• SCIENCE

The Sixth Extinction

65 million years ago, an asteroid impact brought a sudden end to the age of the dinosaurs.  In this riveting scientific detective story, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert follows the equally dramatic wave of biological destruction happening right under our noses.

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Windfall

The possibility of global warming presents an ominous view of future generations.  But as McKenzie Funk's startling study reports, some of the world's biggest corporations have plans for turning impending climate change into record profits.

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Life at the Speed of Light

The esteemed science writer of A Life Decoded is back, with a wealth of bold new research on the study which has emerged as his professional life's great passion: the Human Genome Project.

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Smarter Than You Think

Clive Thompson believes technology is altering our brains – for the better.  His convincing case celebrates millionaires filmed 24/7, Chinese students protesting toxic waste, and video gamers working on a cure for HIV.

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Sightlines

From whale watches to trips to view Aurora Borealis from the Arctic Circle, naturalist Kathleen Jamie pursues science writing with an adventurer's pace and the storytelling of a sharp dramaticist. 

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The Universe in the Rearview Mirror

Making the recondite mysteries of the universe accessible to all, Dave Goldberg explores enduring symmetries that have shaped our most profound discoveries in this engaging pop physics history. 

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The Philadelphia Chromosome

Expounding the well-known link between genetics and cancer, this scientific history recounts the initial discovery of a gene mutation that eventually led to enormous breakthroughs in the fight against leukemia. 

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Gulp

With her trademark curiosity and humor, Mary Roach demystifies oddities of the human digestive system in this collection of "Adventures on the Alimentary Canal."

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Bad Pharma

Ben Goldacre prescribes a critical dose of hard data and revision to our health care industry in this searing profile of “How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients”. 

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A Little History of Science

 In this entertaining survey of millennia of scientific progress, William Bynum humanizes the men and women involved in the glorious pursuit of knowledge. From the unheralded inventor of writing straight down to Einstein, a roll call of curious and probing minds to inspire any reader.

 

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  • SCIENCE

The Best Science Writing Online 2012

Have you encountered the internet slang TLDR yet? It stands for "Too Long; Didn't Read" and typifies the preference of web surfers for concise chunks of information. And yet, somehow, great longform articles continue to appear online. Editors Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette herewith round up fifty-one of the finest pieces on subjects ranging from anthropology to cognition, ecology to physics.

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The Guardian of All Things

Memory makes us human. So argues Michael S. Malone, who entertainingly maps human history against the brain's evolution, and its astonishing ability to recall the past and convey that information to others. A brilliant marriage of neuroscience and anthropology you won't soon forget. 

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The Violinist's Thumb

Sam Kean's bestseller The Disappearing Spoon romped through the Periodic Table in a compulsively readable history of chemical discoveries. In The Violinist's Thumb -- a reference to the genetic quirk that helped make Paganini's playing legendary -- the writer unveils the mysteries of DNA to equally magical effect.

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Chasing Venus

The 18th-century quest to calculate the size of the solar system by observing the transit of Venus was the first truly international scientific undertaking. Andrea Wulf captures the personalities who took on the astronomical challenge in this surprising true story of stargazing, exploration, and politics.

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Time Travel and Warp Drives

Does modern physics hold out any hope for the realization of science fiction's wildest dreams of limitless and easy travel through the fabric of time and space? With unfailing rigor, yet open minds, professors Allen Everett and Thomas Roman survey all of the rapidly changing realms of research that might yet lead mankind beyond the stars or back to the Jurassic.

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The Viral Storm

Swine flu. Bird flu. SARS. Influenza and even ebola. Nathan Wolfe, globe-trotting Stanford biologist, surveys the modern pandemic landscape, offering grim lessons on mankind's relationship with the various microbes that routinely threaten civilization itself. But while the ease of international travel and interconectivity of global culture makes our species particularly vulnerable, Wolfe also holds out promise of new countermeasures that can protect us.

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How the Hippies Saved Physics

The shape of popular science would look dramatically different -- more stodgy and conservative, less expansive -- were it not for a long-ago mini-revolution in the field of physics that melded the hippie sensibility of far-out daydreaming with a Newtonian fervor for theorizing and testing. MIT professor David Kaiser finds the hidden affinities between cosmic consciousness and laboratory protocols in this absorbing account of a time when longhairs with slide rules stalked the planet.

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The Information

From birth announcements carried by drum in 19th-century Africa to the invention of the idea of the "bit" by a Bell Labs researcher, James Gleick -- the author of cerebral yet addictive works such as Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Chaos: Making a New Science -- charts the ocean of data we are now struggling to navigate.

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The Science of Kissing

Dooley Wilson may sing "a kiss is just a kiss" in Casablanca, but science journalists like Sheril Kirshenbaum know that even the most fundamental things can benefit from having curiosity applied to them, as in her enlightening examination of the history, science, and prospects of osculatory pursuits.

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Evolution

Biologist Jay Hosler teams up with accomplished comics artists Kevin and Zander Cannon (the co-working Cannons are not related, by the way) to deliver a graphical guide to a complex subject. Casting their narrative as an alien-conducted tour of a hypothetical museum, the creators delve into macro and micro Darwinian matters. Accurate and entertaining.

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Do Sparrows Like Bach?

The editors of the New Scientist magazine offer a sampling of the latest in stranger-than-fiction scientific research. Scientists who trip their subjects, academic debates over the temperature of the afterlife, and researchers who don moose suits.  Informative -- and addictive -- browsing for the intellectually curious.

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The Planet in a Pebble

The poet William Blake endeavored to "to see the world in a grain of sand," and his metaphoric effort finds precise and metric reality in Jan Zalasiewicz's inspired scientific biography of a pebble as it persists through the history of the universe, illuminating all processes and events in its path.

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Long for This World

If science extends the average lifespan by one year for every calendar year of R&D, we'll all live forever! Although the actual state of cutting-edge geriatric medicine is not quite so simple or sanguine, Pulitzer winner Jonathan Weiner makes a good case for the advent of radical life extension technologies just down the road. Read more...

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137

Does mathematics underlie the structure of the universe—or only humanity's perceptions? Author Miller, who previously examined links between Einstein and Picasso, explores the interface between physics and psychology in the persons of unlikely pals Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung. Read more...

Art + Science Now

An international survey of how scientific research and technological innovation are informing the aesthetics of the 21st century, from algorithms and kinetics to robotics and microbiology; illustrated with the work of scores of contemporary artists. Read more...

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The fascinating and moving story of a woman's biological legacy is one of the most deservedly acclaimed books of the year. Our reviewer, Jerry Coyne, calls it, "a modern classic of science writing. . . . [Skloot's] mixture of science and biography is sui generis, and its themes profound: racism, ethics, and scientific illiteracy." Read more...

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From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

“What is time?” Saint Augustine asked. “If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I have to explain it, I don’t.” In this highly anticipated volume, Carroll, a Caltech theoretical physicist and inspired blogger at Cosmic Variance, follows the arrow of time towards a scientific answer to such saintly bewilderment. Read more...

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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