Martians and the Human Mind
Martians, so common in science fiction, were once thought to be science fact. Astronomers in the late nineteenth century observed strange lines on the red planet that looked like a global network of irrigation canals. “There is no escape from the conviction that Mars is inhabited by a highly civilized and intelligent race of beings,” proclaimed one of America’s great intellects, Alexander Graham Bell. The result was a craze that swept society. By the early 1900s, you could read of Martians in The New York Times, learn of them in Sunday sermons, hear of them in popular song, and see them depicted on the Broadway stage. Inventors devised schemes for communicating with Mars, while armchair philosophers proposed questions Earth might ask its older and wiser neighbor. Author David Baron spent years investigating this strange case of mass delusion, and he reveals what it says about the human mind: the fallibility of our senses, the power of belief, the lure of sensationalism, and the penchant to see patterns where none exist. It is a tale both cautionary and uplifting. Although the Martians were never real, the excitement about them was genuine, and it changed the world—laying the groundwork for the space age.
Scientific America: The Eclipse That Enlightened a Nation
What spurs individuals—and societies—to strive for scientific greatness? Author David Baron explores this question through the tale of an epic event that inspired America’s rise as a scientific superpower in the late nineteenth century. In the decade after the Civil War, at a time when Europe dominated the world in science, a total solar eclipse darkened America’s western frontier and injected patriotic fervor into the study of astronomy. Based on original research for his acclaimed book American Eclipse, Baron draws lessons from the celestial event and focuses on three tenacious and brilliant scientists who ventured to the West to observe the hidden sun: planet hunter James Craig Watson, astronomer Maria Mitchell, and inventor Thomas Edison. Through their stories, Baron examines the different motivations and skills that can drive scientific achievement.
American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World
Richly illustrated and meticulously researched, American Eclipse ultimately depicts a young nation that looked to the skies to reveal its towering ambition and expose its latent genius.
The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America
"Reads like a crime novel . . . each chapter ends on a cliff-hanging note."―Seattle Times.