Struggling to find what to gift the science-minded people in your life? Here are some books they might enjoy.
The Climate Book: Created by Greta Thunberg. Penguin.
As big and dense as a bible, which is pretty much what this book is. How the climate works, how the planet changes; How it affects us…chapters giving unbiased scientific advice on climate change, to help prepare the reader to participate in the debate, as well as to understand how individuals and institutions may respond. This will also help eliminate denial and alternative facts. Each chapter begins with a speech or excerpts from Thunberg herself, and for people who’ve only ever seen 15-second TV news sound bites, they’re surprisingly detailed, but of course to the point and vivid.
Imperfection: a natural history. Professor Telmo Pievani. MIT Press.
“In the beginning there was imperfection…” says Pievani, a biological philosopher at the University of Padua, as he discusses the diversity of life of all animals and creatures dating back to… the dawn of time. He asks why humans invented writing and reading, and not dinosaurs; measures the imperfections of the human body and how difficult it is to be bipedal; discusses “poor brain quality” and describes human sex as “expensive” (“…obviously the females of our species had to deal with males who were a little too promiscuous.”).
Converge. Dr Catherine Ball. Major Street.
ANU’s ‘Dr. Cath’ likes to demystify emerging technologies and thinks that future businesses will be more ‘Why’ and less dollar-focused. This book, subtitled “A futurist’s insight into the potential of our world as technology and humanity collide”, brings together robots, big data, drones, automation, economics. “How can we conserve ecosystem function, top predators and once-extinct keystone species while addressing the climate emergency and fighting humanity’s war on diversity? One approach is with economics.
black holes. Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. ABC Books
Black holes are the key to understanding the universe, say the authors. They cover the history, physics and mathematics of black holes and include down-to-earth observations such as: “Our sun…converts 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second. Six hundred million tons is the mass of a small mountain. Two-thirds of the book explains the existence of black holes, and the last part explains why they are important.
Dr. Matt’s guide to life in space. Matt Agnew. Allen and Unwin
As a guide to this book, let’s read the opening sentence: “How did we get here? We didn’t make a mistake jumping straight to the big questions, did we? It’s an unapologetically “funky” book exploring space, with “fun bubbles,” lots of exclamation points, and pop culture references. Chapters include “What Makes Earth Special?” The ingredients of life. What is dark matter? Where are the aliens? And what have we learned? Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki endorses the book as “An excellent first book for diving into astronomy”.
Books furnish a life: Science of reading and writing. Richard dawkins. Pengiun United Kingdom.
Writing about the default science literature gives us insight into the best science writing. Dawkins, himself an acclaimed writer, scientist and thinker, adds value by giving us his perspective on the skills and work of others, interviews with those he later incorporated into his columns and books (for example: Neil deGrasse Tyson of the New York Planetarium) his essays; book reviews; introductions to other books (for example: the 2003 version of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’) and we meet and greet Dawkin’s heroes.
Eclipse Chasers. Nick Lomb, Toner Stevenson. CSIRO Publishing.
There will be five total eclipses over Australia between 2023 and 2035, and this book will allow you to discuss, observe, understand and worry about them. The history of eclipses and how science has prepared and equipped itself to observe and measure them is a quick trip to a time now all but forgotten, but this book reveals scientists’ determination to make the most of every moment. precious.
Thylacine: history, ecology and loss of the Tasmanian tiger. Editors Branden Holmes and Gareth Linnard. CSIRO Publishing.
CSIRO Publishing’s books are mostly compilations, like this one, with many scientists contributing to a pool of knowledge, providing relevant alternative opinions and showcasing their work. It is a book that provides a scientific understanding of the thylacine; data, history, evidence, hunts, preservation. You have to make up your own mind about the cultural impact.
Machines misbehave: the morality of AI. Toby Walsh. Latrobe University Press and Black Inc.
You had me at “Why is the AI still trying to kill us?” This popular culture reference is enough to whet the reader’s appetite, but it gets a little more involved with, “Is Alexa racist?” and “What happens if a self-driving car kills someone?” The purpose of the book is to get us thinking about the unintended consequences of AI, and while lawyers and intellectual property consultants will see this as a source of material for litigation, others will begin to appreciate the minefield. legal and moral presented when science gives us tools with a spirit of their own.
Cosmos Magazine. Edited by Gail MacCallum. Royal Institution of Australia.
Allow me an indulgence. This edition is a beauty, from the shimmering front page to the pictorial essays on space, nature and the Wessel Islands. The cover features articles on Mars, food, transportation, and how the current crop of VR games on the Red Planet are based on real science. The clinical trials article will show you how close the pandemic has come to disaster, if not for the genius and desperation of a handful of scientists. Only one edition should be in everyone’s Kris Kringle, but if you value a world based on fact, not fiction and hyperbole, subscribe to four editions a year and change someone’s life. .
Ian Mannix is the digital news editor at Cosmos.
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