Zapped: From Infrared to X-Rays, The Curious History of Invisible Light by Bob BermanAlthough light is all around us, most of it can't be seen. Confused? Don't worry: science writer Bob Berman will explain. After giving an overview of the physics of light (including historical attempts to explain the phenomenon), Berman delves into the different types of invisible light -- including infrared and ultraviolet, microwaves, X-rays, gamma rays, and radio waves -- and describes how 19th-century scientists discovered and developed applications for them. For more illuminating books on electromagnetic radiation in all its forms, try Bruce Watson's Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age.
What It's Like to be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience by Gregory BernsIf your pup struggles with simple commands like "sit," you may wonder how neuroscientist Gregory Berns managed to get a bunch of dogs to climb into MRI machines. Indeed, his training regimen is almost as fascinating as what he learned from scanning the dogs' brains. As Berns discovers, human and canine brains show striking structural similarities, which suggests intriguing possibilities about the emotional lives of our four-legged friends. Dog lovers won't want to miss this book, which should appeal to fans of John Bradshaw's Dog Sense or Alexandra Horowitz's Inside of a Dog.
Darwin's Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory by James T. CostaWe tend to think of Charles Darwin as a theorist, yet this book reveals that he was also a keen observer of the natural world (who frequently enlisted friends and acquaintances to collect specimens) and an experimenter who collaborated with his children (on projects ranging from serenading worms to raising carnivorous plants). Interweaving biographical information and descriptions of Darwin's home-based research, this engaging book also includes instructions for 18 DIY experiments aimed at readers who may find themselves inspired to follow in Darwin's footsteps.
Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame by Michael KodasAnyone who follows the news can't help but be aware of the wildfires that periodically ravage the western United States, claiming lives and causing widespread destruction. In this sobering book, journalist and firefighter Michael Kodas draws on interviews and on-site reporting to investigate why such "megafires" occur -- and how our response to them may be doing more harm than good.
Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution by Jonathan B. LososIs evolution predictable? Can it be studied in real-time? Herpetologist and Harvard museum curator Jonathan Losos believes that the answer to both questions is yes. In this accessible introduction to evolutionary biology, Losos discusses topics such as convergence (which occurs when different species independently evolve to be physically similar due to common environmental pressures), while describing the experimental research that's changing our understanding of the development of life on Earth.
Quakeland: On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles"Earthquakes are everywhere," explains science journalist Kathryn Miles, who knows her natural disasters (she's also the author of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy). Although geological maps of the United States reveal some 2,100 known faults, the nation is ill-prepared should any of them slip. Poor infrastructure and a lack of early warning systems are causes for concern, as is the increasing number of earthquakes in unexpected places such as Oklahoma and North Dakota, where hydraulic fracturing has transformed the landscape. Given that 75 million Americans currently live in "areas of significant seismic risk," this eye-opening book is essential reading.
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max TegmarkAre you ready for the AI revolution? If not, you're hardly alone. Although the issues surrounding artificial intelligence comprise "the most important conversation of our time," according to MIT professor Max Tegmark, we as a society have not devoted much attention to the political, economic, and social consequences of AI. Whether you're worried about automation eliminating your job (it probably will) or robot overlords destroying all humans (they probably won't), you'll want to read this book.
Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology by Ellen UllmanWhen Ellen Ullman once objected to her software engineer colleagues' suggestions of genocide as a means of eradicating a genetic disorder, one replied, "This is how I know you're not a real techie." In this essay collection, the award-winning author of the memoir Close to the Machine and the novel The Bug describes her experiences in the tech industry, beginning in the 1970s and spanning decades. From living in what she calls "mind-time" to dealing with gender-based discrimination, Ullman offers countless insights from a life lived in close proximity to machines.
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