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Father of Fractals

Brian Hayes

A review of The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick, by Benoit B. Mandelbrot. In this posthumously published memoir, Mandelbrot is not shy about proclaiming his own achievements. But his choice to exclude some important characters in his stories of mathematical and scientific advancement is troublesome, says Hayes

Curie as Celebrity

Emily Buehler

A review of Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science’s First Family, by Shelley Emling. This biography of Curie and her daughters Irene and Eve tends toward the dramatic early on, but later chapters reveal much about the lives of the women that are its subject, as well as about their contemporaries

Ecological Dependency

Katie L. Burke

A review of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, by David Quammen. Quammen’s latest book tackles the thorny questions and sometimes-gruesome details of the quest to understand diseases transmitted from animals to humans. His fans will not be disappointed

Living Cartography

Tim Stallmann

A review of Atlas of Design, Volume 1, edited by Timothy R. Wallace and Daniel P. Huffman. This collection of maps focuses on cartography that takes design as seriously as it does science, says Stallmann. The result is a diverse set of maps that illuminates new directions in the practice of cartography

Picturing the Cosmos

Fenella Saunders

A brief review of Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime, by Elizabeth A. Kessler

An Ecology of Happiness

Anna Lena Phillips

A brief review of An Ecology of Happiness, by Eric Lambin, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan

From Plants to Planets: Our Favorite Coffee-Table Books of 2012

The Editors

Each winter we peruse the year’s large-format books about science and present brief reviews of the ones we like best

A Supersized View of the Universe

Fenella Saunders

A brief review of Planetfall: New Solar System Visions, by Michael Benson

At the Heart of Pine

Katie L. Burke

A brief review of Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See: A New Vision of North America’s Richest Forest, by Bill Finch, Beth Maynor Young, Rhett Johnson and John C. Hall

The Power of Two Wheels

David Schoonmaker

A brief review of Cycling Science: How Rider and Machine Work Together, by Max Glaskin

Modern-day Botanicals

Anna Lena Phillips

A brief review of Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations, by Ken Druse. Botanical photographs by Ellen Hoverkamp

A Map of the Universe

Fenella Saunders

A brief review of Space Atlas, by James Trefil

Series of Milestones

Fenella Saunders

A brief review of The Math Book, The Physics Book and The Medical Book, by Clifford Pickover

Conservation for the Win

Daniel Simberloff

A review of Wild Hope: On the Front Lines of Conservation Success, by Andrew Balmford. Balmford presents seven conservation efforts that are working, says Simberloff, primarily because they begin by trying to understand the human actors involved

A Tale of Tales

Michael Bérubé

A review of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gottschall. Evolutionary biology and neuroscience may have lessons for the study of literature, says Bérubé, but thus far the concept is not entirely convincing

A History of Racket-Making

Peter Pesic

A review of Discord: The Story of Noise, by Mike Goldsmith. This social history of noise tells the story of the phenomenon from the Big Bang to the present

King Solomon Revisited

William A. Searcy

A review of Calls Beyond Our Hearing: Unlocking the Secrets of Animal Voices, by Holly Menino. Menino’s recounting of various research on animal vocalizations is a pleasure to read, but the scientific explanations don’t all pass muster, says Searcy

Online Optimism

Jacqueline Olds

A review of Networked: The New Social Operating System, by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. Drawing on research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project, the authors provide suggestions for how to thrive as “networked individuals”


Katie L. Burke

A brief review of Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, by David K. Randall

Beautiful Corn

Anna Lena Phillips

A brief review of Beautiful Corn: America’s Original Grain from Seed to Plate, by Anthony Boutard

Sex, Genes and Arms Control

Anna Lena Phillips

Our review of reviews published during the first 100 years of the Scientists’ Bookshelf continues, with content ranging from landscape architecture to clouds to alternative energy

Sex Is for Real

Mary S. Calderone

A 1969 review of Sex Is for Real (Human Sexuality & Sexual Responsibility), by W. Dalrymple

Mathematical Models of Arms Control and Disarmament

Gerald H. Kramer

A 1969 review of Mathematical Models of Arms Control & Disarmament: Application of Mathematical Structures to Politics, by T. L. Saaty

Civilizing American Cities, Autokind vs. Mankind and Anatomy of a Park

Paul J. Mitarachi

A 1972 review of Civilizing American Cities, by Frederick Law Olmstead, edited by S. B. Sutton; Autokind vs. Mankind, by Kenneth R. Schneider; and Anatomy of a Park, by Albert J. Rutledge

Patterning of Time

Ernest R. Hilgard

A 1972 review of Patterning of Time, by Leonard W. Doob

Clouds of the World

Barry Saltzman

A 1973 review of Clouds of the World: A Complete Color Encyclopedia, by Richard Scorer

Alternatives to the Internal Combustion Engine

John B. Heywood

A 1973 review of Alternatives to the Internal Combustion Engine: Impacts on Environmental Quality, by Robert U. Ayres and Richard P. McKenna

Ecology and Environment

Jay Martin Anderson

A 1974 review of Ecology and Environment: Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins, by Konrad Lorenz, translated by Marjorie Kerr Wilson

Machine Takeover

Peter M. Will

A 1978 review of Machine Takeover: The Growing Threat to Human Freedom in a Computer-Controlled Society, by Frank George

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