A review of A Nuclear Winter's Tale: Science and Politics in the 1980s, by Lawrence Badash. In this intricately detailed history, Badash examines both the scientific origins of the concept of nuclear winter and the debate over its relevance to nuclear policy and the Cold War arms race
A review of Science as a Contacts Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate, by Stephen H. Schneider; Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, by James Hansen; and Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, by James Hoggan with Richard Littlemore. Schneider, Hansen and Hoggan all say that their efforts to communicate the urgency of the problem of climate change to policy makers and the general public have met with powerful resistance. The consequences, Zenghelis warns, could be tragic
A review of The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes. This is a wonderfully engaging narrative, says Gregory; Holmes’s biographical storytelling shows the impact of science on the hearts as well as the minds of Humphry Davy, Joseph Banks, Mungo Park, and William and Caroline Herschel
A review of The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, by Paul Davies. We’ve been searching for extraterrestrial intelligence for 50 years now but haven’t found it. Could it be the case that civilizations inevitably destroy themselves before they evolve to the point of being able to colonize the galaxy?
A review of First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America, by David J. Meltzer. When did the first humans arrive in the Americas? What route—or routes—did they take? Was there more than one wave of settlers? What did they do when they got here? Meltzer explains why archaeology has not yet been able to provide very precise answers to such questions
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
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
The prizewinning physicist reviews his recent reading and favorite authors
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"
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
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