New Science Books – February 2013

These are just a few of the lovely new items that have come across my desk in the last month.

Syndetics book coverThe pocket book of weather : entertaining and remarkable facts about our weather / Michael Bright.
“A concise but comprehensive guide to the world’s weather featuring 3,000 remarkable facts and figures that show how the weather shapes the planet and affects all of our lives. Featuring 3,000 essential facts and figures, this entertaining and informative guide to the world’s weather explains how the weather shapes our planet and affects all our lives. From sandstorms to monsoons, avalanches to solar storms, rainbows to tornadoes, this concise but comprehensive book explores the whats, whys, wheres, hows and whens.- How do clouds form?- What makes the wind blow?- Why are no two snowflakes the same?- What causes tornadoes?- Why are deserts so dry and rainforests so wet?- What is the El Nino effect? After marvelling at lightning, understanding thunder and finding there is no end of the rainbow, Mike Flynn investigates how weather will become even more important in the future, both as a result of climate change, and because of new ways of harnessing the awesome power of nature to generate energy. Uncovering the amazing truth behind our weather and exploring the intriguing mysteries of weather phenomena, The Pocket Book of Weather is a fascinating compendium of useful and entertaining information.” (Catalogue description)

Syndetics book coverBirds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific : text and illustrations by Ber van Perlo / by Ber van Perlo.
“Featuring over 1,500 species, Birds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific is the only field guide to illustrate and describe every species of bird you may see in the area, from Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea to Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. • Text gives information on key identification features, habitat, and songs and calls • All plumages for each species are illustrated, including those of males, females and juveniles The stunning 95 colour plates appear opposite their relevant text for quick and easy reference. Distribution maps are included, showing where each species can be found and how common it is, to further aid identification. This comprehensive and highly portable guide is a must for all birdwatchers visiting the region.” (Publisher Description)

Syndetics book coverCoastal fishes of New Zealand / Malcolm Francis.
“Coastal Fishes of New Zealand provides a comprehensive, informative and up-to-date identification guide to the fishes likely to be encountered by New Zealand divers and fishers. Illustrated with over 275 superb colour photographs of live fish in their natural habitats, this book includes all of New Zealand’s common reef fishes, and also many of those that live in other habitats. Using the latest research, marine scientist Malcolm Francis also provides a wealth of other information about identifying features, geographical distribution, habitat and size for 221 species of fish. Other interesting biological features, such as feeding, growth, spawning and behaviour are also discussed. If you were to have one book on the abundant fish life found around our coasts, this is the one to own.” (Catalogue description)

Syndetics book coverSaltpeter : the mother of gunpowder / David Cressy.
“The story of the science, the technology, the politics and the military applications of saltpeter, the vital but mysterious substance that governments from the Tudors to the Victorians regarded as an ‘inestimable treasure.’ Derived from soil enriched with dung and urine, saltpeter provided the heart or ‘mother’ of gunpowder, without which no musket or cannon could be fired. National security depended on control of this organic material that had both mystical andmineral properties. The quest for it caused widespread ‘vexation’ in Tudor and Stuart England, as crown agents dug in homes and barns and even churches. Huge imports of saltpeter from India relieved this social pressure, and by the eighteenth century positioned Britain as a global imperial power. Only with the development of chemical explosives in the late Victorian period did dependency on this much treasured substance decline. Previously untold, the story of saltpeter is not only lively andentertaining in its own rightSaltpeter, the Mother of Gunpowder tells this previously untold story, one which is not only lively and entertaining in its own right, but which also has far wider implications, helping to explain the connections between the military, scientific, and political ‘revolutions’ of the seventeenth century, as well the formation of the centralized British state and its eventual dominance of the waves in the eighteenth and nineteenthcenturies.” (Catalogue description)

Syndetics book coverThe visioneers : how a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies, and a limitless future / W. Patrick McCray.
“In his fascinating new book (after 2008’s Keep Watching the Skies!), McCray profiles the larger-than-life characters and ideas that changed science and technology in the second half of the 20th century and beyond. The author describes the titular visioneers as “hybrids”-creative combinations of futurist, scientist, and charismatic promoter. At the center of this story are physicist Gerard O’Neill and biotech pioneer K. Eric Drexler. The former’s rigorously realistic designs for space habitats, along with his optimistic dream of regular humans living and working in space, were a vivid antidote to the “widespread pessimism” surrounding the end of the Vietnam War, growing stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and environmental concerns. McCray, a professor of history at UC Santa Barbara, discusses how O’Neill’s vision of space as a tabula rasa for the human race spurred the formation of grassroots groups like the L5 Society and captured the imaginations of many young scientists and engineers like Drexler, as well as influential figures like Stewart Brand and Timothy Leary. Considered together, they “took speculative ideas out of the hands of sci-fi writers” and had an enormous impact on generations of people, science, and political policy. Photos, illus. (Jan. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly, courtesy of syndetics)