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Enigmatic Wisps

David Kaiser

A review of A Brilliant Darkness: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Ettore Majorana, the Troubled Genius of the Nuclear Age, by João Magueijo. In addition to examining theories about what became of Majorana when he disappeared permanently in 1938, Magueijo explains why Majorana’s ideas about the neutrino are once again on the minds of physicists, now that evidence has begun to accumulate that the elusive neutrino has some tiny but nonzero mass

Newton’s Toolbox

Paolo Mancosu

A review of Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method, by Niccolò Guicciardini. Guicciardini reconstructs Newton’s mathematics and his conception of mathematical methodology. Convinced that only geometrical proofs can be considered certain, Newton favored using geometrical techniques to inject certainty into natural philosophy; he was an antimodernist in that he considered the techniques of the ancients to be a paradigm of correct methodology

Scientists' Nightstand: Steven Weinberg

Greg Ross

The prizewinning physicist reviews his recent reading and favorite authors

Fellow Feeling

Joan Silk

A review of The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society, by Frans de Waal. De Waal sets out to demonstrate that empathy is "a biologically grounded capacity that all people share"

Ready or Not

Cosma Shalizi

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

Explicating Gould

Kim Sterelny

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

The Science of Parenting

Ethan Remmel

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

The Godly Scientist

Jan Golinski

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

Land Portraits

Brian Hayes

A review of Mapping the World: Stories of Geography, by Caroline and Martine Laffon

Heading South

Anna Lena Phillips

A review of Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities, by Frank Jacobs

Cruising for a Bruising

Rick MacPherson

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

The Conditions for Existence

John Dupré

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

Avian Appreciation

Aaron French

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

Crow Planet

Anna Lena Phillips

Scientists' Nightstand: Sean Carroll

Greg Ross

The Caltech physicist reviews his recent reading and favorite authors

The Play’s the Thing

Michael Bérubé

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

Help, Harm and Human Subjects

Sheldon Krimsky

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?

Development in the Real World

Marvalee Wake

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 Panoramic View

Ronald Graham

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”

All in the Family

Gowan Dawson

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

Life’s Lineages

W. Malcolm Byrnes

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

On the Origin of Taxonomy

Kristin Johnson

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 Growing Affinity

David T. Kung

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

Livin’ la Vida Micro

Thomas R. Powers

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

Early Spring

Anna Lena Phillips

Never a Dull Number

Brian Hayes

A review of Those Fascinating Numbers, by Jean-Marie De Koninck. What makes a number interesting?

Physics and Pixie Dust

David Kaiser

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

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