Category: Recent picks

Ocean to ocean – New Science Books for May

Here area few little gems about the Oceans (and one not so much about the Oceans) that caught our fancy this month!

Syndetics book coverWild coast : a celebration of the places where land meets sea / Marianne Taylor.
“This book is a celebration of the wildlife and landscapes of Britain’s coastline. Sheer limestone crags resound with the voices of thousands of bickering seabirds; endless acres of estuarine mud are packed with squirming invertebrates that sustain thousands of wading birds. In between are the dazzling chalk outcrops of the south coast with glorious floral communities on the clifftop meadows, shingle beaches where terns and plovers hide their eggs among the stones, and dune systems bound together with marram grass and supporting a unique and fragile ecosystem. Beautifully illustrated with colour photographs and authoritative text, this book is a celebration of the wilder aspects of the UK’s coasts.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVoices in the ocean : a journey into the wild and haunting world of dolphins / Susan Casey.
“While swimming off the coast of Maui, Susan Casey was surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins. It was a profoundly transporting experience, and it inspired her to embark on a two-year global adventure to explore the nature of these remarkable beings and their complex relationship to humanity. Casey ends her narrative on the island of Crete, where millennia-old frescoes and artwork document the great Minoan civilization, a culture which lived in harmony with dolphins, and whose example shows the way to a more enlightened coexistence with the natural world.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPristine seas : journeys to the ocean’s last wild places / Enric Sala ; foreword by Leonardo DiCaprio.
“National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala takes readers on an unforgettable journey to 10 places where the ocean is virtually untouched by man, offering a fascinating glimpse into our past and an inspiring vision for the future. Showcasing 10 of his designated pristine locations, this book will unveil the greatest discoveries from Sala and his team’s expeditions and research. It is a beautiful reminder of what we have to gain by protecting our seas.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeep life : the hunt for the hidden biology of Earth, Mars, and beyond / Tullis C. Onstott.
“Deep Life takes readers to uncharted regions deep beneath Earth’s crust in search of life in extreme environments and reveals how astonishing new discoveries by geomicrobiologists are helping the quest to find life in the solar system. Geoscientist Tullis Onstott provides an insider’s look at the pioneering fieldwork that is shining vital new light on Earth’s hidden biology–a thriving subterranean biosphere that scientists once thought to be impossible. This unforgettable book takes you to the absolute limits of life–the biotic fringe–where today’s scientists hope to discover the very origins of life itself.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeadly oceans / Nick Robertson-Brown and Caroline Robertson-Brown.
“The world’s oceans are filled with an array of venomous and toxic marine critters, not to mention a whole host of apex carnivores. Join ace divers and wildlife photographers Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown as they tour the world in search of the deadliest sea creatures.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn illustrated coastal year : the seashore uncovered season by season / Celia Lewis
“An amusing and informative anthology of coastal wildlife through the year.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOf orcas and men : what killer whales can teach us / David Neiwert.
“A revelatory history of orcas evaluates them as one of the planet’s most intelligent animals, challenging beliefs about their “killer” natures while citing the threats to their populations.” (Syndetics summary)

Eye on the Sky – New Science selections

This month’s selection features a myriad of stellar books discussing adventures to Mars, meteorites, the planet Vulcan, and telescopic advances, as well as popular authors such as Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Syndetics book coverForces of nature, by Professor Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen.
Popular presenter Professor Brian Cox uncovers some of the most extraordinary natural events on Earth and in the Universe and beyond. The forces of nature shape everything we see and the results are astonishing. In seeking to understand the everyday world, the colours, structure, behaviour and history of our home, we develop the knowledge and techniques necessary to step beyond the everyday to understand the Universe beyond.

Syndetics book coverMars : making contact, by Rod Pyle.
This book offers a visually stunning insider’s look at how Mars has been explored and the challenges facing future missions. The first 22 grainy closeups were in 1965, but the probes didn’t land until 1976. Today the two rovers Curiosity and Opportunity have allowed us to make even more discoveries of ancient rivers, lakes, ocean beds, and valleys. Plans for a manned mission to Mars, are discussed including the spacecraft design and surviving on the planet’s inhospitable surface. Another new book on Mars is Mars One, humanity’s next great adventure.

Syndetics book coverMeteorite, by Maria Golia.
‘Meteorite’ tells the long history of our engagement with these sky-born rocks, which are among the rarest things on earth. … This richly illustrated, wide-ranging account surveys the place of meteoric phenomena in science, myth, art, literature and popular culture.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hunt for Vulcan : how Albert Einstein destroyed a planet and deciphered the universe, by Thomas Levenson.
In 1859, scientist Urbain LeVerrier discovered that the planet Mercury’s orbit shifts over time. His explanation was that there had to be an unseen planet Vulcan circling even closer to the sun. Astronomers of their generation began to seek out Vulcan and at least a dozen reports of discovery were filed. But a young Albert Einstein came up with a theory of gravity that also happened to prove that Mercury’s orbit could indeed be explained – not by Newton’s theories but by Einstein’s own theory of general relativity.

Syndetics book coverStarTalk : everything you ever need to know about space travel, sci-fi, the human race, the universe, and beyond, with Neil deGrasse Tyson ; contributors, Charles Liu, Jeffrey Lee Simons [and four others].
This is a highly illustrated companion to scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast and National Geographic Channel TV show. … StarTalk will help answer all of your most pressing questions about our world–from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes. Fun, smart, and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is the perfect guide to everything you ever wanted to know about the universe–and beyond. (publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cosmic web : mysterious architecture of the universe, by J. Richard Gott.
This describes how in the sixties the American school of cosmology favoured a model of the universe where galaxies resided in isolated clusters, whereas the Soviet school favoured a honeycomb pattern of galaxies punctuated by giant, isolated voids. Drawing on Gott’s own later working experiences The Cosmic Web shows how ambitious telescope surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey are transforming our understanding of the cosmos, as well as clues to its origins and future.

Syndetics book coverBlack hole blues : and other songs from outer space, by Janna Levin.
In 1916 Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves: miniscule ripples in the very fabric of spacetime generated by unfathomably powerful events. In 2016 a team of hundreds of scientists at work on a billion-dollar experiment made history when they announced the first ever detection of a gravitational wave, confirming Einstein’s prediction. This is a firsthand account of this detection of gravitational waves at LIGO, one of the most ambitious feats in scientific history.

Syndetics book coverEyes on the sky : a spectrum of telescopes, by Francis Graham-Smith.
“Modern telescopes are marvels of technology, with a range of geometries and detectors, using mirrors constructed from new materials, controlled by computer systems, and producing vast quantities of data. They capture signals ranging from radio to X-rays, and gamma rays. Telescopes like Hubble have sent back startling images of our dynamic universe, of swirling gas clouds and distant clusters of galaxies. Francis Graham-Smith takes us on an exhilarating tour of the whole variety of telescopes, how they work, and what they have achieved; from early optical telescopes to space telescopes like Chandra and Herschel operating in X-rays and the infrared; and looking forward to the big telescopes now being built, such as the Square Kilometre Array.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover15 million degrees : a journey to the centre of the sun, by Lucie Green.
“Light takes just eight minutes to reach Earth from the surface of the Sun – but its journey within the Sun takes hundreds of thousands of years. What is going on in there? How does the Sun produce light and heat? In this astonishing and enlightening adventure, travel millions of miles from inside the Sun to its surface and to Earth, on the way discover the latest research in solar physics, learn how the sun works and meet the ground-breaking scientists who pieced this extraordinary story together”.(Syndetics summary)

Story in Science : latest picks

Scientific writing can take many forms, and these latest arrivals to the collection are evidence of a happy marriage of science and story-telling. Muse on personal stories behind big inventions, the biographies of three very different scientists, or the challenge of explaining complex stuff using only the 1,000 most popular words in our language.

Syndetics book coverHouston, we have a narrative : why science needs story, by Randy Olson.
“Hollywood has a lot to teach scientists about how to tell a story – and, ultimately, how to do science better.” In this book Olson sketches out a blueprint to turn the dull into the dramatic. He first outlines the problem that when scientists tell us about their work, they pile one detail on top of another. But they need to understand the core of narrative – momentum (“And”), conflict (“But”), and resolution (“Therefore”) (or ABT). Taking this approach, audiences sit enthralled for hours (watching TED talks on youtube?).

Syndetics book coverThe invention of science : a new history of the scientific revolution, by David Wootton.
We live in a world made by science. How and when did this happen? This book tells the story of the extraordinary intellectual and cultural revolution that gave birth to modern science, and mounts a major challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy of its history. … “[this] is a truly remarkable piece of scholarship. His work has an ingenious and innovative linguistic foundation, examining the invention and redefinition of words as tracers of a new understanding of nature and how to approach it. His erudition is awesome, and his argument is convincing.” Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University.

Syndetics book coverThe human side of science : Edison and Tesla, Watson and Crick, and other personal stories behind science’s big ideas, by Arthur W. Wiggins and Charles M. Wynn Sr. ; with cartoon commentary by Sidney Harris.
“”This lively and humorous book focuses attention on the fact that science is a human enterprise. The reader learns about the foibles and quirks as well as the admirable ingenuity and impressive accomplishments of famous scientists who made some of the greatest discoveries of the past and present. Examples abound: Robert Hooke accused Isaac Newton of stealing his ideas about optics. Plato declared that the works of Democritus should be burned. …book takes the reader behind the scenes of scientific research to shine new light on the all-too-human people who “do” science.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPenguins, pineapples & pangolins : first encounters with the exotic, by Claire Cock-Starkey.
Can you remember the first time you saw an elephant? In these modern times every child has seen a video clip, or a photo at the very least, of far away animals or plants. But, if we travel back in time a few hundred years, to the age of exploration or before trades routes became more frequented, people were discovering new animals, food or other cultures for the first very first time – with absolutely no frame of reference. Based on stories gleaned from the British Library archives, this new book reflects the awe and wonder these fresh encounters.

Syndetics book coverThe man who knew infinity : a life of the genius Ramanujan, by Robert Kanigel.
“In 1913, a young unschooled Indian clerk wrote a letter to G H Hardy, begging the preeminent English mathematician’s opinion on several ideas he had about numbers. Realizing the letter was the work of a genius, Hardy arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England. Thus began one of the most improbable and productive collaborations ever chronicled. With a passion for rich and evocative detail, Robert Kanigel takes us from the temples and slums of Madras to the courts and chapels of Cambridge University, where the devout Hindu Ramanujan, “the Prince of Intuition,” tested his brilliant theories alongside the sophisticated and eccentric Hardy, “the Apostle of Proof.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverProf : Alan Turing decoded : a biography, by Dermot Turing.
If you enjoyed the Imitation Game, dip into this biography of Alan Turing by his nephew, Sir Dermot Turing. We meet him in the film as mathematician, codebreaker, computer scientist, and as a war hero underestimated and mistreated by his own country. This is a fresh look at the influences on Alan Turing’s life and creativity, and the later creation of a legend. This is a unique family perspective drawing on sources only recently released to the UK National Archives, including photos.

Syndetics book coverA numerate life : a mathematician explores the vagaries of life, his own and probably yours, by John Allen Paulos.
“In this fluid and varied memoir, Paulos, professor of mathematics at Temple University, calls into question the accuracy of the stories people craft about others’ lives and their own. From a mathematical standpoint, he tackles subjects such as the deceptiveness of the concept of normal, the nuances that exist within one’s sense of self, and the inevitability of encountering coincidences. Delving into psychology, philosophy, statistics, and logic, Paulos reveals the far-reaching applications of mathematical thought in people’s lives as well as how they record and remember past events. Rather than adopting the pointed structure of a persuasive essay, Paulos chases down tangents and relates his own experiences, with nostalgia.” (drawn from Publishers Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThing explainer : complicated stuff in simple words, by Randall Munroe.
Randall Munroe has set himself a tricky task – to explain things using only drawings and a vocabulary of only our 1,000 most common words. Yes, that’s right, only 1,000. So although it fits into the ‘How do things work?’ answers reading shelf, this approach is worth reading for his choices of words and language. If you’ve ever had to explain how a micro-wave really works to a young child, then you’ll recognise the book’s value.

Syndetics book coverServing the Reich : the struggle for the soul of physics under Hitler, by Philip Ball.
Many scientists had to make compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime, such as world-renowned physicists Max Planck, Peter Debye and Werner Heisenberg. This is a tale of moral choices – the dilemmas, the failures, the interference in their work, questions of responsibility and three very human stories of people struggling to navigate living in a very different world than they imagined.

Syndetics book coverA survival guide to the misinformation age : scientific habits of mind, by David J. Helfand.
“We live in the Information Age, with billions of bytes of data just two swipes away. Yet how much of this is mis- or even disinformation? A lot of it is, and your search engine can’t tell the difference. As a result, an avalanche of misinformation threatens to overwhelm the discourse we so desperately need to address complex social problems such as climate change, the food and water crises, biodiversity collapse, and emerging threats to public health. This book provides an inoculation against the misinformation epidemic by cultivating scientific habits of mind. Anyone can do it – indeed, everyone must do it if our species is to survive on this crowded and finite planet.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret life of space, by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest.
The authors share stories that Stonehenge was built to celebrate the winter solstice rather than the summer, the telescope was not invented by Galileo, Einstein did not predict the presence of black holes or the Big Bang. Read about the sanitary engineer who found evidence of life on Mars, and other little known scientific heroes.

April’s Science Picks

Birds rule the roost in the latest crop of arrivals to the science section. Read about extraordinary owls, an epic migration journey, and a heart-warming penguin. The list is rounded off with two recommended reads – a sneak look into the life of bats, and the wonderful contribution that microbes make to Earth.

Syndetics book coverThe penguin lessons : what I learned from a remarkable bird, by Tom Michell.
A real-life story of the extraordinary bond between a young English teacher who rescues a penguin from an oil slick in Uruguay. The penguin refuses to leave his rescuer’s side. “That was the moment at which he became my penguin, and whatever the future held, we’d face it together,” says Michell. He names the penguin Juan Salvador (“John Saved”), but Juan Salvador, as it turns out, is the one who saves Michell. This is a witty and yet inspirational book.

Syndetics book coverGods of the morning : a bird’s-eye view of a changing world, by John Lister-Kaye.
This follows the year through the seasons at Aigas, the Highlands estate which the author has transformed into a world-renowned wildlife centre. The early morning brings with it twenty-nine distinct calls. Yet in the Highland glens, bird numbers plummet as their food supplies – natural fruits and every kind of creeping, crawling, slithering or flying bug–begin to disappear. …By the first frosts the hills will have emptied down to a few hardy stalwarts such as the golden eagles, the raven and the irrepressible hooded crows. The few species that are left frequent a changed world. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe secret lives of bats : my adventures with the world’s most misunderstood mammals, by Merlin Tuttle.
Ever since discovering a colony in a cave as a boy, Tuttle has realized how sophisticated and intelligent bats are. As he began to study bats all over the world, he also served tirelessly as their advocate, convincing farmers, landowners, and city dwellers that bats are beneficial members of their local ecosystems. But it was when he discovered that no one had ever produced good photographs of bats exhibiting their natural behaviours that a conservation star was born …. Tuttle’s tales of stalking bats, and of the discoveries he and fellow researchers have made, will make bat lovers out of every reader. (drawn from Booklist review, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverParrots of the wild : a natural history of the world’s most captivating birds, by Catherine A. Toft and Timothy F. Wright ; foreword by James D. Gilardi.
Drawing on over 2,400 scientific studies, this outlines the social behaviour, foraging, mating, intelligence, and conservation status of around 350 species. A worthy celebration of this appealing bird.

Syndetics book coverThe house of owls, by Tony Angell ; foreword by Robert Michael Pyle.
For a quarter of a century, Tony Angell and his family kept journals of their observations of pairs of western screech owls that occupied a nesting box outside the window of their forest home. His illustrations show owls at work and play – hunting, courting, or raising families. He shares their unique characteristics that distinguish owls from other bird species and provides a fascinating overview of the impact owls have had on human culture and thought.

Syndetics book coverLife’s engines : how microbes made Earth habitable, by Paul G. Falkowski.
From his last chapter “Thanks be to microbes for making this speck of detritus in the stardust of the universe a great place to live for their overgrown relatives, the animals and plants that temporarily decorate and rent the small dot from their microbial ancestors, who maintain it for their future relatives.” Easily understood by anyone with a passing knowledge of science – highly recommended and readable.

Syndetics book coverWild foods : looking back 60,000 years for clues to our future survival, by Vic Cherikoff.
Explores the consequences of eating a modern diet sprayed with pesticides and lacking in essential dietary fibre, protein and micro-nutrients. You will find how wild foods can help correct the imbalance and strengthen our health. Illustrated with beautiful colour photographs, this is a must-have guide for anyone who wants to live healthier lives.

Syndetics book coverThe narrow edge : a tiny bird, an ancient crab, and an epic journey, by Deborah Cramer.
Each year, red knots (sandpipers) weighing no more than a coffee cup, fly a near-miraculous 19,000 miles from the tip of South America to their nesting grounds in the Arctic and back. Along the way, they double their weight by gorging on millions of tiny horseshoe crab eggs which have conveniently been laid by their parents – ancient animals that come ashore but once a year. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverUnseen city : the majesty of pigeons, the discreet charm of snails & other wonders of the urban wilderness, by Nathanael Johnson.
It all started with Nathanael Johnson’s decision to teach his daughter the name of every tree they passed on their walk to day care in San Francisco. This project turned into a quest to discover the secrets of the neighbourhood’s flora and fauna, and yielded more than names and trivia: Johnson developed a relationship with his nonhuman neighbours. Johnson argues that learning to see the world afresh, like a child, shifts the way we think about nature. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

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 Biklé’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).

Recent Science Picks in October

These are just a few of the gems that we have had come into the library in recent times. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverBlack hole : how an idea abandoned by Newtonians, hated by Einstein, and gambled on by Hawking became loved / Marcia Bartusiak.
“For more than half a century, physicists and astronomers engaged in heated dispute over the possibility of black holes in the universe. The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes–not even light–seemed to confound all logic. This engrossing book tells the story of the fierce black hole debates and the contributions of Einstein and Hawking and other leading thinkers who completely altered our view of the universe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to bake Π : an edible exploration of the mathematics of mathematics / Eugenia Cheng.
“What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? In How to Bake Pi, math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics, powered, unexpectedly, by insights from the kitchen: we learn, for example, how the béchamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. At the heart of it all is Cheng’s work on category theory, a cutting-edge “mathematics of mathematics,” that is about figuring out how math works. So, what is math? Let’s look for the answer in the kitchen.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fascinating world of graph theory / Arthur Benjamin, Gary Chartrand, Ping Zhang.
The fascinating world of graph theory goes back several centuries and revolves around the study of graphs–mathematical structures showing relations between objects. With applications in biology, computer science, transportation science, and other areas, graph theory encompasses some of the most beautiful formulas in mathematics–and some of its most famous problems. Requiring readers to have a math background only up to high school algebra, this book explores the questions and puzzles that have been studied, and often solved, through graph theory. An eye-opening journey into the world of graphs, this book offers exciting problem-solving possibilities for mathematics and beyond.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat if Einstein was wrong? : asking the big questions about physics / editor, Brian Clegg ; foreword by Jim Al-Khalili.
“This title challenges a team of scholars to experiment with 50 topical science speculations, at a time when the hunt for the Higgs boson particle is threatening to undermine the foundations of our knowledge. Consider what time travel, warp speed, artificial gravity, or the loss of Schrodinger’s cat would mean to us, and en route accumulate the knowledge you need to debate the shape that our science might take in the future.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLiving with the stars : how the human body is connected to the life cycles of the Earth, the planets, and the stars / Karel Schrijver and Iris Schrijver.
Living with the Stars describes the many fascinating connections between the universe and the human body, which range from the makeup of DNA and human cells, growth and aging, to stellar evolution and the beginning of the universe. This popular science book should be of interest to anyone who wonders about the processes going on in our human bodies that connect us to our environment on Earth, to the Solar System, to the stars in our Galaxy, and even to the origin of the universe.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe developing genome : an introduction to behavioral epigenetics / David S. Moore.
“Why do we grow up to look, act, and feel as we do? Through most of the twentieth century, scientists and laypeople answered this question by referring to two factors alone: our experiences and our genes. But recent discoveries about how genes work have revealed a new way to understand the developmental origins of our characteristics. These discoveries have emerged from the new science of behavioral epigenetics–and just as the whole world has now heard of DNA, “epigenetics” will be a household word in the near future. What matters is what our genes do. And because research in behavioral epigenetics has shown that our experiences influence how our genes function, this work has changed how scientists think about nature, nurture, and human development. The Developing Genome is an introduction to this exciting new discipline.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Image from Huia PublishersGeothermal treasures : Māori living with heat and steam / contributing writers, Vanessa Bidois, Cherie Taylor and Robyn Bargh.
“Natural geothermal phenomena – geysers, hot springs and mud pools – have drawn people to the thermal region of New Zealand for years. Locals and tourists are captivated by the beauty and magic of bubbling mud, steam and hot water gushing from the earth. New Zealand’s world-class geothermal resource is a source of energy, a tourist attraction and a treasure of great historical, cultural, spiritual and economic importance for Maori. In this book, Maori traditional stories, understandings and history stand alongside geothermal science in an exploration of the thermal phenomena of the Volcanic Plateau.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe soul of an octopus : a surprising exploration into the wonder of consciousness / Sy Montgomery.
“In 2011 Sy Montgomery wrote a feature for Orion magazine entitled ‘Deep Intellect’ about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death. It went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think? By turns funny, entertaining, touching and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJourney to the centre of the Earth : the remarkable voyage of scientific discovery into the heart our world / David Whitehouse.
“Our planet appears tranquil from outer space. And yet the arcs of volcanoes, the earthquake zones and the auroral glow rippling above our heads are testimony to something remarkable happening inside … For thousands of years these phenomena were explained in legend and myth. Only in recent times has the brave new science of seismology emerged. One hundred and fifty years after the extraordinary, imaginative feat of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, David Whitehouse embarks on a voyage of scientific discovery into the heart of our world. Whitehouse’s enthralling journey vividly charts all we are able to understand about the mysteries of the deep Earth. His book encompasses the history of our planet and the latest findings about its inner core, allowing us to embark on an adventure that brings us closer to the enigma of our existence.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe walking whales : from land to water in eight million years / J.G.M. “Hans” Thewissen ; with illustrations by Jacqueline Dillard.
“Hans Thewissen, a leading researcher in the field of whale paleontology and anatomy, gives a sweeping first-person account of the discoveries that brought to light the early fossil record of whales. As evidenced in the record, whales evolved from herbivorous forest-dwelling ancestors that resembled tiny deer to carnivorous monsters stalking lakes and rivers and to serpentlike denizens of the coast. In his search for an understanding of how modern whales live their lives, Thewissen also journeys to Japan and Alaska to study whales and wild dolphins. Thewissen argues for approaching whale evolution with the most powerful tools we have and for combining all the fields of science in pursuit of knowledge.” (Syndetics summary)

I see trees of green – Recent Science books

Read more about the wonderful world of plant intelligence, whale and dolphin culture, restoring extinct animals through cloning and how seeds have shaped our history.

Syndetics book coverCakes, custard + category theory : easy recipes for understanding complex mathematics, by Eugenia Cheng.
Packed with entertaining examples of mathematical culinary analogies, puzzles and recipes (including chocolate brownies, sandwiches, Yorkshire puddings bagels) the author sets about her mission in life which is to rid the world of maths phobia. Her enthusiasm for the world of maths is infectious and this will appeal both to the maths glutton and those with little appetite. “This is maths at its absolute tastiest.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverHeadstrong : 52 women who changed science – and the world, by Rachel Swaby.
This features women who have achieved as innovators and inventors across the scientific spectrum, in fields ranging from physics to biology, astronomy, and engineering. More than 350 years are covered. Some are already household names e.g. Ada Lovelace and Florence Nightingale, but others rightly deserve a higher profile outside their own scientific communities. Discover some courageous significant scientists whose influence extends to our lives today. Recommended.

Syndetics book coverBrilliant green : the surprising history and science of plant intelligence, by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola ; translated by Joan Benham ; foreword by Michael Pollan.
Can plants solve problems, and communicate? We can all think of exceptions (like the Venus fly-trap) but on the whole we regard them as passive, silent and immovable if it were not for Wellington’s wind. Yet recent discoveries are challenging these ideas, and Mancuso argues that, in fact, they process information, sleep, remember, and signal to one another. He demonstrates a more sophisticated view of plant intelligence through a survey of plant capabilities from sight and touch to communication. “Part botany lesson, part manifesto, Brilliant Green is an engaging and passionate examination of the inner workings of the plant kingdom.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to clone a mammoth : the science of de-extinction, by Beth Shapiro.
Could extinct species be brought back to life? “Ancient DNA” research says yes. This is not without controversy – from deciding which species should be restored, to considering how these revived populations might exist in the wild. Both scientific and ethical issues are explored. Shapiro’s focus is not so much the restoration of a handful of favoured species, but an overarching goal to revitalize contemporary ecosystems. Is this conservation’s future?

Syndetics book coverMt John, the first 50 years : a celebration of half a century of optical astronomy at the University of Canterbury, by John Hearnshaw, Alan Gilmore.
In 1965, Mt John University Observatory was founded at Lake Tekapo to take advantage of the favourable conditions for astronomy in the Mackenzie Basin. Since the telescopes were installed there has been a wealth of astronomical research before its role was expanded to astro-tourism. This book charts its varied history (including student protests) but is a testament to its widely regarded research work, especially in stellar astronomy.

Syndetics book coverExpanding universe : photographs from the Hubble space telescope, by Charles F. Bolden Jr., Owen Edwards, John Mace Grunsfeld, Zoltan Levay.
Hubble has changed both our understanding of astronomy, but our own place in the universe. This is a collection of wonderful ultra high-resolution deep space images celebrating science and photography – brilliant colours and textures revealed in several large foldouts, accompanied by an interview with Zoltan Levay, who explains how the pictures are composed, while Hubble astronauts Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and John Mace Grunsfeld discuss Hubble’s legacy.

Syndetics book coverA history of life in 100 fossils, by Paul D. Taylor & Aaron O’Dea.
“Iconic specimens have been selected from the renowned collections of the two premier natural history museums in the world, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and the Natural History Museum, London. The fossils have been chosen not only for their importance in the history of life, but also because of the visual story they tell. This stunning book is perfect for all readers because its clear explanations and beautiful photographs illuminate the significance of these amazing pieces…” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cultural lives of whales and dolphins, by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell.
Whales and dolphins are some of the most captivating sea animals to us, and this is not simply because they are mammals. Their intelligence, behaviour and social habits invite us to try to understand and interact with them. Human cultures pass on languages and customs and the authors consider could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own? Drawing on their own research and observations as well as other scientific literature they ponder behaviours which Youtube clips have brought to the non-scientific world such as humpback whales bubble feeding, Australian dolphins using sea sponges to protect their beaks while foraging for fish in coral.

Syndetics book coverEinstein : his space and times, by Steven Gimbel.
A common view of Albert Einstein is of an eccentric genius who was single-minded in his pursuit of science. But Steven Gimbel argues that he was a man of his times, always politically engaged and driven by strong moral principles. Einstein was a pacifist whose social and scientific views earned him death threats from Nazi sympathizers in the years preceding World War II. To him, science was a foundation for considering the deeper questions of life and a way for the worldwide Jewish community to gain confidence and pride in itself. This biography offers a fascinating portrait of a remarkable individual whose scientific theories emerged from the reality of his lived experiences and times.

Syndetics book coverThe triumph of seeds : how grains, nuts, kernels, pulses, and pips, conquered the plant kingdom and shaped human history, by Thor Hanson.
Seeds are quite literally the stuff and staff of life, supporting diets, economies, and civilizations around the globe. The search for nutmeg and the humble peppercorn drove the Age of Discovery, and cottonseed help spark the Industrial Revolution, while a Middle Eastern grass known as wheat has underpinned economies and diets for much of the world for centuries. In nature and in culture, seeds are fundamental–objects of beauty, evolutionary wonder, and simple fascination – as Hanson puts it, “the simple joy of seeing something beautiful, doing what it is meant to do.” This is essential reading for anyone who loves to see a plant grow. (drawn from Syndetics summary).

Recent Science Picks

Here are a few of the new science books that I have come across in the last wee while.

Syndetics book coverThe edge of the sky : all you need to know about the all-there-is / Roberto Trotta.
“Explaining complex ideas in accessible language is the goal of every popular science writer, but Trotta, a theoretical cosmologist at Imperial College London, stretches that effort to creative extremes, telling the story of modern cosmology with only the “ten hundred” (aka 1,000) most common English words. At first glance, the deliberately simple language feels childish, more of a distraction than a valuable, creative approach. Airplanes are “flying cars,” planetary rovers like Curiosity are “space-cars,” a large telescope is a Big-Seer, and planets, with their wandering paths across the heavens, are Crazy Stars. But Trotta’s deft word choices quickly draw the reader into a surprisingly vivid alternate reality where student-persons (scientists) strive to pierce the mysteries of the All-There-Is: the universe.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverTuring : pioneer of the information age / B. Jack Copeland.
“Described by his mother as an “unsociable and dreamy child,” Turing found his calling in mathematics, applying his talents to WWII code-breaking intelligence (efforts “kept secret for almost sixty years”), but the breakthroughs that earned him a place in history were those in software-centric and stored-program computing, developments that gave rise to the fields of artificial intelligence and artificial life. Turing’s work was an exploration of the human mind via computers, though he theorized that there is nevertheless a “mysterious something” in the human mind that goes “beyond computability.” It is an increasingly relevant inquiry, as Turing’s inventions have spread from military-industrial applications into the everyday.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe quantum moment : how Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg taught us to love uncertainty / Robert P. Crease, Alfred Scharff Goldhaber.
“Histories of quantum theory are typically dense with complex, abstract ideas, but philosopher Crease and physicist Goldhaber offer a new twist, adding a fascinating look at the ways the mainstream world has embraced (though not always accurately!) the concepts of quantum mechanics. Pop culture took up the quantum cause with far more gusto than most physicists. When first proposed, quantum theory was deemed “ugly, weird, unpredictable,” and “quite distasteful.” Experimentalist Robert Milliken tried to kill the idea, but his lab results kept confirming it. While physicists struggled to fill in the missing bits of their incomplete theories, quirky quantum ideas became parts of a “sphinxian riddle” that captured the mainstream imagination and inspired everyone from cartoonists and sculptors to such writers as Ian Fleming and John Updike.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe science of Interstellar / Kip Thorne.
“Interstellar, from acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, takes us on a fantastic voyage far beyond our solar system. Yet in The Science of Interstellar, Kip Thorne, the physicist who assisted Nolan on the scientific aspects of Interstellar, shows us that the movie’s jaw-dropping events and stunning, never-before-attempted visuals are grounded in real science. Thorne shares his experiences working as the science adviser on the film and then moves on to the science itself. In chapters on wormholes, black holes, interstellar travel, and much more, Thorne’s scientific insights many of them triggered during the actual scripting and shooting of Interstellar, describe the physical laws that govern our universe and the truly astounding phenomena that those laws make possible.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverI think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that : selected writing / Ben Goldacre.
The very best journalism from one of Britain’s most admired and outspoken science writers, author of the bestselling Bad Science and Bad Pharma. In ‘Bad Science’, Ben Goldacre hilariously exposed the tricks that quacks and journalists use to distort science. In ‘Bad Pharma’, he put the $600 billion global pharmaceutical industry under the microscope. Now the pick of the journalism by one of our wittiiest, most indignant and most fearless commentators on the worlds of medicine and science is collected in one volume. (library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverOcean : the definitive visual guide / project editor, Rob Houston.
“From mangrove swamp to ocean floor, mollusc to manatee, the Japanese tsunami to Hurricane Sandy, unravel the mysteries of the sea. Marvel at the oceans’ power and importance to our planet – as the birthplace of life on Earth, a crucial element of our climate, and as a vital but increasingly fragile resource for mankind. You will discover every aspect, from the geology of the sea floor and the interaction between the ocean and atmosphere, to the extraordinary diversity of marine life. Includes an inspiring introduction by editor-in-chief Fabien Cousteau. Ocean captures both the beauty and scientific complexity of the ocean, making it perfect for families and students alike.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverPlanet of the bugs : evolution and the rise of insects / Scott Richard Shaw.
“Shaw, professor of entomology at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, takes an arthropodist stand against “human-centric bias that seeks to place our vertebrate ancestors in some kind of elevated position,” as he frames evolutionary history from the vantage point of insect development. The million distinct catalogued species that Shaw says “rule the planet” only constitute a subset of those that are documented in the fossil record or that have been discovered in the microniches of environments such as the tropical rainforest. Shaw looks at groups of species in terms of the structural features that developed to exploit emerging habitats and examines them in light of their parallel development with plant or animal species for which they might be prey, parasites, or pollinators.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverTen million aliens : a journey though the entire animal kingdom / Simon Barnes.
“Life on Planet Earth is not weirder than we imagine. It’s weirder than we are capable of imagining. We’re all part of the animal kingdom, appearing in what Darwin called “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful”. In this breathtakingly audacious book, Simon Barnes has brought us all together, seeking not what separates us but what unites us. He takes us white-water rafting through the entire animal kingdom in a book that brings in deep layers of arcane knowledge, the works of Darwin and James Joyce, Barnes’s own don’t-try-this-at-home adventures in the wild, David Attenborough and Sherlock Holmes. Ten Million Aliens opens your eyes to the real marvels of the planet we live on.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe amoeba in the room : lives of the microbes / Nicholas P. Money.
“Writing passionately about a subject he clearly loves, Money, professor of botany at Miami Univ. (Ohio), explains the critically important, but largely overlooked, roles microbial organisms play in the world. He points out, for example, the amazing role that marine diatoms play in moderating climate change: “By absorbing 20 billion tons of carbon per year-about one fifth of the global total-they are a greater refrigerant on this warming planet than tropical rainforests.” Money goes on to note that the number of individuals and species of microorganisms is staggering: the average gram of human feces contains 40 billion bacteria, a full 90% of the living matter in the oceans are microscopic, and “we have characterized only one millionth” of the viruses inhabiting the soil.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverH is for hawk / Helen Macdonald.
“In this elegant synthesis of memoir and literary sleuthing, an English academic finds that training a young goshawk helps her through her grief over the death of her father. With her three-year fellowship at the University of Cambridge nearly over, Macdonald, a trained falconer, rediscovers a favorite book of her childhood, T.H. White’s The Goshawk (1951), in which White, author of The Once and Future King, recounts his mostly failed but illuminating attempts at training a goshawk, one of the most magnificent and deadly raptors. Macdonald secures her own goshawk, which she names Mabel, and the fierce wildness of the young bird soothes her sense of being broken by her father’s untimely death. The book moves from White’s frustration at training his bird to Macdonald’s sure, deliberate efforts to get Mabel to fly to her.” (Publisher Weekly)

Recent Science picks – October

Here are a few of the gems that have come across my desk in the last few weeks:

Syndetics book coverBasic math & pre-algebra workbook for dummies / by Mark Zegarelli.
“Whether you need to brush up on the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division or you’re ready to tackle algebraic expressions and equations, this handy workbook will demystify math so you can get back to having fun in math class. Properly use negative numbers, units, inequalities, exponents, square roots, and absolute value; round numbers and estimate answers; solve problems with fractions, decimals, and percentages; complete algebraic expressions and equations – Basic Math and Pre-Algebra Workbook For Dummies takes the guessing out of math and help you discover your problem solving potential.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art and history of globes / Sylvia Sumira.
“From medieval globes made when much of the world was unexplored to the huge, decorative examples made for the princely courts of Renaissance Europe, this book celebrates the art and history of the globe, focusing on the 400 years when the printed globe – as navigational tool, scientific instrument and powerful status symbol – occupied an important place in the history of European exploration.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOrganic chemistry I for dummies / by Arthur Winter.
“The easy way to take the confusion out of organic chemistry Organic chemistry has a long-standing reputation as a difficult course. This fun, easy-to-understand guide explains the basic principles of organic chemistry in simple terms, providing insight into the language of organic chemists, the major classes of compounds, and top trouble spots. You’ll also get the nuts and bolts of tackling organic chemistry problems, from knowing where to start to spotting sneaky tricks that professors like to incorporate. Baffled by benzines? Confused by carboxylic acids? Here’s the help you need–in plain English!” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow not to be wrong : the hidden maths of everyday life / Jordan Ellenberg.
“The maths we learn in school often seems like a mysterious and impenetrable set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, acclaimed mathematician Jordan Ellenberg shows us just how wrong this view is: in fact, maths touches everything we do, allowing us to see the hidden structures beneath the messy and chaotic surface of our daily lives. It’s a science of not being wrong, worked out through centuries of hard work and argument. Through supremely witty storytelling and wry insight, Ellenberg reveals the mathematician’s method of analyzing life, from the commonplace to the cosmic, showing us which numbers to trust, which ones to ignore, and when to change the equation entirely.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe quantum age : how the physics of the very small has transformed our lives / Brian Clegg.
“Quantum theory may be bizarre and inexplicable, but it’s been shown to account for as much as 30 percent of American GDP, as this brilliant new book by science writer extraordinaire Brian Clegg reveals. Clegg, who studied physics at Cambridge University and specializes in making the strangest aspects of the universe accessible to the general reader, explores the Quantum Age, the revolution led by our understanding of the very, very small. Incredible revelations along the way will thrill popular science fans and general readers alike.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShaping humanity : how science, art, and imagination help us understand our origins / John Gurche.
In this book, internationally renowned paleoartist John Gurche describes the extraordinary process by which he creates forensically accurate and hauntingly realistic representations of our ancient human ancestors. Inspired by a lifelong fascination with all things prehistoric, and gifted with a unique artistic vision, Gurche has studied fossil remains, comparative ape and human anatomy, and forensic reconstruction for over three decades. In Shaping Humanity… he reveals the debates and brainstorming that surround these often controversial depictions, and along the way he enriches our awareness of the various paths of human evolution and humanity’s stunning uniqueness in the history of life on Earth.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe sixth extinction : an unnatural history / Elizabeth Kolbert.The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
“Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth.Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.Elizabeth Kolbert combines brilliant field reporting, the history of ideas and the work of geologists, botanists and marine biologists to tell the gripping stories of a dozen species – including the Panamanian golden frog and the Sumatran rhino – some already gone, others at the point of vanishing.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMeteorology manual : the practical guide to the weather / Storm Dunlop.
“This extensively illustrated book will follow the familiar Haynes Manual style, with down-to-earth text, supported by colour diagrams and photographs, including, where appropriate, step-by-step sequences of cloud and weather system formations. There is increasing interest in learning about how weather systems are formed, what causes variations in the weather, and how to study and predict the movement of weather systems to enable weather forecasting, all which can be found in this book.” (Syndetics summary)

Recent Science Book Picks – August 2014

Here are a few of the new science books that have crept their way across my desk over the last month. Topics span mathematics, animal behaviours, the fish in the Wellington harbour, and more!

Syndetics book coverThis is improbable too : synchronized cows, speedy brain extractors, and more WTF research / Marc Abrahams.
Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, offers an addictive, wryly funny expose of the oddest, most imaginative, and just plain improbable research from around the globe. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cartoon introduction to statistics / by Grady Klein and Alan Dabney, Ph. D.
“If one is looking for a nonthreatening introduction to the basic concepts of statistics, then this cartoon guide will serve admirably. Klein (cartoonist) and Dabney (Texas A&M) lead readers carefully through the ideas of graphical appearances, averages and spread, the central limit theorem, and inference with short descriptive captions, while the accompanying cartoons provide lighthearted background illustrations supporting the principles at hand. It is certainly fun seeing data gathering tied to truckloads of random rhinos, confidence intervals related to expressions of hatred between aliens on two neighboring planets, and hypothesis testing tied to the speed comparisons of spotted and striped flying pigs. However, accuracy is never sacrificed. In general, the book first illustrates each statistical concept by a humor-injected example, but ultimately brings the traditional vocabulary into play so that integrity is maintained.” (Adapted from CHOICE)

Syndetics book coverAtlas of the southern night sky [cartographic material] / Steve Massey, Steve Quirk.
If you ever needed a book to help you explore the wonderful night skies from down under, be it Australia, South America, South Africa or New Zealand, this is it! With hundreds of full colour star charts and maps of the Moon and planets of our Solar System, this book will ensure you get the most out of a pair of binoculars or a small telescope from suburban and dark country sky locations. Includes many new and updated images and objects to find in the night sky, several new images by southern amateur astronomers, updated star charts, updated planetary information, extended equipment and image processing information and an all-new Deep-Sky month planner. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOrigins of mathematical words : a comprehensive dictionary of Latin, Greek, and Arabic roots / Anthony Lo Bello.
“This fascinating work by Lo Bello (mathematics, Allegheny College) is an etymological dictionary of popular mathematical terms of Latin, Greek, and Arabic origin. The language of mathematics is an important instructional component in elementary and secondary schools, and in colleges and universities. Scholars have claimed that students may have difficulty reading, understanding, and discussing mathematical ideas if they are not familiar with the words used in mathematics. When students do not know the meaning of mathematical terms such as “perpendicular,” “derivative,” and “asymptote,” they have difficulties grasping the deeper structures of mathematical concepts. Teaching the origins of mathematical words helps bridge the gap between everyday language and mathematical language.” (Adapted from CHOICE)

Syndetics book coverArt and architecture of insects / David M. Phillips.
“Former virologist Phillips collects dynamic, creepy, and starkly beautiful electron micrographs of insects to bring out the gorgeous, detailed structures imperceptible to the naked eye. Phillips’s love of both entomology and photography comes through clearly in what he describes as a retirement project after ending his career as a biomedical researcher at New York City’s Population Council, and though the text rambles from topic to topic without obvious breaks, the material is still clear, informative, and surprisingly entertaining. Though most of the black and white photos are of entire insect bodies, chapters are divided by body part-eyes, antennae, wings, etc.-and focus largely on functional anatomy, detailing how body structures make each insect well-suited for its ecological role and biological needs.” (Adapted from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe secret language of animals : a guide to remarkable behavior / Janine M. Benyus ; illustrations by Juan Carlos Barberis ; foreword by Alexandra Horowitz.
“Humans have always pondered what makes us different from animals. After all, many species exhibit behaviors that resemble our own (or is it the other way around?). This informative volume covers 20 of the world’s most well-known animals, including African elephants, flamingos, giant pandas, Nile crocodiles, and polar bears. Divided by geographical regions (African Jungles, Plains, and Waterways ; Asian Forests ; Warm Oceans ; North America ; and The Poles), the chapters cover some of the basic habits and behaviors of a particular animal, such as elimination, self-grooming, and sleeping. Social behaviors, from friendly to threatening, are discussed, as are sexual and parental interactions. Numerous sidebars showcase vital stats on each animal, quirky facts, and trivia. Each chapter ends with a list of behaviors for readers to look for at the zoo or in the wild.” (Adapted from Booklist)

Syndetics book coverWellington down under / Stephen Journée ; edited by Lorraine Olphert.
Stephen Journee, a skilled diver and photographer, gives a rare insight into the world below and brings to life all the fish varieties and other forms of marine life that have made the Wellington harbour and the surrounding coastal bays their home over the centuries. From the unbelievable colour of the sea sponges, sea squirts, jewel anemones, blue and red moki, triplefins, seahorses and jellyfish, to schools of jack mackerels and spotties, to dolphins and the occasional visit by pods of orcas – all feature between these covers. Stephen also takes the reader on a tour of famous shipwrecks of the 19th and 20th centuries, a look back in time and what remains from past tragedies; wharves and slipways from yester-year. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe melting world : a journey across America’s vanishing glaciers / Christopher White.
“Whenever global warming and rising sea levels are mentioned in the same breath, the presumed source of the extra water is usually the polar ice caps. Yet according to nature writer and frequent National Geographic contributor White, melting mountaintop snow and ice will have just as much of an impact on environmental decline as shrinking coastlines. In the late summer of 2008, White joined a team of government-funded ecologists, led by veteran earth scientist Dan Fagre, to chart the rapid disappearance of alpine ice in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Here White eloquently describes the scores of breathtaking views he enjoyed during his five seasons with Fagre, even as the team grappled with many disturbing findings. White’s account is both an urgent wake-up call to nations across the globe that share responsibility for climate change and a heartbreaking elegy to a vital component of Earth’s ecology that may soon be gone forever.” (Adapted from Booklist)


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