Reaching the Nearest Star, and Lighting Hogwarts Castle

Equations aside, a physicist presents an approachable and informal survey of science and technology according to contemporary science fiction and fantasy.

Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Charles L. Adler. 378 pages. Princeton University Press.

An Angle on Beauty

A mathematics historian and an artist team up for a show-and-tell about geometry, in a book that lives up to its name.

Beautiful Geometry. Eli Maor and Eugen Jost. 187 pages. Princeton University Press.

Other-Worldly Dreams

A selective and copiously documented tour through the science, engineering and history of unmanned space flight.

Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration. Chris Impey and Holly Henry. 472 pages. Princeton University Press.

Hope for Things with Feathers

One state’s efforts to save birds of prey provides case studies for conservationists everywhere, in a small but richly illustrated package.

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.

Cogito Ergo and Then Some

Though reluctant to declare mind-body dualism defunct, professional mind-watchers’ views have come a long way since Descartes’—sort of, two new books suggest.

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.

Where’s My Fusion Reactor?

Despite decades of research, the predicted date we’ll achieve unlimited and cheap fusion energy seems to recede even as we approach it. A new book explains, among other things, why that is.

A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy. Daniel Clery. 320 pages. Overlook Press.

Fungi, Then and Now

Two recent books approach the same ubiquitous organisms with passion but through wildly different lenses.

Fungal Biology in the Origin and Emergence of Life. David Moore. 236 pages. Cambridge University Press. (Paper.)

The Kingdom of Fungi. Jens H. Petersen. 272 pages. Princeton University Press.

 

Much Ado About Next to Nothing

An economist and a public affairs professor­ say that scarcity is more pervasive, troublesome and significant than previously thought.

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. 304 pages. Times Books.

For Scientists' Bookshelf reviews (1998-2012), search American Scientist.