around so students could appreciate its impressive heft. Most of them would hand it off uninterested, but the interested few would flip through its pages. These anthologies, after all, presented history’s geniuses (On the Shoulders of Giants collects Copernicus, Galilei, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein) with minimal intros by Hawking—another genius. Those brave students who borrowed such books would return them reverently, impressed by all they didn’t know and having learned almost nothing at all.

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