exploration, Grinspoon is well-placed to pro-
vide a unique set of answers to this inquiry.
In a work that’s less an orderly guidebook
than a series of thoughtful and fascinating
discussions, Grinspoon uses his knowledge of
planetary ecosystems and geological change
to speculate on humankind’s potential earthly
influence over thousands of years, pointing
out that Homo sapiens has faced extinction
before. Although Grinspoon acknowledges
the daunting challenges ahead, his message
is ultimately an optimistic one, arguing that
man’s acute self-awareness and technological
creativity will ultimately win out. —Carl Hays
Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super
Earth, Pulsar Planets, and the New
Search for Life beyond Our Solar System.
By Michael Summers and James Trefil.
Mar. 2017. 224p. illus. Smithsonian, $29.95
The existence of planets outside Earth’s
solar system was long assumed, and recent
technologies, including improved telescopes
and research satellites, have not only con-
firmed their existence but revealed all kinds of
surprises. The first verified exoplanet, for in-
stance, was orbiting “the wrong kind of star,”
a pulsar, or what was left after a supernova that
was supposed to blast to smithereens anything
even close to resembling a planet. Meanwhile,
the statuses of solar system objects besides the
recognized planets were changing as water, in-
dispensable for Earth-like
life, was detected as superfi-
cial ice and subsurface oceans
on some moons of Jupiter,
Saturn, and Neptune. Water
was also found on big bod-
ies in the Kuiper Belt, such
as the demoted planet Pluto,
which thereby regained its
title. Astonishment continued as huge, rocky
“Super Earths,” inexplicably light planets, pure-
carbon diamond planets, planets circling more
than one star, star-hugging hot planets, and
rogue planets unconnected to stars were de-
tected. These revelations, how they were made,
imaginative voyages to five un-Earthly types of
planets, and their implications for life and in-
telligence elsewhere than on Earth are concisely
illuminated by astrophysicists Summers and
Trefil in this marvelously fascinating and won-
derfully accessible illustrated book. —Ray Olson
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life.
By Matin Durrani and Liz Kalaugher.
Jan. 2017. 304p. Bloomsbury/Sigma, $27
Many readers will see the word physics in the
subtitle and sheer away from this captivating
work, but even the most phobic will be drawn
in as scientists and science editors Durrani and
Kalaugher demonstrate how animals use phys-
ics in their daily lives. To both survive and pass
on their genes, animals have evolved to exploit
the principles of physics. As they cover the six
basics—heat, forces, fluids, sound, electricity
and magnetism, and light—the authors por-
tray animals that are masters of each particular
phenomenon. A dog shaking water from its
fur is an example of heat convection (wet fur
conducts heat from the body), while a gecko
crossing a ceiling is exploiting the tiny attractive
forces between molecules to make its feet stick.
Cats master fluid dynamics when they drink,
creating a column of water with their tongues.
Durrani and Kalaugher reveal similarly intrigu-
ing details about bats, peafowl, and sound;
electric eels, loggerhead turtles, and electricity
and magnetism; and honeybees and octopus
and light. All are equally fascinating and fun ex-
amples of the physics of biology. —Nancy Bent
YA: Bad jokes, cool animals, and easy-to-
digest physics make this one a winner. NB.
Gem: The Definitive Visual Guide.
2016. 440p. illus. DK, $50 (9781465453563). 549.973.
DK books have a reputation for dazzling
pictures that appeal to the visual senses for
learning, and this work does not disappoint
with its stunning pictures (often several per
page) of exquisite gems and jewelry. The size
and proportions of this work could lead to
classifying it as a coffee-table book, but that
descriptor would do it a disservice—the
abundance of close-up details of gems and
jewelry both educates and delights the reader.
The first section provides an overview of
mineral formation, the characteristics and
properties of gems, and the uses of precious
(and not-so-precious) metals. The rest of the
book is devoted to gems, organic gems, and
rocks. Along the way, there are forays into
precious metals, jewels, folklore, and the history of specific famous ornaments (such as the
Hope Diamond). Visual appeal is everything
for jewelry, hence the “Color Guide,” which
is an appendix that shows minerals in their
main color. For those with a more chemical
penchant, the “Mineral and Rock Directory”
classifies minerals by their chemical composition and provides a one-paragraph summary.
There are several works on gemstones and
jewelry, and although this one does not offer
any novel insights, its multidisciplinary approach, drawing on both the humanities and
hard sciences, makes it a great source of information. —Muhammed Hassanali
Governing Global Health: Who Runs the
World and Why?
By Chelsea Clinton and Devi Sridhar.
Feb. 2017. 296p. Oxford, $24.95 (9780190253271). 362.1.
Sridhar, a global public health professor at
the University of Edinburgh’s Medical School,
and Clinton, vice chair for the Clinton Foun-
dation, present an erudite, bordering on
academic, examination of world health. They
A History of Medicine in 50 Objects.
By Gill Paul.
2016. 224p. illus. Firefly, $29.95 (9781770857186).
This browsable book takes a chronological look at the history of medicine
by focusing on a variety of objects and
instruments. Featured items include clay
tablets from Mesopotamia describing
herbal remedies and surgical techniques;
the first forceps, microscope, and stethoscope; and the MRI scanner. Entries range
from one to several pages, and there is a
plethora of illustrations to accompany the
narrative. Students will find this work to
be an excellent starting point for research,
while general readers will enjoy learning more about how the world has been
shaped by medical discoveries throughout
history. —Rebecca Vnuk
The Infographic Guide to Science.
By Tom Cabot.
2016. 256p. illus. Firefly, paper, $24.95
The use of infographics (graphical images
The Stars: The Definitive Visual Guide
that illustrate concepts) is a common and
swift way to illustrate facts. Cabot’s intro-
duction to all things science is broken down
into four sections: “The Universe,” “Earth,”
“Life,” and “Humans.” Concepts covered
include physics, chemistry, evolution, biol-
ogy, and more. High-level science is made
simple with short bursts of information and
colorful graphics. This attractive book is
ideal for students or general readers who
want to know more about science in a
quick, easy manner. —Rebecca Vnuk
to the Cosmos.
2016. 256p. illus. DK, $30 (9781465453402). 520.
Humans have been observing the stars
since ancient times, and our knowledge
of them continues to grow today. This at-
tractive book is a combination of several
related but distinct topics: a catalog of the
constellations; photographs of interesting
galaxies and nebulae; and theories of star
formation, evolution, and decay (including
their collapse into black holes). Each section
is illustrated with images from the Hubble
space telescope, providing dramatic graphi-
cal highlights. Not quite a reference book
(and definitely not a textbook), this work
will be a good addition to most public li-
brary science collections. —David Tyckoson
SCIENCE REFERENCE IN BRIEF
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