Science Book Reviews from MBR


Reviews of science books posted by Midwest Book Review,
publishers of several magazines at:
Midwest Book Review, 278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575-1129.
Reprinted by with permission.

Russ Swan, The Physics Behind ... : Discover the Physics of Everyday Life
February 2019

From the Cloud to static, and from waterproof clothing to driverless cars, there's a whole world of fascinating science underlying our everyday objects, actions and interactions. In the pages of "The Physics Behind..." readers will discover more about the science that makes our world go round, including everyday technology, objects in the home, amazing physics in nature, incredible engineering and the science behind things most of us would never have thought of before such as sunburn, wifi and a bag of sugar. Packed from cover to cover with detailed original artwork and infographics, "The Physics Behind..." is especially recommended for anyone who has ever been curious about the science of life as it explores the physics behind: touchscreen technology, weather, electric guitars, facial recognition, spider silk, and more! While very highly recommended for school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Physics Behind..." is also available in a digital book format

Giuseppe De Chiara and Michael H. Gorn, Space Craft
February 2019

A federal historian of nearly 30 years, Michael H. Gorn spent 13 of those years at NASA. Giuseppe De Chiara is an accomplished aerospace professional who began his career as a designer of Parabolic Flights facilities. He later was assigned to the ISS program as a training expert and operations leader. In 2003 De Chiara began a second career as a professional aerospace illustrator. Together they have effectively collaborated in "Space Craft: 100 Iconic Rockets, Shuttles, and Satellites That Put Us in Space" to profile and depict spacecraft ranging from Sputnik 1, through the International Space Station, and everything in between, including concepts that have yet to actually venture outside the Earth's atmosphere. "Space Craft" depicts and describes the design, development, and deployment of these manned and unmanned spacecraft. The showcased satellites, capsules, space planes, rockets, and space stations are illustrated in multiple-view, sometimes cross-section, and in many cases shown in archival period photography to provide further historical context. Dividing the book by era, De Chiara and Gorn feature spacecraft not only from the United States and Soviet Union/Russia, but also from the European Space Agency and China. The marvels examined in this volume include the rockets Energia, Falcon 9, and VEGA; the Hubble Space Telescope; the Cassini space probe; and the Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity. While very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Aerospace History collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted that "Space Craft" is also available in a digital book format,

Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest, The Universe Explained
December 2018

"The Universe Explained: A Cosmic Q and A" by the team of Heather Couper (who studied astrophysics at Oxford University and ran the Greenwich Planetarium, as well as a past President of both the British Astronomical Association and the Society for Popular Astronomy, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics) and Nigel Henbest (wo was Astronomy Consultant to New Scientist magazine, Editor of the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, and Media Consultant to the Royal Greenwich Observatory) directly answers the most popular astronomy questions of today. Over the course of their illustrious work in astronomy, Couper and Henbest collected hundreds of the most popular astronomy questions that they've been asked and herein explain the scientific answers to these questions with expertise and a healthy dose of humor. "The Universe Explained" answers questions about space travel; telescopes; the solar system; comets, asteroids and meteors; stars; black holes; the Milky Way and other galaxies; the big bang and space and time; the possibility of life beyond our planet with up-to-date space discoveries; and debunk persistent myths and legends. Fun, informative, beautifully illustrated throughout, "The Universe Explained" is unreservedly recommended for both school and community library collections as an ideal introduction to astronomy and is especially appropriate for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. (Firefly Books)

Joe Schwarcz, A Feast of Science
December 2018

An entertaining and digestible volume that demystifies science, "A Feast of Science: Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life" deftly explains the chemistry of everyday life while serving up practical knowledge to both inform and entertain the non-specialist general reader. Guaranteed to satiate your hunger for palatable and relevant scientific information, Dr. Joe Schwarcz (Director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University, Montreal, Canada) proves that "chemical" is not necessarily synonymous with "toxic", and addresses a variety of other science-based questions such as: Are there fish genes in tomatoes? Can snail-slime cream and bone broth really make your wrinkles disappear? What's the problem with sugar, resistant starch, hops in beer, microbeads, and "secret" cancer cures? Are "natural" products the key to good health? And what is "fake news" all about? In the pages of "A Feast of Science", Dr. Joe answers these questions and more. Cutting through the fog of story, suggestion, and social-media speculation, "A Feast of Science" gets neatly to the essence and heart of the chemical reactions that make up our daily lives as human beings. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Feast of Science" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library General Science collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Feast of Science" is also available in a digital book format and as a complete and unabridged audio book.

Guy P. Harrison, At Least Know This
December 2018

At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life pairs journalism's flare for dramatic reporting with scientific examination of basic concepts that apply to everyday life. The result is a creation that blends science and drama to create an educational, appealing survey of basic scientific concepts. From changing average lifespans around the world and how astronomy provides a deeper recognition of mankind's place in the universe to how life began, At Least Know This distills the basics of scientific theory into a lesson anyone can absorb, and one which is inviting and fun to read. Prometheus Books.

Clive Gamble, Johnl Gowlett, and Robin Dunbar; Thinking Big
September 2018

When and how did the brains of our hominin ancestors become human minds? When and why did our capacity for language, art, music and dance evolve? "Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind" by the collaborative team of Clive Gamble (Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton), John Gowlett (Professor of Archaeology, Liverpool University), and Robin Dunbar ( who is the head of the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group, University of Oxford) is path-breaking study proposing that it was the need for early humans to live in ever-larger social groups over greater distances (the ability to "think big") that drove the enlargement of the human brain and the development of the human mind. This social brain hypothesis can be tested against archaeological and fossil evidence. The conclusions, based on over seven years of research, build on the insight that modern humans live in effective social groups of about 150 (so-called "Dunbar's number"), some three times the size of those of apes and our early ancestors. We live in a world dominated by social networking. Yet our virtual contact lists, whether on Facebook or Twitter, are on average no bigger than Dunbar's number. An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "Thinking Big" is an extraordinary and original work that is an especially recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Thinking Big" is also available in a digital book format.

Caroline Williams, My Plastic Brain
August 2018

My Plastic Brain: One Woman's Yearlong Journey to Discover if Science Can Improve Her Mind tells of the author's year-long effort to explore the idea of neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to make new neural pathways to change how it operates. As an experienced science journalist, Williams volunteered to be a test subject in changing how the brain performs and functions, seeking to improve upon weaknesses and limitations in her own brain operations. Her account of trying various techniques to improve her brain, from meditation and magnetic brain stimulation to retraining processes, makes for a vivid blend of scientific inquiry and experiment that covers the basics of how brains learn, adapt, and change. The personal autobiographical embellishments lend to a vivid read. (Prometheus Books)

Graham Park, Mountains
August 2018

Most mountains on Earth occur within relatively well-defined, narrow belts separated by wide expanses of much lower-lying ground. Their distribution is not random but is caused by the now well-understood geological processes of plate tectonics. Some mountains mark the site of a former plate collision where one continental plate has ridden up over another, resulting in a zone of highly deformed and elevated rocks. Others are essentially volcanic in origin. The most obvious mountain belts today (the Himalayas, the Alps and the Andes, for example) are situated at currently active plate boundaries. Others, such as the Caledonian mountains of the British Isles and Scandinavia, are the product of a plate collision that happened far in the geological past and have no present relationship to a plate boundary. These are much lower, with a generally gentler relief, worn down through millennia of erosion. The presently active mountain belts are arranged in three separate systems: the Alpine-Himalayan ranges, the circum-Pacific belt and the mid-ocean ridges. Much of the Alpine-Himalayan belt is relatively well known, but large parts of the circum-Pacific and ocean-ridge systems are not nearly as familiar, but contain equally impressive mountain ranges despite large parts being partly or wholly submerged. "Mountains: The Origins of the Earth's Mountain Systems" by Graham Park (Emeritus Professor of Tectonic Geology, University of Keele, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England) takes the reader along the active mountain systems, explaining how plate tectonic processes have shaped them before looking more briefly at some of the older mountain systems whose tectonic origins are more obscure. "Mountains: The Origins of the Earth's Mountain Systems" is an ideal introduction to the geological processes that create mountains and very highly recommended for both community and academic library Earth Science, Natural Sciences, Natural History, and Geology collections.

Les Johnson and Joseph E. Meany, Graphene
August 2018

"Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World" [Prometheus Books] is recommended for general-interest science collections catering to lay readers as well as geeks and scientists, and offers an in-depth survey of the new graphene material and its many possibilities to change human lives. From medical to construction applications, this covers a rapidly-evolving discovery in materials science which will make for a compelling survey.

Karen R. Hollingsworth, author, and Wildlife Forever, editor; Invaders of the Great Lakes
July 2018

"Invaders of the Great Lakes: Invasive Species and Their Impact on You" is handy, full-color guide by Wildlife Forever spotlights 44 aquatic invasive species which are divided into three categories: invertebrates, plants, and fish. "Invaders of the Great Lakes" provides details on how these invasive species live, grow, reproduce, and spread. "Invaders of the Great Lakes" also reveals how these invasive species impact people, the environment, and the economy. "Invaders of the Great Lakes" also offers tips for stopping aquatic hitchhikers, features QR Codes that link to web pages with even more details, as well as other important information. Armed with this knowledge, the reader can then help to protect our inland waters collective referred to as the Great Lakes, including keeping favorite fishing spots and lakeshores healthy. Impressively informative, profusely illustrated, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Invaders of the Great Lakes" is an extraordinary 'pocket size' field guide that is highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.

Terence Dickinson, Hubble's Universe, second edition
July 2018

The first edition of "Hubble's Universe" (Firefly Books) displayed 300 pages of high-resolution celestial portraits selected by bestselling astronomy writer Terence Dickinson from the initial 22 years of the Hubble Space Telescope's exploration of distant galaxies. With the telescope now at the apex of its imaging capabilities, this newly revised and expanded second edition adds still another chapter featuring more than 36 completely new images, including the first publication of a four-page fold-out of the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest spiral galaxy to Earth, revealing more than one million individual stars. Thanks to Dickinson's expertise with Hubble's history and discoveries and his access to top Hubble scientists for insight and accuracy, the text of "Hubble's Universe" includes facts and tidbits not found in any other study of this iconic space-based instrument. Combined with 330 brilliant images, the clear, succinct and illuminating narrative brings to life the fascinating forces at work in the universe, making "Hubble's Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images" an absolutely essential and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Astronomy collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the Hubble telescope that this new edition of "Hubble's Universe" is also available in a digital book format.

Yasmin Davar, Our Peaceful Planet
November 2017

"Our Peaceful Planet: Healing Ourselves and Our World for a Sustainable Future" by environmental engineer Yasmin Davar contains extraordinary ideas that have the power to transform lives and the planet. "Our Peaceful Planet" is unique because it provides a practical healing framework for the whole world, starting at how people can change the beliefs that cause them to be destructive in their own lives and in their own world, to the actions that they can take to create global peace and environmental and economic sustainability. As each part of their world dynamically interacts in terms of their beliefs, their governance, their environment, their industries and their economy, "Our Peaceful Planet" provides a complete and 'real world practical' solution by considering all of those interactions in totality. "Our Peaceful Planet" contains big ideas for world leaders and little ideas for everyday people, because everyone has the power to make a difference, to themselves and others, and to the world. "Our Peaceful Planet" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' blueprint for the future in which everyone can play a role. While very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Environmental Studies collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Our Peaceful Planet" is also available in a paperback edition and in a digital book format.

Leo Grasset, How the Zebra Got Its Stripes
October 2017

Why do giraffes have such long necks? Why are zebras striped? And why does the clitoris of the female hyena exactly resemble and in most respects function like the male's penis? Deploying the latest scientific research and his own extensive observations in Africa, in "How the Zebra Got Its Stripes: Darwinian Stories Told Through Evolutionary Biology", author Leo Grasset offers answers to these questions and many more. Complex natural phenomena are explained in simple and at times comic terms, as Grasset turns evolutionary biology to the burning questions of the animal kingdom, from why elephants prefer dictators and buffaloes democracies, to whether the lion really is king. The human is, of course, just another animal, and Grasset's exploration of two million years of human evolution shows how it not only informs our current habits and behavior, but also reveals that we are hybrids of several different species. Serious science at its entertaining and accessible best, "How the Zebra Got Its Stripes" (Pegasus Books) is very highly recommended for both community and academic library General Science collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "How the Zebra Got Its Stripes" is also available in a Kindle format.

Lawrence M. Krauss, The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far
October 2017

"The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far: Why Are We Here?" (Atria Books) is a seminal and unique work of scientific history in which theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss (Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and the author of more than 300 scientific publications and nine books, including "A Universe from Nothing" and "The Physics of Star Trek") leads us to the furthest reaches of space and time, to scales so small they are invisible to microscopes, to the birth and rebirth of light, and into the natural forces that govern our existence. His unique blend of rigorous research and engaging storytelling invites us into the lives and minds of the remarkable, creative scientists who have helped to unravel the unexpected fabric of reality -- with reason rather than superstition and dogma. Krauss has himself been an active participant in this effort, and he knows many of them well. "The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far" challenges us to re-envision ourselves and our place within the universe, as it appears that "God" does play dice with the universe. Krauss celebrates the greatest intellectual adventure ever undertaken -- to understand why we are here in a universe where fact is stranger than fiction. Exceptionally informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far" is a consistently compelling and absorbing read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers that "The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far" is also available in a forthcoming paperback edition and in a currently available eTextbook format. Librarians should be aware that there is a complete and unabridged audio book edition.

Rod Pyle, Amazing Stories of the Space Age
May 2017

Amazing Stories of the Space Age (Prometheus Books) gathers some unusual and thought-provoking insights of projects not realized, space dreams envisioned and achieved, and major achievements in space flight, and is recommended leisure reading for anyone with an affinity for space travel and technology. From partnerships that brought the first space shuttle into being and crafted the first manned orbiting laboratory to the idea of inflatable habitats in orbit around Earth and the moon, the U.S. Air Force's orbit program and various proposals for Skylab, these gather a wealth of revealing stories in a collection highly recommended for any astronomy collection and many a general-interest audience with an interest in the history and science of space endeavors.

Mark Denny, Making Sense of Weather and Climate
May 2017

In our on-going national dialogue about climate change it is quite clear that climate change deniers consistently confuse climate with weather. In "Making Sense of Weather and Climate: The Science Behind the Forecasts" by science writer Mark Denny (Columbia University Press) begins by explaining the essential mechanics and characteristics of this fascinating science. Denny also defines the crucial differences between weather and climate, and then develops from this basic knowledge a sophisticated yet clear portrait of their relation. Throughout, Denny elaborates on the role of weather forecasting in guiding politics and other aspects of human civilization. He also follows forecasting's effect on the economy. Denny's exploration of the science and history of a phenomenon we have long tried to master makes "Making Sense of Weather and Climate" a unique and accessible study for anyone desiring a complete and accurate picture of the environment's individual, societal, and planetary impact. Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Making Sense of Weather and Climate" is enhanced with the inclusion of a six page Glossary, twenty-eight pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, and an eleven page Index, making it unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Making Sense of Weather and Climate" is also available in a Kindle format.

Greg Mogenson, Psychology's Dream of the Courtroom
May 2017

Psychology and the law have long maintained a collegial association with one another as adjacent disciplines. In the criminal justice system, for example, psychologists and psychiatrists serve regularly as expert witnesses, providing insight into the motivations and mental status of accused and convicted persons. But what about the reverse of this relation? What contribution has "the law" made to the work of analyst and patient in the consulting room? And what insights may be drawn from putting psychology itself on trial? "Psychology's Dream of the Courtroom" by Greg Mogenson (a registered psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst practicing in London, Ontario, Canada. He is the editor of The Studies in Archetypal Psychology Series of Spring Journal Books as well as a founding member and Vice-President of The International Society for Psychology as the Discipline of Interiority) is a ground-breaking book exploring the use of legal metaphors and the courtroom analogy by Freud, Jung, and psychology more generally and examined in relation to the practice psychotherapy and analysis. In this way, psychoanalysis and analytical psychology are shown in fresh perspective to be disciplines of truth in the spirit of a trial or court proceeding. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Psychology's Dream of the Courtroom" is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Psychology collections and supplemental studies reading lists. (Spring Journal Books)

Nadia Drake, Little Book of Wonders
March 2017

"Little Book of Wonders: Celebrating the Gifts of the Natural World" (National Geographic Press) comes from a science writer who gathers a presentation of scientific wonders in a lovely gift book that blends bright color photos with reflections on the beauty and bounty of the natural world, from the squirrels who forget to recover the nuts they bury, prompting the growth of many trees, to Darwin's astonishing prediction of the existence of the Madagascar sphinx moth with its foot-long tongue forty years before its actual discovery. The lovely survey will make for a perfect gift for anyone who loves nature images and facts.

Mark Thompson, A Space Traveler's Guide to the Solar System
February 2017

British astronomer Mark Thompson, also well-known as the host of the award-winning BBC program "Stargazing Live", presents A Space Traveler's Guide to the Solar System, an eye- opening tour of the planets in the solar system and beyond. Written to be accessible to readers of all backgrounds, touches upon the history of astronomical discoveries about the solar system as well as what a hypothetical space traveler might expect to see and encounter. A Space Traveler's Guide to the Solar System is the ultimate "must-read" for armchair travelers, highly recommended for both personal and public library collections! (Pegasus Books)

Hugh Aldersey-Williams, The Tide
Janary 2017

"The Tide: The Science and Stories Behind the Greatest Force on Earth" (published by W. W. Norton & Company) is a sweeping production by a science writer who examines the science, history, and literature surrounding the tide from ancient to modern times, and is recommended reading for any who love ocean and sea topics. In mixing the literary, scientific, and historical perspectives of the tide, chapters not only offer greater potential to appeal to a lay audience, but offer many of Hugh Aldersey-Williams' first-person observations and perspectives.

Frank Ryan, The Mysterious World of the Human Genome
September 2016

The Mysterious World of the Human Genome [Prometheus Books] covers exciting new discoveries in the science, such as how the DNA and related chemical compounds in our cells work, and comes from a physician and evolutionary biologist who describes ways in which the genome works as a holistic system. As discussions range from genomic evolutionary processes and what kinds of information is preserved in DNA to how molecules and proteins developed, readers gain fine insights into how a basic understanding of these biological processes lead to a better understanding of life. No science collection should be without this discussion, which is also accessible by and recommended to general-interest audiences, as well.

Arthur W. Wiggins and Charles M. Wynn Sr., The Human Side of Science
September 2016

"The Human Side of Science: Edison and Tesla, Watson and Crick, and Other Personal Stories Behind Science's Big Ideas" (Prometheus Books) provides a lively, humorous book about the idea that science is driven by the quirks, oddities, and personalities of the scientists and innovators behind it, and provides an unusual focus that goes beyond biographical inspection and into the processes of partnerships and collaboration, fiery encounters, opinions and options, and more. The result is a powerful examination of personalities and how their individual pursuits and interactions led to scientific discoveries, advancements, and not a few controversies, in the process.

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