Logo IMG

An Illness Observed: A Conversation with Julie Rehmeyer

Dianne Timblin

Mathematician and science writer Julie Rehmeyer talked with us about her memoir Through the Shadowlands, which recounts her experiences with myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Over the Edge

Brian Hayes

In Deepwater Horizon, engineers Earl Boebert and James M. Blossom reexamine one of the most horrifying technological disasters of recent memory: the blowout of an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that destroyed a drilling rig, killed 11 crew members, and led to the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history.

Explosive Truths

James G. Lewis

When Mount St. Helens exploded in May 1980, predicting volcanic eruptions was still a nascent science. As Steve Olson demonstrates in Eruption, the lack of clear scientific guidance and an absence of straightforward jurisdictional relationships fostered government inaction at all levels, with disastrous results.

Stats and Fiction

Katie L. Burke

Andy Field’s An Adventure in Statistics, provides solid statistical instruction, and it does so like no other textbook: Field has embedded his lessons in a novel-length science fiction story illustrated with graphic-novel artwork.

Soviet Blocks

Jesse Schell

The story behind the pioneering game Tetris is complex, spanning the worlds of technology, psychology, entertainment, politics, and business. Thirty years on, two books tell the tale: The Tetris Effect, by technology journalist Dan Ackerman, and Tetris, by Ignatz Award–winning cartoonist Box Brown. Each ushers readers along a distinct and enlightening path.

Deconstructing Disaster

Daniel P. Aldrich

Casual observers of catastrophe continue to distinguish between human-caused and natural disasters, but in either case consider them to be unforeseeable events. Two recent books—Love Canal, by Richard Newman, and The Cure for Catastrophe, by Robert Muir-Wood—might change some minds.

From Little Acorns

Peter H. Raven

Plants are essential to human life, which means their health and propagation are vital to us. Yet their seeds mostly escape our notice. Carolyn Fry aims to remedy this. Her book Seeds reveals the humble seed in all its fascinating, colorful detail.

Of Essays and Assays

Katie L. Burke

In The Science Writers’ Essay Handbook, Michelle Nijhuis explores the similarities between the writing process and the scientific process, offering a wealth of practical writing advice along the way.

Salem’s Savant

Daniel S. Silver

An Enlightenment mathematician and astronomer, Nathaniel Bowditch improved many areas of life in the early American republic and earned praise both at home and abroad. Yet today his work has largely been forgotten. In Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers, Tamara Plakins Thornton reminds readers why Bowditch was so influential and ponders his legacy.

Before the Selfie Stick

Dianne Timblin

Critic and theorist Peter Buse’s examination of the cultural history of Polaroid technology, The Camera Does the Rest, considers the societal forces at work as the company succeeded and failed, from the launch of its first camera in 1948 to its considerably paler existence today.

Shape-Shifting Cephalopods

Drew Harvell

For more than two decades, ecologist and evolutionary biologist Drew Harvell has curated Cornell University’s collection of 569 glass models of marine invertebrates, crafted in the 19th century by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. In 2011 she began exploring oceans and waterways to find each species represented in Cornell’s collection. In this excerpt from her book A Sea of Glass, Harvell describes her encounters with marvelously changeable cephalopods.

Colonial Vaxxers

Ryan Seals

Many, if not most, popular histories attempt to identify a particular set of antecedent causes and imbue them with an agency to explain later events—to find, in a way, the pivotal events leading up to the pivotal events. In The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics, Stephen Coss trains his focus on Boston during the years 1720 through 1722.

Poetry for the Apocalypse

Michael Leong

Bestselling poet Christian Bök has worked on this groundbreaking project for more than a decade, collaborating with scientists and studying the science himself from the ground up, in order to create what may be considered the first “living poetry.”


Dianne Timblin

There are almost 2,000 species of fireflies, and Tufts University biologist Sara Lewis’s fascination with the creatures is so captivating that readers may want to learn about them all.

An Arresting Alphabet

Peter Broglie

Agatha Christie knew her poisons. Written by a former research chemist, A is for Arsenic examines 14 of the toxic substances featured in Christie’s mysteries.

On the Origin of Origin Stories

Ryan Seals

Through the pages of A Brief History of Creation, Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II trace humanity’s obsession with the origin story of life on Earth as Westerners have told it, from the philosophy of Anaximander in the 6th century BCE to a 21st-century biology lab at Harvard Medical School.

No Rust for the Weary

Dianne Timblin

In Rust, journalist Jonathan Waldman follows a winding, oxidized path—to the Statue of Liberty, through Alaskan oil fields, into the Ball can-making factory, and well beyond—revealing how the work of corrosion engineers improves contemporary life, making it easier, more productive, and far safer.

Adventures of a Spacefaring Feline

Dianne Timblin

For Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure, author Dominic Walliman and illustrator Ben Newman bring an intrepid cosmic traveler back for a journey through physics' many realms.

Behind the Scenes, Between the Lines

Carolyn Beans

Geobiologist Hope Jahren’s memoir, Lab Girl, takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of science as she recounts the triumphs and misadventures of setting up three labs and conducting research in the Canadian Arctic, Ireland, Hawaii, and across the continental United States.

Science Books in Six

American Scientist’s readers, writers, and editors share the science books that struck their fancy in 2015—summed up in just six words!

Cypherpunks Write Code

Jamie Bartlett

What happens in this virtual world—the Dark Net—and why?

O Pioneer

Laura Dassow Walls

An inveterate explorer with an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, Alexander von Humboldt observed flora, fauna, climatic variation, and geology in close detail from continent to continent and described his findings in some of the bestselling volumes of his age.

Pavlov's Perestroika

Harold Green

A brief review of Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science, by Daniel P. Todes

Darkness Invisible

Corey S. Powell

A brief review of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe, by Lisa Randall

Queen Jolly

Asia Murphy

A review essay on Thank You, Madagascar: The Conservation Diaries of Alison Jolly, by Alison Jolly

Names, Simplified

Henry Reich

A brief review of Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe

Parsley, Sage, Thermocouple, and Thyme

Eric Schulze

A brief review of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt

An Ethical Evolution

Jacob Darwin Hamblin

A brief review of Scientists at War: The Ethics of Cold War Weapons Research, by Sarah Bridger

Enter the Dragons

Fenella Saunders

A brief review of Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land, by Pieter van Dokkum

One Singular Sensation

Katie L. Burke

A brief review of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind, by David J. Linden

comments powered by Disqus

Connect With Us:


Sigma Xi/Amazon Smile (SciNight)

Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

RSS Feed Subscription

Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.

Read Past Issues on JSTOR

JSTOR, the online academic archive, contains complete back issues of American Scientist from 1913 (known then as the Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.

The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.

View the full collection here.

Subscribe to American Scientist