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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.
Shortlisted for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books. For anyone wanting to understand evolution – Your Inner Fish is a revelation showing we may be closely related to the apes but further back, fish, anemones, sea-worms – they’re all our very distant relations. Puzzling perhaps, we can see the similarities between apes and ourselves but fish? But that’s where Neil Shubin shines - with a text that explains and enlightens; his wonder at the intricacy and beauty of the evolutionary process positively infectious. Comparison: The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkin
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 8 January 2009. As close to a virtual tour as you can get without moving pictures. Richard Fortey is the tour-guide, taking us down the dark, echoing passages of the Natural History Museum, behind the public doors, introducing us to colleagues past and present. It’s an unusual history, full of great stories; the author is an engaging and great twinkly presence throughout and leaves us in no doubt as to the importance of the Natural History Museum, past, present and future. Comparison: Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution by Richard Fortey
Shortlisted for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books. Our noses hoover up an amazing range of scents yet sense of smell and its place in our sensory life is still something of a mystery. Avery Gilbert takes a tour through our olfactory senses showing the astonishing range of smells – good and bad we can detect, how we do it and even why. Comparison: The Secret of Scent by Luca Turin, The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, the Last of the Senses by Chandler Burr
What if humankind disappeared from the face of the world – overnight? What would happen, how long would the world take to recover, how long before evidence of our existence disappears beneath the vegetation? There are many different answers to this question, with different time frames and scenarios and Alan Weisman’s questioning of people in the know, the experts and scientists has thrown up some amazing (and terrifying) facts. He knits all this together into an engrossing story that whilst the stuff of fantasy, has roots in the environmental damage inflicted on the planet today. Comparison: The Earth After Us by Jan Zalasiewicz, The Last Generation by Fred Pearce, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive by Jared Diamond
By no means the first book by Richard Dawkins delving into the subject of religion, but his first tackling this subject exclusively. This is probably one the best presented arguments for the non-existence of a supernatural god that has ever been put to paper. Dawkins presents his case with clear scientic explanation combined with equal measures of wit, making this book not only rewarding, but also highly entertaining. Whether you are a believer, a non believer or one of the great undecided this book will certainly give you something to talk about. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘Richard Dawkins explains the wonders and complexities of science with unmatched clarity and enthusiasm. He is an awesome thinker and his writing is vivid, imaginative, witty and exhilarating. Quite simply he is the best science writer of our time’. Sally Gaminara, Publishing Director at Transworld
The story of a man’s fascination with these beautiful insects, from Hindu mythology to Aztec sacrifices, Victorian collectors to Polish death camps. It even includes information on the butterfly’s life cycle, and could be the only book on the subject you’ll need.
Cutting-edge science combined with worst-case scenario style informative irreverence. Read it and be in a class of your own at any social gathering.
This was first published in 2001 but I’ve included it here as it is one of the very best books that followed the Longitude method of science writing, homing in on one small step in history, showing how one man’s obsessive quest created the world’s first Geological map in 1815. The man was William Smith, the son of an Oxfordshire blacksmith, and in a story of many twists and seesawing fortunes, Simon Winchester shows how against all odds he surveyed England and created his map, one of the wonders of the age. If you didn’t think you were interested in geology, I guarantee you’ll be fascinated by the whole subject after reading The Map that Changed the World. Comparison: The Floating Egg: Episodes in the Making of Geology by Roger Osborne
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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