Nature and Science
"You design the experiment, we'll design the mice."
~ from Emily Anthes' Frankenstein's Cat
Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens
by Steve Olson
The single most powerful natural disaster in U.S. history occurred on May 18, 1980, when Washington's Mount St. Helens erupted, killing 57 people while scattering ash over 11 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. Eruption provides a play-by-play account of the catastrophe, from the first seismic rumblings to the volcano's eruption and its deadly aftermath, while painting a vivid portrait of the Pacific Northwest's history and culture.
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
by Sonia Shah
"The disease-causing microbe that will cause the next pandemic lurks among us today," explains science writer Sonia Shah, noting that between 1940 and 2004, some 300 infectious diseases (re)emerged in areas and among populations that had never seen them before. To demonstrate how pathogens become pandemics, Shah examines the history of Vibrio cholerae, a marine bacterium that spread from Southeast Asia across the globe during the 19th-century. Readers interested in Shah's argument that human incursion into wilderness areas makes the rise and spread of new diseases inevitable should check out David Quammen's Spillover, which provides an in-depth exploration of animal-to-human disease transmission.
Hair: A Human History
by Kurt Stenn
Humans can more easily detect the presence of bedbugs on unshaven limbs. Goose bumps are a prehistoric reflex that date from the period before hominids developed eccrine (sweat) glands. And while our scalps are home to approximately one-hundred thousand strands of hair, our bodies boast between three to five million. These are just a few of the fascinating tidbits in this comprehensive book by hair-follicle scientist Kurt Stenn. If you've ever wondered how a cluster of cells that evolved to regulate body temperature in our earliest mammalian ancestors could become such an important part of human history, this is the book for you!
Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA
by Amy Shira Teitel
Like many of its earliest rockets, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was built from spare parts. Created in 1958, two years before JFK promised to put humans on the Moon, NASA's nascent space program drew on discoveries made by propulsion pioneers such as Romanian physicist Hermann Oberth, whose liquid-fueled rockets inspired hobbyists to risk life and limb during the 1930s, and Wernher von Braun, who ran Nazi Germany's V-2 rocket program before bringing his expertise to the United States. This engaging account of the history of rocketry is sure to keep armchair astronauts glued to the edge of their seats.
Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age
by Bruce Watson
Light -- central to creation myths worldwide -- has captured the imagination since the dawn of human history. However, understanding it has been the work of millennia. Ancient philosophers debated its nature, while artists sought to reproduce its effects. Scientists probed its mysteries by conducting experiments with prisms, mirrors, and lenses and by developing new areas of study such as relativity, quantum electrodynamics, and fiber optics. Accessible and engaging, this book by Smithsonian contributing writer Bruce Watson illuminates a multifaceted natural -- and cultural -- phenomenon.
Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts
by Emily Anthes
Consider this: dogs used to be wolves before humans interfered. We use selective breeding techniques to fine-tune our livestock and pets; electronics to fuse animal bodies with machinery; and molecular biology to create mutants and clones. This eye-opening book surveys the brave new world of biotechnology "from petri dish to pet store," discussing such wonders as cats that glow in the dark (due to an infusion of bioluminescent jellyfish DNA) and spider-goats, genetically modified goats whose milk contains proteins that can be spun into silk. It also delves into ethical concerns surrounding such practices, including (but not limited to) the growing industry dedicated to breeding diseased animals to supply research labs.
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet
by John Bradshaw
Although dogs are usually awarded the title of "man's best friend," housecats outnumber their canine counterparts three to one. But despite their ubiquity in our homes (and on the Internet), what do we really know about our feline friends? Are they truly our friends, or -- as some suspect -- are they just using us? Aimed at pet parents, British anthrozoologist John Bradshaw's book examines a range of topics related to cat behavior and traces the evolution of cats from freelance exterminators to household companions. If you've ever wanted to know why cats purr, check out this accessible guide. Not a cat person? Bradshaw throws dog lovers a bone in Dog Sense, which covers the science of canines.
The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think
by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
If your dog won't fetch, you may approach this book with some skepticism. However, authors Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods argue, dogs are intelligent -- in a very specific way. Having co-evolved with humans, dogs are uniquely suited to be our companions: they can interpret our gestures, make inferences about our behavior, and even anticipate our desires. If you enjoyed the exploration of the canine-human bond in Jon Franklin's The Wolf in the Parlor, you'll want to read The Genius of Dogs. For more on canine cognition specifically, try ethologist Alexandra Horowitz's Inside of a Dog.
Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing, and Hope...
by Nick Trout
A staff surgeon at Boston's Angell Animal Medical Center, experienced vet Nick Trout guides readers through an average day in the life of an animal doctor -- a profession that requires practitioners to be "a social worker, a psychologist, a grief counselor, mentor, carpenter, plumber, cosmetologist, athletic coach, magician, grim reaper, and occasionally, guardian angel." Whether tussling with a 40-lb. cat (aptly) named Chunky Bear or performing surgery on an elderly widower's beloved dog, Trout describes his encounters with animals and their humans with an appealing mix of humor and heart.
Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend
by John Woestendiek
Would you bring a beloved pet back in the form of a clone? Some people would -- and have. As recounted by journalist John Woestendiek, the decade-long journey to fulfill the dream of commercial dog cloning was littered with nightmares -- deformities, stillbirths, deaths -- thanks cloning companies' lack of transparency about their progress and methods in a lax regulatory environment. Taking readers behind the scenes of both the scientific process to produce viable clones and the push to market the service to consumers, Woestendiek notes that cloning pets brings us that much closer to human cloning, both scientifically and in terms of increasing social acceptance of the practice.
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