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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.
Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye-opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate. The Kingdom of Speech is a captivating, paradigm-shifting argument that speech - not evolution - is responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievements. From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, and through the controversial work of modern-day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hard-wired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long-faced, laugh-out-loud zig-zags of Darwinism, old and Neo, and finds it irrelevant here in our Kingdom of Speech.
In 1859, the brilliant scientist Urbain LeVerrier discovered that the planet Mercury has a wobble, that its orbit shifts over time. His explanation was that there had to be an unseen planet circling even closer to the sun. He called the planet Vulcan. Supported by the theories of Sir Isaac Newton, the finest astronomers of their generation began to seek out Vulcan and at least a dozen reports of discovery were filed. There was only one problem. Vulcan does not exist - and was never there. The real explanation was only revealed when a young Albert Einstein came up with a theory of gravity that also happened to prove that Mercury's orbit could indeed be explained - not by Newton's theories but by Einstein's own theory of general relativity.
Mary Roach can never resist going just that bit further, searching out the most arcane information on her chosen subject and in Gulp, a story of the physicality of eating, you just know it won’t end there – you know it won’t end with what goes in, there will be a lot of what goes out as well. Mind you, she has the knack of finding out just what we’ve all been longing to know, and one has to admire her talent for nosing out the experts – some in subjects you’ve never heard of, admire too her gung-ho approach to self-experimentation. I think she’s the tops, a clever writer who blends the science facts with humour and amazement, if you’ve not read her before then start here and I guarantee you’ll have to go back and search out her back list. Shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2014. Like for Like Reading The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste, Rose George The Man who Ate Everything: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about but Were Afraid to Ask, Jeffrey Steingarten
50 Science Ideas You Really Need to Know is your guide to the biggest questions and deepest concepts from across the whole of science. What was the Big Bang? How did life on Earth arise? What does quantum mechanics tell us about the universe? Is true artificial intelligence possible? And does life exist on other planets? Moving from the basics of atoms and molecules, Newton's laws of physics and the building blocks of life to the cutting edge of nanotechnology, Einstein's theories of relativity and cloning, this book makes the many worlds of science accessible and illuminating.
The risks of global warming are real, and potentially vast. The difficulty of doing without fossil fuels is daunting, and possible insurmountable. So there is an urgent need for new thinking on climate. To meet that need, a small but increasingly influential group of scientists is exploring proposals for planned human intervention in the climate system. A stratospheric veil against the sun; the cultivation of photosynthetic plankton; a fleet of unmanned ships seeding clouds: these are the radical technologies of climate geoengineering. It is chilling to think of such power, and such scope for misadventure or malice, in humans hands. And yet we are now at the point where we have no choice but to take them very seriously indeed. The Planet Remade explores the science, history and politics behind these strategies. It looks at who might want to see geoengineering put to use - and why others would be dead set against it. In the last two centuries, changes to the planet - to the clouds and soils, to the winds and the seas, to the great cycles of nitrogen and carbon - have been far more profound than most of us realize. Appreciating the scale of that change compels us to rethink not just our responses to global warming, but our relationship to nature.
'Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it's breathtaking' These seven short lessons guide us, with simplicity and clarity, through the scientific revolution that shook physics in the twentieth century and still continues to shake us today. Not since Richard Feynman's celebrated Six Easy Pieces has physics been so vividly, intelligently and entertainingly revealed.
Spanning the globe and several centuries, The Gene is the story of the quest to decipher the master-code that makes and defines humans, that governs our form and function. The story of the gene begins in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856 where a monk stumbles on the idea of a 'unit of heredity'. It intersects with Darwin's theory of evolution, and collides with the horrors of Nazi eugenics in the 1940s. The gene transforms post-war biology. It reorganizes our understanding of sexuality, temperament, choice and free will. This is a story driven by human ingenuity and obsessive minds - from Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel to Francis Crick, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, and the thousands of scientists still working to understand the code of codes. This is an epic, moving history of a scientific idea coming to life, by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies. But woven through The Gene, like a red line, is also an intimate history - the story of Mukherjee's own family and its recurring pattern of mental illness, reminding us that genetics is vitally relevant to everyday lives. These concerns reverberate even more urgently today as we learn to read and write the human genome - unleashing the potential to change the fates and identities of our children.
This is a publishing sensation in Argentina that has sold over 200,000 copies and topped the best-seller charts for a record-breaking two years, now available in English for the first time! The Agile Mind is about the most precious mental talent we have: the ability to imagine things which have never existed and to create new ideas. This book demystifies the preconceptions we often have about how our brains function to show how creativity really works, and how we can make it work even better. We used to think that creativity diminished through the lifespan, but we now know this is not the case. The brain can regenerate and continue learning until the last days of our lives. We can all become more creative if we use the right methods and techniques to stimulate our brains and broaden our minds.
Matt Ridley explores the Theory of Evolution in Everything from Religion to Politics and the Internet. He highlights how Top-Down thinking such as big Government and Central Banks will fail and strangle sense at birth and it is bottom up thinking that is successful. The same patterns can be observed in all human interactions and Matt Ridley ends his book with the Internet, humanities great chance to shoulder aside the Top-Down thinkers and develope a de-centralised world complete with its own businesses and money. I had many assumptions and beliefs challenged in reading this compelling book, it's written and presented with brio, making readers see what is possible and how evolution will, in the end, bulldoze even the most entrenched of institutions who do not heed Darwin's doctrine. Like for Like Reading. The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, Adrian Wooldridge & John Micklethwait. Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen
Where did we come from? What is the ultimate destiny of the universe? What are the building blocks of the physical world? What is consciousness? Are there limits to what we can discover about our physical universe? Are some regions of the future beyond the predictive powers of science and mathematics? Is time before the big bang a no go arena? Are there ideas so complex that they are beyond the conception of our finite human brains? Can brains even investigate themselves or does the analysis enter an infinite loop from which it is impossible to rescue itself? Are there true statements that can never be proved true? Prepare to be taken to the edge of knowledge to find out what we cannot know.
Statins are the single most commonly prescribed class of drugs in the whole of the developed world. They're taken by over 100 million people, with millions more patients being offered them every year. We know that statins do some good. But we don't know how big the benefits are. We don't know which is the best. We don't how common the side effects are. We don't give clear information to patients, so they are deprived of their right to make informed decisions about the trade-off between benefits, inconvenience, and risk. All this can be fixed, with a few simple changes that weld big data onto the heart and art of medicine.
'The woods are the great beauty of this country...A fine forest-like beech wood far more beautiful than anything else which we have seen in its vicinity' is how John Stuart Mill described a small patch of beech-and bluebell woodland, buried deeply in the Chiltern Hills and now owned by Richard Fortey. Drawing upon a lifetime of scientific expertise and abiding love of nature, Fortey uses his small wood to tell a wider story of the ever-changing British landscape, human influence on the countryside over many centuries and the vital interactions between flora, fauna and fungi. The trees provide a majestic stage for woodland animals and plants to reveal their own stories. Fortey presents his wood as an interwoven collection of different habitats rich in species. His attention ranges from the beech and cherry trees that dominate the wood to the flints underfoot; the red kites and woodpeckers that soar overhead; the lichens, mosses and liverworts decorating the branches as well as the myriad species of spiders, moths, beetles and crane-flies. The 300 species of fungi identified in the wood capture his attention as much as familiar deer, shrews and dormice. Fortey is a naturalist who believes that all organisms are as interesting as human beings - and certainly more important than the observer. So this book is a close examination of nature and human history. He proves that poetic writing is compatible with scientific precision.
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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