I am quite pleased to put my popular science book reading hobby/obsession to good use and give a 20 minute presentation to fellow science communicators at the Science Talk ’19 conference.
Before I provide the list of books presented, many authored by women, you may be interested in the fact that I maintain a list of women science writers. Check that out at Women Science Book Writers.
I am also trying to be smart about keeping track of books that are coming out in 2019, and have that list at 2019 Science Books.
What follows are the books I shared at #SciTalk19 along with the category I assigned them to. Many of the books could fall into several categories and the categories are ones that I created and are not canon by any stretch.
There are so many books out there, and due to time constraints, surely I forgot some of your favorites! Thanks for understanding that I could not list even all of my favorites.
A good story: Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
How Science is Done
- The Philadelphia Chromosome: A Genetic Mystery, a Lethal Cancer and the Improbable Invention of a Lifesaving Treatment by Jessica Wapner
- P53: The Gene That Cracked the Cancer Code by Sue Armstrong
- How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution by Lee Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut
- The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte
Scientists Tell Us Their Story
- A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg
- In Search of Nature by E.O. Wilson and Laura Southworth (Illustrator)
- The Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome by Venki Ramakrishnan
- The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier and Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel
- The Einstein File: The FBI’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist by Fred Jerome
- The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone
- Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry by Christie Wilcox
- She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer
- Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want it Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future by Rob Dunn
- From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlyn Doughty
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
- I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell
- The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters by Rose George
- Big Chicken: the Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats by Maryn McKenna
- Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen
- Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-and the New Research that’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini
- The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
Relating to the Everyday
- Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
- How to Teach (Quantum) Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel
- Newton’s Football: The Science behind America’s Game by Ainissa G. Ramirez, PhD and Allen St. John
- The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure by Henry Petroski
- The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies are Changing the Way We Have Kids–and the Kids We Have by Bonnie Rochman
- Endure: Mind, Body and Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson
- Dynamics of Disaster by Susan W. Kieffer
- The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
- What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff by Marcus Chown
- The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics (and related) by Clifford Pickover
- The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Tale of the Elements by Sam Kean
Historical Narrative/Coming of Age
- Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin
- The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics was Reborn by Louisa Gilder
- The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
- Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA by Amy Shira Teitel
- The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future by Joselyn Linder
- Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (also historical narrative)
- Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr
- Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From the Missiles, to Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
- The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
- The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo
- The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Deborah Blum
- Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
How-to, Q & A
- Mr. Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder: Adventures in Science Round the Kitchen Table by Alom Shaha
- Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Liz Heineke
- Why is Snot Green: And other extremely important questions (and answers) from the Science Museum by Glenn Murphy
Natural History/Field Guides
- Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
- A Field Guide to Bacteria by Betsy Dexter Dyer
- The Field Guide to Meteors and Meteorites by O. Richard Norton
Illustrated Children’s Books
- Ankylosaur Attack by Daniel Loxton
- Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life (Series) by Penny Chisholm and Molly Bang
- Eye on the Wild: Brown Bear (series) by Suzie Eszterhas
- Really Big Numbers by Richard Evan Schwartz
- The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theo Gray
- Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond by Kim Arcand and Megan Watzke
- Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith
- What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Randall Munroe (also Q & A, maybe also Graphic Novel)
- Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas that Shape Our Reality by Ben Orlin
- The Dialogues: Conversations About the Nature of the Universe by Clifford Johnson
- Cartoon Guide to The Environment by Adam Gopnik and Alice Ouwater
- Gallery of the Infinite by Richard Evan Schwartz
Recently, I’ve been challenged to consider curiosity and its role in envisioning future technologies through exploring the #alwayscurious initiative at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany on their 350th anniversary. They’ve partnered with many scientists, artists, and thinkers to more fully explore and share ideas about curiosity.
I was delighted to come across a recent series of articles in The Harvard Business Review about the role of curiosity in business and why it is important. I found myself most drawn to the article, The Five Dimensions of Curiosity, by psychologist Todd B. Kashdan and his co-authors.
The group that formulated the Five Dimensions of Curiosity did so by combining the work of science teams who look at various aspects of curiosity. The dimensions they formulated are described as follows:
- Joyous Exploration -being consumed with wonder about the fascinating features of the world.
- Deprivation Sensitivity -recognizing a gap in knowledge, the filling of which offers relief.
- Stress Tolerance-a willingness to accept and even harness the anxiety associated with novelty.
- Social Curiosity -talking, listening, and observing others to learn what they are thinking and doing.
- Thrill Seeking -being willing to take physical, social, and financial risks to acquire varied, complex, and intense experiences.
The old version of the Joanne Love Science website sported a subtitle that read: “Always passionate, always curious, always enthusiastic about everything science”.
I suppose I’ve given very little thought into what being curious REALLY means, and learning about the five dimensions of curiosity helps dissect the idea of curiosity apart.
Given that my self-proclamation of “always curious” was a hallmark of my older website, I thought I would peruse a few older interviews I’d given that could provide snapshot of the role curiosity had in guiding me to science, and my hopes that my children would remain curious well past their childhoods. Through a few excerpts, I see evidence of a few of the dimensions in my answers.
This first interview hails from a few years back at F Equals.
Looking at these two answers to the interviewer’s questions, it is clear that I have a bent toward the dimension of Joyous Exploration. What ultimately drove me to science was a sense of wonder about the world and the joy that discovery brings to me.
[This]… dimension… is joyous exploration—being consumed with wonder about the fascinating features of the world. This is a pleasurable state; people in it seem to possess a joie de vivre.
No wonder observational and exploratory science makes me happy!
Incredibly creative ideas can come forth thanks to curiosity. This of great help in science, but results can be seen in the art world as well. For instance, looking at the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany #alwayscurious initiative, I was most awed by the artistic collaboration with Mira Calix, an award winning composer based in the UK. In Ode to the Future, Mira creates music in collaboration with six unborn humans via the sounds created during ultrasounds. It’s so unique and creative and definitely worth checking out.
Returning to the five dimensions, Deprivation Sensitivity has been, and remains, another major impetus to finding answers to concepts I don’t know.
The HBR article elaborates on this:
Deprivation Sensitivity -recognizing a gap in knowledge, the filling of which offers relief. This type of curiosity doesn’t necessarily feel good, but people who experience it work relentlessly to solve problems.
Continuing with the F Equals interview:
I’d certainly consider my interest in my children and their well-being a form of social curiosity. Looking again at the HBR article:
Social Curiosity -talking, listening, and observing others to learn what they are thinking and doing. Human beings are inherently social animals, and the most effective and efficient way to determine whether someone is friend or foe is to gain information. Some may even snoop, eavesdrop, or gossip to do so.
It’s not such a stretch to consider that my interest in scientists doing their work, or of the people with whom I interact with on social media, could also be considered a form or social curiosity.
Let’s briefly look at an excerpt from another interview granted when I was acting as a Kavli Science Video Contest advisor for the USA Science and Engineering Festival in 2014.
What advice can you give to science and engineering students?
If you are interested in science and engineering, I hope you will persevere even if others around say it is hard, and definitely banish any thoughts you may have acquired from teachers, your parents or peers such as, “Science is only for “smart” people, and that’s not me.” Granted, science and engineering require that you apply yourself, that you challenge yourself, but our brains and our very essence of being thrives on that challenge. A sense of accomplishment once you understand a new concept or learned a new skill is one of the most rewarding things you will ever encounter. It is quite motivating.
Begin to notice what interests you. Are you drawn to certain topics more than others? Take note of those and begin to explore those topics more in depth, and from many different angles. Read a book on the topic, watch a video or TV show, find articles, and even contact an expert in the field if you want to know more and would like hands-on experience. When you are sated with that topic, feel free to move on to another, and even see where your areas of fascination overlap!
Finally, read. Read a lot. Read the books you enjoy, but start to read books that are a little more difficult and require more concentration. Try a new topic. I strongly believe it is one key to becoming successful in science and engineering as well as other fields. Don’t let your intellect wither through lack of challenge of only watching TV or playing video games to the exclusion of all else. Stay curious and actively pursue the things that fascinate you and take your explorations further and deeper!
The advice I offer here indicates that what you are interested or fascinated in is also something you are curious about and it is easier to learn new things when you capitalize on that curiosity. The willingness to explore a new field, area, concept or space is called Stress Tolerance. Being in the state of not knowing can motivate one in curiosity.
The HBR article explains further:
Stress Tolerance-a willingness to accept and even harness the anxiety associated with novelty. People lacking this ability see information gaps, experience wonder, and are interested in others but are unlikely to step forward and explore.
I’ve covered four of the five dimensions. The only dimension I don’t feel a complete resonance with is Thrill Seeking. It may manifest in a mild form because I enjoy travel, however, I’m more likely to imagine our adventurers, explorers, and entrepreneurs in this category than I am myself.
Psychologist Todd B. Kashdan, who compiled the Five Dimensions of Curiosity, has pursued theses ideas with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany about the role of curiosity at work. From the HBR article:
With Merck KGaA we have explored attitudes toward and expressions of work-related curiosity. In a survey of 3,000 workers in China, Germany, and the United States, we found that 84% believe that curiosity catalyzes new ideas, 74% think it inspires unique, valuable talents, and 63% think it helps one get promoted. In other studies across diverse units and geographies, we have found evidence that four of the dimensions—joyous exploration, deprivation sensitivity, stress tolerance, and social curiosity—improve work outcomes. The latter two seem to be particularly important: Without the ability to tolerate stress, employees are less likely to seek challenges and resources and to voice dissent and are more likely to feel enervated and to disengage. And socially curious employees are better than others at resolving conflicts with colleagues, more likely to receive social support, and more effective at building connections, trust, and commitment on their teams. People or groups high in both dimensions are more innovative and creative.
Learn more about this at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s The Performance of Curious Employees is Higher
In my job as a university level biology educator, I find myself interested in how curiosity helps students, and how it eventually can be of benefit to the work of a scientist. Curiosity makes for faster learners, leading to better job-related performance, and eases the process of adapting to new environments. Curiosity is all about learning what we do not yet know. I’m sure to most of the readers of this article, it is like preaching to the choir, but it’s clear that keeping your curiosity high seems to be a wise approach to leading an interesting life.
Once again this year, I was given the opportunity to visit the team from EMD Performance Materials Group at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas January 7-10. (Full disclosure, the trip and this post were sponsored by EMD Performance Materials Corp., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany). I visited them last year as well, and I wrote about that HERE.
EMD Performance Materials Group are responsible for supplying specialty chemicals and high-tech business materials, so many of the tech items one can find at CES 2020 most likely contains some of their products.
This year, their booth was bigger and better and was housed in the Smart Cities portion of CES 2020. They had a barista and were providing free coffee and lattes (with an optional bit of ephemeral 3D printed foam with the team’s logo) for anyone who stopped by, chairs and tables for conversations and interviews, and a stage to hold four informative panels during the convention. All panels were moderated by Ashley Hamer and Cody Gough from the Curiosity Podcast.
Each of the four panels had representatives from various divisions of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and special guests from other companies who are known experts in their fields and quite adept at explaining the respective technologies.
What follows is a brief preview of the panels. All panels were recorded, those recordings can be accessed HERE.
Advanced Digital Living—From Smart Cities to the Most Remote Places on Earth
#CES2020 EMD Performance Group panel on Smart Cities featured, from l to r:
- Kai Beckmann, Member of the Executive Board & CEO Performance Materials, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany;
- Gottfried Wastlbauer, Head of Global Marketing Display Solutions, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and
- Rory Moore, CEO & Co-Founder, EvoNexus
These experts defined what a future smart city would look like. A smart city is not just about energy efficient and smart buildings, but also includes intelligent traffic systems and methods for reducing CO2 emissions during transportation. A smart city is involved with the health of its inhabitants and smoothly monitoring and executing the automated systems that control the environment. All of this requires data and computing which requires semiconductors, and that’s where EMD Performance Materials and affiliates come in, providing the materials to make the concepts move forward.
I’m always on the lookout for good books on any topic, so I’d like mention a book I’ve been meaning to read about smart cities. The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future by Ben Green
Superconducting Quantum Computing, From Chips to Full Systems
The #CES2020 EMD Performance Group panel on the future of Superconducting Quantum computing featured, from 1 to r:
- Daniel Franke, Associate Performance Materials Fund, M Ventures;
- John Levy, Founder & CEO, SeeCQ
- John Langan, CTO Performance Materials, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
EMD Performance Materials is partnering with SeeQC to develop the first superconductive digital quantum computing platform that is designed to be commercially scalable and power problem-specific quantum computing applications.
Quantum computing is a complex topic so I’d like to share a video recently produced to help everyone understand what it is, exactly, at a level everyone can understand.
The Future of Displays: Brighter, Sharper, More Flexible
#CES2020 EMD Performance Group panel on the Future of Displays featuring from l to r:
- Gottfried Wastlbauer, Head of Global Marketing Display Solutions, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany;
- Seamus Blackley, Founder & CEO, Pacific Light & Hologram (Yes, the “Father of the X-box“)
- Bob O’Brien, Co-Founder & President, DSCC (Display Supply Chain Consultations)
This was an interesting and lively panel about what technology can provide and also what consumers want in the future of displays. Much of the panel agreed that the limitations of holograms and more realistic displays are limited by video and film producers who may not see the investment in the further technology on their end to be worth it.
I found this interesting primer on displays from Tech Insider on LEDs, OLEDs and flexible screens, if you want to know more.
Opportunities for Neuromorphic Computing
To no one’s surprise, engineers are often looking to biology to create the most intuitive and interesting advances. The human brain is a marvel at problem solving and identifying patterns. Neuromorphic computing uses the brain as a model to create a 100-fold to 10,000-fold improvement in efficiency of computing, opening opportunities for more advanced AI.
The final panel on Neuromorphic Computing featured, from l to r:
- John Langan, CTO Performance Materials, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
- Wei Lu, Professor of the University of Michigan and CEO & Co-Founder, MemryX
- Owen Lozman, Head of Performance Materials Fund, M Ventures
While the panel gave a great explanation of what Neuromorphic Computing is during the panel, I will not do a summary justice, so instead, I provide this very clear explainer video on the topic.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn more from the esteemed experts during this event.
I was given a great opportunity to visit with the team from EMD Performance Materials Group at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas January 8-11. (Full disclosure: the trip and this post were sponsored by EMD Performance Materials Corp., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany).
When I’d mention in conversations that I’d be working as an influencer for Merck, practically every response would be, “Oh, healthcare?” and I’d have to correct them because understanding who Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany actually is can be quite complex. You see, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, holds the rights to the name and the trademark “MERCK” internationally except for the United States and Canada, where they operate in the biopharma market as EMD Serono, in life science as MilliporeSigma, and in the specialty chemicals and high-tech materials business area as EMD Performance Materials.. Part of my task as an influencer with EMD Performance Materials at #CES2019 was to raise awareness of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s presence in the US.
In addition to these staple elements in every device created by companies around the world, the EMD Performance Materials Group has been innovating new products that they took the time to showcase in their colorful and attractive booth. One of these are liquid crystal windows that can adjust in order to attenuate light and heat coming through windows.
I had the opportunity to speak with Kai Beckmann, member of the Executive Board and CEO of the performance materials business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany . I could have asked about the expansiveness of the products the company offered but instead decided to focus on the differences between being a scientist in academia versus in an industry like Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s . He first emphasized that innovation within industry is often done in collaboration with universities and in multidisciplinary teams (which is the way science is moving these days in all fields). Additionally, a significant amount of R&D is driven and done in concert with their customers. Rather than force an idea upon a customer, they listen to their needs and work together. The company is a leader in the market of LEDs, OLEDs and LCDs, touch sensitive screens, and even pigments in your phone case, so it is clear their methods and products are trusted.
With the growing needs of machine learning and AI algorithms, semiconductor chips need to be faster, more powerful, and not use too much power. I knew that Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany helped in the development of semiconductor materials and I was curious about the changes that would need to happen to create these high performance chips. I spoke with Adnan Nambier, Head of the KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s semiconductor solutions business about making semiconductors more powerful by using a modified technique in their assembly that simplifies the usual patterning steps by using Directed Self Assembly (DSA) of polymers to create smaller features on the chip. Done with consistent chemicals and processes, there is a higher fidelity in pattern replication, and can save money for the customer. (Check out this somewhat longish video if you want to learn more about the science behind DSA.)
I want to wrap up my experience at #CES2019 with EMD Performance Materials by telling you that they support STEM education so they are A-OK in my book! During #CES2019 they ran a social media campaign to encourage us all to join them in increasing their donation to The Franklin Institute a science museum and STEM education supporter, in Philadelphia to help the underserved children further their education and their love for science.
12 months ago • curiosity • Tags: #alwayscurious, CES 2019, Consumer Electronics Show 2019, EMD Performance Materials, LCDs, Merck KGaA Darmstadt Germany, OLEDs, pigments, semiconductors, STEM education
Anyone who follows me on social media knows of my predilection for popular science books (as well as other non-fiction and fiction, too!)
By my count, I read (or listened to) well over 75 books in 2016, including finally (FINALLY) reading and enjoying the science fiction classic Read Player One. What follows is a list of some of the favorites of the science variety I’ve read this year with a brief comment or two, and including a link to any Read Science! episode that would have been held with the author(s).
This list is not meant to show all non-fiction science books that were published in 2016. Naturally, as any other bibliophile would, I have a large stack remaining to be tackled.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. Hope graciously agreed to be on and episode of Read Science! (watch here) this year (wherein, amusingly, her office lights automatically turn off periodically as an energy saving measure). Her book is by far the most unique book I’ve read in the science non-fiction genre and in our interview she states how she set out to write something completely different. She alternates moving memoir-style chapters of her life/life-in-science alternating with transcendent and informative writing about plants. I loved it so much that after I read it, I also listened to it because she was the narrator, and since it was her story, it was a marvelous experience. Her book now joins my favorite science books of all time, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story by John Bloom. This book caught my eye this summer because it was ‘An Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far (Business & Investing)’ and the WSJ also recommended it, so I straight out purchased it. While I’m not completely averse to business style books, they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice. However, this book promised rockets, science and technology, so I took a chance. I hadn’t closely followed the Iridium satellite events in the news during the years they were happening as I was raising my four young kids, so the book was essentially a refresher course. Bloom’s telling of the circumstances contained a plethora of players and numerous business and legal dealings which might have lost me in less deft storytelling hands, but I found myself enthralled by how he managed to weave the information together and bring the reader along so well without losing us in the midst of it all.
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. In case it has not been made clear from tweets and during occasional Read Science! episode exclamations, Dr. Mukherjee’s first book, The Emperor of All Maladies is practically my favorite book of all time. When I finished reading it, I mourned the end of the book for several days because I had immersed myself into it so completely. Anyone who reads knows this feeling all to well.
Was it possible I held my breath waiting six years for another masterpiece from Dr. Mukherjee? Well, of course not, because breathing is important. But, as a cell biologist teaching at a major research university, and teaching genomics nonetheless, I was excited to hear of his newest book, and curious to see how he approached a topic I am quite familiar with. It covers the history of discovery across the entire field of DNA, genetics and genomics, and does it very well interspersed with a personal story of the genetics in his own family. It was a delight to read, and at over 600 pages, one would think he touched on all aspects of ‘the gene’, but since it is such an expansive and expanding field, inevitably some details are missing. I recommend following up with Kat Arney’s Herding Hemingway’s Cats (below) for some of the newest findings in genetics/genomics.
A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert Sapolsky. This book was not from 2016 (it was 2002), but I finally read it. I am no stranger to Robert Sapolsky’s work and am a big fan of his humor and insights. His charming memoir should be required reading for all biologists and advanced primates everywhere. By the way, he has a new book called Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst coming out in April 2017.
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt. This book was a revelation to me as the fact that women did the calculations to help us double check the work of physicists and engineers who were creating rockets and missiles. Her book focuses on the ladies in California and the area that eventually became NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Her book predates the much talked about Hidden Figures.
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. Our very first Read Science! guest joined us once again to talk about her latest book (watch here) which talks about how the human body and war, touching on topics such as hearing, sex, digestion,
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong. Ed’s work as a biology writer is top notch, as many of you may know from his work at The Atlantic, and previously at Discover. As he reveals to us in his appearance on Read Science! (watch here) he wasn’t really planning on writing a book, but the topic of the microbiome inspired him to create this important, informative and inimitable work, replete with the humor he is known for in his other writings (including tweets).
How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France. Read Science! guest Steve Silberman (Neurotribes watch here) had tweeted about this book and the topic intrigued me. The storytelling in the book captivated and informed me to a level I’d not been before on the topic. All in all, I learned that activism works to further scientific research. I loved this book. One of my top faves in 2016.
Moving on to the next 8 books among my favorites for 2016, I’m going to speed things along. Five of the eight listed above were Read Science guests so be sure to check out the episode if you are interested.
Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry by Christie Wilcox. You may know Christie from twitter (@NerdyChristie) and by her blog, Science Sushi. I really enjoyed her book, maybe moreso because I’m a cell biologist and since cells do biochemistry really well, I could appreciate her approach to explaining how toxins are produced in the animals that use them as defense and as the weapon in the unfortunate victim. She was a wonderful guest on Read Science! (watch here)
The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It….Every Time by Maria Konnikova. A very interesting and practical book. If you or a loved one has ever fallen for a con (and really, who hasn’t?), you will find the stories and science in the book riveting. Maria kindly was a guest on Read Science! (vide0).
Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA by Amy Shira Teitel. Amy is a prolific creator of fun spaceflight history videos and now a podcast. Her book came out in January but it took us a while to schedule her appearance on Read Science! (watch here). He book tells the story of rocket testing and the steps it took to get into space before NASA had their opportunity. It was a very interesting book.
The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club by Eileen Pollack. I’ll be commenting further on this book in a future post about the prevalence of books on women in science. Interesting first person account of the author’s time trying to find her way as a physics student at Yale.
Herding Hemingway’s Cats: Understanding How Our Genes Work by Kat Arney. I know a lot about the science of genomics and genetics but learned a few new things by reading her book, as I pointed out in her appearance on Read Science! (watch here). Nearly every book on genes starts with Gregor Mendel, but she didn’t and for that, I give her a high five. (Don’t worry, it’s still in the book!). Reading the book is like having a good friend explain the latest science in a very friendly and clear manner.
Wild Sex: The Science Behind Mating in the Animal Kingdom by Carin Bondar. Delightful, accessible and well, maybe blush inducing. See Carin’s Read Science Interview.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. This book was also made into a very good movie.
The Hunt for Vulcan…And How Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson (From November 2015). When I read this book, I found myself thinking often, “Huh, who knew?” or “That was interesting. I had no idea.” Thanks to Tom Levenson, I learned a bit of astronomical history I was previously unaware of in a very readable story.
Some other books I have enjoyed in 2016:
Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David Montgomery and Anne Bikle
Fall Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon by Colin Burgess and Kate Doolan
Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food by Catherine Price
I’m always happy to read and share the latest with you. Thanks so much for visiting!
When I was approached to participate in tonight’s #STEMchat on twitter with Bayer, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Making Science Make Sense program, disjointed memories of science information from various teachers began to pop into my mind. I thought of Mr. Beccue in 5th grade helping us burn feathers and hair to teach us about the chemical make-up of proteins. The smell is sulfur from the the amino acid cysteine in keratin. In 4th grade, I recall grappling with how hot air rises and cold air sinks and that is why the shower curtain will blow toward the bathtub while you shower. The explanation was in a seldom-consulted textbook rather than through hands-on experimentation, but it was a real-life example I could understand. I also remember the push for the metric system in America when I was in elementary school (check out the book, Whatever Happened to the Metric System?: How America Kept Its Feet if you want to know more). Little did I know that the early training in the metric system would be invaluable in my future scientific career, even if America did not want to join the rest of the world in its use. Oh, and Mrs. Thompson in 3rd grade, with her distinct shoe clopping as she came down the hall, indicating we should all get back in our seats, was the one who told us about this new space ship that will take off like a rocket but return like a plane. I talk about that briefly approximately 2 minutes into my Pecha Kucha talk about the last space shuttle launch:
In middle school, the Air Force brought my family to the tiny tropical island of Guam. I was able to experience the beach and the boonies daily. In middle school biology, we raised and then cooked snails to eat. EWW! No, thank you!!! By high school, I was certain I wanted to become a physician so I had high hopes for my science classes. I went to a small all-girls Catholic school where resources weren’t abundant, so we made due with what we had. For biology, we dissected frogs we caught outside because those were plentiful on Guam. We had to pith them ourselves, which made many of us unhappy. I put on a brave face and reluctantly did it. Double EWW! Even though that part wasn’t fun, I have to admit that the inner workings of the frog were interesting albeit slimy! I only recall one hands-on chemistry lab during high school, but that was enough to whet my appetite for more of that when I got to college! Physics topics were not all that memorable, but the thick accent of the teacher from India was, as it had me deciphering new physics words. Oddly, the fact that he said “milliwolves”, creating waves of giggles from girls in the class, actually made it easier to learn the place of millivolts in physics!! I was famous in school for the “translation dictionary” I created of his pronunciation to real words.
Tonight on twitter, I’ll be joining a great group of panelists as we talk about what science education was like BEFORE computers in the classroom, ipads, smartphone and ready-made kits for experimentation. The science education my children have been receiving is much, much different than I had!
STEMchat will take place on Thursday, October 15, 2015 from 9-10 pm Eastern.
The panel of guests include:
@KimMoldofsky, also known as The Maker Mom and founder of #STEMchat. Occasionally tweeting from @TheMakerMom and @STEMchat.
@BayerUS – Life Science company dedicated to advancing science literacy.
As part of this chat, we will make a special effort to Say “Thank You!”, #SayTKU, to science mentors who inspired us! Every time you do, Bayer will provide free admission to a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) venue for a child (up to 25,000) through a new partnership with Tickets for Kids® Charities. I think it is a fabulous idea! Thank a teacher and inspire a child!
Please join us to talk about the brave new world of science education!
4 years ago • Kids in STEM, STEM, Uncategorized • Tags: #SayTKU, Bayer, biology, chemistry, high school, metric system, physics, school, science, science education, Space Shuttle, STEM, STEM chat, STEMchat, teachers
I’ve been a constant supporter (and occasional viewer) of the Emmy Award-winning series on PBS KIDS called SciGirls. They have been on the air for three seasons featuring teams of girls ages 12-14 who are involved in science activities in their homes and communities. This is a very important age to reach girls about science and their show is quite engaging! In fact, a few years back, I learned from one of their producers that their main audience is girls YOUNGER than the girls on the show, and this is how kids programming usually works, the younger kids are inspired by slightly older kids doing science.
The team at SciGirls wants all of us to join in to do science, and to that end they are encouraging participation in Citizen Science via some projects at Sci Starter. To help them along in spreading the word, a group of us STEM enthusiasts will be coming together to talk about girls in science and citizen science in particular on twitter this Thursday night at the hashtag, #STEMchat.
I was only narrowly recruited for this chat as I leave the next day to head to Costa Rica to hangout with some sloths and the researchers, naturalists and rescuers who work with them. Stay tuned for some adorableness! If my signal is good, I’ll be Vining, Instagramming, tweeting, G+ ing and Periscoping! I’m in most places as @sciencegoddess.
The following details are lifted directly from The Maker Mom’s blog:
#STEMchat will take place on 5/21 from 9 – 10 PM Eastern.
We’ve got an awesome panel of grown-up SciGirls to help lead our #STEMchat on Citizen Science:
And @KimMoldofsky, also known as The Maker Mom and founder of #STEMchat who has yet to author a book.
Join me tomorrow night! I’m excited to talk about getting everyone involved with science!
With this episode we celebrated several firsts: our biggest hangout to date (all 6 of us in one little video), our first return guest (Suzi), and our first guest joining us from Africa (Laurie, from her office at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, in Namibia). To celebrate we had a very stimulating conversation about extinction and animal conservation, featuring the passenger pigeon and the cheetah.
Today’s guests were Dr. Laurie Marker, founder of The Cheetah Conservation Fund and Suzi Eszterhas, author and photographer of A Future for Cheetahs; and David Mrazek and Joel Greenberg, co-writers, co-producers, and director (David) of the documentary film, “From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction“. Let’s also mention Joel’s book, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction
To like “Read Science!” on Facebook : http://facebook.com/ReadScience .
5 years ago • animals, Books, More Science, Read Science!, Science, Uncategorized • Tags: A Feathered River Across the Sky, cheetah, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Dr. Laurie Marker, extinction, Film, From Billions to None, Joel Greenberg, passenger pigeon, photography, Suzi Eszterhas
The above video of then 8th grader Michael Koehler from Pennsylvania explaining Bernoulli’s Principle was my first introduction to the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the nation’s premier science competition for middle school students. At that time, in 2008, the students were asked to explain scientific principles and Michael was a finalist for his submission, moving on to the in person competition. I was charmed by his presentation and shared it originally on my first incarnation of Joanne Loves Science.
While I always seem to have a stack of books to read, I’m always thrilled when books come out that somehow have me manage to ignore that pile in order to delve into them. Tomorrow (February 24th), two such books will be available here in the US.
The first is p53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code by Sue Armstrong, a writer based in the UK (where this book has already been out for a few weeks.) Being a cell biologist, I am so excited to read the narrative Sue has written about this very important gene that is central to keeping us cancer free. It is such a well-studied gene that there are certainly many important scientists and physicians playing a role in the book.
In this episode we talked with Corey S. Powell, editor of the book “Undeniable : Evolution and the Science of Creation”, by Bill Nye, former editor-in-chief of “American Scientist” and “Discover” magazines, and author of the Discover blog “Out There”.
As usual, our conversation was wide ranging, from debating with creationists to GMOs, science journalism to the human need for exploration. And this was where we first learned that Bill Nye was visiting Monsanto to learn more about GMOs and they will be editing that controversial chapter. This link will take you straight to that part of the conversation.
Visit Corey’s blog “Out There” :
To like “Read Science!” on Facebook : http://facebook.com/ReadScience .