On Trails: An Exploration by Robert MoorWhile "thru-hiking" the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, journalist Robert Moor had plenty of time consider the concept of trails -- particularly how they shape both the landscape and the traveler. From the pheromone pathways of ants to the hiking routes of humans, trails take many forms in both the natural and the human-made world. Drawing on his own experiences with backpacking and livestock-herding, as well as numerous examples from history and science, Moor leads readers on a descriptive and thought-provoking narrative journey through largely unexplored terrain.
Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils by Lydia PyneLucy, Austrolopithecus sediba, the Taung Child, Piltdown Man, the "hobbit" of Flores, and the Neanderthal of La Chappelle: six of these hominin fossils are real, one is fake. In this accessible introduction to paleoanthropology, science historian Lydia Pyne traces human evolution through seven sets of ancient remains. In the process, she also guides readers through the stages of collection and identification, from discovery (field expedition) to description (research laboratory) to display (museum collection).
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women... by Margot Lee ShetterlyTouching on some of the themes of Nathalia Holt's Rise of the Rocket Girls, Hidden Figures spotlights more unsung heroines of the space race. This inspiring group biography introduces NASA's African American female mathematicians, whose work in the 1950s and 60s played a pivotal role in launching American astronauts into orbit. Since they worked in segregated spaces within the organization, their stories have remained largely unheard until now. Film fans will be pleased to know that Hidden Figures has already been adapted for the screen and is set for release in December.
Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry by Christie WilcoxA nasty sea urchin sting prompted molecular biologist Christie Wilcox to take a closer look at the world of venomous creatures -- from spiders, snakes, and scorpions, to octopuses and platypuses (yes, really). Breaking down the chemical composition of venom, she also explains the purposes of venom (self-defense and subduing prey) and describes its effects, differentiating hemotoxic (altering blood chemistry) from neurotoxic (disrupting the nervous system). Finally, Wilcox delves into the nascent field of "bioprospecting," searching for medical applications of venom. You're sure to learn more than you ever thought possible about dangerous creatures when you read this eye-opening book.
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and A Grander View of Life by Ed YongWelcome to the microbiome, the complex ecosystem of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microscopic organisms living in and on our bodies. In this accessible field guide to microbes of all descriptions, science writer Ed Yong reveals that microorganisms are more than germs to be wiped out; they are complex communities that play a vital role in digestion, immunity, and reproduction -- and, as a result, have become a critical part of medical research. For more on the subject, try Rob Dunn's The Wildlife of Our Bodies or Rodney Dietert's The Human Super-Organism.
Location, Location, Location
You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves by Hiawatha Bray"Mankind has essentially solved the problem of location," asserts Hiawatha Bray, citing technological innovations that have enabled us to know where we are as well as where we're going -- from maps and compasses to GPS. Beginning with an overview of navigation from ancient times to the present, Bray also explores the future of location-based technologies and their applications, from crowd-sourced maps to digital surveillance.
You Are Here: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall by Colin EllardIn this book, experimental psychologist Colin Ellard examines human spatial intelligence (such as it is). Unlike many animals, humans lack the sophisticated "internal tookit" that enables us to orient ourselves and locate others. This in-depth examination of how we navigate space and inhabit our environment reveals (among other topics) the differences between landmarks and routes, the uses of mental maps, and the effects of digital spaces on cognition.
Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman who Mapped the Ocean Floor by Hali FeltIn 1997, the Library of Congress named geologist Marie Tharp as one of the four greatest cartographers of the 20th century. Her achievement? Mapping the entire ocean floor. After earning a master's degree in geology (but denied the opportunity to do fieldwork due to her gender) Marie Tharp was hired at Columbia University's Lamont Geological Observatory as a research assistant in 1948. Partnering with seismologist Bruce Heezen, Tharp began mapping the ocean floor by analyzing "soundings," sonar readings, and translating them into beautiful, but controversial, maps that challenged the scientific consensus of the era and contributed to the acceptance of the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem... by Dava SobelNavigators of 1714 were easily able to chart their latitudinal positions, but no one could find a way to calculate longitude, which meant that ships were liable to miss landfall, run aground, or get shipwrecked on rocky coasts. When the British Parliament offered a reward of £20,000 (about $4.5 million today) to anyone who could come up with a solution to the "Longitude Problem," many took on the challenge. However, it was John Harrison, a clockmaker with little formal education, who ultimately succeeded by inventing a precise and reliable marine chronometer that could withstand variations in temperature, pressure, humidity, and extreme weather conditions. Author Dava Sobel's page-turning account of scientific discovery won the 1997 British Book of the Year award.
Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens by Andrea WulfIn 1716, British astronomer Edmond Halley made a prediction: the planet Venus would traverse the sun on June 7, 1761 and then again in 1769, serving as a "celestial yardstick" that could be used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun, yielding crucial data about the size of the solar system. An aging Halley implored the next generation of scientists to observe the event from different areas of the globe and compile and compare their findings. Despite considerable political and logistical challenges, several hundred astronomers took up the challenge, at home and abroad, pointing their telescopes at the sky. In Chasing Venus, the author of The Founding Gardeners recounts that inspiring act of collaborative science, which revolutionized our concept of the cosmos.
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