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  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘The Glass Universe’ celebrates astronomy’s unsung heroines

    The Glass UniverseDava SobelViking, $30

    In the early 1880s, Harvard Observatory director Edward Pickering put out a call for volunteers to help observe flickering stars. He welcomed women, in particular — and not just because he couldn’t afford to pay anything.

    At the time, women’s colleges were producing graduates with “abundant training to make excellent observers,”...

    11/27/2016 - 08:00 History of Science, Astronomy
  • Reviews & Previews

    Cognitive scientist puts profanity in its place

    What the FBenjamin K. BergenBasic Books, $27.99

    Few of the expletives discussed in cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen’s new book can be spelled out in this review. But Bergen argues, in a bluntly engaging way, that the largely secret science of swearing reveals much about who we are.

    Based on surveys of what people in several Western nations regard as unacceptable, the...

    09/05/2016 - 07:00 Language, Psychology
  • Reviews & Previews

    Historian traces rise of celebrity hominid fossils

    Seven SkeletonsLydia PyneViking, $28

    After decades of research revealing their sophisticated lives, Neandertals still can’t shake their reputation as knuckle-dragging cavemen. And it’s the Old Man of La Chapelle’s fault.

    The Old Man of La Chapelle was the first relatively complete Neandertal skeleton ever found. Three French abbés discovered the bones in 1908. Soon after,...

    08/22/2016 - 09:00 History of Science, Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Lab Girl’ invites readers into hidden world of plants

    Lab GirlHope JahrenKnopf, $26.95

    The first, tiny root that emerges from a baby plant can make it or break it.

    Anchor to a good patch of ground, and the plant can thrive for decades. Set up someplace else, without enough water or sunshine, and all may be lost.

    The odds of a single rootlet mooring itself to just the right spot of soil are more than a million to one, writes...

    06/26/2016 - 08:00 Plants, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Silent Sparks’ illuminates fascinating world of fireflies

    Silent SparksSara LewisPrinceton Univ., $29.95

    Kids are fascinated by fireflies. So are scientists, who, despite decades of research, are still perplexed by many of the mysteries posed by “lightning bugs.” In Silent Sparks, biologist Sara Lewis explores both the cultural and scientific fascination with these...

    06/12/2016 - 10:00 Animals
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Eruption’ looks back at devastating Mount St. Helens blast

    EruptionSteve OlsonW.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

    Early in the spring of 1980, immense and inexorable forces were roiling the Pacific Northwest. Oh, and one of the region’s most active volcanoes was getting ready to blow its top.

    In Eruption, science writer Steve Olson goes well beyond recounting Mount St. Helens’ geologic awakening, deadly explosion and aftermath. This...

    02/21/2016 - 09:00 Earth, Science & Society