A Natural History of the Hedgerow
And Ditches, Dykes and Dry Stone Walls
From where I sit writing Postscript entries, I look out on an old Devon hedgerow and an ancient stone wall; John Wright's Natural History has rendered them both very much more interesting. The book covers the origins and history of such boundaries; the present condition of hedgerows and the need to preserve them; the amazing array of fauna and flora they support; and other ways of making boundaries, from movable hazel hurdles to dry stone walls (mine, I've learned, is the 'random rubble' type).
The Cabaret of Plants
Botany and the Imagination
Challenging the view of plants as passive vegetation, Mabey approaches them as ’authors of their own lives’ and explores our relationship with them, from prehistoric cave painting, through cultivation and exploration to the ‘astonishing revelations of 19th-century botany’. Among the intriguing plants whose lives he discusses are the baobab tree; ginseng, the panacea; the carnivorous tipitiwitchet; an Amazonian giant water lily whose leaves were the model for the Crystal Place; and the intelligence of mimosa.
How to Make a Tornado
The Strange and Wonderful Things that Happen When Scientists Break Free
'Science', writes O'Hare, 'can fire the imagination like nothing else. And sometimes it's daft'. Drawn from the archives of New Scientist, here are some of the dafter experiments, with reports of research in every area of scientific endeavour – from nuclear physics (plans, in 1957, for an atomic-powered train) to medical research (the orgasmatron implant for sexual dysfunction) and space travel (how to dispose of astronauts' underpants).
The Language of Science from the Fall of Latin to the Rise of English
From ancient Roman poetry to attempts to communicate with extra-terrestrials, Professor Gordin traces the history of ‘the set of languages by means of which scientific knowledge has been produced and communicated’. He shows not only the progression from languages as varied as the nationalities of scientists to the present ‘monoglot international community’ of scientists communicating in English, but also how the dominance of English was never a foregone conclusion.
At The Edge of Uncertainty
11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise
While investigating the universe, scientists also discover the broad horizon of their ignorance. As Brooks demonstrates, this uncertainty creates fertile ground for radical theories, such as the Big Bang and natural selection, which are often dismissed out of hand when first proposed. The new perspectives collected here illustrate how this process continues in such thrilling and dangerous ideas as the merging of human and non-human species and the application of quantum physics to biology.