Energy Revolution: The Physics and the Promise of Efficient Technology. Mara Prentiss. 352 pages. Belknap/Harvard University Press.
Voyaging in Strange Seas: The Great Revolution in Science. David Knight. 334 pages. Yale University Press.
It’s Not About the Shark: How to Solve Unsolvable Problems. David Niven. 240 pages. St. Martin’s Press.
Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Stuff That Will Blow Your Mind. Don Lincoln. 240 pages. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked. Paul Raeburn. 257 pages. Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The Hidden Mechanics of Exercise: Molecules That Move Us. Christopher M. Gillen. 352 pages. Belknap/Harvard University Press.
Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Charles L. Adler. 378 pages. Princeton University Press.
Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration. Chris Impey and Holly Henry. 472 pages. Princeton University Press.
The Raptors of Iowa. Paintings by James F. Landenberger. Essays by Dean M. Roosa, Jon W. Stravers, Bruce Ehresman and Rich Patterson. 103 pages. University of Iowa Press.
Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain. Patricia Churchland. 304 pages. W. W. Norton.
A Very Short Tour of the Mind: 21 Short Walks Around the Human Brain. Michael Corballis. 106 pages. Overlook Press.
4 December 2014
Over the years, Princeton University Press has published some of the best natural histories and field guides available. For your consideration this holiday season: Conus of the Southeastern United States and Caribbean by Alan J. Kohn and Trees of Eastern North America and its companion that covers the West, both volumes by Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle and Richard Spellenberg, edited by Amy K. Hughes, with illustrations by David More. Listed for $80 (hardback) on Amazon last time we checked, Conus is for the serious naturalist
and a must for the hard-core beachcomber. Kohn, a foremost authority on cone snails, displays his scholarship on every page, with 2,100 mesmerizing color shell photographs of these fascinating gastropods. Conus is likely to remain in the home library or on a (sturdy) coffee table; readers will bring shells to it, not vice versa. The flexible-flapped tree guides sell for less than $30 and are made for the woods. These volumes are masterfully designed, and More’s exquisitely detailed renderings will ensure that weekend botanists never mistake their Hercules’ club for a common hoptree.
2 October 2014
Many a general reader’s mathematical journey ends on encountering the first formula. An Equation for Every Occasion: 52 Formulas and Why They Matter (Johns Hopkins) remedies that through storytelling, placing numerical and scientific concepts into familiar and fathomable context. Take This is the geometric progression at the heart of classical Ponzi schemes. Author John M. Henshaw’s straightforward explanation on why this equation matters is both cogent and, after a sympathetically brief introduction, equation-free: “Each new generation of investors has to be much larger than the one before in order to make the necessary payoffs, and eventually the whole thing collapses under its own weight.” In surveying the Drake equation, Amonton’s friction law, crowd-size estimating, surface tension and other topics as grand as gravity itself, Henshaw prevents math-exploration from collapsing under its own inaccessibility.