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Nature and Science February 2014
"In our constant search for meaning in this baffling and temporary existence, trapped as we are within our three pounds of neurons, it is sometimes hard to tell what is real."
~ from Alan Lightman's The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew
New and Recently Released!
Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture - by Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 12/26/2013
Share Uncharted%3a Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture ISBN-13: 9781594487453
ISBN-10: 1594487456
"Imagine if we had a robot that could read every book on every shelf of every major library," posit researchers Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel. In fact, we don't have to imagine such a robot, since it already exists. This web-based tool, known as the Ngram Viewer, was designed to search a corpus of 30 million digitized books and extract information about how words and phrases have been used over time. With it, the authors, part of a research team that joined forces with Google to develop the technology, have since discovered "an unprecedented précis of humanity's cultural record." If the idea of better living through text mining appeals to you, check out Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier.
The Rocket Man: And Other Extraordinary Characters in the History of Flight - by David Darling
Publisher: PGW
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 10/29/2013
Share The Rocket Man%3a And Other Extraordinary Characters in the History of Flight ISBN-13: 9781780742977
ISBN-10: 1780742975
"Pioneering aviators are a strange breed," admits science writer and astronomer David Darling. In this enthusiastic salute to the brave individuals who have chosen to defy gravity and take to the skies, he introduces aeronauts including Enlightenment-era balloonists Jean-Pierre and Sophie Blanchard, aerial stuntman Lincoln Beachey, the "X-Men" who broke the sound barrier in experimental aircraft, and the titular Rocketman, Yves Rossy, whose wingsuit jetpack may seem like science fiction but is all too real. With its vivid descriptions of larger-than-life personalities and death-defying feats, this book may appeal to fans of Richard Holmes' Falling Upward.
A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction - by Joel Greenberg
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 01/07/2014
Share A Feathered River Across the Sky%3a The Passenger Pigeon ISBN-13: 9781620405345
ISBN-10: 1620405342
September 1, 2014 marks the centenary of the death of Martha, a passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) at the Cincinnati Zoo and the last of her kind. Once the most abundant bird species in North America, the passenger pigeon declined as European settlers arrived, according to naturalist Joel Greenberg. In A Feathered River Across the Sky, Greenberg describes how a combination of hunting (for food and sport) and habitat destruction (mass deforestation destroyed nesting grounds) caused pigeon populations to plummet precipitously -- from several billion individuals in 1860 to zero a mere half-century later when the species was officially declared extinct.
Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe - by Ray Jayawardhana
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 12/10/2013
Share Neutrino Hunters%3a The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe ISBN-13: 9780374220631
ISBN-10: 0374220638
Although neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe, they're also the most elusive -- almost "pathologically shy," according to astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana. With no electrical charge and very little mass, neutrinos rarely interact with other particles. In fact, a hundred-trillion of them pass through your body every second, although you'd never know it since they leave no trace. And while neutrinos are one of the fundamental building blocks of matter, they don't confine themselves to atoms. First observed in 1956, they've been actively sought ever since, both on Earth (at Antarctica's IceCube observatory and South Dakota's Homestake Gold Mine) and in space. To learn more about these curious particles, pick up this fascinating book.
The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew - by Alan P. Lightman
Publisher: Random House
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 01/14/2014
Share The Accidental Universe%3a The World You Thought You Knew ISBN-13: 9780307908582
ISBN-10: 0307908585
In seven "brief but engrossing" essays (Publishers Weekly) theoretical physicist and novelist Alan Lightman reflects on recent scientific findings that have the potential to change our understanding of the cosmos and considers the philosophical implications of such discoveries. In discussing such topics as the multiverse and entropy, Lightman meditates on the oft-fraught relationship between science and religion, the role of technology in society, and how humans use the methodology and tools of science to identify physical laws of the universe whose underpinnings -- including dark matter and subatomic particles -- they can't even perceive.
Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade - by Adam Minter
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 11/12/2013
Share Junkyard Planet%3a Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade ISBN-13: 9781608197910
ISBN-10: 1608197913
Adam Minter has the inside scoop on trash: he grew up working in his family's junkyard in Minneapolis. Now a Shanghai-based journalist, Minter delves into the global recycling trade between the U.S. (whose biggest export is scrap metal) and China (the largest importer of recyclables). As he visits factories, processing plants, and secondhand markets, he encounters a diverse group of individuals ranging from self-made scrap-metal kingpins to self-employed garbage pickers. If you enjoy this "detailed view of a mostly unknown business" (Kirkus Reviews) you may also be interested in Edward Humes' Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, which also examines the economics of waste, albeit with a greater emphasis on environmental factors.
Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game - by Allen St. John and Ainissa G. Ramirez, Ph.D
Publisher: Random House
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 11/19/2013
Share Newton ISBN-13: 9780345545145
ISBN-10: 0345545141
Does the zone blitz demonstrate Heisenberg's uncertainty principle? Can the West Coast (no-huddle) offense provide an effective illustration of chaos theory? Journalist Allen St. John and engineer Ainissa Ramirez think so, and in this book they team up to examine the mathematical and scientific underpinnings of America's favorite sport: professional football. From describing the pigskin prolate spheroid that players punt, snap, and pass to the laws of motion that govern its flight, from the Boolean algebra that creates successful quarterbacks to the biological factors that lead to larger linebackers, Newton's Football will make sports fans and science geeks cheer.
The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals - by Thomas Suddendorf
Publisher: Basic Books
Check Library Catalog Pub Date: 11/12/2013
Share The Gap%3a The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals ISBN-13: 9780465030149
ISBN-10: 0465030149
"This book is about you, what you are, and how you got here," declares psychologist Thomas Suddendorf in this multi-disciplinary exploration of what separates humans from other animals. Focusing on the brain, Suddendorf identifies six areas of mental ability -- language, mental time travel, mind reading, intelligence, culture, and morality -- and explains how "the gap" derives from human aptitude for nested scenario-building and the need to connect. For example, while animals communicate, humans have language; and where animals demonstrate problem-solving abilities, humans possess the capacity for abstract reasoning. Why the gap? Well, according to Suddendorf, we probably widened it by driving our closest hominid relatives to extinction (but that's another story).
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