Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Science Books

Fiction is often referred to as writing from one’s imagination.  But then aren’t all good books, generated from a healthy imagination? Without imagination science would never advance.  The following titles are all new books with Dewey decimal call numbers in the 500’s (math and science).

The Jewel House by Deborah Harkness focuses on the array of ordinary men and women in Elizabethan London who shared a keen interest in nature and scientific inquiry.  Throughout the city, lawyers, prisoners, midwives, merchants, and others developed the tools and techniques, as well as the collaborative yet contentious culture, that became the hallmarks of the Scientific Revolution.  A professor of history at the University of Southern California, recently Harkness has become well known for her fantasy series, the All Souls Trilogy.

In order to write What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, author Randall Munroe cheerfully runs computer simulations, digs through declassified military research memos, consults with nuclear reactor operators, times scenes from Star Wars with a stopwatch, calls his mother and Googles some really freaky looking animals.  His responses are comic gems, accurately and entertainingly explaining everything from your odds of meeting your soul mate to the many horrible ways you could die while building a periodic table out of all the actual elements.

A Mind for Numbers, How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if you flanked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and science, based on insights from neuroscience and cognitive psychology.  Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking.  Many people think there’s only one way to solve a problem, when in fact there are often a number of methods—you just need the creativity to see them.

The author of Most Wanted Particle, The Inside story of the Hunt for the Higgs, the Heart of the Future of Physics, Jon Butterworth is a leading physicist at the Large Hadron Collider.  He was there when proof of the Higgs particle’s existence was discovered.  He gives an inside account of the hunt for the Higgs.  Writing with clarity and humor, he revels as much in the hard science as in the messiness, uncertainty, and the humanness of science—from the media scrutiny and late-night pub debates, to the false starts and intense pressure to generate results.  He explains why physics will never be the same after our first glimpse of the elusive Higgs and where it will go from here.

The Monk in the Garden by Robin Marantz Henig evokes a little-known chapter in science, taking us back to the birth of genetics, a field that continues to challenge the way we think about life itself. Shrouded in mystery, Gregor Mendel's quiet life and discoveries make for fascinating reading. Among Mendel’s pea plants, Henig finds a tale filled with intrigue, jealousy, and a healthy dose of bad timing.

Creatures of the Deep by Erich Hoyt gives readers a glimpse of the amazing variety of creatures found in the deepest parts of the ocean. Weaving together details from the latest scientific research about sharks, giant squid, dragonfish, huge tube worms and clams, and tiny microbes of the deep-sea vents, Hoyt embarks on a magical journey roaming across the abyssal plains and descending into deep-sea trenches more than 20,000 feet down.

Most people agree that math is important, but few would say it's fun. Mathematical Curiosities will show you that the subject you learned to hate in high school can be as entertaining as a witty remark, as engrossing as the mystery novel.  As authors Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann demonstrate, when you realize that doing math can be enjoyable, you open a door into a world of unexpected insights while learning an important skill.  If math has frustrated you over the years, this delightful approach will teach you many things you thought were beyond your reach, while conveying the key message that math can and should be anything but boring.

--Ellen Moore, Webmaster

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