Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Popular Science

The Wellesley Free Library has a nice collection of science books that focus on the general reader. Here are a few of the most popular science books during the last 8 months.

1. One Hundred Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know : Math Explains Your World
by Barrow, John D.

How can calculus prolong a life? In answering this surprising question, Barrow shares just one of the fascinating bits of mathematical lore he has collected here. Though unpredictably diverse, this treasury piquantly reminds readers of how much we err when we dismiss mathematics as a dryly academic specialty, cut off from the rhythms of real life. - Booklist

2. A Mathematical Nature Walk
by Adam, J. A.; Adam, John A.

How tall is that tree? How far away is that cloud, and how heavy is it? Why are the droplets on that spider web spaced apart so evenly? If you have ever asked questions like these while outdoors, and wondered how you might figure out the answers, this is a book for you. An entertaining and informative collection of fascinating puzzles from the natural world around us, A Mathematical Nature Walkwill delight anyone who loves nature or math or both.

3. The Age of Wonder : How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
by Holmes, Richard

The author of a number of biographies, British author Holmes presents a series of stories which collectively provide an account of the second scientific revolution, which produced a new vision--Romantic science--in 18th-century Britain. Included are chapters on botanist Joseph Banks (1743-1820), astronomers William Hershel (1738-1822) and his sister Caroline (1750-1848), 18th-century balloonists, chemist Humphry Davy (1778-1829), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and the soul.

4. The Complete Ice Age : How Climate Change Shaped the World
by Fagan, Brian M.

In examining different facets of the Ice Age, which characterized worldwide conditions from approximately 2.5 million years ago until about 11,000 years ago, the author concentrates on four areas. These include physical features of the Ice Age, along with myriad factors such as oceanic currents and salinity, atmospheric influences, tectonic forces, and planetary orbital mechanics that played important roles in initiating, sustaining, terminating, or otherwise moderating alternating glacial and interglacial periods; Ice Age influences on human evolution; a global survey of the Ice Age bestiary; and the post-Ice Age future in an era of global warming. The work nicely describes aspects of human evolution and the natural history of Ice Age megafauna in relation to environmental extremes and fluctuating resource availability. This material is largely accessible to general readers. - Choice

5. How We Live and Why We Die : The Secret Lives of Cells
by Wolpert, Lewis

Everything about our existence: (movement and memory, imagination and reproduction, birth and, ultimately, death) is governed by our cells. They are the basis of all life in the universe, from the tiniest bacteria to the most complex animals. When we age, our cells cannot repair the damage they have undergone; when we get ill, it is because cells are so damaged they stop working and die. Wolpert examines the science behind topics that are much discussed but rarely understood: (stem cell research, cloning, DNA, mutating cancer cells), and explains how all life evolved from just one cell. Lively and passionate, this is an accessible guide to understanding the human body and life itself.

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