Books et. al. Archives

From engaging histories and research-driven treatises, to provocative exhibitions and popular films, to mobile applications and podcasts, Science book and media reviews feature smart commentary on a wide range of timely scientific topics.

Reviews from 2016

  • Tomorrow's arsenal

    Two authors probe the technologies transforming warfare

    Predator Empire Drone Warfare and Full Spectrum Dominance

  • Divining science

    A new tome argues that the ancient Babylonians deserve greater recognition in scientific histories

    Before Nature Cuneiform Knowledge and the History of Science

  • The calculators

    Two tomes uncover how women broke down barriers to explore the universe

    The Glass Universe How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

  • The aftermath of AIDS in China

    A candid history uncovers the country's stumbles and successes in the fight against the devastating virus

    HIV/AIDS in China Beyond the Numbers

  • The intelligent invertebrate

    A philosopher explores the underwater origins and evolution of cognition

    Other Minds The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

  • Arrested development

    Financial and regulatory pressures threaten the discovery of new medicines

    A Prescription for Change The Looming Crisis in Drug Development

  • Toxic textiles

    A physician uncovers the disturbing history of an “ecofriendly” fiber

    Fake Silk The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon

  • Embodied inequality

    A diverse group of scholars tackles the relationships between health care and social justice

    Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice New Conversations Across the Disciplines

  • Crops on demand

    A probing portrait of early plant-breeding technologies unearths surprising roots of genetic engineering efforts

    Evolution Made to Order Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth-Century America

  • Tinkering with evolution

    A comprehensive tome explores the far-reaching implications of genome editing

    Redesigning Life How Genome Editing Will Transform the World

  • Against all odds

    A geologist revels in the unlikely reality of life on Earth

    A Most Improbable Journey A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves

  • Priceless

    A cautionary tome probes the cost of black box algorithms

    Virtual Competition The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy

  • Striking the right chord

    A wide-ranging treatise seeks to reshape cities with an eye toward equality and resilience

    The Well-Tempered City What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life

  • Is anyone out there?

    A witty romp through the cosmos explores the scientific search for intelligent alien life

    The Aliens Are Coming! The Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe

  • Book

    Street smart

    About this Book:
    Science and the City The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis
    Laurie Winkless
    Bloomsbury Sigma,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Asylums and after

    A new exhibition probes the ever-evolving treatment of mental illness

    About this Book:
    This Way Madness Lies The Asylum and Beyond
    Mike Jay
    Thames & Hudson,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The mythology of CRISPR

    An optimistic outlook on gene editing seeks to reconcile scientific progress with wisdom from the humanities

    About this Book:
    Modern Prometheus Editing the Human Genome with CRISPR-CAS9
    Jim Kozubek
    Cambridge University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Asylums and after

    A new exhibition probes the ever-evolving treatment of mental illness

    Bedlam The Asylum and Beyond

  • The mythology of CRISPR

    An optimistic outlook on gene editing seeks to reconcile scientific progress with wisdom from the humanities

    Modern Prometheus Editing the Human Genome with CRISPR-CAS9

  • Book

    The folly of fashionable thinking

    A physicist casts a critical eye on popular ideas in cosmology, quantum mechanics, and string theory

    About this Book:
    Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe
    Roger Penrose
    Princeton University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Quantifying culture

    A humanist's ode to mathematics reveals how numbers underlie literature, art, and music

    About this Book:
    Living by Numbers In Defence of Quantity
    Steven Connor
    Reaktion Books,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The socially savvy tree

    Anthropomorphisms abound, but science underlies a forester's reverent ode to woodland complexity

    About this Book:
    The Hidden Life of Trees What They Feel, How They Communicate
    Gabriel Popkin
    Greystone Books,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Scientist's guide to modern art

    Scientific inquiry and abstract artistic expression may have more in common than you think

    About this Book:
    Reductionism in Art and Brain Science Bridging the Two Cultures
    Eric R. Kandel
    Columbia University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Remembering 9/11

    A historian probes the bitter conflicts that accompanied America's most costly forensic investigation

    About this Book:
    Who Owns the Dead? The Science and Politics of Death at Ground Zero
    Jay D. Aronson
    Harvard University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The great debate

    Competing perspectives face off in a quest to find common ground on controversial energy issues

    About this Book:
    Fact and Fiction in Global Energy Policy 15 Contentious Questions
    Benjamin K. Sovacool, Marilyn A. Brown, and Scott V. Valentine
    Johns Hopkins University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Navigating today's job market

    A step-by-step guide offers practical science career advice

    About this Book:
    Next Gen PhD A Guide to Career Paths in Science
    Melanie V. Sinche
    Harvard University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Film

    Building Star Trek

    About this Film:
    Building Star Trek
    Mick Grogan
    Yap Films for Smithsonian Channel and Discovery Canada,  http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/building-star-trek/0/3436402,  2016

  • Book

    Memory lane

    An intimate portrait of a famous amnesiac is also a tale of personal grievances

    About this Book:
    Patient H.M. A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets
    Luke Dittrich
    Random House,  2015

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Tough love for technology

    A legal scholar probes how new technologies are raising risks, accentuating inequality, and affecting human nature

    About this Book:
    The Ethics of Invention Technology and the Human Future
    Sheila Jasanoff
    Norton,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Dangerous liaisons

    An insider's guide to venomous creatures delivers on the science but is short on tales of the bitten and stung

    About this Book:
    Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry
    Christie Wilcox
    Scientific American/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    In real life

    An essayist offers an intimate glimpse into the digital technologies that are redefining the human experience

    About this Book:
    The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World
    Laurence Scott
    Norton,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Bombs away?

    A journalist probes the morality of nuclear weapons in the 21st century

    About this Book:
    Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age
    Dan Zak
    Blue Rider Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Facts versus fallacy

    A statistics-driven treatise teaches readers how to spot lies, half-truths, and outright deception

    About this Book:
    Truth or Truthiness: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction by Learning to Think Like a Data Scientist
    Howard Wainer
    Cambridge University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Living in a microbial world

    Microbes take center stage in a charming tour of Earth's microscopic menagerie

    About this Book:
    I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
    Ed Yong
    Harper Collins,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Interpreting evolution

    A probing history sheds light on the social and cultural biases that have shaped the study of human origins

    About this Book:
    History Within: The Science, Culture, and Politics of Bones, Organisms, and Molecules
    Marianne Sommer
    University of Chicago Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Power to the people

    A cultural history of the U.S. power grid reveals the system's current failings and its potential

    About this Book:
    The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future
    Gretchen Bakke
    Bloomsbury,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The GDP and its discontents

    Can a single number ever really capture all of what matters about a society?

    About this Book:
    The Great Invention: The Story of GDP and the Making (and Unmaking) of the Modern World
    Ehsan Masood
    Pegasus Books,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    A toxic timeline

    Lessons from Love Canal offer context for complacent environmental policies

    About this Book:
    Love Canal: A Toxic History from Colonial Times to the Present
    Richard S. Newman
    Oxford University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Big data meets human health

    Internet searches and fitness trackers are poised to play a role in the future of health care

    About this Book:
    Self-Tracking
    Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus
    MIT Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • This Is Your Brain on Parasites

    Book

    Master manipulators

    Emerging research on how parasites affect host behavior fuels speculation about their influence on human history

    About this Book:
    This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society
    Kathleen McAuliffe
    Houghton Miffllin Harcourt,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Earth-Shattering Events: Earthquakes, Nations, and Civilization

    Book

    Aftershocks

    A far-reaching history explores the cultural, economic, and political effects of earthquakes

    About this Book:
    Earth-Shattering Events: Earthquakes, Nations, and Civilization
    Andrew Robinson
    Thames and Hudson,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Envisioning a different future

    An ecologist asks how we can protect the global commons

    About this Book:
    A World to Live In: An Ecologist's Vision for a Plundered Planet
    George M. Woodwell
    MIT Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The battle lines are drawn

    In a stirring call to action, an author probes the forces that undermine evidence-based science policy

    About this Book:
    The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It
    Shawn Otto
    Milkweed Editions,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The best-studied people on the planet

    A history of the longest-running birth cohort study reveals how much has been learned from the lives of 70,000 Britons

    About this Book:
    The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of 70,000 Ordinary Lives
    Helen Pearson
    Soft Skull Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Making babies

    Advances in genetics introduce new promise and perils into the business of being born

    About this Book:
    GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies
    Paul Knoepfler
    World Scientific,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Wild things

    Two authors embrace unusual methods to shed light on the lives of other species

    About this Book:
    Being a Beast. Adventures Across the Species Divide
    Charles Foster
    Metropolitan Books,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Form. Function. Fate

    A rich history of genetics probes the social and ethical implications of human heredity

    About this Book:
    The Gene. An Intimate History
    Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Scribner,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Meditations on conservation

    An environmental activist urges a renewal of the American national park idea

    About this Book:
    The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks
    Terry Tempest Williams
    Sarah Crichton Books,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Candid camera

    A new exhibition provides an intimate look at a pioneer of modern photography

    About this Book:
    William Henry Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph
    Russell Roberts and Greg Hobson
    Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Navigating the cascades of circumstance

    An ecologist reflects on the unexpected twists and turns that shaped his scientific career

    About this Book:
    Serendipity: An Ecologist's Quest to Understand Nature
    James A. Estes
    University of California Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Like. Share. Retweet

    A treatise on taste explores how our preferences form and evolve over time

    About this Book:
    You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice
    Tom Vanderbilt
    Knopf,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The bee whisperer

    A new biography reveals how an ethologist with Jewish heritage earned the Nobel Prize for Nazi-funded research

    About this Book:
    The Dancing Bees: Karl von Frisch and the Discovery of the Honeybee Language
    Tania Munz
    University of Chicago Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Philosophy for physicists

    A cosmologist explores the philosophical implications of the foundational laws of nature

    About this Book:
    The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
    Sean Carroll
    Dutton,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Exhibition

    Waking dreams

    Science and art collide in a probing portrait of the boundaries that define consciousness and awareness

    About this Exhibition:
    States of Mind: Tracing the Edges of Consciousness
    Emily Sargent, curator
    Wellcome Collection, London. Through 16 October 2016, 

  • Book

    The stanchions of statistics

    A new volume explores the origins and history of seven foundational tenets of statistical science

    About this Book:
    The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom
    Stephen M. Stigler
    Harvard University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Film

    Fighting for our future

    Science staff review 12 of this year's featured films.

    About this Film:
    Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
    2016

  • Book

    After Ebola

    Lessons learned from past pandemics offer insight into how to stop the next one

    About this Book:
    Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
    Sonia Shah
    Sarah Crichton Books,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Animal acumen

    Biased notions of what constitutes intelligence may lead us to underestimate the cognitive capacity of other creatures

    About this Book:
    Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
    Frans de Waal
    Norton,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    2016 Wellcome Book Prize Winner Announced

    Billed as “books for the incurably curious,” the Wellcome Book Prize recognizes outstanding new titles in health and medicine

    About this Book:
    It's All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness
    Suzanne O’Sullivan
    Chatto & Windus,  2015

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    A monumental challenge

    Erecting an Egyptian obelisk is no small feat

    About this Book:
    Cleopatra's Needles: The Lost Obelisks of Egypt
    Bob Brier
    Bloomsbury Academic,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Rethinking Lysenko's legacy

    Advances in epigenetics spur modern support for a long-discredited theory of inheritance

    About this Book:
    Lysenko's Ghost: Epigenetics and Russia
    Loren Graham
    Harvard University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Banking on balance

    Getting ahead at work shouldn't have to mean falling behind at home

    About this Book:
    Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict
    Heather Boushey
    Harvard University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Smart start

    Practical advice abounds in a faculty-focused guide to commercializing research

    About this Book:
    Research to Revenue: A Practical Guide to University Start-Ups
    Don Rose and Cam Patterson
    UNC Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Predicting peak oil

    A new biography probes M. King Hubbert's controversial mid-century energy pronouncement

    About this Book:
    The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future
    Mason Inman
    Norton,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Performance

    Identity theft

    Inspired by true events, a new play explores a controversial case of gender reassignment

    About this Performance:
    Boy
    The Clurman Theatre, New York, NY
    Through 9 April 2016,  2016

  • Book

    Life in the lab

    A new memoir revels in the joys, sorrows, and occasional absurdities that come with a career in science

    About this Book:
    Lab Girl
    Hope Jahren
    Knopf,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The social gene

    Advances in genetic research prompt a pair of scientists to update the “selfish gene” metaphor

    About this Book:
    The Society of Genes
    Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher
    Harvard University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The paradigm shift, in perspective

    A new collection of essays takes a fresh look at Thomas Kuhn's classic text

    About this Book:
    Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty Reflections on a Science Classic
    Robert J. Richards and Lorraine Daston (Eds.)
    University of Chicago Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Blogging for beginners

    A new handbook offers approachable advice for aspiring science writers of all stripes

    About this Book:
    Science Blogging: The Essential Guide
    Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire, and Jason G. Goldman, Eds.
    Yale University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Back to nature

    Could committing half of Earth's surface to conservation stave of the next mass extinction?

    About this Book:
    Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life
    Edward O. Wilson
    Liveright,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The preschool paradox

    It's time to rethink our approach to early education

    About this Book:
    The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups
    Erika Christakis
    Viking,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Getting into grad school

    Who benefits from the Ph.D. admissions process and who falls through the cracks?

    About this Book:
    Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity, and Faculty Gatekeeping
    Julie R. Posselt
    Harvard University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The future of memory

    A deluge of digital data threatens to destroy our collective identity

    About this Book:
    When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping Our Future
    Abby Smith Rumsey
    Bloomsbury,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Risky business

    Hard-won lessons shed light on the promise and perils of radiation and nuclear power

    About this Book:
    Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation
    Timothy J. Jorgensen
    Princeton University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The social revolution

    A team of researchers sheds light on when and how we participate in politics online

    About this Book:
    Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action
    Helen Margetts, Peter John, Scott Hale, Taha Yasseri
    Princeton University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Moving forward

    A history of America's bridges and roadways offers lessons for the future of physical infrastructure

    About this Book:
    The Road Taken: The History and Future of America's Infrastructure
    Henry Petroski
    Bloomsbury,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Innovation inspiration

    Engaging anecdotes abound, but a new treatise on the process of invention falls short on actionable advice

    About this Book:
    INVENTology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World
    Pagan Kennedy
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Podcast

    If a tree falls in a forest…

    Will a podcast about climate change reach the audiences that need to hear it most?

    About this Podcast:
    The Adaptors: Season 1
    www.theadaptors.org
    2016

  • Exhibition

    The hidden organ

    The much-maligned microbe is recast as an essential element of human health

    About this Exhibition:
    The Secret World Inside You
    Rob DeSalle and Susan Perkins, curators
    American Museum of Natural History Through 14 08 2016, 

  • Book

    The savvy citizen

    A new logic-based strategy promises to help civic educators improve the public's understanding of politics

    About this Book:
    Uninformed: Why People Know So Little About Politics and What We Can Do About It
    Arthur Lupia
    Oxford University Press,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Film

    The Human Face of Big Data

    Sandy Smolan, director; Rick Smolan, executive producer

    About this Film:
    The Human Face of Big Data
    Premieres February 24, 2016, on PBS; check local listings

  • Book

    Losing our taste for diversity

    An emphasis on consistency and durability over variety and flavor has left many of our favorite foods in peril

    About this Book:
    Bread Wine Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
    Simran Seth
    HarperOne,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Public enemy

    Physicist Fang Lizhi recounts his clashes with the Chinese regime and his role in the Tiananmen Square protests

    About this Book:
    The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State
    Fang Lizhi; translation and afterword by Perry Link
    Henry Holt,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • City of Thorns jacket cover

    Book

    Life on the edge

    Stories of hardship and resilience take center stage in a probing portrait of the world's largest refugee camp

    About this Book:
    City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp
    Ben Rawlence
    Picador,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The beauty of botanicals

    A naturalist takes a round-the-world romp through the plants that have helped shape human history

    About this Book:
    The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination
    Richard Mabey
    Norton,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Exhibition

    The damage we do

    A new exhibition explores how we remember, record, and recover from trauma

    About this Exhibition:
    TRAUMA: Built to Break
    Science Gallery Dublin; through 21 February 2016

  • Book

    Unleashing the beast within

    Adaptations that gave our ancestors an evolutionary edge can cause major problems for modern humans

    About this Book:
    Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain
    R. Douglas Fields
    Dutton,  2016

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Evening the odds

    Researchers tweak the genetic lottery for children with rare diseases

    About this Book:
    Orphan: The Quest to Save Children with Rare Genetic Disorders
    Philip R. Reilly
    CSH Press,  2015

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    The supercollider that wasn't

    An ambitious history of the SSC falls short on lessons for future megascience projects

    About this Book:
    Tunnel Visions: The Rise and Fall of the Superconducting Super Collider
    Michael Riordan, Lillian Hoddeson, and Adrienne W. Kolb
    University of Chicago Press,  2015

    Buy this Book

  • Book

    Origin stories

    Looking back at our ever-evolving understanding of what it means to be alive

    About this Book:
    A Brief History of Creation Science and the Search for the Origin of Life
    Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II
    Norton,  2015

    Buy this Book

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