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Reviews - Science

The chief theme of this sprightly book is the miraculous unlikeliness, in a universe ruled by randomness, of stability and equilibrium--of which one result is ourselves and the complex, fragile planet we inhabit

Bill Bryson: 'A Short History of Nearly Everything'

Bill Bryson is one of the world's most beloved and bestselling writers. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, he takes his ultimate journey-into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer. It's a dazzling quest, the intellectual odyssey of a lifetime, as this insatiably curious writer attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization.This is, in short, a tall order.

To that end, Bill Bryson apprenticed himself to a host of the world's most profound scientific minds, living and dead. His challenge is to take subjects like geology, chemisty, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people, like himself, made bored (or scared) stiff of science by school. His interest is not simply to discover what we know but to find out how we know it. On his travels through space and time, Bill Bryson encounters a splendid gallery of the most fascinating, eccentric, competitive, and foolish personalities ever to ask a hard question. In their company, he undertakes a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge. Science has never been more involving, and the world we inhabit has never been fuller of wonder and delight.

Price: 29,90 EUR (Hardback, Paperback coming in June)

 

 

If you are looking for a book that captures the personal drama and achievement of science, then look no further" Guardian

John Gribbin: 'Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life'

The world around us a complex, confusing place. In spite of huge developments in modern technology, we still seem to be at the mercy of dramatic changes that occur out of the blue: earthquakes happen at random, stock markets go from boom to bust without warning - and we all know that weather forecasters can't always get it right. Life itself seems to be the most complex phenomenon in the Universe.

Like a zen painting, a fractal image or the intricate pattern on a butterfly's wings, the universe is built on simple elements, which interact and organize themselves to create a highly sophisticated whole. Simplicity, Gribbin shows, is the bedrock of our existence, the deep structure and harmony underlying everything.

Price: 28,- EUR (Hardback)

 

 

The copyright page of this book proclaims that the paper on which it is printed is acid-free. The same cannot be said of the contents.

Kirsty Duncan: 'Hunting the 1918 Flu'

When Canadian medical geographer Kirsty Duncan read about the 1918 Influenza pandemic that swept the world to become the worst plague in human history, she was horrified that we still knew so little about why the flu had unexpectedly become so deadly.

She determined to find the virus that caused the Spanish flu, as it was known, so that virologists could study it, and hopefully learn enough about it to prepare for another such pandemic - one experts say is sure to happen again soon.

Her search took her to an island off the coast of Norway, where Duncan gathered an international team of specialists to dig up the bodies of seven young miners who's died of the 1918 flu.

 Her expedition was the focus of international media attention that if successful would be a significant contribution to scientific inquiry. But along the way Duncan met with many roadblocks, including bad luck, sexism, back stabbing, scientific rivalry, and what she calls "academic piracy."

 Price: 38,20 EUR (Hardback)

 

 

Who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the double helical structure of DNA? Most people would say Watson and Crick. But most people would make Maurice Wilkins very upset.

Maurice Wilkins: 'The Third Man of the Double Helix'

Francis Crick and Jim Watson are well known for their discovery of the structure of DNA in Cambridge in 1953. But they shared the Nobel Prize for their discovery of the Double Helix with a third man, Maurice Wilkins, a diffident physicist who did not enjoy the limelight. He and his team at King's College London had painstakingly measured the angles, bonds, and orientations of the DNA structure -- data that inspired Crick and Watson's celebrated model -- and they then spent many years demonstrating that Crick and Watson were right before the Prize was awarded in 1962. Wilkins's career had already embraced another momentous and highly controversial scientific achievement -- he had worked during World War II on the atomic bomb project -- and he was to face a new controversy in the 1970s when his co-worker at King's, the late Rosalind Franklin, was proclaimed the unsung heroine of the DNA story, and he was accused of exploiting her work. Now aged 86, Maurice Wilkins marks the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the Double Helix by telling, for the first time, his own story of the discovery of the DNA structure and his relationship with Rosalind Franklin. He also describes a life and career spanning many continents, and recalls his encounters with distinguished scientists. He also reflects on the role of scientists in a world still coping with the Bomb and facing the implications of the gene revolution, and considers, in this intimate history, the successes, problems, and politics of nearly a century of science.

Price: 28,50 EUR (Hardback)

 

 

The book in your hands is mostly empty space. Each of the billions of atoms which make it up is hollow, its true mass concentrated in a tiny core

Brain Catheart: 'The Fly in the Cathedral'

Three quaters of a century ago no one could describe the atomic nucleus. Discovering its existence, was Lord Rutherford's greatest scientific achievement but even he caught only a glimpse. Incapable of stopping there, he ached to know more - to catch the fly, examine it, dissect it and illuminate its mystery.

For a time, all efforts to crack it open were stalled. No theory was possible until it could be tamed experimentally and no experiment seemed feasible since it guarded its secrets so fiercly. Then, just at the point of despair, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, two young researchers came under Rutherford's guidance. And, with paper-and-pencil calculations, hand-made apparatus and the odd lump of plasticine, they changed everything.

Recreating the frustrations, excitement and obsessions of 1932, the 'miracle year' of British physics, this book reveals the astonishing story behind the splitting of the atom - the most celebrated scientific experiment of its time. Involving intense international competition, a cast of Nobel prize-winners, a few silly experiments and some revolutionary physics, Brian Cathcart's lucid, learned, high-voltage narrative is inspired by the dreams and endeavour that led the last true gentlemen scientists to the very essence of the universe: the heart of matter.

Price: 25,80 EUR (Hardback)
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