No Need for Geniuses
By Steve Jones
Paris at the time of the French Revolution was the world capital of science. Its scholars laid the foundations of today's physics, chemistry and biology. They were true revolutionaries: agents of an upheaval both of understanding and of politics. Many had an astonishing breadth of talents. The Minister of Finance just before the upheaval did research on crystals and the spread of animal disease. After it, Paris's first mayor was an astronomer, the general who fought off invaders was a mathematician while Marat, a major figure in the Terror, saw himself as a leading physicist. Paris in the century around 1789 saw the first lightning conductor, the first flight, the first estimate of the speed of light and the invention of the tin can and the stethoscope. The metre replaced the yard and the theory of evolution came into being. The city was saturated in science and many of its monuments still are. The Eiffel Tower, built to celebrate the Revolution's centennial, saw the world's first wind-tunnel and first radio message, and first observation of cosmic rays.Perhaps the greatest Revolutionary scientist of all, Antoine Lavoisier, founded modern chemistry and physiology, transformed French farming, and much improved gunpowder manufacture. His political activities brought him a fortune, but in the end led to his execution. The judge who sentenced him - and many other researchers - claimed that 'the Revolution has no need for geniuses'. In this enthralling and timely book Steve Jones shows how wrong this was and takes a sideways look at Paris, its history, and its science, to give a dazzling new insight into the City of Light.
By Svante Pääbo
ONE OF AMAZON'S TOP 100 BOOKS OF 2014 Neanderthal Man tells the story of geneticist Svante Pääbo's mission to answer this question: what can we learn from the genomes of our closest evolutionary relatives? Beginning with the study of DNA in Egyptian mummies in the early 1980s and culminating in the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, Neanderthal Man describes the events, intrigues, failures, and triumphs of these scientifically rich years through the lens of the pioneer and inventor of the field of ancient DNA. We learn that Neanderthal genes offer a unique window into the lives of our hominid relatives and may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of why humans survived while Neanderthals went extinct. Pääbo's findings have not only redrawn our family tree, but recast the fundamentals of human history,the biological beginnings of fully modern Homo sapiens , the direct ancestors of all people alive today.
The Naked Scientist
By Chris Smith
Is it possible to tell how happy a dog is by watching the way it wags its tail? Why is the Eiffel Tower 15 centimetres taller in mid-summer than it is in mid-winter? Does sound travel faster in water or air? Can one really read other people like a book? Why do so many people hate eating their greens? Firmly in the tradition of DOES ANYTHING EAT WASPS? new scientific kid on the block Chris Smith - aka THE NAKED SCIENTIST - explores present-day predicaments and tomorrow's technologies, from the most surprising facts to the most innovative new inventions, from staggering stats to serious developments that will transform the world around us.In this fascinating book, top scientist Chris Smith uses his wit and charm to lift the lid on the curious, crazy and compelling - and answer those questions you never thought to ask.
No Impact Man
By Colin Beavan
In the growing debate over eco-friendly living, it seems that everything is as bad as everything else. Do you do more harm by living in the country or the city? Is it better to drive a thousand miles or take an airplane? In NO IMPACT MAN, Colin Beavan tells the extraordinary story of his attempt to find some answers - by living for one year in New York City (with his wife and young daughter) without leaving any net impact on the environment. His family cut out all driving and flying, used no air conditioning, no television, no toilets. . .They went from making a few concessions to becoming eco-extremists. The goal? To determine what works and what doesn't, and to fashion a truly 'eco-effective' way of life. Beavan's radical experiment makes for an unforgettable and humorous memoir in an attempt to answer perhaps the most important question of all: What is the sufficient individual effort that it would take to save the planet? And what is stopping us?
Not Even Wrong
By Peter Woit
When does physics depart the realm of testable hypothesis and come to resemble theology? Peter Woit argues that string theory isn't just going in the wrong direction, it's not even science. Not Even Wrong shows that what many physicists call superstring theory" is not a theory at all. It makes no predictions, not even wrong ones, and this very lack of falsifiability is what has allowed the subject to survive and flourish. Peter Woit explains why the mathematical conditions for progress in physics are entirely absent from superstring theory today, offering the other side of the story.
By Robert Wright
In a book sure to stir argument for years to come, Robert Wright challen+ges the conventional view that biological evolution and human history are aimless. Ingeniously employing game theory - the logic of 'zero-sum' and 'non-zero-sum' games - Wright isolates the impetus behind life's basic direction: the impetus that, via biological evolution, created complex, intelligent animals, and then via cultural evolution, pushed the human species towards deeper and vaster social complexity. In this view, the coming of today's independent global society was 'in the cards' - not quite inevitable, but, as Wright puts it, 'so probable as to inspire wonder'. In a narrative of breathtaking scope and erudition, yet pungent wit, Wright takes on some of the past century's most prominent thinkers, including Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Dawkins. Wright argues that a coolly specific appraisal of humanity's three-billion-year past can give new spiritual meaning to the present and even offer political guidance for the future. This book will change the way people think about the human prospect.
By Ian Stewart
"It appears to us that the universe is structured in a deeply mathematical way. Falling bodies fall with predictable accelerations. Eclipses can be accurately forecast centuries in advance. Nuclear power plants generate electricity according to well-known formulas. But those examples are the tip of the iceberg. In Nature's Numbers , Ian Stewart presents many more, each charming in its own way.. Stewart admirably captures compelling and accessible mathematical ideas along with the pleasure of thinking of them. He writes with clarity and precision. Those who enjoy this sort of thing will love this book."- Los Angeles Times