Visible spectrums and beyond – Recent science books

What can we see? Intriguing and insightful accounts of our visible and invisible worlds feature in this first edition for 2016. Topics include photos from outer space right down to the contribution that microbes make to our well-being.

Syndetics book coverInvisible : the dangerous allure of the unseen, by Philip Ball.
Ball examines attraction of invisibility and the intriguing ways that the concept connects with myth, magic, and science. This study begins with historical examples e.g. mediaeval magic books, through the more modern scientific ponderings on invisible forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays, telepathy or optical manipulation through camouflage, through to a discussion on H.G. Wells’s novel The Invisible Man. Very readable, and the extensive references will be useful for those wishing to follow up on the topics it covers.

Syndetics book coverIridescence : the play of colours, by Peter Sutton and Michael Snow.
This book introduces and explains the mysterious capacity of the human eye to perceive the beautiful effects of iridescence, or non-pigmented colour, on a wide range of phenomena – from paua to soap bubbles, rainbows to CDs. Iridescence is described both scientifically and through a series of images from the world of art as well as nature.

Syndetics book coverEarth + space : photographs from the archives of NASA, preface by Bill Nye ; texts by Nirmala Nataraj.
Marvel at the wonders of our universe with this collection of photographs from NASA of Earth from above, and our solar system. Each photo is accompanied by an explanation its place in the cosmic ballet of planets, stars, dust, and matter–from Earth’s limb to solar flares, the Jellyfish Nebula to Pandora’s Cluster.

Syndetics book coverLight : the visible spectrum and beyond, by Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke.
“A visual exploration of the power and behaviour of light across the entire electromagnetic spectrum reveals how types ranging from radio waves to X-rays affect life on earth and throughout the universe.” (publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverAtoms under the floorboards : the surprising science hidden in your home, by Chris Woodford.
Is it better to build skyscrapers like wobbly jellies or stacks of biscuits? Can you burn your house down with an electric drill? We all use Post-it Notes, but how do they keep sticking after repeated use? The author explains complex matters simply in lively and educational ways.

Syndetics book coverThe invisible history of the human race : how DNA and history shape our identities and our futures, by Christine Kenneally.
This account of the historical human journey includes enlightening descriptions of genome research projects, the connection between genetics and evolution, and the benefits and drawbacks of genealogy. … Kenneally argues that all humans are interconnected – there is no biology of race. Race is culturally defined and has artificial perspectives… Controversies remain about privacy, health, data-gathering techniques, the use of genetic data, and future developments within varying societies/cultures along with related ethical issues. (drawn from Choice magazine)

Syndetics book coverThe hidden half of nature : the microbial roots of life and health, by David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé.
Microbes living inside us outnumber our own cells by almost 10 to 1. But those in the soil and sea reaches into the thousands of trillions, taking up half of the weight of all life on Earth. These microbes are critical both to our own health and the health of the planet. The authors mix descriptions of the many varieties and behaviours of microscopic creatures such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, with their personal slants on how they helped their garden blossom and BiklĂ©’s encounter with cancer.

Syndetics book coverUnnatural selection : how we are changing life, gene by gene, by Emily Monosson.
Evolution is now in the fast lane. Bugs, bacteria, weeds, and cancer cells are evolving resistances to cures or herbicides at rates far beyond other species. Vaccines unable to keep up with viruses, or bedbugs that have slipped past pest control, are just some of the examples of reactions to chemicals which are terrifying in their near-total takeover of modern life. There are unrecognized evolutionary changes under way all around us. Monosson’s thesis is to say “Stop” to the convenience spraying, and urges us to reduce our chemical footprint.

Syndetics book coverThe science of everyday life : why teapots dribble, toast burns and light bulbs shine, by Marty Jopson.
Have you ever wondered why chillies and mustard are both hot but in different ways? Or why microwaves don’t cook from the inside out? This scientific tour of household objects,has the answer to these and more baffling questions about the chemistry and physics of the everyday stuff we use. (drawn from Syndetics summary).