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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.
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
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 1 December 2011. What are things made of? What is the sun? Why is there night and day, winter and summer? Why do bad things happen? Are we alone? Have you heard the tale of how the sun hatched out of an emu's egg? Has anyone ever told you that earthquakes are caused by a sneezing giant? This title answers all these questions.
From the life-long relationships of the albatross to the remarkable memory of the nutcracker and other avian mysteries, Noah Strycker illuminates the startlingly intimate coexistence of birds and humans. “In almost any realm of bird behaviour – reproduction, populations, movements, daily rhythms, communication, navigation, intelligence, and so on – there are deep and meaningful parallels with our own.” Noah Strycker has spent the last decade studying bird behaviour in some of the world’s remotest places – from a penguin colony in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, the Australian outback, the Galápagos Islands – and has observed almost 2,500 species of birds. Noah has come to understand that birds are lively, unpredictable individuals loaded with personality and, if you look closely enough, birds have human counterparts. From the homing instinct of pigeons (and the mystery of the pigeon equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle in eastern England) and testing the turkey vulture’s sense of smell with a deer carcass to the reason behind a penguin’s fear of water, we ultimately learn about ourselves by studying birds. Drawing on cutting-edge scientific research, along with his personal experience, and colourful anecdotes The Magic and Mystery of Birds is a thoughtful and engaging look at how the life of birds connects with humanity.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | A book to make you think and feel, this is an important, beautiful, spellbinding treasure. Words from nature are disappearing, being removed, left to one side to be forgotten. Some words are in real danger of being lost forever, this book reveals those words, sings them, shows them, reminds us how to love them. Spell-weavers Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris have created a bewitching ode to nature, reminding us of the danger of absence, highlighting beauty, whispering to our soul. It feels as though the words, the poems, and vividly beautiful pictures are as one, the essence of the word, of the being, escapes the page to wrap itself around you. ‘The Lost Words’ is suitable for all ages, and should find a special place in all homes, all libraries, all schools, all hearts. Do read the spell-poems out loud, listen, look, feel, touch, allow your awareness to open and receive these gifts. I found myself entranced, I fell completely under the spell of ‘The Lost Words’, I simply can’t recommend it highly enough. ~ Liz Robinson
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.
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.
WINNER OF THE 2015 COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) is the great lost scientist: more things are named after him than anyone else. There are towns, rivers, mountain ranges, the ocean current that runs along the South American coast, there's a penguin, a giant squid - even the Mare Humboldtianum on the moon. His colourful adventures read like something out of a Boy's Own story: Humboldt explored deep into the rainforest, climbed the world's highest volcanoes and inspired princes and presidents, scientists and poets alike. Napoleon was jealous of him; Simon Bolivar's revolution was fuelled by his ideas; Darwin set sail on the Beagle because of Humboldt; and Jules Verne's Captain Nemo owned all his many books. He simply was, as one contemporary put it, 'the greatest man since the Deluge'. Taking us on a fantastic voyage in his footsteps - racing across anthrax-infected Russia or mapping tropical rivers alive with crocodiles - Andrea Wulf shows why his life and ideas remain so important today.
The presenter of BBC's The Incredible Human Journey gives us a new and highly accessible look at our own bodies, allowing us to understand how we develop as an embryo, from a single egg into a complex body, and how our embryos contain echoes of our evolutionary past. Bringing together the latest scientific discoveries, Professor Alice Roberts illustrates that evolution has made something which is far from perfect. Our bodies are a quirky mix of new and old, with strokes of genius alongside glitches and imperfections which are all inherited from distant ancestors. Our development and evolutionary past explains why, as embryos, we have what look like gills, and as adults we suffer from back pain. This is a tale of discovery, not only exploring why and how we have developed as we have, but also looking at the history of our anatomical understanding. It combines the remarkable skills and qualifications Alice Roberts has as a doctor, anatomist, osteoarchaeologist and writer. Above all, she has a rare ability to make science accessible, relevant and interesting to mainstream audiences and readers.
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.
This story is a quest for an animal so rare that a sighting has never been recorded. The Somali golden mole was first described in 1964. It is mentioned in a number of textbooks, but the sole evidence for its existence is a tiny fragment of jawbone found in an owl pellet. Intrigued by this elusive creature, and what it can tell us about extinction and survival, Richard Girling embarks on a hunt to find the animal and its discoverer - an Italian professor who he thinks might still be alive...Richard's journey comes at a time when one species - our own - is having to reconsider its relationship with every other. It is also a quest for knowledge. He delves into the history of exploration and the tall tales of the great hunters, explores the science of collecting and naming specimens, traces the development of the conservation movement and addresses the central issues of extinction and biodiversity. The Hunt for the Golden Mole is an engaging story which illustrates the importance of every living creature, no matter how small, strange or rare. It is a thoughtful, shocking, inspiring and important book.
'Our relationship with nature has changed ...radically, irreversibly, but by no means all for the bad. Our new epoch is laced with invention. Our mistakes are legion, but our talent is immeasurable.' In The Human Age award-winning nature writer Diane Ackerman confronts the fact that the human race is now the single dominant force of change on the planet. Humans have 'subdued 75 per cent of the land surface, concocted a wizardry of industrial and medical marvels, strung lights all across the darkness'. We now collect the DNA of vanishing species in a 'frozen ark', equip orang-utans with iPads, create wearable technologies and synthetic species that might one day outsmart us. Ackerman takes us on an exciting journey to understand this bewildering new reality, introducing us to many of the people and ideas now creating - perhaps saving - the future. The Human Age is a surprising, optimistic engagement with the dramatic transformations that have shaped, and continue to alter, our world, our relationship with nature and our prospects for the future. Diane Ackerman is one of our most lyrical, insightful and compelling writers on the natural world and The Human Age is a landmark book.
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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