A travel guide for geeks

New compendium lists sights of historic tech and science breakthroughs.

"The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive" by John Graham-Cumming could be the answer to the yearly Father's Day gift dilemma.

(Although I know a lot of women who would love this book, too.)

Graham-Cumming's book is not of the tacky so-and-so-slept-here variety, but a compendium of locations of true worth in the history of science and tech breakthroughs.

O'Reilly Media

The book, which is organized by country, includes latitudes and longitudes for GPS devices, and info like whether a historical site is free or available for a price. It's heavy on U.K. and U.S. sites (it lists the U.S. sites by state) but does attempt to cover the entire world.

Some of the recommendations are little-known science museums that happen to have one or two holdings of great worth, but many are a bit more unusual and creative. Graham-Cumming includes things like the descendant of Isaac Newton's apple tree at Trinity College in Cambridge, England, and the first bridge ever constructed from cast iron which visitors can still walk across at the Severn River in Ironbridge, England.

In addition to listing the historical sites, the author gives background and factoids on the inventor, or team of inventors, and the story behind each breakthrough.

For example, Isaac Newton's official position at the University of Cambridge was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, the title currently held by the British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Graham-Cumming discusses why Alan Turing's contribution to computer science was so significant and arguably more important than his role in breaking the Nazi Enigma code at Bletchley Park, England. He explains in detail the Turing Machine and Turing's Halting problem complete with formulas.

The thorough stories and science lessons make the book, which includes a lot of photos and illustrations, a fun summer read for the astute armchair traveler as well as a guide for those looking to explore more than the usual church, museum, and park routes of sightseeing vacations.

The author, a former programmer and computer scientist by degree, also used social-network creator Ning to build a companion social-networking site to his book, GeekAtlas.com, where readers and travelers can share their experiences, and post photos and videos of their travels.

While in this economy you may not be able to go to see Léon Foucault's Pendulum still swinging in the Pantheon in Paris, the U.S. list is so comprehensive, chances are you live within easy driving distance from at least two places and probably more.

The "The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive" will be available June 3 with a list price of $29.99 (some sites are also listing it for pre-order at $19.79).

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.


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