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  • Reviews & Previews

    How science has fed stereotypes about women

    InferiorAngela SainiBeacon Press, $25.95

    Early in Inferior, science writer Angela Saini recalls a man cornering her after a signing for her book Geek Nation, on science in India. “Where are all the women scientists?” he asked, then answered his own question. “Women just aren’t as good at science as men are. They’ve been shown to be less intelligent.”

    Saini fought back with a few...

    08/29/2017 - 11:00 History of Science, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Darwin’s Backyard’ chronicles naturalist’s homespun experiments

    Darwin’s Backyard James T. CostaW.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

    The story of how Charles Darwin’s trip around the world on the HMS Beagle inspired his ideas about evolution is well-known. Less familiar, however, may be the decades of detailed research that he conducted after that 1830s voyage. As biologist James Costa chronicles in Darwin’s Backyard, many of those studies took place at...

    08/24/2017 - 10:00 Evolution, History of Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Making Contact’ chronicles an astronomer’s struggle to find E.T.

    Making ContactSarah ScolesPegasus Books, $27.95

    In Carl Sagan’s 1985 sci-fi novel Contact, a radio astronomer battles naysayers and funding setbacks to persist in her audacious plan — scanning the skies for signals from aliens. Sagan had real-life inspiration for his book (and the 1997 movie of the same name): astronomer Jill Tarter, who spearheaded the search for extraterrestrial...

    07/24/2017 - 16:33 Astronomy, History of Science, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    This history book offers excellent images but skimps on modern science

    The Oxford Illustrated History of ScienceIwan Rhys Morus, ed.Oxford Univ., $39.95

    Books about the history of science, like many other histories, must contend with the realization that others have come before. Their tales have already been told. So such a book is worth reading, or buying, only if it offers something more than the same old stories.

    In this case, The Oxford...

    07/23/2017 - 08:00 History of Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    Every breath you take contains a molecule of history

    Caesar’s Last BreathSam KeanLittle, Brown and Co., $28

    Julius Caesar could have stayed home on March 15, 44 B.C. But mocking the soothsayer who had predicted his death, the emperor rode in his litter to Rome’s Forum. There he met the iron daggers of 60 senators.

    As he lay in a pool of blood, he may have gasped a final incrimination to his protégé Brutus: You too, my son? Or maybe...

    06/25/2017 - 07:00 Chemistry, Earth, History of Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    Physics greats of the 20th century mixed science and public service

    The 20th century will go down in history — it pretty much already has — as the century of the physicist. Physicists’ revolutionizing of the scientific world view with relativity and quantum mechanics might have been enough to warrant that conclusion. Future historians may emphasize even more, though, the role of physicists in war and government. Two such physicists, one born at the century’s...

    02/23/2017 - 06:00 History of Science, Science & Society, Physics
  • 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

    ‘Void’ dives into physics of nothingness

    VoidJames Owen WeatherallYale Univ., $26

    In empty space, quantum particles flit in and out of existence, electromagnetic fields permeate the vacuum, and space itself trembles with gravitational waves. What may seem like nothingness paradoxically teems with activity.

    In Void: The Strange Physics of Nothing, physicist and philosopher James Owen Weatherall explores how...

    11/13/2016 - 07:00 Physics, History of Science, Particle Physics
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Citizen Scientist’ exalts ordinary heroes in conservation science

    Citizen ScientistMary Ellen HannibalThe Experiment, $25.95

    You don’t need a degree in science to monitor backyard owls or measure trees. And anyone with a computer can help scientists track seal populations in Antarctica. Citizen science projects like these — which depend on crowdsourced data — are booming. And when faced with a planet scarred by industrialization and climate change,...

    10/16/2016 - 11:00 Ecology, Conservation, History of Science
  • 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