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New Books in Science & Nature

Buzz, sting, bite : why we need insects / by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson ; translated by Lucy Moffatt – Insects comprise roughly half of the animal kingdom. They live everywhere—deep inside caves, 18,000 feet high in the Himalayas, inside computers, in Yellowstone’s hot springs, and in the ears and nostrils of much larger creatures. There are insects that have ears on their knees, eyes on their penises, and tongues under their feet. Most of us think life would be better without bugs. In fact, life would be impossible without them. Most of us know that we would not have honey without honeybees, but without the pinhead-sized chocolate midge, cocoa flowers would not pollinate. No cocoa, no chocolate. The ink that was used to write the Declaration of Independence was derived from galls on oak trees, which are induced by a small wasp. The fruit fly was essential to medical and biological research experiments that resulted in six Nobel prizes. Blowfly larva can clean difficult wounds; flour beetle larva can digest plastic; several species of insects have been essential to the development of antibiotics. Insects turn dead plants and animals into soil. They pollinate flowers, including crops that we depend on. They provide food for other animals, such as birds and bats. They control organisms that are harmful to humans. Life as we know it depends on these small creatures. With ecologist Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson as our capable, entertaining guide into the insect world, we’ll learn that there is more variety among insects than we can even imagine and the more you learn about insects, the more fascinating they become. Buzz, Sting, Bite is an essential introduction to the little creatures that make the world go round.

Everything below the waist : why health care needs a feminist revolution / Jennifer Block – American women visit more doctors, have more surgery, and fill more prescriptions than men. In Everything Below the Waist, Jennifer Block asks: Why is the life expectancy of women today declining relative to women in other high-income countries, and even relative to the generation before them? Block examines several staples of modern women’s health care, from fertility technology to contraception to pelvic surgery to miscarriage treatment, and finds that while over-diagnosis and over-treatment persist in medicine writ large, they are particularly acute for women. One-third of mothers give birth by major surgery; roughly half of women lose their uterus to hysterectomy. Feminism turned the world upside down, yet to a large extent, the doctors’ office has remained stuck in time. Block returns to the 1970s women’s health movement to understand how in today’s supposed age of empowerment, women’s bodies are still so vulnerable to medical control – particularly their sex organs, and as result, their sex lives. In this urgent book, Block tells the stories of patients, clinicians, and reformers, uncovering history and science that could revolutionize the standard of care and change the way women think about their health. Everything Below the Waist challenges all people to take back control of their bodies.

The last ocean : a journey through memory and forgetting / Nicci Gerrard – From the award-winning journalist and author, a lyrical, raw, and humane investigation of dementia that explores both the journey of the person who lives with the condition and that of their loved ones. Diagnosed with dementia, Nicci Gerrard’s father, John, continued to live life on his own terms, alongside the disease. But when an isolating hospital stay precipitated a dramatic turn for the worse, Gerrard, an award-winning journalist and author, recognized that it was not just the disease, but misguided protocol and harmful practice that cause pain at the end of life. Inspired by his memory to seek a better course for all who suffer with the disease and those who love them, Gerrard became a relentless campaigner. THE LAST OCEAN is Gerrard’s attempt to investigate what dementia does to both the person who lives with the condition and to their caregivers. Dementia is now one of the leading causes of death in the West, and this necessary book will offer both comfort and a map to those walking through it. While she begins with her father’s long slip into forgetting, the writing expands to elegantly investigate dementia writ large. It’s a raw but literary look at caring for someone who has been robbed of their self-hood. Gerrard gives shape both to the unimaginable loss of one’s own faculties, as well as to the pain of their loved ones. Her lens is unflinching, but Gerrard takes great pains to honor her subjects and to find the beauty and the humanity in their seemingly diminished states.

Limitless mind : learn, lead, and live without barriers / Jo Boaler – A Stanford University professor of education draws on the latest scientific findings and decades of studying the impact of belief and bias on education to reveal six keys to unlocking the learning potential of the mind.

The mosquito : a human history of our deadliest predator / Timothy C. Winegard – A pioneering and groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction that offers a dramatic new perspective on the history of humankind, this text shows how through millennia, the mosquito has been the single most powerful force in determining humanity’s fate.

Natural rivals : John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the creation of America’s public lands John Clayton – John Muir, the most famous naturalist in American history, protected Yosemite, co-founded the Sierra Club, and is sometimes called the Father of the National Parks. A poor immigrant, self-taught, individualistic, and skeptical of institutions, his idealistic belief in the spiritual benefits of holistic natural systems led him to a philosophy of preserving wilderness unimpaired. Gifford Pinchot founded the U.S. Forest Service and advised his friend Theodore Roosevelt on environmental policy. Raised in wealth, educated in privilege, and interested in how institutions and community can overcome failures in individual virtue, Pinchot’s pragmatic belief in professional management led him to a philosophy of sustainably conserving natural resources. When these rivaling perspectives meet, what happens? For decades, the story of their relationship has been told as a split between the conservation and preservation philosophies, sparked by a proposal to dam a remote Yosemite valley called Hetch Hetchy. But a decade before that argument, Muir and Pinchot camped together alongside Montana’s jewel-like Lake McDonald in, which was at the heart of a region not yet consecrated as Glacier National Park. At stake in 1896 was the new idea that some landscapes should be collectively, permanently owned by a democratic government. Although many people today think of public lands as an American birthright, their very existence was then in doubt, and dependent on a merger of the talents of these two men. Natural Rivals examines a time of environmental threat and political dysfunction not unlike our own, and reveals the complex dynamic that gave birth to America’s rich public lands legacy.

Skin Deep: Journeys in the divisive science of raceEverything you need to know about race (but were afraid to ask). MYTH: Early Europeans were white. REALITY: The first Europeans had dark skin, black, curly hair and blue eyes. MYTH: Between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, a ‘cognitive revolution’ led to the birth of culture in Europe. REALITY: Modern intelligence evolved tens of thousands of years earlier, leading to the birth of culture in Africa. Does racism have a rational basis in science? In Skin Deep, Gavin Evans tackles head-on the debate that has been raging on internet message boards and in academic journals. No longer limited to the fringe, race-based studies of intelligence have been discussed by thinkers such as Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson. If these studies were true, they would provide an intellectual justification for inequality and discrimination. Examining the latest research on how intelligence develops and laying out new discoveries in genetics, paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology to unearth the truth about our shared past, Skin Deep demolishes the pernicious myth that our race is our destiny and instead reveals what really makes us who we are.

Stronghold : one man’s quest to save the world’s wild salmon / by Tucker Malarkey – Stronghold tells the story of Guido Rahr, a passionate and eccentric environmentalist who has single-mindedly dedicated his life to saving the environment, working to preserve the world’s last pristine stronghold (habitat) for salmon in Russia’s Far East–a landscape of ecological richness and diversity that is rapidly being developed for oil, gas, minerals, and timber in the Putin era. A high school drop-out and rebel more at home in the natural world among animals than among people, Rahr is a passionate fly fisher. His preternatural ability to understand the fish he was catching led him to fear for their future. What he came to understand is that the fate of the salmon is linked with the fate of humanity, as they contribute in essential ways to our own habitat. Deeply reported and beautifully written, Malarkey’s book reveals the astonishing natural history of the salmon, while also providing a fascinating narrative that takes the reader to remote, inhospitable terrain and into the world of Russian oligarchs, corrupt officials, and impenetrable bureaucracies–as well as bringing us as close as possible to an extraordinary species of endangered fish. It is also a personal book in that Malarkey is Rahr’s first cousin and spent her summers with him on their family’s cabins in the wilds of Oregon. She has accompanied Rahr on many of his expeditions and knows this elusive, private, brilliant man as few do.

Supernavigators : exploring the wonders of how animals find their way / David Barrie – A globetrotting voyage of discovery celebrating the navigational superpowers of animals — by land, sea, and sky. Animals plainly know where they’re going, but how they get there has remained surprisingly mysterious — until now. In Supernavigators, award-winning author David Barrie catches us up on the cutting-edge science. Here are astounding animals of every stripe: Dung beetles that steer by the light of the Milky Way. Ants and bees that rely on patterns of flight invisible to humans. Sea turtles and moths that find their way using Earth’s magnetic field. Humpback whales that swim thousands of miles while holding a rocksteady course. Birds that can locate their nests on a tiny island after crisscrossing an ocean. The age of viewing animals as unthinking drones is over. As Supernavigators makes clear, a stunning array of species command senses and skills — and arguably, types of intelligence — beyond our own. Weaving together interviews with leading animal behaviorists and the groundbreaking discoveries of Nobel Prize–winning scientists, David Barrie reveals these wonders in a whole new light.


The universe speaks in numbers : how modern math reveals nature’s deepest secrets / Graham Farmelo
One of the great insights of science is that the universe has an underlying order. The supreme goal of physicists is to understand this order through laws that describe the behavior of the most basic particles and the forces between them. For centuries, we have searched for these laws by studying the results of experiments. Since the 1970s, however, experiments at the world’s most powerful atom-smashers have offered few new clues. So some of the world’s leading physicists have looked to a different source of insight: modern mathematics. These physicists are sometimes accused of doing ‘fairy-tale physics’, unrelated to the real world. But in The Universe Speaks in Numbers, award-winning science writer and biographer Farmelo argues that the physics they are doing is based squarely on the well-established principles of quantum theory and relativity, and part of a tradition dating back to Isaac Newton. With unprecedented access to some of the world’s greatest scientific minds, Farmelo offers a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of the blossoming relationship between mathematics and physics and the research that could revolutionize our understanding of reality. masterful account of the some of the most groundbreaking ideas in physics in the past four decades.

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