Newest Popular Science Reviews

From TheBookbag
Jump to: navigation, search

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind by Siri Hustvedt

4star.jpg Politics and Society

I must confess that A Woman Looking spoke to me on a profound, intimate level. This is in part due to the apparent similarities between me and Siri Hustvedt - we are both feminists who love art and also love science in a world which emphasises that these two passions are mutually exclusive. What Hustvedt suggests in A Woman Looking is that it is the similarities between these two areas we should emphasise and that a cohesive, inclusive approach towards art and science could help fill the gaps in both disciplines. Full review...

Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris

4star.jpg Popular Science

This unusual science textbook is based on the meetings of a science discussion group who raise questions from their everyday life. The group's resident science expert, Andrew Morris, does a sterling job in trying to answer some of their most obscure and challenging issues, which range from the physics of light and electricity to brain chemistry and social anthropology. Each chapter is based around a theme which grows from an observation made by a group member, such as what colour is the blood in the body and why is the tide so far out at Blackpool. This tie-in to the reality of our lives, makes the science more interesting and somehow more useful. Full review...

Operation Big: The Race to Stop Hitler's A-Bomb by Colin Brown

3.5star.jpg History

What, do you think, was more feared in 1941 and 1942 than the Nazi Party? Well, a Nazi Party with nuclear arms would be pretty high on the list. It seems the stuff of pure fantasy, but I'm not so sure. A lot of the people to be at the forefront of the nuclear physics of the age were German, and the first nuclear fission was on their soil. Two things seemed to be needed for nuclear arms – uranium, which they procured by capturing Czechoslovakia, the location of one its greatest source mines; and heavy water. That so nearly fell into Nazi hands when they invaded Norway, but what seems to have been the great majority of the world's supply had only just been smuggled out. Some fiction takes great strides to suggest in a fantasy way that if Hitler hadn't concentrated on exterminating Jews, he would have had the energy to win the war – and it must only be a short step to see his imperial expansionism as having an ulterior motive in nuclear materiel. But make no mistake, this is not fiction – these are the pure facts behind the issue. Full review...

Calculating the Cosmos by Ian Stewart

3star.jpg Popular Science

In Calculating the Cosmos Ian Stewart attempts to explain how mathematics, a subject which strikes fear into the hearts of many, can be used to explain the wonders of the universe in a way which is accessible and understandable in a concise 352 pages. According to Stewart, Calculating the Cosmos takes us from the surface of the Earth to the outer reaches of the cosmos and from the beginning of time to the end of the universe. Does he achieve this? As the author himself states, the fun is in finding out so if you have any interest in mathematics, the universe and the complexities of space and time this may just be the book for you. Full review...

The Cell: A Visual Tour of the Building Block of Life by Jack Challoner

4.5star.jpg Popular Science

I've always been mesmerised by micro-worlds and the fact that the tiniest things are made up of even smaller intricate parts. The first time I saw a picture of a human cell, I was fascinated by its complexity. The Cell is a visual marvel, filled with full-colour cell images taken by optical and electron microscopes, using phase contrast, fluorescence and dark-field illumination to colour and differentiate the individual components. The detailed text that accompanies each image explains how cells begin, reproduce, protect themselves and come together in extraordinary ways to create complex life. Full review...

Botanicum (Welcome To The Museum) by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

3.5star.jpg Popular Science

Welcome to the Museum it says on the front cover and I'll admit that for the moment I was confused as I've never associated museums with living plants, but as soon as I stepped inside the covers, I knew where I was. One of the authors, Professor Kathy Willis is the Director of Science at Kew Gardens: she's undoubtedly based her thoughts on Kew, but for me I was back in the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh - the glorious 'Botanics'. I'm not certain why we're supposed to be in a museum, unless it's that it allows us to refer to author Kathy Willis and illustrator Katie Scott as curators. Still it's a contrivance which doesn't affect the content. Full review...

This is Not a Science Book: A Smart Art Activity Book by Clive Gifford

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

This is Not a Science Book explores the often-overlooked link between science and creativity. This interactive book encourages readers to get cutting, glueing, twisting, colouring and shading in order to create a variety of at-home experiments that are as entertaining as they are educational. The activities are also perfect for a rainy day; making this book a welcome resource during the long (and often wet) school holidays. Full review...

Build Your Own Website: Create with Code by CoderDojo

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The Nanonauts want a website for their band, and who better to build it for them than the CoderDojo network of free computing clubs for young people? In this handbook, created in conjunction with the CoderDojo Foundation, children of seven plus will learn how to build a website using HTML, CSS and Javascript. Don't worry too much if some of those words don't mean anything to you - all will be made clear as you read through the book. There's also information about how to start a CoderDojo Nano club with friends - which has great benefits in terms of harnessing creativity, learning how to code - and the benefits of teamwork. Full review...

Build Your Own Website: Create with Code by CoderDojo

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The Nanonauts want a website for their band, and who better to build it for them than the CoderDojo network of free computing clubs for young people? In this handbook, created in conjunction with the CoderDojo Foundation, children of seven plus will learn how to build a website using HTML, CSS and Javascript. Don't worry too much if some of those words don't mean anything to you - all will be made clear as you read through the book. There's also information about how to start a CoderDojo Nano club with friends - which has great benefits in terms of harnessing creativity, learning how to code - and the benefits of teamwork. Full review...

Get Coding!: Learn HTML, CSS & JavaScript & build a website, app & game by Young Rewired State

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Learning to code, even heading into my seventh decade, changed my life and for today's children it's important because it opens so many doors. It might look complicated, but all it required is concentration and - eventually - imagination. I had a reasonable mastery of the skills of basic HTML in three days with the benefit of a personal tutor, but where to go if you don't have that privilege or if you need some extra support? Get Coding! seems like the perfect answer. Full review...

The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy by Arabella Kurtz and J M Coetzee

5star.jpg Popular Science

We live by stories. Novelists weave tales that may or may not reflect reality, and that we accept as their job: to create fictions with intriguing character plots that draw in, surprise and touch the reader is at the core of their job description. But story telling goes beyond profession: everyone, writer or not, sometimes more consciously, sometimes less, creates their own history, selects memories that they retain, repress others, and constantly weave together a story of who we are, a tale of identity. Full review...

Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett

5star.jpg Popular Science

Over the course of a year Lisa Woollett invites us to go with her on her visits to various beaches in the British Isles, although 'visits' might make what happens sound a little too formal. Woollett knows her local beaches, and some further afield, in much the same way that a gardener knows their own plot. She's aware of minute changes, how the phase of the moon will affect the tide, what she can expect to find in the strandline and where it's come from. She delights in every variation of the weather and she's a mine of wonderful information from ancient myths to up-to-the-minute science. Full review...

Shipping Container (Object Lessons) by Craig Martin

3star.jpg Popular Science

This book is small, not even 150 pages of text, and more like 100 if you exclude the index, references and acknowledgements so perhaps it's unsurprising that it had to choose a more limited focus. There is plenty still to learn from the book. The word 'dunnage' is used daily and everyone knows what it means (the stuff inside containers to protect contents from damage during transit) but it was interesting to learn the origin of its use. Twist locks – the mighty strong connectors that can be used to link containers together – are also heavily featured. Full review...

How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley

4star.jpg Popular Science

Signs are all around us, if we know where to look. The ability to read and interpret signs is particularly useful to navigators and those who make their living on the water. In fact, the ability to read water can mean the difference between life and death, especially when strong tidal currents are involved. Of course, there are those who take water-reading beyond the ability of even the most experienced sailors. Traditional Arab navigators called this knowledge the isharat. Pacific islanders call it kapesani lemetau-the talk of the sea or water lore. Those who posses such knowledge have been baffling Westerners for centuries with their seemingly preternatural ability to understand the water. Full review...

Dust (Object Lessons) by Michael Marder

3.5star.jpg Popular Science

Dust is among the latest volumes in Bloomsbury's fascinating new 'Object Lessons' series. With titles ranging from Cigarette Lighter to Shipping Container, the books aim to explore the hidden histories of commonplace items. Here Marder approaches dust not as a scientist but as a philosopher: he is a professor at the University of the Basque Country, Spain. Nevertheless, he reminds readers that dust is largely composed of skin cells and hair, the detritus of our human bodies. Thus dusting – the verb form – is a kind of guilty attempt to clean up after ourselves, ultimately a futile and 'self-defeating occupation'. Full review...

Birth of a Theorem by Cedric Villani

5star.jpg Popular Science

Birth of a Theorem is a remarkable journey into the world of the abstract mathematics that shape our lives and existence. When you first open the book and flick through the pages, you are confronted with complex formulas that disorientate the mind and defy the understanding of anyone not versed in the language of the mathematician. You realise at this point that you need a guide for your journey and there is none better that Cedric Vallini. He is a winner of the Fields Medal, the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize. A genius who has dedicated his life to understanding the most complex aspects of our world. He is also a writer gifted in conveying the elation and despair that his gift can bring. Full review...

Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World by Adam Grant

4star.jpg Popular Science

Did you know that procrastination could actually aid creativity? No? Neither did I, but it's a piece of information that I shall embrace and wield in my defence from here on out, because Adam Grant says it is so. Filled with interesting snippets and fascinating cases, Originals is not just entertaining, but instructive as well. Full review...

The Aliens are Coming by Ben Miller

4star.jpg Popular Science

Next time that you are away from the towns and cities, wait until it gets dark and then look into the night sky. If you are lucky enough for it not to be raining, you will likely see hundreds of stars in the sky. Each one of these could be a Sun just like our own and each of these Suns could have planets orbiting it. Now times this number a million fold and you can start to fathom the number of stars and planets out there – surely the human race is not a complete fluke and there are aliens out there? Full review...

Alpha: Directions by Jens Harder

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

So, people might still ask me, why do I turn to graphic novels – aren't visual books with limited writing more suited to young people? Yeah, right – try pawning this off on juvenile audiences and the semi-literate. If you can't kill that cliché off with pages such as these I don't know what will work. I know the book isn't designed to be a message to people in the debate about the literary worth of graphic novels, but one side-effect of it is surely an engagement with that argument. What it is designed to be is a complete history of everything else – and in covering every prehistoric moment, it does just that, and absolutely brilliantly. Full review...

Love and Lies: And Why You Can't Have One Without the Other by Clancy Martin

3.5star.jpg Popular Science

Lying is wrong and the last people you would lie to willingly are the ones you love the most – or so you would like to think. In Love and Lies: And Why You Can't Have One Without the Other, Clancy Martin, a philosophy professor, self-confessed expert liar, and serial groom, sets out on a mission to disprove the central beliefs we hold with respect to, no more and no less than, our own morality. Full review...

The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf

4.5star.jpg Biography

Alexander von Humboldt was born in Berlin in 1769, the younger brother of Wilhelm von Humboldt who would become a Prussian minister but who is perhaps better remembered as a philosopher and linguist. The family was well-to-do and both brothers benefitted from an excellent education, although they lacked affection from their emotionally-distant widowed mother, but it was a legacy from her which would fund Alexander's first explorations. His first travels would be in Europe where he met and was influenced by people such as Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, who had travelled with Thomas Cook. But it was his travels in Latin America which would lay the foundations for his life's work. Full review...

The Hunt by Alastair Fothergill and Huw Cordey

4star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

My mother has long complained that nature programmes too often concentrate on the death and violence, or how it's all about the capture and killing of one animal by another. She's long had a point, but killer whales swanning by doing nothing, and lions sleeping off the heat without munching on a passing wildebeest's leg really don't cut it when it comes to providing popular TV content. I doubt she will be tuning in to the series this book accompanies, even if the volume very quickly testifies that it's not all about the capture – often the chase can be just as thrilling, and the result for the intended victim is favourable. Full review...

The Psychology of Overeating by Kima Cargill

4.5star.jpg Popular Science

As a nation, we are not the same as we used to be. We eat more, both as in more often and as in more of a serving size. And we eat worse. Processed foods. Sugary drinks. It’s not really news. As a result, our waistlines are larger, our blood pressure is higher, and our sugar levels are whoooosh. But it’s not just about the food. This book takes an in depth and incredibly interesting look at our lives as a whole, to show how the modern culture of consumerism shows up in every part of our day to day living and explains, to quite a significant degree, why many of us are overeating and why it is so hard to stop. Full review...

I Used To Know That: General Science by Marianne Taylor

4star.jpg Popular Science

This book got off to the right start in my mind because it comes in 3 key sections, each for one of 'my' sciences without a nod to any of the other '-ologies' (or pseudo sciences as they were often called at school). Marketed as stuff you forgot from school, this is a book from the same series that has already spawned I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott , I Used to Know That: Maths by Chris Waring and I Should Know That - Great Britain by Emma Marriott among others. Full review...

Why We Do the Things We Do: Psychology in a Nutshell by Joel Levy

4.5star.jpg Popular Science

Chalk and cheese; your left hand and your right; philosophy and psychology. All pairs have something closely resembling yet very different from the other, whether through colour and crumbliness, or physical form, or from being studies of the mind. The only thing is, one pair is alone. Your two hands formed at the same time, whereas chalk is the older, and philosophy predates psychology. The two were the same thing until recently, and we can perhaps point at a William James as the father of the split. I make this point because when I reviewed this volume's sister book I found no timeline or history evident. Here, however, we do get one – travelling quickly from the ideas of idiocy-cum-possession in our early history, through phrenology and mesmerism to the birth of psychology. The fact that we then immediately look at free will in much the same terms as the philosophers does shows how common the disciplines still are – and how vital to our understanding of ourselves both topics remain. Full review...

Why We Think the Things we Think: Philosophy in a Nutshell by Alain Stephen

4.5star.jpg Popular Science

Way back when, when I started back on adult education having finished my university life (I know, it's hard to believe sometimes, but bear with me) I was asked if I was going to do a philosophy A-level. No, I said – there was no point in studying something nobody can agree about. The introduction to this book raises much the same point – the solution to philosophical questions and study is only ever going to be more questions. It says that Kant thought the study of thought, or, more precisely, how ideas are formed was the highest science, although that sounds like the psychology that I did indeed study. Still, study it many people do do – and probably a far greater number would wish to read around it and find out what it might be like to sound as if you have studied it – hence books like this. Full review...

Out of the Woods: the armchair guide to trees by Will Cohu

4star.jpg Popular Science

Most people probably accept trees as, well, trees. They're there and they're green. Some are lighter, some darker. Some are taller and other go for width, but as for telling them apart there were few that I could identify until recently. I knew that the big tree at the bottom of next door's garden is a sycamore, but only because I heard someone say 'that sycamore is going to cause problems with the drains of the flats at the back'. I was OK on white horse chestnuts too, but only when the kids were collecting conkers, so I was rather pleased when Will Cohu's book landed on my desk and I opened it expecting to find lots of pictures with all the details which I probably wouldn't remember. Full review...