From exploring the universe to understanding the role of mathematics, science books range widely this fall. There are cataclysms both cosmic and Earth-bound; a scientist takes on a Bible story; sleep gets a close examination; and numbers are made to show off their exciting side.
Starting out in space, science writer Michael Lemonick’s Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet’s Twin traces the hunt for exoplanets, those planets elsewhere in the galaxy that would be Earth-like enough to support life we could recognize. Lemonick focuses on the scientists making the search, who both compete and cooperate in this exciting endeavor. Lawrence E. Joseph observes Solar Cataclysm: How the Sun Shaped the Past and What We Can Do to Save Our Future, assaying the effects of changes in the sun not only on climate but also on history and our personal lives.
Back on Earth, as we worry about global warming, Alaskan scientist Bill Streever, in Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places, delves into what heat really means, from fevers and cooking to deserts, walking on hot coals, and the hottest cosmic moment, the Big Bang. While heat is a slowly approaching danger, and there are warning signals for volcanic eruptions and extreme weather like hurricanes, earthquakes still largely catch us unawares. Learning to predict the sudden violence of earthquakes is the subject of seismologist Roger Musson’s The Million-Death Quake: The Science of Predicting Earth’s Deadliest Natural Disaster.
Geologist David R. Montgomery takes on the story of Noah’s flood in The Rocks Don’t Lie by investigating rock strata in Kentucky, explaining how the 440-million-year-old limestone shows no evidence of flood churning, and plate techtonics are incompatible with a global flood. If the mix of science and religion is contentious, so is the mix of science and politics. Physics professor Richard A. Muller tries to clarify the energy question with Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines, in which he guides readers through the scientific background behind nuclear power, natural gas, and renewable sources like solar and wind. And rocks are among the substances that link humans, and our planet, to the origins of the universe, as Neil Shubin illustrates in The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People.
Moving from the outside world into our brains, neuroscientist Daniel Bor in The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning explores the question of how consciousness evolved, and why we waste time solving crossword puzzles. And what happens in our brains while we are sleeping? Journalist David K. Randall took on this assignment after he began sleepwalking, and gives us Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep.
Now for those numbers: if math gave you a scare in school, then let Brooklyn math teacher Paul Lockhart, in Measurement, show you the art in mathematics, with measurement just one of the many strands of math that feed our need to find patterns in the world.
PW’s Top 10: Science
Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet’s Twin by Michael D. Lemonick. Walker & Co., Oct 16
Solar Cataclysm: How the Sun Shaped the Past and What We Can Do to Save Our Future by Lawrence E. Joseph. HarperOne, Sept.
Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places by Bill Streever. Little, Brown, Jan.
The Million-Death Quake: The Science of Predicting Earth’s Deadliest Natural Disaster by Roger Musson. Palgrave Macmillan, Oct.
The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood by David R. Montgomery. W.W. Norton, Aug.
Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller. W.W. Norton, Aug.
The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People by Neil Shubin. Pantheon, Jan.
The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning by Daniel Bor. Basic Books, Aug.
Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall. W.W. Norton, Aug.
Measurement by Paul Lockhart. Harvard Univ./Belknap Press, Sept.
Read and sort all our picks from this fall's upcoming science titles in the spreadsheet below: