Even in the twenty-first century the popular image of a scientist is a reclusive genius in a lab coat, mixing formulas or working out equations inaccessible to all but the initiated few. The idea that scientists are somehow smarter than the rest of us is a common, yet dangerous, misconception, getting us off the hook for not knowing - or caring - how the world works.
How did science become so divorced from our everyday experience? Is scientific understanding so far out of reach for the non-scientists among us? As science popularizer Chad Orzel argues in Eureka, even the people who are most forthright about hating science are doing science, often without even knowing it. Orzel shows that science isn't something alien and inscrutable beyond the capabilities of ordinary people, it's central to the human experience. Every human can think like a scientist, and regularly does so in the course of everyday activities. The disconnect between this reality and most people's perception is mostly due to the common misconception that science is a body of (boring, abstract, often mathematical) facts.
In truth, science is best thought of as a process: Looking at the world, Thinking about what makes it work, Testing your mental model by comparing it to reality, and Telling others about your results. The facts that we too often think of as the whole of science are merely the product of this scientific process. Eureka shows that this process is one we all regularly use, and something that everybody can do.
By revealing the connection between the everyday activities that people do - solving crossword puzzles, playing sports, or even watching mystery shows on television - and the processes used to make great scientific discoveries, Orzel shows that if we recognize the process of doing science as something familiar, we will be better able to appreciate scientific discoveries, and use scientific facts and thinking to help address the problems that affect us all.
In The Glass Cage, Pulitzer Prize nominee and bestselling author Nicholas Carr shows how the most important decisions of our lives are now being made by machines and the radical effect this is having on our ability to learn and solve problems.
In May 2009 an Airbus A330 passenger jet equipped with the latest 'glass cockpit' controls plummeted 30,000 feet into the Atlantic. The reason for the crash: the autopilot had routinely switched itself off. In fact, automation is everywhere - from the thermostat in our homes and the GPS in our phones to the algorithms of High Frequency Trading and self-driving cars. We now use it to diagnose patients, educate children, evaluate criminal evidence and fight wars.
But psychological studies show that we perform best when fully involved in a task, while the principle of automation - that humans are inefficient - is self-fulfilling. The glass cockpit is becoming a glass cage. In this utterly engrossing expose, bestselling writer Nicholas Carr reveals how automation is affecting our ability to solve problems, forge memories and acquire skills.
Rather than rejecting technology, Carr argues that we must urgently rethink its role in our lives, using it to enhance rather than diminish the extraordinary abilities that make us human.
In Science for Life acclaimed science writer Brian Clegg cuts through the vested interests and confusing contradictory statements that litter the media and the internet, to give a clear picture of what science is telling us right now about changing our lives for the better.
Discover the much-advertised antioxidants that aren't good for you, the truth about fat and sugar and why one of the healthiest foods contains carcinogens and 21 E-numbers. Find out what does and what doesn't enhance brainpower - from the failure of playing Mozart to babies to the surprising abilities of caffeine and nicotine. Understand the tools that advertisers use to persuade us and how to turn the psychological pressure back on them.
From the shortcomings of the five second rule to the truth about phone masts and nuclear power, kept up-to-date on a partnering website, Science for Life is your guide to surviving and thriving in the modern world.
ABBEY'S CHOICE MARCH 2014 ----- Since life began on Earth, there have been five major mass extinctions: the Ordovician 450 million years ago; the late Devonian 375 million years ago; the Permian 250 million years ago; the Triassic-Jurassic 200 million years ago; and the Cretaceous 65 million years ago. Here in the Anthropocene (a name still being investigated as appropriate to describe the current epoch), we are perhaps in the midst of the Sixth Extinction that our race is instrumental in causing.
Kolbert is a journalist, rather than a scientist, but her ability to communicate scientific concepts is evident in this accessible and highly researched book. It blends history with cutting edge discoveries; it has a good overview of the development of the ideas of evolution and species dispersal, of the gradual understanding of the length of life on the planet.
Each chapter is arranged around the story of one species emblematic of an idea or problem, including: the Panamanian golden frog and the discovery of the devastating chytrid fungus; the idea of extinction as arrived at through the examination of mastodon fossils; coral and the acidification of the seas; the fragmentation of rainforest as told through a single tree species and the repercussions of climate change; or the desperate plight of American bats and a plague perhaps introduced by travellers visiting a tourist cave system.
In all of these things, human actions are the essential agency of change. It is perhaps hard to use the word ‘enjoyable’ when the subject is so terrifying, but I found this book absorbing and thoughtful, and it makes me want to read more on various subjects Kolbert covers – a sign that the book has engaged and stimulated in equal measure! Lindy
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. Elizabeth Kolbert combines brilliant field reporting, the history of ideas and the work of geologists, botanists and marine biologists to tell the gripping stories of a dozen species - including the Panamanian golden frog and the Sumatran rhino - some already gone, others at the point of vanishing.
The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy and Elizabeth Kolbert's book urgently compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
An estimated 4.6 billion years ago, the Earth and Moon were formed in a violent impact. On this, many agree, and even more that a long time after that, life began. However, few know that the first life on the Earth may not have emerged on this planet, but could, in fact, have begun on Mars, brought here by meteorites.
In this revolutionary book, leading scientists Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink rewrite the principal account of the history of life on Earth. They show not only how the rise of animals was delayed for billions of years, but also what it was that first forced fish out of the sea and onto the land. Together, the two scientists explain how developments in the environment led to multiple Ice Ages before the emergence of dinosaurs and other giant animals, and what the true cause of these great beasts' eventual extinction was. Finally, charting the course of our own evolution, they explore whether this generation will see the end of the human species.
A New History of Life proves not only that much of what we think we know should be unlearned, but also that the true history of life on Earth is much more surprising and wonderful than we could ever have imagined.
What goes on inside the mind of a rock-star mathematician? Where does inspiration come from?
With a storyteller's gift, Cédric Villani takes us on a mesmerising journey as he wrestles with a new theorem that will win him the most coveted prize in mathematics. Along the way he encounters obstacles and setbacks, losses of faith and even brushes with madness. His story is one of courage and partnership, doubt and anxiety, elation and despair.
We discover how it feels to be obsessed by a theorem during your child's cello practise and throughout your dreams, why appreciating maths is a bit like watching an episode of Columbo, and how sometimes inspiration only comes from locking yourself away in a dark room to think. Blending science with history, biography with myth, Villani conjures up an inimitable cast of characters including the omnipresent Einstein, mad genius Kurt Godel, and Villani's personal hero, John Nash.
Birth of a Theorem combines passion and imagination to take us on a fantastical adventure through the beautiful, mysterious world of mathematics. Maths has never seemed so magical or so exciting.
In The Improbability Principle, the renowned statistician David J. Hand unveils his groundbreaking argument that extraordinarily rare events are in fact commonplace. Weaving together fascinating new ways to think about chance, Hand highlights his "law of near enough," the "look elsewhere effect," and more, doing for probability what Newton's laws of motion did for mechanics.
Through humorous and engaging tales of two-time lottery winners, gambling gone wrong, and bizarre coincidences that we can't quite fathom, Hand argues that extremely unlikely events must happen, and no mystical or supernatural explanation is necessary to understand why. Hand's investigation, grounded in statistics and brought to life with fascinating anecdotes, finally explains "unexplainable" events such as unexpectedly bumping into a friend in a foreign country and coming across an unfamiliar word twice in one day. Along the way, we learn what the Bible and Shakespeare have in common, just how to win the lottery, why financial crashes are par for the course, and why lightning does strike the same place (and the same person) more than once. As Hand makes clear, we can rest assured that we'll experience a "miracle" roughly once per month.
An irresistible adventure into the laws behind chance moments, The Improbability Principle transforms how we think about business decisions, everyday encounters, serendipity, and luck.
The transition from school mathematics to university mathematics is seldom straightforward. Students are faced with a disconnect between the algorithmic and informal attitude to mathematics at school, versus a new emphasis on proof, based on logic, and a more abstract development of general concepts, based on set theory. The authors have many years' experience of the potential difficulties involved, through teaching first-year undergraduates and researching the ways in which students and mathematicians think. The book explains the motivation behind abstract foundational material based on students' experiences of school mathematics, and explicitly suggests ways students can make sense of formal ideas.
This second edition takes a significant step forward by not only making the transition from intuitive to formal methods, but also by reversing the process - using structure theorems to prove that formal systems have visual and symbolic interpretations that enhance mathematical thinking. This is exemplified by a new chapter on the theory of groups. While the first edition extended counting to infinite cardinal numbers, the second also extends the real numbers rigorously to larger ordered fields. This links intuitive ideas in calculus to the formal epsilon-delta methods of analysis. The approach here is not the conventional one of 'nonstandard analysis', but a simpler, graphically based treatment which makes the notion of an infinitesimal natural and straightforward. This allows a further vision of the wider world of mathematical thinking in which formal definitions and proof lead to amazing new ways of defining, proving, visualising and symbolising mathematics beyond previous expectations.
The invention of numerals is perhaps the greatest abstraction the human mind has ever created. Virtually everything in our lives is digital, numerical, or quantified. The story of how and where we got these numerals, which we so depend on, has for thousands of years been shrouded in mystery.
Finding Zero is an adventure filled saga of Amir Aczel's lifelong obsession: to find the original sources of our numerals. Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the ancient world, scouring dusty, moldy texts, cross examining so-called scholars who offered wildly differing sets of facts, and ultimately penetrating deep into a Cambodian jungle to find a definitive proof. Here, he takes the reader along for the ride.
The history begins with the early Babylonian cuneiform numbers, followed by the later Greek and Roman letter numerals. Then Aczel asks the key question: where do the numbers we use today, the so-called Hindu-Arabic numerals, come from? It is this search that leads him to explore uncharted territory, to go on a grand quest into India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and ultimately into the wilds of Cambodia. There he is blown away to find the earliest zero - the keystone of our entire system of numbers - on a crumbling, vine-covered wall of a seventh-century temple adorned with eaten-away erotic sculptures.
While on this odyssey, Aczel meets a host of fascinating characters: academics in search of truth, jungle trekkers looking for adventure, surprisingly honest politicians, shameless smugglers, and treacherous archaeological thieves - who finally reveal where our numbers come from.
Before the Higgs boson, there was a maddening search for another particle that holds the secrets of the universe - the neutrino.
First detected in 1956, it teased the answers to science's greatest mysteries. How did the Big Bang happen? What might 'dark matter' be made of? And could faster-than light travel be possible, overturning Einstein's theory of special relativity? But the hunt for the neutrino and its meaning has also involved adventures, from Cold War defections and extra dimensions to mile-deep holes in the Antarctic ice and a troubled genius who disappeared without a trace.
Renowned astrophysicist and award-winning science writer Ray Jayawardhana delivers a thrilling detective story of revolutionary science from the dawn of the quantum age to today's most inventive labs.
On 21 March 2013, the European Space Agency released a map of the afterglow of the Big Bang. Taking in 440 sextillion kilometres of space and 13.8 billion years of time, it is physically impossible to make a better map: we will never see the early Universe in more detail. On the one hand, such a view is the apotheosis of modern cosmology, on the other, it threatens to undermine almost everything we hold cosmologically sacrosanct. The map contains anomalies that challenge our understanding of the Universe. It will force us to revisit what is known and what is unknown, to construct a new model of our Universe. This is the first book to address what will be an epoch-defining scientific paradigm shift. Stuart Clark will ask if Newton's famous laws of gravity need to be rewritten, if dark matter and dark energy are just celestial phantoms? Can we ever know what happened before the Big Bang? What's at the bottom of a black hole? Are there Universes beyond our own? Does time exist? Are the once immutable laws of physics changing?
Most people remember chemistry from their schooldays as largely incomprehensible, a subject that was fact-rich but understanding-poor, smelly, and so far removed from the real world of events and pleasures that there seemed little point, except for the most introverted, in coming to terms with its grubby concepts, spells, recipes, and rules. Peter Atkins wants to change all that.
In this Very Short Introduction to Chemistry, he encourages us to look at chemistry anew, through a chemist's eyes, in order to understand its central concepts and to see how it contributes not only towards our material comfort, but also to human culture. Atkins shows how chemistry provides the infrastructure of our world, through the chemical industry, the fuels of heating, power generation, and transport, as well as the fabrics of our clothing and furnishings. By considering the remarkable achievements that chemistry has made, and examining its place between both physics and biology, Atkins presents a fascinating, clear, and rigorous exploration of the world of chemistry - its structure, core concepts, and exciting contributions to new cutting-edge technologies.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Lands of extremes, contrasts and constant change, deserts cover a quarter of our planet's land area and are home to some half a billion people. 'The desert' as an idea has long captured the Western imagination, but too often in ways that fail to grasp the true scope and diversity of these spaces. Misconceptions and misrepresentations also abound about the realities of the lives of people for whom the desert is home. Deserts are landscapes of the mind as much as physical realities - they are places of metaphor and myth. For the outsider, stories of the desert are about the exotic and the hostile - about adventures into unknown territory. Few of us consider the perspectives of those who live in and navigate the desert each day.
This book attempts to bridge the gaps, both scientific and cultural, between perception and reality, while celebrating the fascination, excitement and variety of desert lands and their inhabitants. Though generally seen as arid and infertile, deserts have been the birthplaces of critical evolutionary adaptations, civilizations, ideologies and agricultural and social progress.Deserts play active roles in the continued evolution of our climate and societies, demanding that we think seriously about these barren lands and their future.
From scorching seas of sand to glacial polar expanses, Desert: Lands of Lost Borders relates the tales, truths, folklore and facts of the desert in an analysis that is at once informative and surprising.
A big, bold vision for protected areas and re-wilding the Earth, this book presents a spirited argument on the future of conservation. Protected natural areas have historically been the primary tool of conservationists to conserve land and wildlife. These parks and reserves are set apart to forever remain in contrast to those places where human activities, technologies, and developments prevail.
But even as the biodiversity crisis accelerates, a growing number of voices are suggesting that protected areas are passe. Conservation, they argue, should instead focus on lands managed for human use, working landscapes, and abandon the goal of preventing human-caused extinctions in favour of maintaining ecosystem services to support people. If such arguments take hold, we risk losing support for the unique qualities and values of wild, undeveloped nature.
Protecting the Wild offers a spirited argument for the robust protection of the natural world. In it, experts from five continents reaffirm that parks, wilderness areas, and other reserves are an indispensable, albeit insufficient, means to sustain species, subspecies, key habitats, ecological processes and evolutionary potential.
Protecting the Wild provides a necessary addition to the conversation about the future of conservation in the so-called Anthropocene, one that will be useful for academics, policymakers, and conservation practitioners at all levels, from local land trusts to international NGOs.
On a summer day in 1674, in the small Dutch city of Delft, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek - a cloth salesman, local bureaucrat, and self-taught natural philosopher - gazed through a tiny lens set into a brass holder and discovered a never-before imagined world of microscopic life. At the same time, in a nearby attic, the painter Johannes Vermeer was using another optical device, a camera obscura, to experiment with light and create the most luminous pictures ever beheld.
See for yourself! was the clarion call of the 1600s. Scientists peered at nature through microscopes and telescopes, making the discoveries in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and anatomy that ignited the Scientific Revolution. Artists investigated nature with lenses, mirrors, and camera obscuras, creating extraordinarily detailed paintings of flowers and insects, and scenes filled with realistic effects of light, shadow, and color. By extending the reach of sight the new optical instruments prompted the realization that there is more than meets the eye. But they also raised questions about how we see and what it means to see. In answering these questions, scientists and artists in Delft changed how we perceive the world.
In Eye of the Beholder, Laura J. Snyder transports us to the streets, inns, and guildhalls of seventeenth-century Holland, where artists and scientists gathered, and to their studios and laboratories, where they mixed paints and prepared canvases, ground and polished lenses, examined and dissected insects and other animals, and invented the modern notion of seeing. With charm and narrative flair Snyder brings Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek - and the men and women around them - vividly to life.
The story of these two geniuses and the transformation they engendered shows us why we see the world - and our place within it - as we do today.
Alfred Russel Wallace, Henry Walter Bates and Richard Spruce were English naturalists who went to Amazonia 150 years ago. This book is the first to combine all three young mens experiences of the Amazon, drawing heavily on their own letters and books. All three explored an unknown river and had many thrilling adventures: violent attacks of malaria, fearful rapids, murder attempts, encounters with newly contacted indigenous peoples, shipwrecks, and many other hardships. In addition to their huge contributions to knowledge of the Amazonian environment, each is particularly famous for one discovery. Wallace is acknowledged as a co-discoverer, along with Charles Darwin, of the theory of evolution. Bates discovered protective mimicry among insects, a phenomenon named after him. Spruce transported the quinine-bearing Cinchona tree, the most important medicinal plant of the nineteenth century, to India, where it saved countless lives from malaria.
The Penguin Dictionary of Science covers all the important topics in this key subject area including chemistry, physics, molecular biology, biochemistry, human anatomy, mathematics, astronomy and computing. Superbly comprehensive and accessible, this newly updated dictionary is the ideal reference tool for anyone who needs to understand scientific terms, whether student, researcher or enthusiastic layperson. It provides clear definitions of some 7,000 scientific terms. It gives succinct explanations of fundamental terms (ammonia, base pairing, cell) and more specialist concepts (allosteric enzyme, Bravais lattice, close packing). It covers individual elements and chemical compounds in detail. It contains appendices ranging from lists of SI units and fundamental constants to the periodic table and an outline classification of living organisms. It includes hundreds of illustrations and diagrams.
Kittens are not cats. They have their own very specific needs and challenges. They may scratch furniture, chew on cords, and just generally cause trouble - all while looking adorably innocent. Their first year will be one in which they learn how to use a litter box; that nipping at hands and feet is not tolerated; and how to go to sleep when you do, so their play doesn't keep you up all night. It will be your job to teach them appropriate behavior. The Secret Language of Kittens is your partner during this first year, your one-stop guide when looking for answers. It takes the mystery out of kitten communication, giving you the insight needed to raise a kitten into a happy, well-behaved cat. Learn to translate the vocal communication, behavior, and body language of your kitten. Understand how your kitten sees the world. Know how your attempts at communication and interaction are interpreted, and get guidance on kitten care. As this book shows, there are no bad kittens, only owners who don't yet understand their kitten's 'secret language.'
A puppy comes with a lot of specific challenges. From ears to paws, they are bundles of energy. Mischievous and constantly testing boundaries, they will keep their owners on their toes. Pups will need to be housebroken, crate trained, and taught basic commands. They may chew your shoes, dig up your garden, or take play too far by nipping at your hands and feet. It will be your job to teach them appropriate behavior. The Secret Language of Puppies is your partner during this first year, your one-stop guide when looking for answers. It takes the mystery out of puppy communication, giving you the insight needed to raise a puppy into a happy, well-behaved dog. Learn to translate the vocal communication, behavior, and body language of your puppy. Understand how your puppy sees the world. Know how your attempts at communication and interaction are interpreted, and get guidance on puppy health and care. As this book shows, there are no bad puppies, only owners who don't yet understand their pup's 'secret language.'
In Curvology, Cambridge Professor of Veterinary Anatomy David Bainbridge applies the science of evolutionary biology and cutting-edge psychology to women's bodies, to explain why the human female is the only female animal to have curves and how these curves rule our lives, by influencing not only sexual selection but also social hierarchy and self-image. Written in lucid and engaging prose, Bainbridge's unique brand of popular science also draws on illuminating references from art history, contemporary media culture, and a range of first-person interviews with some actual human women. Offering a level-headed and fresh perspective on a contentious issue, Curvology will be a fascinating, controversial, and highly newsworthy read.
An entertaining and profound look at the lives of birds, illuminating their surprising world--and deep connection with humanity. Birds are highly intelligent animals, yet their intelligence is dramatically different from our own and has been little understood. As we learn more about the secrets of bird life, we are unlocking fascinating insights into memory, relationships, game theory, and the nature of intelligence itself. The Thing with Feathers explores the astonishing homing abilities of pigeons, the good deeds of fairy-wrens, the influential flocking abilities of starlings, the deft artistry of bowerbirds, the extraordinary memories of nutcrackers, the lifelong loves of albatrosses, and other mysteries--revealing why birds do what they do, and offering a glimpse into our own nature. Drawing deep from personal experience, cutting-edge science, and colorful history, Noah Strycker spins captivating stories about the birds in our midst and shares the startlingly intimate coexistence of birds and humans. With humor, style, and grace, he shows how our view of the world is often, and remarkably, through the experience of birds. You've never read a book about birds like this one.
Viewed as fierce, menacing or mysterious, badgers have been both admired and reviled throughout human history. Their global reputation for ferocious self-defence has led to brutalization by hunters and sport-seekers; their association with the mythic underworld has made them symbols of earth-based wisdom and steadfast tradition; their burrowing and predation habits have resulted in widespread persecution as pests or public nuisances. Whether as living animals, abstract symbols or commercial resources, badgers have fascinated humans for thousands of years - though often to the animals' detriment. From the iconic European badger to the African honey badger, the hog badger of Southeast Asia and the North American badger, this book is the first truly global cultural history of the animal in over 30 years. Profusely illustrated with images spanning centuries, cultures, continents and species, Badger considers badgers' lives and lore, from their evolution and widespread distribution to their current and often imperilled status throughout the world.It travels from natural history and life in the wild to the myths, legends and spiritual beliefs badgers continue to inspire, as well as their representation and exploitation in industry, religion and the arts. Appealing to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of these much misunderstood and often maligned creatures, Badger traces the complex and often contradictory ways in which this fascinating animal endures.