> SCIENTISTS' NIGHTSTAND
A review of Predicting the Unpredictable: The Tumultuous Science of Earthquake Prediction, by Susan Hough. As recently as the 1970s, it seemed feasible that scientists would soon be able to say precisely when and where earthquakes would strike and what their impact would be, but most geologists now believe that that goal is almost certainly unattainable
A review of Stephen Jay Gould: Reflections on His View of Life, edited by Warren D. Allmon, Patricia H. Kelley and Robert M. Ross. Because Stephen Jay Gould was ambivalent about or perhaps even hostile toward cladistics, population genetics and ecology, he was only partially connected to the mainstream of developing evolutionary thought, says Sterelny
A review of Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Bronson and Merryman point to scientific findings that challenge some common assumptions about young people and parenting
A review of Boyle: Between God and Science, by Michael Hunter. Hunter places Boyle’s scientific accomplishments in a context of lifelong piety and serious moral concerns, says Golinski
A review of Mapping the World: Stories of Geography, by Caroline and Martine Laffon
A review of Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities, by Frank Jacobs
A review of Seasick: Ocean Change and the Extinction of Life on Earth, by Alanna Mitchell. Mitchell sets out on a personal voyage of discovery, accompanying top ocean scientists on expeditions that reveal the toll various assaults are taking on the global ocean
A review of Not by Design: Retiring Darwin’s Watchmaker, by John O. Reiss. Reiss aims to reassert a thoroughgoing materialism and remove teleology from our vision of nature, says Dupré
A review of Birdscapes: Birds in Our Imagination and Experience, by Jeremy Mynott, and The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live, by Colin Tudge. Both of these books explore what birds mean to us and what we can learn from living with them
The Caltech physicist reviews his recent reading and favorite authors
A review of On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, by Brian Boyd. Art has profound survival consequences, argues Boyd; this is in part because it raises our confidence in shaping life on our own terms
A review of When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects, by Adriana Petryna, Exploitation and Developing Countries: The Ethics of Clinical Research, edited by Jennifer S. Hawkins and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, and Chasing Medical Miracles: The Promise and Perils of Clinical Trials, by Alex O’Meara. Can medical science advance without exploiting vulnerable populations?
A review of Ecological Developmental Biology: Integrating Epigenetics, Medicine, and Evolution, by Scott F. Gilbert and David Epel. In this fascinating and highly readable introduction to the new field known as eco-devo, Gilbert and Epel show that the environmentally contingent aspects of development have important implications
A review of The Princeton Companion to Mathematics, edited by Timothy Gowers and associate editors June Barrow-Green and Imre Leader. “If I had to choose just one book to give an interested reader some idea of the scope, goals and achievements of modern mathematics,” writes Graham, “without a doubt this would be the one”
A review of Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England, by Adam Kuper. Bourgeois families in 19th-century England often used endogamy to keep the money and property they had acquired in the family, says Kuper
A review of The New Foundations of Evolution: On the Tree of Life, by Jan Sapp. Sapp shows that microbes have always been problematic for evolutionary biologists and brings to life the debates over how to construct a tree of life based on molecular phylogenetics
A review of Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science, by Carol Kaesuk Yoon. Yoon argues that by turning the task of “naming nature” over to scientists, we have become disconnected from the living world; the remedy, she says, is for us to reconnect with the instinctive perspective on the order of nature that we were born with
A review of The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life While Corresponding about Math, by Steven Strogatz. A shared love of calculus keeps a teacher and student in touch for decades
A review of Living at Micro Scale: The Unexpected Physics of Being Small, by David B. Dusenbery. Dusenbery does a nice job of explaining the physical constraints under which microorganisms must accomplish such tasks as locomotion and feeding
A review of Those Fascinating Numbers, by Jean-Marie De Koninck. What makes a number interesting?
A review of Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World, by Eugenie Samuel Reich. Reich's exploration of the scientific frauds perpetrated by Jan Hendrik Schön, a researcher at Bell Laboratories, is impressive and sobering, says Kaiser
A review of Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans: An Evolutionary Perspective on Male Aggression Against Females, edited by Martin N. Muller and Richard W. Wrangham. “Sexually coercive males are not just attempting to have sex with particular females,” says Stanford; “they’re trying to control female sexuality in general”
A review of The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, by Graham Farmelo. In Farmelo’s hands, the story of Dirac’s contributions to modern theoretical physics is both gripping and illuminating, says Gordin; the author captures the beauty and ambition of Dirac’s view of physics and sorts through the mythology that has grown up around him as a result of the many anecdotes that circulate about his oddity
A review of The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, by Justin Fox. The theory of efficient markets in finance should be relegated to the Museum of Nice Tries, says Shalizi; he praises Fox’s book recounting its history, calling it “a model of what the popularization of social science can be, but too rarely is”
A review of Critical Transitions in Nature and Society, by Marten Scheffer. Like canoes, natural systems have tipping points, argues Scheffer; once a hard-to-recognize threshold is exceeded, runaway change can occur that is difficult to reverse—a relatively wet area can turn to desert, a heavily wooded area can become a savanna. Could the integrated study of complex systems give us the insight to predict and control such shifts?
Connect With Us:
An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, and more. Issues contain links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.
To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.
Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.
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.