A Cultural History
Jim Endersby explores ‘the curious and unexpected variety of significances that people have ascribed to orchids’ in western cultures, from Theophrastus’ herbals in ancient Greece to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, deadly species in science-fiction and ongoing research into Spider Orchids on the South Downs. The book looks at our relationship with orchids in terms of science, sex and death, and examines the theme of empire, describing how European imperial expansion and wealth stimulated the search for ever rarer orchids.
An A–Z Adventure Through the Plant Kingdom
From the Alcoholic Agave, remarkable for its nine-metre high flower as well as its intoxicating sap, to Zoophilous plants and their cunning ways of attracting animal pollinators, this is an A–Z of botanical heroes, villains and eccentrics. The heroes are explorers and botanists such as Charles Darwin and EH Wilson; the villains include the deadly castor oil plant, described under U for Umbrella Assassinations. Slightly off-mint.
13 Journeys Through Space and Time
Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution
With a foreword by the British astronaut Tim Peake, this selection of festive lectures by world-class scientists and astronomers includes Bernard Lovell and Martin Ryle on the exploration of the universe, Carl Sagan on the planets, and Kevin Fong on how to survive in space.
The Science of Seeing Differently
Deviate attempts to ‘innovate your thinking by giving you new awareness’ of both your self-perception, which is often fixed by politics, religion or environment, and your perception of reality, which manifests through the senses and is, at best, a representation. Written by a neurologist, the book provides exercises, ‘self-experiments’ and principles which encourage you to engage with ambiguous information and self-doubt in order to gain a more creative understanding of the world.
A Curious History
Euclid, Fibonacci, Fermat and Gauss are some of the distinguished mathematicians featured in this illustrated introduction to the history of mathematics, which ranges from prehistoric arithmetic through Renaissance accountancy to modern-day chaos theory. Key concepts, including geometry, algebra, trigonometry and calculus are discussed in non-technical, accessible language, with minimal use of symbols, jargon or complex techniques.
How to Live in Space
Everything You Need to Know for the Not-So-Distant Future
The challenges of living in space are multiple: without the Earth’s atmosphere, gravity and rotation, essential activities including breathing, exercising and sleeping require technology. This illustrated ‘space travel manual’ describes all aspects of space travel, from blast-off to the future colonization of Mars, and explores how the development of new technology including graphene is paving the way for space tourism.
At the Edge of Infinity and Beyond
Aleph-null is the cardinality, or size, of the set of natural numbers, and is a ‘countably infinite cardinal’. Remarkably, whereas 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + aleph-null = aleph-null. The authors of this advanced maths explainer utilize plain English in an attempt to understand difficult mathematical concepts, including large numbers, higher dimensions, computation and primes, fusing historical, philosophical and anecdotal aspects of each concept with the decidedly technical. Slightly off-mint.
From Myths to Knowledge
This book is a history of humanity’s long struggle towards the answers to two questions: how old is Earth and how does it move within the solar system? But the author also uses that story to delineate a philosophy of science. As he explains the bold innovations of thinkers such as Copernicus, Galileo, Halley and Darwin, he emphasizes the importance of Enlightenment values in facing the threat from modern fundamentalist movements of East and West. Foreword by Tariq Ali.
The Jazz of Physics
The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe
Stephon Alexander deftly employs the analogy of music, particularly jazz and hip hop, to explain difficult concepts in modern physics and cosmology, including black hole event horizons, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the nature of the universe itself. Felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat
How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics
Both Einstein and Schrödinger disagreed with the orthodox ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ of quantum theory, which posits the impossibility of determining a particle’s position and momentum at the same time, instead believing a deterministic solution was possible via a ‘unified field theory’. This biographical account of their numerous attempts at a theory follows the evolution of their thinking, from their days as young physicists to later life when their friendship was soured by a public feud.
Michael Faraday and the Electrical Century
This unconventional biography of Michael Faraday, among whose numerous inventions was the electric motor, explores episodes in his career, including his discovery of electromagnetic induction, in order to understand why he flourished in a complex and hierarchical Victorian scientific community.
The Human Age
The World Shaped By Us
Diane Ackerman may rue the destruction of the natural world, yet she is thrilled by human ingenuity and here contemplates nascent technologies – including those for body heat recycling, 3D-printed human tissue and carbon capture – that may yet save our planet and our species. Slightly off-mint.
The Ends of the World
Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans And Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
At five moments in our planet’s history, catastrophic events caused mass extinctions, when more than half of its species were lost. New technologies now enable scientists both to study these ancient disasters and to predict what lies ahead in a new phase of habitat destruction and climate change. Ranging across half a billion years, from the fossil record’s extraordinary creatures to today’s coral reefs, this book explains these new, urgent insights into Earth’s fragile ecosystems.
The Elements and the Architecture of Everything
This offbeat look at the innumerable chemical compounds constituting our world shuns the textbook format for a visual exploration of molecules and the array of materials they form, including sugars and soaps; oil and water; food additives and drugs; and perfumes and plastics. Photographs of everyday objects contrast with images of chemical powders and crystals to inspire, along with their explanatory captions, a real sense of chemistry in action.
The Visible Spectrum and Beyond
The light penetrating our eyes, an incoming call on a mobile phone, or an X-ray at the dentist: all are different kinds of light, or electromagnetic radiation. This illustrated guide to the electromagnetic spectrum explores the nature of light wavelength by wavelength – radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma-rays – revealing the properties, characteristics and practical applications of each type of radiation with incisive explanations, diagrams and hundreds of full-colour photographs.
Einstein's Greatest Mistake
The Life of a Flawed Genius
David Bodanis, the bestselling author of E=mc², presents a life of the great physicist and reveals how much we owe Einstein today – and how much more he might have achieved without his all-too-human flaws. A former Sunday Times Science Book of the Year.
A is for Arsenic
The Poisons of Agatha Christie
Poisons are used frequently in Agatha Christie’s stories, testament to her lifelong interest in toxicology. Fourteen of her poisons are analysed in this book, from arsenic (Murder is Easy) to veronal (Lord Edgware Dies). Harkup provides information on their chemical composition, the tests which can detect them, their lethal effects on the body and the uses to which they have been put, particularly in the real-life murder cases that may have inspired Christie.
2,600 Years of Discovery: From Thales to Higgs
While the language of mathematics can describe physical reality in complex detail, the art of drawing can delineate with simple clarity. Aimed at the less mathematically inclined, this history of physics uses 51 seminal illustrations from 26 centuries of physics to tell, in chronological order, the stories of great scientific discoveries, from the phases of the moon and size of the Earth, to the discovery of the neutron and the Higgs Boson.
Maths in Bite-sized Chunks
Chris Waring’s accessible guide is designed for anyone who is keen to overcome a fear of mathematics. Employing numerous examples, common-sense explanations, fascinating asides and clear diagrams, this volume breaks down seemingly inscrutable mathematical concepts into easy-to-follow steps, explaining simple arithmetic and number, ratio and proportion, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability. Reassuringly, Waring emphasises real-world applications of mathematical principles, championing the great mathematicians of history in the process.
How to Build a Universe
The numerous archival images, cartoons, quotes and programme excerpts in this companion book to the BBC Radio 4 series The Infinite Monkey Cage pay homage to the 1970s Look and Learn annuals, which thrilled children with their miscellany of science. Here, Cox and Ince inspire adult scientific wonder through jokes, jibes and nostalgic digressions, anchored by serious explorations of thermodynamics, particle physics, big bang theory, space travel, extra-terrestrial life and, of course, infinity.
The Drugs That Changed Our Minds
The History of Psychiatry in Ten Treatments
Lauren Slater approaches this investigation into the discovery and development of mind-altering drugs and treatments from the perspectives of both a psychology PhD and her own experience as a patient ‘sustained on a serotonin booster for decades’. The book examines the scientists, the theory and the impact of drugs from chlorpromazine, which revolutionized the treatment of schizophrenia, through Prozac and MDMA (Ecstasy) to deep brain stimulation.
How it Shaped Our World
In this companion guide to the Science Museum’s Winton Gallery, curator David Rooney considers the everyday practical applications of mathematics, both past and present, including mathematics in design, economics, geography, medicine, travel and war. This generously illustrated volume features many of the objects and diagrams from the gallery’s collection, among them Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine and Le Corbusier’s Le Modulor infographic, while four essays by prominent academics include two on women’s place in the history of mathematics.
The Ultimate Guide to The Building Blocks of Our Universe
From hydrogen to ununoctium, this accessible guide explores the properties of each element in the periodic table, explaining their chemical behaviours – how their atoms interact with atoms of other elements – and their worldly uses, from light bulbs and mobile phones to dental fillings and space suits. The introduction explains the chemistry and physics of nuclei, electrons and chemical bonds and provides the groundwork for understanding the entries and their data.
15 Million Degrees
A Journey to the Centre of the Sun
At the heart of the Sun, a vast nuclear furnace casts out the warmth, light and magnetism which nurtures life on Earth. Supported by data from laboratories, telescopes, probes and thousands of years of naked-eye observations, solar physicist Lucie Green’s authoritative guide to the science of the Sun provides answers to questions posed since the dawn of history: Why does the Sun shine? What is the source of its heat? How long will it shine?
How Britain Has Been Forged by the Wind
The menacing low-pressure system (dubbed Low Z by the meteorological community), gale-force winds and resulting storm surge of 31 January 1953 took 307 lives around the coast of Britain, inundating Canvey Island and its 10,000 inhabitants and sinking the Princess Victoria car ferry off Stranraer, along with 105 passengers. Beattie’s account draws on meteorology, literature and social history to describe how the wind, with its storms and prevailing breezes, has affected Britain’s landscapes and people.
Evolution in a Man-Made World
‘The Pekingese is a tinkered wolf, not redesigned wholesale from its wolf ancestors.’ This study examines recent developments in evolutionary biology through the lens of domestication. The rapid physical and behavioural changes which, through centuries of breeding, have been wrought on pets and farm animals, allow us to see evolutionary processes accelerated, and therefore, Francis argues, to understand them better; particularly their conservative nature, a notion espoused by the fields of genomics and evolutionary developmental biology, which feature prominently here. Slightly off-mint.
The Mice Who Sing For Sex
And Other Weird Tales From the World of Science
This humorous scientific miscellany is curated by the presenters of the podcast Geek Chic’s Weird Science and imparts the rationale behind all manner of inventions and phenomena, including solar-powered flight, self-lacing shoes, super-memory and addiction to healthy food (which can replace an addiction to fat and sugar). With frequent ‘chic fact’ boxes and cartoons, it also delves into outer space, wildlife and sex: are sound waves the new Viagra?
People and the Sky
Our Ancestors and the Cosmos
Since the late 19th century, when lighting was first introduced to city streets, urban populations have lost most access to the night sky. Our ancestors, on the other hand, were highly attuned to the stars, their constellations and diurnal rhythms enabling them to entertain, farm, hunt and navigate. This book looks at how ancient societies as far flung as Polynesia, China, the Americas and Europe relied upon the stars for their survival and happiness. Off-mint.
What a Fish Knows
The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins
Do goldfish really have a three-second memory? How does an archerfish hone its hunting skills? Can fish recognize human faces, appreciate music or feel pain? By presenting the fascinating findings of scientific research into their cognitive and sensory worlds, their sex lives and social structures, Balcombe prompts us to reconsider the intellectual abilities of our aquatic cousins so that we can more easily feel compassion towards them.
Setting Up a Weather Station and Understanding the Weather
A Guide for the Amateur Meteorologist
This comprehensive beginner’s guide explains how and where to measure the weather – from rainfall and air pressure to sunshine and humidity – using instruments as simple as rain gauges and barometers, as well as the more sophisticated automatic weather station, which can log and store observations wirelessly. There is advice on how to observe phenomena including the wind, visibility and clouds without instruments, how to interpret data meteorologically, and how to share results with meteorological organizations.
How to Build a Universe
The numerous archival images, cartoons, quotes and programme excerpts in this companion book to the BBC Radio 4 series The Infinite Monkey Cage pay homage to the 1970s Look and Learn annuals, which thrilled children with their miscellany of science. Here, Cox and Ince inspire adult scientific wonder through jokes, jibes and nostalgic digressions, anchored by serious explorations of thermodynamics, particle physics, Big Bang theory, space travel, extra-terrestrial life and, of course, infinity.
Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain
This groundbreaking book by a leading neurologist concerns ‘the brain science of emotion’ and ‘its implications for decision-making in general and social behaviour in particular’. Published in 1994, it continues to attract the attention of neuro-scientists, philosophers and the general public with its proposal that reasoning evolved as an extension of the automatic emotional system, and emotion plays multiple roles in the reasoning process.
The Cosmic Serpent
DNA and The Origins of Knowledge
While undertaking anthropological fieldwork in the Pichis Valley of the Peruvian Amazon, Narby became intrigued by the local community’s claim that they received their phenomenal biochemical knowledge under the influence of hallucinogens. Here he reports how further investigation dispelled his scepticism and led him to conclude both that such transmission is possible and that indigenous peoples have known for millennia about the double helix structure of DNA.
The Extraordinary Form & Function of Bones
Evolving from fish scales 500 million years ago, bone is a remarkable material that is capable of strength, lightness and flexibility; in a range of skeletal arrangements it can support the weight of an elephant or a bird in flight and provide the dexterity of a human hand. Through a series of line drawings and extended captions, this accessible introduction examines the different forms and structures that have evolved across the animal kingdom.
The Secret Life of the Mind
How our Brain Thinks, Feels and Decides
Mariano Sigman’s bestselling examination of human thought begins by asking how babies communicate, and goes on to explore how we relate to our unconscious mind, what happens when we dream and why the brain is constantly changing. This concise, approachable guide to neuroscience questions how we perceive, reason, feel and communicate, with the aim of better comprehending the inner workings of the human brain and understanding ourselves and others more deeply.
Blueprint for a Battlestar
Serious Scientific Explanations Behind Sci-Fi's Greatest Inventions
Modern digital technology has seen gadgets predicted by early science fiction – such as videophones – become reality, and a host of ideas proposed in more recent productions, such as the Star Trek series, offer intriguing possibilities for the future. From the Terminator to the Death Star, this book investigates some of the most celebrated concepts of recent science fiction and explores the potential technology behind them, revealing that some are closer to reality than we might think.
World in the Balance
The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement
Every day we need reliable ways of measuring length, weight and time. For most of human history these were based on creatively improvised local standards, such as the ancient Chinese connection between length and musical pitch. This book, by the philosopher who writes a regular Physics World column, tells little-known stories behind the world’s diverse measures and shows how they were gradually consolidated into a universal system, and how scientists are creating the first absolute system based on physical constants.