Category: Recent picks

New Science books

Just a few of the shiny new items that have graced my desk this month.

Syndetics book coverHubble’s universe : greatest discoveries and latest images / Terence Dickinson.
“The Hubble Space Telescope, which prolific astronomy writer Dickinson calls a remarkable discovery machine, has been orbiting the earth since 1990, inspiring many a book showcasing its astrophotography. What makes this superbly well-produced volume unique is its presentation of 300 images that have never been made public before. Dickinson’s expert and enthusiastic commentary also makes the Hubble wondrous all over again. He explains the 2009 reboot and how astronomers use a process called drizzling to create Hubble’s astonishingly sharp images, such as a staggering two-page look at a small segment of the night sky the size of a period in this book held at arm’s length, filled with thousands of galaxies, each containing billions of stars. Dickinson elucidates Hubble’s top discoveries, from proof that supermassive black holes are common in galaxies to success in measuring the universe’s expansion rate. With images of the birth and death of stars and the marvelous shapes nebulae take, reflected in such names as Helix, Jewel Box, Loch Ness, and Cat’s Eye, any engagement with this cosmic portfolio, from picture gazing to deep reading, is grandly rewarded.–Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist) (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThis explains everything : deep, beautiful, and elegant theories of how the world works / edited by John Brockman.
“In this latest volume of erudition from Edge.com founder John Brockman (This Will Make You Smarter), the question “What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?” serves as the prompt for over a hundred concise essays. The topics cover the gamut of the sciences while also including answers from other realms including economics and the arts. Darwin and Einstein, while not the precise subject of many answers, feature prominently as do ideas of human consciousness and cognition. As with other collections of this ilk, the essays widely vary in ease of comprehension and level of profundity. While there is no structure beyond the individual essays, occasionally a few essays in close proximity will touch on similar matters, as when Nicholas Christakis’s essay on why the sky is blue is followed by Philip Campbell’s on “The Beauty in a Sunrise”, each referencing the work of Lord Rayleigh on the scattering of light. … this collection will satisfy anyone who is looking to stretch his thinking. (adapted from the Syndetics review)

Syndetics book coverHow to build a habitable planet : the story of Earth from the big bang to humankind.
“Geochemist Langmuir (Harvard) and earth scientist Broecker (Columbia) attempt to squeeze all of natural history between two covers in this enlarged new edition (1st ed., 1985). They strike a nice balance with roughly an equal number of chapters devoted to life, earth, and extraterrestrial processes. After outlining their systems approach, they move rapidly from the formation of matter and galaxies through the formation of rocky planets like Earth and the appearance of human-like life. Chapter topics include the internal differentiation of the Earth, human resource exploitation, and detecting exoplanets with atmospheres like ours. What makes it work is the authors’ admirable job of focusing tightly on how the many processes they outline feed into life’s makeup or systems needed to support it. This necessitates summaries of subjects ranging from nuclear physics and organic chemistry to asteroid impacts. They turn many pieces of conventional wisdom on their heads along the way, e.g., arguing entropy helps explain the appearance of life rather than making it improbable. Their explanations are elegant but very terse, so readers not already well read in these fields may be challenged. The book includes several general readings after each chapter and a glossary but no detailed bibliography for further investigation. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. M. Simonson Oberlin CollegeCopyright American Library Association, used with permission.” (CHOICE) (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverHeart of darkness : unraveling the mysteries of the invisible universe / Jeremiah P. Ostriker and Simon Mitton.
“For Conrad, it was the Congo; for Ostriker (Formation of Structure in the Universe) and Mitton (The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy), it’s deep space, dark matter, and dark energy. In this stimulating study, the Princeton astrophysics professor and University of Cambridge scholar offer a compelling insider’s take on how astronomers have worked to reveal the mystery that is our universe. After a quick review of the long history of astronomy, the duo dive headlong into the 20th century and Einstein’s paradigm-crushing work on relativity, gravity, and time, which-coupled with technological improvements-laid the foundations for a modern cosmology based on “expansion-of vision, mind-set, and of the physical universe itself.” Indeed, the Big Bang sent galaxies racing outward, and the resulting universe is a “quantum soup” riddled with ” ‘holes,’ ‘filaments,’ and ‘walls.’ “… Ostriker and Mitton’s knowledge is vast, and while they acknowledge that our understanding of the universe is far from complete, this thought-provoking presentation is as accessible as it is exciting. (adapted from the Syndetics review)

Syndetics book coverThe where, the why, and the how : 75 artists illustrate wondrous mysteries of science / by Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe ; foreword by David Macaulay.
“Scientists and artists take on, answer, and illustrate some of the most intriguing and baffling questions in the sciences, a majority of which likely do not ever occur to most people, such as “What triggers reversals of earth’s polarity?” Readers may need a refresher on basic high school biology or chemistry, but that’s a good thing and, really, a minor distraction from what this book actually is: a work of art. The 75 illustrations that accompany each question are rich and stylistically diverse enough that the book can be read either as a well-written mini-textbook or a coffee table-worthy compendium. The authors set out to challenge our overly Wikipedi-ized minds less by explaining answers as by opening them to theorizing and wondering; it’s clear that the point is to pique curiosity and delight with beautiful visuals. Pop-science buffs will find the subject matter intriguing, and those who admire graphic novels or comic art will find a plethora of eye candy. To the book’s further credit, each artist’s website is listed opposite his or her artwork, allowing for further engagement each one’s work. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.” (Publisher Weekly) (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverInto great silence : a memoir of discovery and loss among vanishing orcas / Eva Saulitis.
“This sensitively written memoir chronicles the 25 years poet and scientist Saulitis (Leaving Resurrection) spent as a field biologist in Prince William Sound, AK. She observed a specific group of transient orcas, also known as killer whales, as they traveled through the area, photographing them, observing and recording their behavior, and listening to their vocalizations. The meticulous, detailed, even tedious nature of such work is apparent, yet Saulitis conveys her deep appreciation for the whales and their surroundings. Unfortunately, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill fouled this environment and contributed to the premature deaths of several of the orcas. A list of books about the spill, a map, a family tree of the whale population under study, and several photographs are included.” (adapted from the Syndetics review)

Syndetics book coverWonders of life / Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen.
“This is the story of the amazing diversity and adaptability of life told through the fundamental laws that govern it. Through his voyage of discovery, Brian will explain how the astonishing inventiveness of nature came about and uncover the milestones in the epic journey from the origin of life to our own lives.”–publisher website. (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverRHS Latin for gardeners : over 3000 plant names explained and explored / Lorraine Harrison.
“This illustrated guide unlocks the mysteries of botanical Latin, explaining what plant names mean and the descriptive clues they conceal.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe year without summer : 1816 and the volcano that darkened the world and changed history / William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman.
“The violent eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, almost unnoticed by the Western world when it happened, had an enormous global impact. As much as a hundred cubic kilometers of material was ejected, creating a world-girdling cloud that reflected sunlight and changed weather everywhere. Famines and food riots spread across North America and Europe. Thousands of New England farmers, ruined by snow in June, migrated west. Irish peasants starved. The end of the world was repeatedly prophesied; religious revivals multiplied; governments tottered. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein during a rainy, cold July at a Swiss resort. J.M.W. Turner painted the spectacular sunsets created by stratospheric dust. In a world unfamiliar with climate change, where news traveled at the pace of a sailing ship, the phenomena were mysterious, seemingly God-driven, portentous, and terrifying. Popular historian William K. Klingaman and meteorologist Nicholas P. Klingaman have combined scientific and social narratives to good effect.”  (adapted from the Syndetics review)

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)

Recent Science Books

A few of the new items that have come across my desk over the last month.

Syndetics book coverThe science magpie : a hoard of fascinating facts, stories, poems, diagrams and jokes, plucked from science and its history / Simon Flynn.
“Science, humankind’s greatest intellectual achievement, is capable equally of delight and amusement as much as learning and the advancement of knowledge. ‘The Science Magpie’ brings together a hugely diverse collection of classic, common and unusual titbits from across science and its history”. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret lives of numbers : the curious truth behind everyday digits / Michael Millar ; illustrated by Louise Morgan.
“This is a book for the observant and the curious. A book for people who take in their surroundings and wonder at the smallest detail: why? Above all, it’s a book about numbers – those that surround us every day, and the intriguing stories behind them. From the 7-day week to 24-carat gold, Chanel No. 5 to five-star luxury, The Secret Lives of Numbers figures out the mysterious background to the numbers we encounter on a daily basis. Revealing the facts behind those figures, author Michael Millar outlines where to spot each digit, what it means and how it came to be in meticulously researched and entertaining entries, creating an absorbing and intelligent book that’s perfect for any numbers fan. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…” (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverCollins field guide to New Zealand wildlife / Terence Lindsey and Rod Morris.
“First published in 2000, the Collins Field Guide to New Zealand Wildflife quickly became a classic of its kind. Familiar to both national and international travellers keen to identify the birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish and invertebrates commonly encountered in this country, its combination of authoritative yet clear and precise textual descriptions and stunning photographs proved an instant winner. Now, more than 10 years on, this classic field guide has been updated and extended to make it even more useful to travellers with an interest in natural history and ecology. Retaining its useful glovebox-friendly format, the significantly expanded text will also include the latest research findings and changes in classification and nomenclature that have occurred in the past 10 years, along with new photographs where appropriate. Including both native and introduced species, each entry succinctly describes both habits and habitats, distribution, classification, breeding patterns, food and recognition tips to assist amateur identification. A wonderful addition to any natural history collection”. (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThe joy of X : a guided tour of math, from one to infinity / Steven Strogatz.
“In 2010, award-winning professor Steven wrote a series for the New York Times online called “The Elements of Math.” It was hugely popular: Each piece climbed the most emailed list and elicited hundreds of comments. Readers begged for more, and has now delivered. In this fun, fast-paced book, he offers us all a second chance at math. Each short chapter of The Joy of X provides an “Aha!” moment, starting with why numbers are helpful, and moving on to such topics as shapes, calculus, fat tails, and infinity. explains the ideas of math gently and clearly, with wit, insight, and brilliant illustrations. Assuming no knowledge, only curiosity, he shows how math connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture and current events. For example, did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? is the math teacher you wish you’d had, and The Joy of X is the book you’ll want to give to all your smart and curious friends. “– Provided by publisher.

Syndetics book coverEvolving : the human effect and why it matters / Daniel J. Fairbanks.
“This is a compelling exploration of how our understanding of evolution is key to the future of our planet. When Charles Darwin started writing his work On “Origin of Species”, he could hardly have envisioned how much we would discover about the origin of life over the next 150 years. Today’s evidence points to an inescapable and simple conclusion – we evolved and we are still evolving. This persuasive and elegant book, argues that understanding evolution has never mattered more in human history. It explains in detail how health, food production, and human impact on the environment are dependent on our knowledge of evolution.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThe stardust revolution : the new story of our origin in the stars / Jacob Berkowitz.
“Three great scientific revolutions have shaped our understanding of the cosmos and our relationship to it. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed the Copernican Revolution, which bodychecked the Earth as the pivot point of creation and joined us with the rest of the cosmos as one planet among many orbiting the Sun. Three centuries later came the second great scientific revolution: the Darwinian Revolution. It removed us from a distinct, divine biological status to place us wholly in the ebb and flow of all terrestrial life. Now, science author Jacob Berkowitz describes how we’re in the midst of a third great scientific revolution, five centuries in the making: the Stardust Revolution. It is the merging of the once-disparate realms of astronomy and evolutionary biology, and of the Copernican and Darwinian Revolutions, placing life in a cosmic context. The Stardust Revolution takes readers on a grand journey that begins on the summit of California’s Mount Wilson, where astronomers first realized that the universe is both expanding and evolving, to a radio telescope used to identify how organic molecules{u2014}the building blocks of life{u2014}are made by stars. It’s an epic story told through a scientific cast that includes some of the twentieth century’s greatest minds{u2014}including Nobel laureate Charles Townes, who discovered cosmic water{u2014}as well as the most ambitious scientific explorers of the twenty-first century, those racing to find another living planet. Today, an entirely new breed of scientists{u2014}astrobiologists and astrochemists{u2014}are taking the study of life into the space age. Astrobiologists study the origins, evolution, and distribution of life, not just on Earth, but in the universe. Stardust science is filling in the missing links in our evolutionary story, ones that extend our family tree back to the stars.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe whispering land / Gerald Durrell ; with illustrations by Ralph Thompson.
“Gerald Durrell and his wife are the proud owners of a small zoo on the island of Jersey. But there’s one thing that’s better than a small zoo – a bigger one! So Durrell heads off to South America to collect more animals. Along windswept Patagonian shores and in Argentine tropical forests, he encounters a range of animals from penguins to elephant seals. But as always, he is drawn to those rare and interesting creatures which he hopes will thrive and breed in captivity . . .
Told with enthusiasm and without sentimentality, Gerald Durrell’s The Whispering Land is an often hilarious but always inspiring foray into the South American wilds”. (Amazon.co.uk)

Recent Science Books

A few more books that have sidled their way across my desk.

Syndetics book coverThe ultimate book of Saturday science : the very best backyard science experiments you can do yourself / Neil A. Downie.
“The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science is Neil Downie’s biggest and most astounding compendium yet of science experiments you can do in your own kitchen or backyard using common household items. It may be the only book that encourages hands-on science learning through the use of high-velocity, air-driven carrots.Downie, the undisputed maestro of Saturday science, here reveals important principles in physics, engineering, and chemistry through such marvels as the Helevator–a contraption that’s half helicopter, half elevator–and the Rocket Railroad, which pumps propellant up from its own track. The Riddle of the Sands demonstrates why some granular materials form steep cones when poured while others collapse in an avalanche. The Sunbeam Exploder creates a combustible delivery system out of sunlight, while the Red Hot Memory experiment shows you how to store data as heat. Want to learn to tell time using a knife and some butter? There’s a whole section devoted to exotic clocks and oscillators that teaches you how.The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science features more than seventy fun and astonishing experiments that range in difficulty from simple to more challenging. All of them are original, and all are guaranteed to work. Downie provides instructions for each one and explains the underlying science, and also presents experimental variations that readers will want to try”–Provided by publisher.

Syndetics book coverThe day the world discovered the sun : an extraordinary story of scientific adventure and the race to track the transit of Venus / Mark Anderson.
“In 1769, in one of the earliest examples of “team science,” expeditions were organized to collect observational data of the transit of Venus-which occurs when the planet’s orbit crosses between the Sun and Earth-from several points on the globe. Spurred by the data from Venus’s 1761 transit, the natural philosophers of the day knew that the 1769 transit measurements were key to calculating with greater accuracy the distance between Earth and the Sun as well as to better determining longitude for ship navigation. Anderson (“Shakespeare” by Another Name) tells the stories of three research voyages: James Cook’s to Tahiti on the British Endeavour, French astronomer Jean-Baptiste Chappe d’Auteroche’s on La Concepcion to the Gulf of California, and the Hungarian Jesuit scientist Maximilian Hell’s to the Arctic Circle on the Urania. Their experiences are woven into an adventure tale informed by diary entries of the time. Astronomers today are preparing for a June 6, 2012, transit, which like the 18th-century transit is the second within a decade; the last was in 2004 and the next will be in 2117. VERDICT Recommended for casual students of history and astronomy.-Sara Rutter, Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverGravity’s engines : how bubble-blowing black holes rule galaxies, stars, and life in the cosmos / Caleb Scharf.
“We’ve long understood black holes to be the points at which the universe as we know it comes to an end. Often billions of times more massive than the Sun, they lurk in the inner sanctum of almost every galaxy of stars in the universe. They’re mysterious chasms so destructive and unforgiving that not even light can escape their deadly wrath. Recent research, however, has led to a cascade of new discoveries that have revealed an entirely different side to black holes. As the astrophysicist Caleb Scharf reveals in Gravity’s Engines, these chasms in space-time don’t just vacuum up everything that comes near them; they also spit out huge beams and clouds of matter. Black holes blow bubbles. With clarity and keen intellect, Scharf masterfully explains how these bubbles profoundly rearrange the cosmos around them. Engaging with our deepest questions about the universe, he takes us on an intimate journey through the endlessly colorful place we call our galaxy and reminds us that the Milky Way sits in a special place in the cosmic zoo–a “sweet spot” of properties. Is it coincidental that we find ourselves here at this place and time? Could there be a deeper connection between the nature of black holes and their role in the universe and the phenomenon of life? We are, after all, made of the stuff of stars”–Provided by publisher.

Syndetics book coverFor the love of physics : from the end of the rainbow to the edge of time– a journey through the wonders of physics / Walter Lewin with Warren Goldstein.
“This largely autobiographical account reveals the author to be one who fell in love first with physics and then with teaching physics to students.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIt’s not rocket science / Ben Miller.
Black holes. Global warming. The Hadron Collider. Ever had that sinking feeling that you really should know about these things, but somehow never quite grasped them? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Before Ben Miller was a comedian, he used to be a physicist, working towards a PhD in Novel Quantum Effects in Quasi-Zero-Dimensional Electron Systems. But then he woke up twenty years later and realised he didn’t know any of this stuff either. And so he set out on a mission. He worked out the ten most vital things in science – the things you really need to know. He talked to experts, he visited research labs, he went to see the Hadron Collider in action… And then he wrote this book.

Syndetics book coverThe complete world of human evolution / Chris Stringer, Peter Andrews.
“Although the title of this book suggests that it is about human evolution, it is really a bit of a misnomer. In fact, Stringer and Andrews (both, Natural History Museum, London, UK) present a nice introductory discussion that encompasses the much broader picture of primate evolution in general–surveying some 30 million years of primate evolution and 5 million years of human evolution in the process. In this regard, the authors emphasize the progressive changes that have occurred in the anatomical, behavioral, and cultural development of modern humans, as well as in the evolutionary relatedness of humans and our nearest living relatives, the great apes. This new edition (1st ed., CH, Sep’05, 43-0409) presents the most up-to-date views on humanity’s ancestral lineage. In addition, the book briefly considers the many long-standing controversies that remain sources of contentious debate among today’s paleoanthropologists. The well-written book is largely accessible to general interest readers. The authors discuss select topics in short, two-to-four-page chapters; hence, only the most basic information is provided. The volume is nicely illustrated with a good selection of black-and-white and full-color photographs and drawings. Overall, a useful supplementary resource for undergraduate students taking introductory courses in anthropology and/or evolution. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and general readers. D. A. Brass independent scholarCopyright American Library Association, used with permission.” (CHOICE)

New Science Books

This is just a small selection of some of the new science material that has crossed my desk recently. Enjoy!!

Syndetics book coverScience set free : 10 paths to new discovery / Rupert Sheldrake.
“In Science Set Free, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative scientists, shows the ways in which science is being constricted by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas that are not only limiting, but also dangerous for the future of humanity” — Front jacket flap.

Syndetics book coverAbout time : from sun dials to quantum clocks, how the cosmos shapes our lives, and we shape the cosmos / Adam Frank.
From a Palaeolithic farmer living by the sun and stone plinths to the factory worker logging into an industrial punch clock to the modern manager enslaved to Outlook’s 15-minute increments, our relationship with time has constantly evolved alongside our scientific understanding of the universe. And the latest advances in physics string-theory branes, multiverses, “clockless” physics are positioned to completely rewrite time in the coming years. Weaving cosmology with day-to-day chronicles and a lively wit, astrophysicist Adam Frank tells the dazzling story of humanity’s invention of time and how we will experience it in the future.
(Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverHow to live forever : and 34 other really interesting uses of science / by Alok Jha.
How to Live Forever is the essential survival guide for anyone who has ever been baffled by science. In a series of intriguing, entertaining and often extraordinary scenarios Alok Jha brings to life 35 key science ideas in a way that anyone can understand. From the microscopic to the cosmic, this book takes you on a glorious tour of the known universe and beyond, taking in cloned sheep, alien worlds, bizarre life forms, quantum weirdness, parallel dimensions and dissected brains along the way. You’ll discover how to travel through time, how to start (and cure) a plague, how the mind works, how to turn sunbeams into oak trees, how to boil a planet, how to turn invisible and much, much more. Both informative and enjoyable, this is a rip-roaring introduction to the wonders of modern science. (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThe rocks don’t lie : a geologist investigates Noah’s flood / David R. Montgomery.
“Many theologians and scientists within the Christian tradition have long interpreted the biblical story of Noah’s flood as a worldwide event and a foundation for determining the geological age of the earth. In this rich, animated narrative, geologist Montgomery points out that theologians have often bent an amazing array of geological evidence to support a literal interpretation of Noah’s flood. But what does the Earth itself tell us? Using the evidence he finds in the various strata of rocks in a roadbed in Kentucky, Montgomery contends that the “440 million-year-old, trilobite-bearing limestone” is clearly not a chaotic, mixed-up product of an earth-churning flood. The rocks formed when an ancient “proto-Atlantic Ocean” led to the formation of a thick pile of sediment that gradually accumulated layer by later-stretching from Newfoundland to Alabama. Moreover, plate tectonics shatters the myth of a global flood by explaining the sequences, ages, and assemblages of rocks we find throughout the world, as well as the global distribution of topography. Brilliant and provocative, Montgomery’s exploration of scientific and theological understandings of Noah’s flood vibrantly opens our eyes to the marvels of ancient rocks that are far grander than ourselves. 20 illus., maps. Agent: Elizabeth Wales, Wales Literary Agency. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverRocks and minerals / Ronald Louis Bonewitz.
The new DK Nature Guides form a comprehensive, accessible, and informative series of illustrated reference books that tackle key natural history subjects in DK’s uniquely visual style. Produced in collaboration with expert consultants at the Smithsonian Institution, each guide is expertly written and will give you knowledge of the natural world at your fingertips. (Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverGlobal weirdness : severe storms, deadly heat waves, relentless drought, rising seas, and the weather of the future / [produced by] Climate Central.“We hear so much about climate change, but do we really know all the facts? Climate Central, Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan science and journalism organization founded in 2008, is here to help. Instead of long, discursive explanations, the book offers 50 entries that aim to be accessible. Is climate ever normal? What has caused climate change in the past? Find out here; looks to be a great resource for high school papers, too. In clear, accessible prose, a fascinating new book that explains climate change–its implications for the future and what we can and cannot do to avoid further change–to the layperson produced by a highly regarded independent, non-profit journalism and research organization.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe God problem : how a godless cosmos creates / Howard Bloom.
“How does the cosmos do something it has long been thought that only gods could achieve? How does an inanimate universe generate stunning new forms and unbelievable new powers without a Creator? How does the cosmos create?” (Annotation, Library Catalogue)

A smorgasbord of new science books

This month we have a smorgasbord of Biology, Geology and Physics books on offer. Everything from Spider silk to Elephants!!

Syndetics book coverThe elegant universe : superstrings, hidden dimensions, and the quest for the ultimate theory / Brian Greene.
“Greene, one of the world’s leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery to reveal a universe of 11 dimensions where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, in this “New York Times” bestseller that features a new Preface and Epilogue.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpider silk : evolution and 400 million years of spinning, waiting, snagging, and mating / Leslie Brunetta, Catherine L. Craig.
“This well-received book is the wonderfully entertaining product of a collaboration between Brunetta, a freelance journalist and former Fulbright scholar, and Craig, a respected evolutionary biologist and author of Spiderwebs and Silk (2003). As the book delves into the evolution, properties, and multiple uses of spider silk, it takes the reader on brief forays into Greek mythology, paleontology, the foundations of Darwinian theory, Mendelian genetics, the Watson-Crick model of DNA structure, and protein chemistry. Modern spiders produce six or more different silks, and the changes in the structure of these fibrous proteins allow them to function as glues, water-repellent packaging, rappelling ropes, snares, and trip lines. The scattering of light by protein droplets in the silk even helps to obscure spider webs from flying insects, thus aiding their capture. The authors offer a fascinating look into how modifications of the strength, stickiness, and appearance of the silk used to make trip lines or webs allow spiders to extend their senses and physical reach. Silken webs can provide a spider with a home, a fortress, and a snare, whereas lines allow it to balloon on air currents for hundreds of kilometers.” – (adapted from CHOICE summary)

Syndetics book coverThe elephant’s secret sense : the hidden life of the wild herds of Africa / Caitlin O’Connell.The Elephant’s Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa
“While observing a family of elephants in the wild, Caitlin O’Connell noticed a peculiar listening behavior in which the matriarch lifted her foot and scanned the horizon, causing the other elephants to follow suit, as if they could “hear” the ground. The Elephant’s Secret Sense is O’Connell’s account of her pathbreaking research into seismic listening and communication, chronicling the extraordinary social lives of elephants over the course of fourteen years in the Namibian wilderness.This odyssey of scientific discovery is also a frank account of fieldwork in a poverty-stricken, war-ravaged country. In her attempts to study an elephant community, O’Connell encounters corrupt bureaucrats, deadly lions, poachers, farmers fighting for arable land, and profoundly ineffective approaches to wildlife conservation. The Elephant’s Secret Sense is ultimately a story of intellectual courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKeeper of the nuclear conscience : the life and work of Joseph Rotblat / Andrew Brown.
“Physicist Joseph Rotblat was a Polish Jew who emigrated to England in early 1939 to work in Chadwick’s cyclotron laboratory. He left behind his family and wife with the intention of returning at the conclusion of his internship. Weeks prior to his departure, Curie reported her discovery of nuclear fission and, just after he left, the Nazis invaded Poland. While in Liverpool, Rotblat recognized the military implications of nuclear fission. He was one of the first people to do so and began quietly but reluctantly informing certain people of this realization. Subsequently he worked on the Manhattan Project, where he contributed to the development of nuclear data that were key to designing an atomic bomb. Rotblat’s moral concerns about nuclear weapons caused him to leave Los Alamos before the first nuclear test and return to England, where he began a lifelong effort to control the spread of nuclear weapons. He was an organizer of the Pugwash conferences and an activist for nuclear disarmament. In this well-written biography, Brown (Harvard; The Neutron and the Bomb, CH, Apr’98, 35-4552) does justice to the legacy of Rotblat, whose concern about the implications of a world full of nuclear-armed countries evolved into a personal crusade.” – (adapted from CHOICE summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy geology matters : decoding the past, anticipating the future / Doug Macdougall.
“Writing for the popular reader, Macdougall (emeritus, earth sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, U. of California, San Diego) offers a clear description of geology and its study. The volume is filled with fascinating accounts of early scientists and their discoveries, described in connection with specific cases and questions of interest to us all, including what happens when an asteroid hits the Earth, how the geologist Brian Atwater recognized the history of massive earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, what we know about ice ages, and what brought on the catastrophic warming of the Paleocene. Filled with recent examples of geologic events, and written in an accessible personal style, the book provides an excellent overview of one of the most relevant of all the sciences.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGravity : how the weakest force in the universe shaped our lives / Brian Clegg.Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives
“Clegg (How To Build a Time Machine: The Real Science of Time Travel) acquaints readers with a very familiar force in their lives: gravity. To most people, gravity seems awfully powerful since it keeps them (and everything else) attached to Earth. As Clegg explains, however, gravity is, in fact, one of the weakest forces of nature, as he indicates in his subtitle. He takes readers on a delightful conversational tour of how gravity works and how humanity came to understand it. He brings to life household names like Newton and Einstein and the scientific circles in which they worked and lived. Explanations of giant stars and atomic nuclei demonstrate aspects of gravity most people don’t think about, which makes this book all the more fascinating. VERDICT Lovers of science who are not well versed in its mechanics will find this book absorbing.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverPlanet dinosaur : the next generation of giant killers / Cavan Scott ; palaeontology specialist Darren Naish.
“The companion book to the upcoming Discovery Channel television series, Planet Dinosaur is an introduction to the latest and most exciting dinosaur discoveries. The last decade has been particularly fruitful in the study of dinosaurs, with more new species found than were discovered in the preceding 200 years. Many of these discoveries easily eclipse previously known species and are rewriting what we know about dinosaurs. Planet Dinosaur is a global survey of the 30 most thrilling dinosaur species found in recent years. It provides a new global perspective on dinosaurs, revealing which species lived at the same time on different continents and how the Earth looked in each time period. Specimens in China, the Sahara, the Arctic, Antarctica and North America are especially exciting. The deadly predator, Giganotosaurus, outsized T-Rex. Dracorex hogwartsia lived in North America 70 million years ago and resembled a real-life dragon.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last lost world : ice ages, human origins, and the invention of the Pleistocene / Lydia V. Pyne and Stephen J. Pyne.
“Daughter-and-father historians of science pretty fully justify their profession in this brilliant explanation of the most recent geological epoch, which, depending on how current debate within the paleontological community over such things as whether the Pleistocene-defining cycle of ice formation and melting is really over, and whether H. sapiens continues to evolve naturally is resolved, may or may not have concluded with the rise of civilization and the proposed Holocene epoch. Their exposition is highly dialectical, for while the Pleistocene is a scientific concept collocating hard facts and materialist theories, it is fundamentally a cultural creation, a thing of the mind shaped by scientifically untestable assumptions about the importance of humanity in the story of Earth’s development. Indeed, the Pynes point out, discussion of and contention over the Pleistocene seem to swirl around whether it is presented as a chronicle a record of things or as a narrative of related and directional events. So-called hard science, rejecting mind, rather favors the chronicle; history, embracing mind, the narrative. For science mavens of a philosophical bent, this may be the book of the year, a font of knowledge and, what’s more and better, intellectual exercise.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

New on the science shelves

Make sense of the world with the ideas and views contained within these new science picks. The impact of shrimp farming, lessons we can learn from rats, the shapes and patterns of nature, and more …

Syndetics book coverLet them eat shrimp : the tragic disappearance of the rainforests of the sea / Kennedy Warne.
“When a book’s preface is a fictional account of a crab harvester shot to death by rifle-toting guards of a shrimp farm, readers can only guess that they are not going to find stupefying statistics in the pages that follow. Journalist Warne (founding editor, New Zealand Geographic) has produced a personal account of the results of converting mangrove forests into shrimp farms around the world. Telling the stories of people displaced by intensive shrimp farms in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas, Warne provides evocative tales of economic disparities and disruption of local tradition, but little on the benefits of intensive investment in mangrove forest management. The bibliography lists only 18 references, although it also includes 8 websites that give entry points to a more extensive literature. While inspiring to those interested in participatory journalism, science writing, and the human side of economic development, this book should not be considered a reference work for advanced scientific study or economic analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of intensive shrimp farming. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers and undergraduate students. G. C. Stevens formerly, University of New MexicoCopyright American Library Association, used with permission.” – (adapted from CHOICE summary)

Syndetics book coverWar of the worldviews : science vs. spirituality / Deepak Chopra, Leonard Mlodinow.
“Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Hawking have had a major impact on the loud and popular debate between ‘aggressive atheists’ and religion. The huge sales of their bestselling books show just how much interest people have in their ideas. Now ‘the rock star of the new spirituality’, Deepak Chopra, is entering this debate, sparring with leading physicist, Professor Leonard Mlodinow (the co-author, with Stephen Hawking, of “The Grand Design”). In “War of the Worldviews”, Chopra argues that there is design in our universe and a deep intelligence behind life. Without defending organised religion, he debunks randomness as an explanation for how Nature evolves and shows how consciousness comes first and matter second. On the other side, Mlodinow argues the viewpoint of science, specifically what modern quantum physics can tell us about our world. In his view, physics, genetics and cosmology will shed far more light on the big questions than rethinking ancient spiritual concepts can ever do. A major work of our time, “War of the Worldviews” will not only offer more food for thought for those fascinated by the two sides of this modern conundrum – it will also place Deepak Chopra firmly in the ring of some of the most remarkable, and bestselling, thinkers of our era.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lab rat chronicles : a neuroscientist reveals life lessons from the planet’s most successful mammals / Kelly Lambert.
“What can the common laboratory rat tell us about being human? According to behavioral neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, a whole lot. Her twenty-five-year career conducting experiments that involve rats has led her to a surprising conclusion: Through their adaptive strategies and good habits, these unassuming little animals can teach us some essential lessons about how we, as humans, can lead successful lives. From emotional resilience and a strong work ethic to effective parenting and staying healthy, the lab rat is an unlikely but powerful role model for us all. Book jacket.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNonsense on stilts : how to tell science from bunk / Massimo Pigliucci.
“Nonsense on Stilts is a very interesting, useful compendium of thinking about and within science. Science has become more and more a part of daily life, and Pigliucci (philosophy, CUNY; Making Sense of Evolution, coauthor with C. Kaplan, 2006; Denying Evolution, CH, Jan’03, 40-2755) points out the need to differentiate between “good” science and pseudoscience and all shades in between (e.g., “almost” science). Topics discussed cover the nature and limits of science, the psychology of belief, philosophy of science, tools of critical thinking, differentiation between “hard” and “soft” science, historical science, randomness, and causation. Specific examples include AIDS denial, astrology, ESP/paranormal, (pseudo)journalism, climate change, evolution versus creationism, and expertise. The author also describes the evolution of scientific thinking. Although Fuller does not propose a litmus test for scientific boundaries, he advocates the use of a “baloney detector.” Naturalism, theory, and empiricism/testability are key criteria for scientific findings. Valuable as a reference for courses in science, philosophy, political science, and journalism, as well as a handbook for the public. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. R. E. Buntrock formerly, University of MaineCopyright American Library Association, used with permission.” – (adapted from CHOICE summary)

Syndetics book coverThe watchman’s rattle : thinking our way out of extinction / Rebecca Costa.
“Explains why the human brain has such difficulty dealing with complex global problems, and provides a method for surmounting these limitations in order to end the blights of worldwide recession, global warming, fast-spreading viruses, famine and poverty.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShapes : nature’s patterns : a tapestry in three parts / Philip Ball.
“Nature is a self-made tapestry, weaving its patterns in space and time. Patterns make themselves from the interplay of physical and chemical forces on materials living and non-living. The result is an ever-changing, kaleidoscopic array of forms. In this, the first of three books exploring nature’s patterns, Philip Ball describes patterns of shape and makes us look at the world with fresh eyes, seeing order and form in everything from crystals and chemical reactions, to butterfly wings, leopard skins, and even entire ecosystems. Ball’s exploration of shapes ranges over all the sciences and links with art and design, taking in the exquisite architecture of coccoliths alongside the stability of bubble rafts.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent Science books – Maths, Physics, and the end of it all

If you like the Big Bang Theory, and you are in to Maths and Physics – or are just curious – we have the books for you!

Syndetics book coverThe music of the primes : why an unsolved problem in mathematics matters / Marcus du Sautoy.
“The paperback of the critically-acclaimed popular science book by a writer who is fast becoming a celebrity mathematician. Prime numbers are the very atoms of arithmetic. They also embody one of the most tantalising enigmas in the pursuit of human knowledge. How can one predict when the next prime number will occur? Is there a formula which could generate primes? These apparently simple questions have confounded mathematicians ever since the Ancient Greeks. In 1859, the brilliant German mathematician Bernard Riemann put forward an idea which finally seemed to reveal a magical harmony at work in the numerical landscape. The promise that these eternal, unchanging numbers would finally reveal their secret thrilled mathematicians around the world. Yet Riemann, a hypochondriac and a troubled perfectionist, never publicly provided a proof for his hypothesis and his housekeeper burnt all his personal papers on his death. Whoever cracks Riemann’s hypothesis will go down in history, for it has implications far beyond mathematics. In business, it is the lynchpin for security and e-commerce. In science, it has critical ramifications in Quantum Mechanics, Chaos Theory, and the future of computing. Pioneers in each of these fields are racing to crack the code and a prize of $1 million has been offered to the winner. As yet, it remains unsolved. In this breathtaking book, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy tells the story of the eccentric and brilliant men who have struggled to solve one of the biggest mysteries in science. It is a story of strange journeys, last-minute escapes from death and the unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Above all, it is a moving and awe-inspiring evocation of the mathematician’s world and the beauties and mysteries it contains.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

Syndetics book coverThe calculus diaries : how math can help you lose weight, win in Vegas, and survive a zombie apocalypse / Jennifer Ouellette ; [illustrations by Jason Torchinsky].
“Jennifer Ouellette never took math in college, mostly because she-like most people-assumed that she wouldn’t need it in real life. But then the English-major-turned-award-winning-science-writer had a change of heart and decided to revisit the equations and formulas that had haunted her for years. The Calculus Diaries is the fun and fascinating account of her year spent confronting her math phobia head on. With wit and verve, Ouellette shows how she learned to apply calculus to everything from gas mileage to dieting, from the rides at Disneyland to shooting craps in Vegas-proving that even the mathematically challenged can learn the fundamentals of the universal language.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

Syndetics book coverQuantum theory cannot hurt you : a guide to the universe / Marcus Chown.
“Anyone bemused by the CERN collider should lay their hands on this charming and revelatory guide to the innards of atoms. Chown gently coaxes the reader from the fairly straightforward – the first evidence of atoms was an observation in 1800 of pollen grains zigzagging in water “like drunkards returning from the pub” – to the mind-boggling. Quantum computers (already in prototype) can “represent a zero and a one simultaneously”, a phenomenon best explained by the existence of “multiple universes”. Time travel is also possible in theory, but Stephen Hawking has doubts: “Where are the tourists from the future?” – (adapted from The Independent summary)

Syndetics book coverIn pursuit of the unknown : 17 equations that changed the world / Ian Stewart.
“In this new work, Stewart (mathematics, emeritus, Univ. of Warwick, UK; The Mathematics of Life) reviews 17 equations from the Pythagorean theorem of ancient times to the Black-Scholes formula of the late 20th century, including Newton’s law of gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity in between. He explains the origins of each equation and its initial uses and then goes on to describe ensuing development and newer applications. Stewart’s expertise and his well-developed style (enhanced by a nice sense of humor) make for enjoyable reading. Although readers with an already established background in mathematics and its functions will benefit the most, others will find much to enjoy. In some of the chapters, Stewart’s treatment of historical origins seems a bit perfunctory. VERDICT Overall, a worthwhile and entertaining book, accessible to all readers. Recommended for anyone interested in the influence of mathematics on the development of science and on the emergence of our current technology-driven society.-Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to teach relativity to your dog / Chad Orzel.
“Orzel (physics & astronomy, Union Coll.; How To Teach Physics to Your Dog) tackles the seemingly impossible world of relativity. Playing Gracie Allen to Orzel’s George Burns is the endearing Emmy, the canine star of his previous book. No matter whether Emmy thinks she will be younger by pulling fast on her leash or that she will suddenly fit through a hole in the fence by running as fast as she can toward it, Orzel talks her (and readers) through the principles of relativity, including time dilation and length contraction. No prior mathematical knowledge is required for this book, but some basic knowledge in physics might make readers more comfortable, even if that knowledge comes from watching or reading other popular science titles. Verdict Readers who enjoy Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, or Neil deGrasse Tyson will love this book. Full of sf quotes, math jokes, and silly canines, the book strives to make its audience amazed by, not frightened of, physics. With exuberant Emmy at the lead, readers can’t help but be dragged (willingly!) toward a better understanding of special and general relativity.-Rachel M. Minkin, Michigan State Univ. Libs., East Lansing (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

Syndetics book coverTweeting the universe : tiny explanations of very big ideas / Marcus Chown & Govert Schilling.
“In 140 pages, two masterly popularisers present 140 explanations of the biggest questions in physics – in the form of 10 or so tweets per page. They set themselves the challenge of boiling down what is essential on each subject into sentences of 140 characters, and the results are both entertaining and brilliantly informative. Not a word is wasted. The reader is not patronized and learns something on every page. If only all science writing could be so precise and so economical. Only science writers of a very high calibre could achieve such compression. Marcus Chown – “the finest cosmology writer of our day” (Matt Ridley) – has known the Dutch writer Govert Schilling for twenty years. Schilling pioneered this very swift form of explanation in a Dutch newspaper, and suggested to Chown that they collaborate on bringing it to a wider audience. “Tweeting the Universe” is unlike any other science book.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

Syndetics book coverFirst contact : scientific breakthroughs in the hunt for life beyond Earth / Marc Kaufman.First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth
“Kaufman details the incredible true story of science’s search for the beginnings of life on Earth and the probability that it exists elsewhere in the universe.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow it ends : from you to the universe / Chris Impey.
“Although we may try to keep it tucked at the back of our minds, most of us are aware of our own mortality. But few among us know what science, with insights yielded from groundbreaking new research, has to say about endings on a larger scale. What happens when we die? And how will our species and biosphere; the Earth, Sun, and Milky Way; and finally our entire universe meet their eventual ends?How It Ends takes us to the frontiers of science in order to answer these ever-intriguing questions. Along the way, astronomer Chris Impey covers such fascinating topics as the technologies that are being developed to lengthen human lives and the “big rip” that scientists speculate will annihilate our universe. With a healthy dose of humor and an irresistible sense of curiosity, How It Ends opens our eyes to the surprising future of our world. Book jacket.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent Science books – Earth and Beyond

This month saw the last occurence of the Transit of Venus for 105 years, and due to inclement weather, we missed it. However, we do have a companion book to the transit, along with other books on our planet and Solar system to help pass a rainy day.

Syndetics book coverTransit of Venus : 1631 to the present / Nick Lomb.
“The transit of Venus across the sun in June 2012 will be the last chance in our lifetime to see this rare planetary alignment that has been so important in history. Rich in historical detail and cutting edge science, along with practical information on how and when to view the transit, Transit of Venus is the must-have companion to this extraordinary astronomical event. From Johannes Kepler’s first prediction of a transit of Venus in 1631, to Captain Cook’s 1769 transit expedition to Tahiti (which led to the European settlement of Australia), and on to our 21st-century quest to find distant Earth-like planets using the transit method, astronomer Nick Lomb takes us on a thrilling journey of exploration and adventure.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAtlas of the southern night sky / Steve Massey, Steve Quirk.
“The book contains over 100 star charts and maps; hundreds of images, new map charts to navigate the primary features of the Moon with a comprehensive table of lunar targets of the Solar System. There are also instructions on how to observe the Sun and the planets with information on telescopes, binoculars and other accessories for getting the most out of a night under the Southern stars.” – (adapted from Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverExtraordinary weather : wonders of the atmosphere from dust storms to lightning strikes / Richard Hamblyn.
“Discover the amazing world of freak weather with this incredible collection of images. Richard Hamblyn offers a selection of truly breathtaking weather phenomena, from the beautiful snow rollers that form on icy rooftops to awe-inspiring displays of volcanic lightning. Each stunning photograph is accompanied by commentary by the award-winning science writer, whose intelligent and informative explanations make the science behind these extraordinary events accessible and entertaining. Selected images are taken from a variety of angles to emphasize phenomena considered unbelievable until you have seen them with your own eyes.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)

Syndetics book coverGeology for dummies / by Alecia M. Spooner.
“Geology is the study of the earth′s history as well as the physical and chemical processes that continue to shape the earth today. Jobs in the geosciences are expected to increase over the next decade, which will increase geology–related jobs well above average projection for all occupations in the coming years. Geology For Dummies is the most accessible book on the market for anyone who needs to get a handle on the subject, whether you‘re looking to supplement classroom learning or are simply interested in earth sciences. Presented in a straightforward, trusted format, it features a thorough introduction to the study of the earth, its materials, and its processes.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)

Syndetics book coverMoon : a tribute to earth’s nearest neighbour / Scott L. Montgomery.
“A spectacular tribute to Earth’s nearest neighbour… The view of the heavens has fascinated humankind for as long as we have looked up with a sense of curiosity. And while the life-giving Sun dazzles, and the stars draw constellations in the sky, it is the ever-changing, enigmatic Moon that has captured our imagination. Through history, the Moon has been a deity to worship, a repository for fantastical creatures, a lucky charm, and a bringer of madness. Moon traces the story of how we came to understand and appreciate our neighbour’s true nature.” – (adapted from Google books summary)

Syndetics book coverThe solar system : a visual exploration of the planets, moons, and other heavenly bodies that orbit our sun / written by Marcus Chown.
“Bestselling author Marcus Chown leads us on a grand tour through the incredible diversity of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and spacecraft that surround the Sun in our cosmic backyard. Illuminating his insightful and surprising text are a wealth of beautiful images and diagrams, printed in full colour, richly detailed and accurately based on real scientific data.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHubble : imaging space and time / [David DeVorkin & Robert W. Smith].
“In the spirit of National Geographic’s top-selling Orbit, this large-format, full-color volume stands alone in revealing more than 200 of the most spectacular images from the Hubble Space Telescope during its lifetime, to the very eve of the 2008 final shuttle mission to the telescope. Written by two of the world’s foremost authorities on space history, Hubble: Imaging Space and Time illuminates the solar system’s workings, the expansion of the universe, the birth and death of stars, the formation of planetary nebulae, the dynamics of galaxies, and the mysterious force known as “dark energy.” The potential impact of this book cannot be overstressed: The 2008 servicing mission to install new high-powered scientific instruments is especially high profile because the cancellation of the previous mission, in 2004, caused widespread controversy. The authors reveal the inside story of Hubble’s beginnings, its controversial early days, the drama of its first servicing missions, and the creation of the dynamic images that reach into the deepest regions of visible space, close to the time when the universe began.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

New Science Books: how humans became humans, and science at the fringe

With this months recent picks, you can learn to build your own time machine, make your own clone, and throughly confuse yourself with physics!!

Syndetics book coverBuild your own time machine : the real science of time travel / Brian Clegg.
“In How to Build a Time Machine, Brian Clegg provides an understanding of what time is and how it can be manipulated. He explores the remarkable possibilities of real time travel that emerge from quantum entanglement, superluminal speeds, neutron star cylinders and wormholes in space. With the fascinating paradoxes of time travel echoing in our minds will we realize that travel into the future might never be possible? Or will we realize there is no limit on what can be achieved, and take on this ultimate challenge? Only time will tell.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverPhysics on the fringe : smoke rings, circlons, and alternative theories of everything / Margaret Wertheim.
“Australian science writer Wertheim has an unusual hobby that she freely admits most physicists would wince at. On her office shelves, Wertheim has amassed dozens of manuscripts from fringe engineers and mathematicians touting alternative theories of matter that sharply diverge from those endorsed by mainstream science. In this informative, often witty overview of outsider physicists, Wertheim offers an extended rumination on the role such amateur theorists play in science’s public acceptance. Readers are shown visions of a universe immersed in ether (an abandoned nineteenth-century concept), one that contracts rather than expands, and one that eliminates field theory but embraces a twisted version of quantum mechanics. The crown jewel in her menagerie of eccentric visionaries, however, is James Carter, a do-it-yourself mechanic whose theory of everything has been percolating for five decades. Insisting that physics should be comprehensible to the layman, Carter’s theory features a donut-shaped particle as matter’s fundamental building block. Yet far from belittling Carter, Wertheim uses his inspiring example as a potent reminder that today’s cranks may be deemed tomorrow’s geniuses.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverMasters of the planet : the search for our human origins / Ian Tattersall.
“Tattersall (The Fossil Trail), a noted expert on human evolution and an emeritus curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, offers a concise history of how humans became humans. He explains how the sparse skeletal remains of ancient human predecessors are studied, how the shape of a molar, the tip of a pelvis, the design of the knee or the ankle all offer clues to the genealogical maps of our past. He revisits the usual suspects: the famous three-million-year-old Lucy; the unprecedented (in 1984) hominid structure of the Turkana Boy; and the 400,000-year-old Heidelberg man. Tattersall moves through the complex fossil records effortlessly and with a welcome sense of wonder. He also consistently conveys a deep knowledge of his subject. His discussion of the origin of symbolic behavior and the many theories that seek to explain early humans’ unprecedented leap in capacity, including the acquisition of language, the development of art, and the ability to deal in the abstract, is provocative and illuminating. Tattersall’s combination of erudition and a conversational style make this is an excellent primer on human evolution.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverSimply Einstein : relativity demystified / Richard Wolfson.
“Einstein’s basic message is so simple that a single English sentence suffices to state it all, promises Wolfson (physics, Middlebury College). It is the implications that are disturbing and can become endlessly complicated. He does use numbers now and then when they can help illustrate an idea, but his approach is narrative.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverParadox : the nine greatest enigmas in science / Jim Al-Khalili.
“How can a cat be both dead and alive at the same time? Why will Achilles never beat a tortoise in a race, no matter how fast he runs? And how can a person be ten years older than their twin? Throughout history, scientists have been coming up with theories and ideas that just do not seem to make sense.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe handy physics answer book / Paul W. Zitzewitz.
“In a question-and-answer format, Zitzewitz (emeritus physics and science education, U. of Michigan-Dearborn) explains fundamentals about physics to general readers. Among the sections are motion and its causes, thermal physics, sound, electricity, what the world is made of, and unanswered questions. He has revised the first edition, which was written by P. Erik Gundersen. He has kept the structure and style, and some of the questions and answers, but has altered others and added new ones.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe velocity of honey and more science of everyday life / Jay Ingram.
“Why does the journey to a new location always take longer than the trip home? What is the science behind the theory of “six degrees of separation?” Why doesn’t honey flow out in all directions? In this delightful and amusing text, Jay Ingram explores the extraordinary science behind ordinary happenings. Ingram, host of the Discovery Channel Canada’s “Daily Planet” and best-selling author of “The Science of Everyday Life” has written an engrossing work which broadens our knowledge of the everyday world and deepens our appreciation for the mysteries of science. Addressing a diverse set of topics and reaching unorthodox conclusions, he explores the science behind proverbial expressions, delves into the uncharted territory of the connection between history and the contemporary scientific world, and highlights mysterious links between the worlds of art and science.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnnatural : the heretical idea of making people / Philip Ball.
“Can we make a human being? That question has been asked for many centuries, and has produced recipes ranging from the homunculus of the medieval alchemists and the clay golem of Jewish legend to Frankenstein’s monster and the mass-produced test-tube babies in “Brave New World”. All of these efforts to create artificial people are more or less fanciful, but they have taken deep root in Western culture. They all express fears about the allegedly treacherous, Faustian nature of technology, and they all question whether any artificially created person can be truly human. Legends of people-making are tainted by suspicions of impiety and hubris, and they are regarded as the ultimate ‘unnatural’ act – a moral judgement that has its origins in religious thought. In this fascinating and highly topical study, Philip Ball delves beneath the surface of the cultural history of ‘anthropoeia’ – the creation of artificial people – to explore what it tells us about our views on life, humanity, creativity and technology, and the soul. From the legendary inventor Daedalus to Goethe’s tragic Faust, from the automata-making magicians of E.T.A Hoffmann to Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein – the old tales and myths are alive and well, subtly manipulating the current debates about assisted conception, embryo research and human cloning, which have at last made the fantasy of ‘making people’ into some kind of reality.” (Amazon.com)


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