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  • Reviews & Previews

    Science News' favorite books of 2015

    With piles of books published each year, it can be hard to choose the most worthy titles to curl up with at the end of a long day. To help sort through 2015’s books, the Science News staff offers its must-read picks, many of which have been previously reviewed in the magazine. Read those reviews at the links below or in our Editor's Pick: Favorite books of 2015. 

    The Invention of...

    12/20/2015 - 15:03 Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    Nobel laureate finds beauty in science and science in beauty

    A Beautiful QuestionFrank WilczekPenguin Press, $29.95

    Frank Wilczek knows how to focus a book. A Beautiful Question applies the lessons of modern physics to one query: “Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” Or, “Is the world a work of art?”

    His answer is yes. The exploration of the question makes the book worthwhile.

    Wilczek, winner of a Nobel Prize for work on...

    09/06/2015 - 12:00 Physics, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    Microbes make the meal, new diet book proposes

    The Diet MythTim SpectorOverlook Press, $28.95

    For 10 days, Tom Spector lived off McDonald’s. He had chicken nuggets or Big Macs for meals and McFlurries for dessert. Tom, a 22-year-old student, was re-creating a version of the diet made famous in the film Supersize Me. But Tom’s plan had a twist: Before and after the diet, he gave his dad some poop.

    Tom’s father, Tim, wanted...

    09/02/2015 - 11:00 Health, Nutrition
  • Reviews & Previews

    How English became science’s lingua franca

    Scientific BabelMichael D. GordinUniv. of Chicago, $30

    When the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev discovered the “periodic law” that he illustrated with a table of the elements, he published his finding first in Russian and then in a German translation. Shortly thereafter, though, the German chemist Lothar Meyer claimed to be first to perceive the periodicity in the properties of...

    07/13/2015 - 13:45 Science & Society, History of Science, Language
  • Reviews & Previews

    Flowers’ roles considered in ecosystems and economics

    The Reason for FlowersStephen BuchmannScribner, $26

    In the art of seduction, flowers have few equals. With sweet nectar and protein-packed pollen, some blooms lure bats and lizards as well as the proverbial birds and bees to play unwitting roles in fertilization. Other flowers, which evolution has sculpted to mimic potential mates of credulous insects, merely inspire frustrated...

    07/12/2015 - 09:03 Plants, Evolution, Agriculture
  • Reviews & Previews

    Pigs don’t deserve the name ‘Lesser Beasts’

    Lesser BeastsMark EssigBasic Books, $27.50

    If humans have a counterpart in the rest of the animal world, it is surely the pig.

    As historian Mark Essig writes in Lesser Beasts, perhaps no other animal’s history more closely mirrors that of humans. From the appearance of semi-tame Sus scrofa living with hunter-gatherers 11,000 years ago in Turkey to the role of swine in the rise...

    06/14/2015 - 09:00 Animals, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    Extinct species may get a second chance

    How to Clone a MammothBeth ShapiroPrinceton Univ., $24.95

    First, the bad news: Scientists are probably never going to resurrect authentic mammoths from bones or mummified remains. Genetic material just doesn’t survive intact for thousands of years in the Siberian permafrost. The bits and pieces of DNA that do linger in fossils aren’t enough to create a clone.

    That makes the...

    05/31/2015 - 10:00 Genetics, Animals, Ecosystems
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Black Hole’ traces 100 years of a transformative idea

    Black Hole Marcia BartusiakYale Univ., $27.50

    Almost a century before Einstein was born, the English polymath John Michell speculated that a star of immense mass could exert enough gravitational force to imprison light. Michell’s insight marked the origin of an idea that was demonstrated in reality only in the 20th century, in the astrophysical offspring of Einstein’s general...

    05/06/2015 - 15:00 Astronomy, Physics, History of Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    Tales of the bedbug, one of the world’s most reviled insects

    InfestedBrooke BorelUniv. of Chicago Press, $26

    Bedbugs sure get around. From housing projects, hostels and cheap hotels (and some that aren’t so cheap), the bloodthirsty insects hitchhike in the darkest recesses of weary travelers’ luggage and backpacks. They’ve made the rounds in a metaphorical sense too, appearing in poetry, prose, plays and, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite a few...

    04/18/2015 - 10:00 Animals, History of Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Rust’ chronicles humankind’s incessant battle with corrosion

    RustJonathan WaldmanSimon & Schuster, $26.95

    The No. 1 threat to the U.S. Navy isn’t a foreign adversary. It’s corrosion. And many admirals say they’re losing the battle. What the Department of Defense spends dealing with corrosion each year would buy two brand new aircraft carriers or a few dozen fighter jets. The annual bill for the United States as a whole is an estimated $...

    03/21/2015 - 18:19 Technology, Materials, History of Science