New science books: exploding shrubs & other wicked plants, plus earthquakes and vulcanology
Our picks of the new science books this month feature a scientific history of the 1848 Wellington earthquake and a catalogue of botanical atrocities – including exploding shrubs, vines that strangle, and the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother. Plus, vulcanology and the Gogo Fish (the world’s oldest mother, a fossilized armoured shark discovered three years ago, complete with a perfectly preserved embryo still attached by an umbilical cord). Enjoy!
Violent Earth / Robert Dinwiddie, Simon Lamb, Ross Reynolds.
“Violent Earth” is an authoritative, stimulating, and visually arresting exploration of the dramatic forces that are constantly shaping the planet. Using powerful photography, specially commissioned illustrations, and intuitive infographics, this book explores plate tectonics, vulcanology, and seismology in unprecedented detail.” (Syndetics summary)
The visitation : the earthquakes of 1848 and the destruction of Wellington / Rodney H. Grapes.
“‘It is my most painful duty to inform your Excellency that a terrible calamity has overtaken this province. An earthquake has occurred, and the town of Wellington is in ruins.’ Lieutenant Governor John Eyre to Sir George Grey, 19 October 1848. Wellington was only a fledgling settlement of some 3000 people when it was struck by a cluster of devastating earthquakes in 1848. The fearful violence of the shocks, the destruction of property, and the frequency and continuance of the danger caused universal alarm, and it was feared the settlement and its future was ruined. But Wellington did recover, quite quickly. The British immigrants were not going to be deterred after coming halfway around the world, and in any case, most had nothing to go home to. Their direct accounts of the earthquake and its aftermath make compelling reading. Along with describing the effects of the 1848 earthquakes and the social response to them, The Visitation also explains their cause – the relationship between earthquakes and movement on fault lines, first discovered in the late 1880’s by the celebrated New Zealand geologist, Alexander McKay, following a large earthquake in North Canterbury on 1 September 1888. It also discusses the fault that ruptured during the first great shock of the 1848 earthquakes; what remains of the 1848 rupture today and its relation to large earthquakes in the past; and the geological context of the 1848 earthquakes as products of the convergence of two great tectonic plates through the Marlborough-North Canterbury area of the South Island of New Zealand; and ends with a possible scenario of a future large earthquake in Wellington generated by movement of the Wellington Fault.” (Global Books)
Hung like an Argentine duck : a journey back in time to the origins of sexual intimacy / John Long.
“Dr John Long discovered the Gogo Fish. What’s that you say? It’s a 380 million-year-old fossilized armoured shark-like fish replete with a perfectly preserved embryo still attached by an umbilical cord. The Gogo is described as the oldest mother in the world and its discovery three years ago has pretty much rewritten evolutionary history. John is one of the world’s leading palaeontologists. His find showed the first evidence of sexual behaviour in the prehistoric past. [...] So what’s this book about? It’s a scientific but engaging look at how and why animals first became “intimate” and where sex fits into the whole evolution theory.” (Global Books)
Sciencia : mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy for all / [edited by John Martineau].
“From the structure of the cosmos to that of the human body, the discoveries of science over the past few hundred years have been remarkable. Scienca spans the realms of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy, offering an invaluable introduction to each. Curious about quarks, quasars, and the fantastic universe around you? Ever wanted to explore a mathematical proof? Need an introduction to biochemistry? Beautifully illustrated with engravings, woodcuts, and original drawings and diagrams, Sciencia will inspire inquisitive readers of all ages to appreciate the interconnected knowledge of the modern sciences” (Cover)
Wicked plants : the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother & other botanical atrocities / Amy Stewart ; etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs ; illustrations by Jonathon Rosen.
“A tree that sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed that stops the heart; a shrub that causes paralysis; a vine that strangles; and a leaf that triggered a war. In “Wicked Plants,” Stewart takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature’s most appalling creations. It’s an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. You’ll learn which plants to avoid (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother). Menacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings create a fascinating portrait of the evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, alarm, and enlighten even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.” (Syndetics summary)
The beginning of infinity : explanations that transform the world / David Deutsch.
“A bold and all-embracing exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge from one of today’s great thinkers. Throughout history, mankind has struggled to understand life’s mysteries, from the mundane to the seemingly miraculous. In this important new book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe. They have unlimited scope and power to cause change, and the quest to improve them is the basic regulating principle not only of science but of all successful human endeavor. This stream of ever improving explanations has infinite reach, according to Deutsch: we are subject only to the laws of physics, and they impose no upper boundary to what we can eventually understand, control, and achieve.” (Global Books)
Field notes on science & nature / edited by Michael R. Canfield.
“”Meticulous record keeping is at the heart of good science, and this is especially true for field scientists and naturalists,” states editor Canfield (organismic and evolutionary biology, Harvard U.). He continues by further explicating the importance of field notes and relating his own endeavors to find a way to make such notes in an efficacious, efficient manner. For this work he asked biologists in various disciplines (as well as a couple of science illustrators) to explain what they do personally to record observations in the field and what they suggest as best practices, including, for example, such practicalities as what kind of notebook or technology to use, how to use photos, how and what to draw. The contributors were also asked to supply example pages from their notebooks, which are reproduced in facsimile and offer an intimate and practical view of the incredibly important activities of looking, seeing, and recording.” (Syndetics summary)
Designing audio power amplifiers / Bob Cordell.
“Cordell (electrical engineer, audio test equipment designer) offers what is more than a “cookbook,” as he puts it. His instructional guide is intended to teach the reader how to think about audio power amplifier design and to appreciate its concepts and nuances, and to analyze and take advantage of the possible variations. While the book covers advanced topics, it also contains enough introductory material for readers relatively new to the field to use it. The text is divided into six parts: the basics, advanced design techniques, real-world design considerations, simulation and measurement, topics in design, and class D amplifiers.” (Syndetics summary)