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Get up to speed with the most popular developments in science, with everything from the tiniest atom to the farthest flung findings of the universe, and every scientific discovery in between. Our selection of books in this category will keep you up to date.
Nothing less than a history of humankind from when the first species known as “humans” evolved through to the modern day. Dealing with how and why humans became the dominant species, Yuval Noah Harari also seeks to show how our species adapted and changed throughout human history. Taking in everything from religion to science to capitalism – an exhilarating journey through human history. Like for Like Reading Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the last 13,000 Years, Jared Diamond Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Matt Ridley
Simply and clearly told but not in the slightest simplistic, this intriguing book looks at the third chimpanzee (us…humans) and makes you really think about how we came to exist and what we are doing to ensure our existence continues. We are human, we do dangerous things, we communicate using language, we commit genocide - have you ever wondered why, when, how? Lots of answers are here, some more questions too, you don't have to read this in one go, you can pop in and out and read a chapter at a time. There are also some really interesting diverse snapshots of information scattered among the pages. You may well find yourself sharing passages of this fascinating book out loud with family and friends, as they will probably not only learn a lot but start to ponder a few significant things too!
In A Buzz in the Meadow Goulson tells the story of how he bought a derelict farm in the heart of rural France, together with 33 acres of surrounding meadow and how, over a decade, he has created a place for his beloved bumblebees to thrive. But other creatures live there too, a myriad insects of every kind, many of them ones that Goulson has studied before in his career as a biologist. You will learn about how a deathwatch beetle finds its mate, about the importance of houseflies, why butterflies have spots on their wings, about dragonfly sex, bed-bugs and wasps. Goulson is brilliant, and very funny, at showing how scientists actually conduct experiments. The book is also a wake-up call, urging us to cherish and protect life on earth in all its forms. Goulson has that rare ability to persuade you to go out into your garden or local park and get down on your hands and knees and look. The undiscovered glory that is life in all its forms on planet Earth is there to be discovered. And if we learn to value what we have, perhaps we will find a way to keep it. A Sting in the Tale, Dave Goulson's account of a lifetime studying bumblebees, was one of the most gratifying success stories of 2013. Brilliantly reviewed, it was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for the best non-fiction book of the year. A Buzz in the Meadow is another call to arms for nature lovers everywhere.
In the Eastern Aegean lies an island of forested hills and olive groves, with streams, marshes and a lagoon that nearly cuts the land in two. It was here, over two thousand years ago, that Aristotle came to work. Aristotle was the greatest philosopher of all time. Author of the Poetics, Politics and Metaphysics, his work looms over the history of Western thought. But he was also a biologist - the first. Aristotle explored the mysteries of the natural world. With the help of fishermen, hunters and farmers, he catalogued the animals in his world, dissected them, observed their behaviours and recorded how they lived, fed, and bred. In his great zoological treatise, Historia animalium, he described the mating habits of herons, the sexual incontinence of girls, the stomachs of snails, the sensitivity of sponges, the flippers of seals, the sounds of cicadas, the destructiveness of starfish, the dumbness of the deaf, the flatulence of elephants and the structure of the human heart. And then, in another dozen books, he explained it all. In The Lagoon, acclaimed biologist Armand Marie Leroi recovers Aristotle's science. He goes to Lesbos to see the creatures that Aristotle saw, where he saw them, and explores the Philosopher's deep ideas and inspired guesses - as well as the things that he got wildly wrong.
In his first book since the acclaimed The Running Sky Tim Dee tells the story of four green fields. Four fields spread around the world: their grasses, their hedges, their birds, their skies, and their natural and human histories. Four real fields - walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable and knowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild, contested and changing. Four fields - the oldest and simplest and truest measure of what a man needs in life - looked at, thought about, worked in, lived with, written. Dee's four fields, which he has known for more than twenty years, are the fen field at the bottom of his Cambridgeshire garden, a field in southern Zambia, a prairie field in Little Bighorn, Montana, USA, and a grass meadow in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meditating on these four fields, Dee makes us look anew at where we live and how. He argues that we must attend to what we have made of the wild, to look at and think about the way we have messed things up but also to notice how we have kept going alongside nature, to listen to the conversation we have had with grass and fields. Four Fields is a profound, lyrical book by one of Britain's very best writers about nature. It is shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize.
Birds are one of the most popular and visible forms of all wildlife and are inextricably linked with the development of human cultures all around the world. Over the years some of the most eye-catching species of bird have been officially or unofficially adopted by countries as symbols of their national identity; there are now almost 100 national birds spanning every imaginable group from condors to parrots, trogons to frigatebirds. Both a comprehensive listing and guide book, National BIrds provides a range of information from species data to how these birds have been used and abused through the ages. It recounts tales of how they came to be adopted and presents a wide range of official and cultural contexts where they appear from feathers in tribal costumes to stamps and currency.
In The Compatibility Gene, leading scientist Daniel M Davis tells the story of the crucial genes that define our relationships, our health and our individuality. We each possess a similar set of around 25,000 human genes. Yet a tiny, distinctive cluster of these genes plays a disproportionately large part in how our bodies work. These few genes, argues Davis, hold the key to who we are as individuals and our relationship to the world: how we combat disease, how our brains are wired, how attractive we are, even how likely we are to reproduce. The Compatibility Gene follows the remarkable history of these genes' discovery. From the British scientific pioneers who struggled to understand the mysteries of transplants to the Swiss zoologist who devised a new method of assessing potential couples' compatibility based on the smell of worn T-shirts, Davis traces a true scientific revolution in our understanding of the human body: a global adventure spanning some sixty years. Unusual results, astonishing implications and ethical dilemmas . (The Times). Packed with an insider's knowledge . (New York Times). He makes immunology as fascinating to popular science readers as cosmology, consciousness, and evolution . (Steven Pinker). An elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account . (Bill Bryson Guardian, Books of the Year). Daniel M Davis is director of research at the University of Manchester's Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research and a visiting professor at Imperial College, London. He has published over 100 academic articles, including papers in Nature and Science, and Scientific American. He has won the Oxford University Press Science Writing Prize and given numerous interviews for national and international media. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2011.
Shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2014. When the woman he loved was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer, science-writer George Johnson embarked on a journey to learn everything he could about the disease and the people who dedicate their lives to understanding and combating it. What he discovered is that a revolution is now under way - an explosion of new ideas about what cancer really is and where it comes from. He combs through the realms of epidemiology, clinical trials, laboratory experiments and scientific hypotheses, to reveal what we know and don't know about cancer, showing why a cure remains such a slippery concept. His luminous accounts describe tumors that evolve like alien creatures inside the body, paleo-oncologists who uncover petrified tumors clinging to the skeletons of dinosaurs and ancient human ancestors, and the surprising reversals in science's comprehension of the causes of cancer, with the foods we eat and environmental toxins playing a lesser role. Perhaps most fascinating of all is how cancer borrows natural processes involved in the healing of a wound or the unfolding of a human embryo and turns them against the body. Throughout his pursuit, Johnson illuminates the human experience with elegiac grace, bearing witness to the punishing gauntlet of consultations, surgeries, targeted therapies and other treatments. Provocative and intellectually vibrant, The Cancer Chronicles will challenge everything you thought you knew about the disease - and provide hope for tomorrow and the future.
The story and science of how animals find their way home. Home is the place we long for most, when we feel we have travelled too far, for too long. Since boyhood, acclaimed scientist and author Bernd Heinrich has returned every year to a beloved patch of woods in his native western Maine. But while it's the pull of nostalgia that informs our desire to go back, what is it that drives the homing instinct in animals? Heinrich explores the fascinating science behind the mysteries of animal migration: how geese imprint true visual landscape memory over impossible distances; how the subtlest of scent trails are used by many creatures, from fish to insects to amphibians, to pinpoint their home; and how the tiniest of songbirds are equipped for solar and magnetic orienteering over vast distances. Most movingly, Heinrich chronicles the spring return of a pair of sandhill cranes to their pond in the Alaska tundra. With his marvellously evocative prose, Heinrich portrays the psychological state of the newly arrived birds, articulating just what their yearly return truly means, to the birds and to those fortunate enough to witness this transcendently beautiful ritual. 'The Homing Instinct' is an enchanting study of this phenomenon of the natural world, reminding us that to discount our own feelings toward home is to ignore biology itself.
In 2010, scientists led by J. Craig Venter became the first to successfully create 'synthetic life' -- putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on human existence, including chemical and energy generation, health, clean water and food production, environmental control, and possibly even our evolution. In Life at the Speed of Light, Venter presents a fascinating and authoritative study of this emerging field from the inside -- detailing its origins, current challenges and controversies, and projected effects on our lives. This scientific frontier provides an opportunity to ponder anew the age-old question 'What is life?' and examine what we really mean by 'playing God'. Life at the Speed of Light is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.
WOMAN explores the essence of what it means to be female. In mapping the inner woman - from organs to orgasms - Natalie Angier presents an extraordinary new vision of the female body as an evolutionary masterpiece. 'Anyone living in or near a female body should read this book' - Gloria Steinem 'Women have long been regarded as slaves to biology and evolution, prisoners in a hormonal swamp. But now, some of the sacred tenets of evolutionary psychology...have come under fresh challenge. As the century turns, it could be Goodbye women's lib; hello female liberation!...WOMAN is a delicious cocktail of estrogen and amphetamine designed to pump up the ovaries as well as the cerebral cortex' - Barbara Ehrenreich, TIME MAGAZINE 'Drawing on science, literature and history, Angier provides valuable insight into the power of hormones, breast milk and the all-important clitoris. A must for every woman's bookshelf' - WOMAN'S JOURNAL
Why do some things pass under the radar of our attention, but other things capture our interest? Why do some religions catch on and others fade away? What makes a story, a movie, or a book riveting? Why do some people keep watching the news even though it makes them anxious?The past 20 years have seen a remarkable flourishing of scientific research into exactly these kinds of questions. Professor Jim Davies' fascinating and highly accessible book, Riveted, reveals the evolutionary underpinnings of why we find things compelling, from art to religion and from sports to superstition. Compelling things fit our minds like keys in the ignition, turning us on and keeping us running, and yet we are often unaware of what makes these keys fit. What we like and don't like is almost always determined by subconscious forces, and when we try to consciously predict our own preferences we're often wrong. In one study of speed dating, people were asked what kinds of partners they found attractive. When the results came back, the participants' answers before the exercise had no correlation with who they actually found attractive in person! We are beginning to understand just how much the brain makes our decisions for us: we are rewarded with a rush of pleasure when we detect patterns, as the brain thinks we've discovered something significant; the mind urges us to linger on the news channel or rubberneck an accident in case it might pick up important survival information; it even pushes us to pick up People magazine in order to find out about changes in the social structure. Drawing on work from philosophy, anthropology, religious studies, psychology, economics, computer science, and biology, Davies offers a comprehensive explanation to show that in spite of the differences between the many things that we find compelling, they have similar effects on our minds and brains.
Science has never been more popular. You don’t have to understand it to love it. We live in a golden age where we know more about the world and its origins than ever before. Here, some of the biggest questions ever asked find answers, as well as some of the smallest. This is a section bursting from its nucleus with protons of knowledge especially compiled for the lay enthusiast and the curious. Accessible science is no longer the domain of the scientist. We can all have a go at broadening our minds … and what’s more, we can do it from the relative comfort of our favourite chair. Relative comfort, because the chair is merely a mass of vibrating particles on a planet, hurtling through space and time, bending both as it goes in a Universe that may itself just be one of an infinite number of possible universes in an undefinable dimension of matter.
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