The Great Derangement: Climate Change and The Unthinkable by Amitav GhoshFor acclaimed writer Amitav Ghosh, who describes his ancestors (hailing from what is now Bangladesh) as "ecological refugees long before the term was invented," climate change is personal. In this passionate, issue-oriented account, Ghosh characterizes our collective response to the crisis as a failure of imagination. He also makes a case for art, particularly literature, as a means of addressing the subject in a world that largely lacks the political will to acknowledge or act on the threat that climate change poses to humanity.
Time Travel: A History by James GleickAs he did in The Information, popular science writer James Gleick weaves together literature, science, and philosophy in this fascinating exploration of time travel in popular culture. Beginning with H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine, which Gleick describes as an attempt to "gin up a plausible-sounding plot device for a piece of fantastic storytelling," the book examines fictional time travel in the context of its scientific underpinnings. From going back in time to prevent one’s own birth to creating alternate timelines, no plot device or paradox goes unexamined in this concise and accessible, yet intellectually wide-ranging discussion.
The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segrè and Bettina HoerlinThis biography of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi, the first such account in English, recounts the Italian-born Fermi's life from his upbringing in Rome to his flight to the U.S. in the 1930s (spurred by the rise of Fascism) and subsequent involvement in the Manhattan Project. Emphasizing his unusual facility in both theoretical and experimental physics, the book also explores his scientific contributions to areas such as statistical mechanics, nuclear physics, and quantum theory. For an examination of Fermi's wartime work, try Richard Rhodes' sweeping history The Making of the Atomic Bomb or Brian VanDeMark's group biography Pandora's Keepers.
Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard GottThree astrophysicists join forces to present this accessible introduction to the cosmos, based on an introductory astronomy course they co-taught at Princeton University. Aimed at general readers, this book begins with an overview of the universe, examining its composition and structure, before tackling the physics of multiverses, superstring theory, M-theory, and more. For big ideas in a compact and digestible format, look no further than Welcome to the Universe.
This Is What You Just Put in Your Mouth? From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising Secrets... by Patrick Di JustoHave you ever wondered what's in eggnog? Steak sauce? Chewing gum? For journalist Patrick Di Justo, it was a can of Easy Cheese that sent him a nearly decade-long quest to find out exactly what ingredients comprise the food products we eat. Based on Wired's popular column "What's Inside," this eye-opening book is the result of in-depth research and interviews with CEOs and PR departments as well as scientists, government officials, and lawyers. As a bonus, it also examines the composition of everyday products that we don't (or at least shouldn't) consume, including household cleaners and illegal drugs.
Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaidThe tongue has one job: "to distinguish food from everything else." However, the process though which we determine what's edible is complicated, requiring an understanding of, among other areas, microbiology, genetics, and neuroscience. It also requires cleansing one's mental palate by, for example, discarding that diagram of the tongue depicting four distinct regions dedicated to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter flavors (which has no scientific basis) and accepting that, to a large extent, taste is hereditary. If you've ever wondered why and how we eat what we eat, check out Tasty.
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary RoachCan your stomach really burst? And why doesn't it digest itself? As she's proven in previous books, including Stiff and Bonk, science writer Mary Roach isn't squeamish when it comes to the physiology or functions of the human body. In addition to exploring the science of the digestive system, she also debunks myths and misconceptions including flammable farts and the possibility of surviving being swallowed by a whale. And as a bonus, you'll be able to impress your friends with all kinds of trivia ranging from explosive colonoscopies (France, 1977) to slang terms describing the act of concealing contraband in one's rectum ("keistering," "hooped," and "prison wallet" are but a few examples).
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