Nature and Science
"Technology doesn't make us more worldly or knowledgeable. It doesn't protect us. It's just a change of venue for the same old principles of confidence. What are you confident in? The con artist will find those things where your belief is unshakable and will build on that foundation to subtly change the world around you.
~ from Maria Konnikova's The Confidence Game
Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality... by Brian CleggH.G. Wells coined the term "atomic bomb" in The World Set Free, a 1914 novel that pitted America, England, and France against Germany and Austria in a global war. Impressive as that may be, however, the business of science fiction is not prediction; it's inspiration. In this accessible book, physicist and SF fan Brian Clegg explains how ideas introduced in science fiction have influenced scientific discovery. Whether discussing the development of virtual reality and artificial intelligence or pondering the physics of teleportation and faster-than-light travel, Clegg serves as a knowledgeable guide to any number of possible futures.
The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for it... Every Time by Maria KonnikovaTake your finger and trace the letter "Q" on your forehead. In which direction does the tail point? The answer could determine your likelihood of committing fraud. But whether you're a born grifter or an ideal mark, you're not alone. "The con is the oldest game there is," explains science writer Maria Konnikova, adding that everyone has the potential to deceive or be deceived. Examining the psychological underpinnings of confidence games, the best-selling author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes describes how and why scams work, offering readers an opportunity to learn to protect themselves from tricksters (or exploit unsuspecting others).
A Brief History of Creation: Science and the Search for the Origin of Life by Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves IIFrom spontaneous generation to evolution, humans have always based their theories about the origins of life on their observations of the natural world. Sometimes, these observations were wrong -- for example, geese are not fish, nor are they created by mixing pine resin and sea salt (as medieval English naturalist Alexander Neckham believed). Others were ahead of their time, like Renaissance man Jan Baptist van Helmont's coining of the word "gas" when he identified carbon dioxide's role in plant growth. This sweeping, yet accessible, history of science shows how human curiosity has contributed to our understanding of how life began.
The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David WoottonWhat is a revolution? What does it mean to discover something? These are concepts that, according to author David Wootton, didn't exist prior to the Scientific Revolution. In this thought-provoking history of science, Wootton explains that much of what seems obvious to modern humans has originated within the last four centuries, beginning in 1572 with Tycho Brahe's nova (which demonstrated, contrary to ancient philosophy) that the stars were not fixed in place). Considering the contributions of Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Descartes, and others, The Invention of Science explores not only the origins of scientific knowledge, but also the development of the thought processes that make science possible.
Focus on: Endangered Places
The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael GrunwaldFrom sea of grass to dismal swamp to World Heritage Site, Washington Post reporter Michael Grunwald traces the history of the Everglades, demonstrating its profound ecological importance while describing its uncertain future. Originally encompassing an area of more than 4,000 square miles, stretching from modern-day Orlando to the Florida Keys, the Everglades have dramatically dwindled in size due to concerted efforts by the United States government and American corporations to drain the wetlands and convert the space to farmland, residential suburbs, and industrial hubs. Only recently have conservationists, politicians, business leaders, and ordinary citizens banded together to save this precious natural resource. Can the Everglades be saved, if not restored? Time will tell.
John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska... by Kim HeacoxConservationist and Sierra Club cofounder John Muir played a crucial role in establishing several U.S. national parks. However, his most enduring legacy may be his writings, which introduced the American public to Alaska's glaciers and inspired efforts to preserve the northern wilderness. This biography traces Muir's enduring fascination with Alaska and its pristine landscape, beginning with his first trip to Glacier Bay in 1879 and continuing throughout the rest of his life. Although Muir was in many respects a man ahead of his time, this book also examines the historical and cultural factors that influenced his life and work.
Before They're Gone: A Family's Year-Long Quest to Explore America's Most Endangered National Parks by Michael LanzaAware that anthropogenic climate change might one day destroy some or all of America's most precious ecological treasures, writer and photographer Michael Lanza embarked on a quest to introduce his two children, aged 7 and 9, to the wonders of the natural world by visiting ten U.S. National Parks. Interwoven with accounts of the family's (often humorous) cross-country adventures are sobering reflections on places whose rapidly changing landscapes will one day not live up to their names, such as Alaska's Glacier Bay or California's Joshua Tree National Park. If you've been contemplating a trip to the Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, the Everglades, or Yosemite (among other destinations), don't forget to pack this book.
Fire and Ice: Soot, Solidarity, and Survival on the Roof of the World by Jonathan MingleWelcome to Kumik, India, a 1,000-year-old village in the Himalayas whose inhabitants long ago learned to cultivate the harsh mountain terrain by collecting water from melted snow. However, as the region's glaciers recede, the village declines. The main culprit? Soot. Among the most toxic, yet least studied, of pollutants, soot -- also known as black carbon -- is the byproduct of combustion. And while the Himalayas may seem remote, Kumik's plight parallels that of places all over the world. This sobering account of environmental devastation provides insight into a lesser-studied aspect of climate change.
The Galapagos: A Natural History by Henry NichollsHome to some 4,000 species of flora and fauna (of which 1,600 are endemic), the Galápagos Islands are renowned for their extraordinary biodiversity. Made famous by Charles Darwin, who featured the Galápagos prominently in The Voyage of the Beagle, this archipelago off the coast of Ecuador has also hosted many human visitors, from fishermen and pirates to scientists and ecotourists. In addition to exploring the islands' unique geological features and ecology, this sweeping account examines ongoing threats to the Galápagos caused by human activity, including pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change.
Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries... by Paul RosolieUncharted territory is difficult to find these days, which is part of what makes the Madre de Dios region of the Amazon Basin unique. Nature writer Paul Rosolie first visited the area as an 18-year-old college student volunteering at a biological research station in Peru, where he fell in love with the jungle's primeval splendor. In this "vividly written narrative" (Kirkus Reviews), Rosolie recounts eye-opening adventures, from fostering an orphaned anteater and encountering isolated tribes to contracting MRSA and nearly being devoured by a 25-foot anaconda.
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