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Science/Mathematics

Book Review: Quantum Physics for Poets

Quantum Physics for Poets
Author: 
Lederman, Leon M.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Quantum Physics for Poets explains some of the most arcane quantum physics topics to readers in a form which captures imaginations and aids understanding. Mr. Lederman and Mr. Hill have managed to write a book that spans simpler topics to far more complicated topics that most will never encounter, with a poetic theme to it that speaks to readers’ artistic souls. The blending of right brain and left is exceptionally done, managing to combine a love of understanding the world around us and a love of the singularly beatific rhythm that poetry provides in one’s life. An excellent book and an enthralling albeit challenging read, I would recommend this book to anyone with a high level of interest in the sciences, particularly physics, and a large interest in exploring its greater depths.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rebecca D

Book Review: The Hidden Lives of Owls

The Hidden Lives of Owls
Author: 
Calvez, Leigh
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Hidden Lives of Owls is a gripping nonfiction book that not only builds one’s knowledge of the species, but actively forges a bond between readers and the unique creatures. The book chronicles Mr. Calvez’s journeys through nature’s forests as he observes the innermost habits of owls. Mainly, Mr.
Calvez observes the owls at night, giving way to the book’s title of “Hidden Lives”, as he observes things one would not usually see in the daytime. Through its first-person narration by Mr. Calvez, a naturalist, the Hidden Lives of Owls reveals many aspects of the life of the owl about which one would never before be aware. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the mysterious creatures that are owls, and interested in searching out further facts about these beautiful, wonderful, animals than is seen on the surface.

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth D

Book Review: Darwin's First Theory

Darwin's First Theory
Author: 
Wesson, Rob
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Everyone knows the name Darwin. The name is synonymous with one of the most important theories ever generated by mankind. At this point in the world, the name is less a name and more a representation of something much greater. Yet, as Mr. Welson leads us to question in his book Darwin’s First Theory, how deeply do we truly know the man who changed the face of our understanding of earth forever?

Written by leading geologist Rob Welson, Darwin's first theory explores the beginning of Charles Darwin’s quest to find a theory of the earth, and explores how his early theories helped shape his future and most famous theory of evolution. By bringing us along through well-researched narration of Mr. Darwin’s first journey on the HMS Beagle, Mr. Welson brings us to a greater understanding of the man whose theory shaped modern biology around the world. Darwin’s First Theory is an informative read. To anyone interested in Darwin, and interested in a greater understanding of biology's most influential theory, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth D

Book Review: The Melting World

The Melting World
Author: 
White, Christopher P.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Melting World, a tale of the author’s journey to Montana and beyond in order to better understand global climate change, is a powerful commentary on the state of global warming in our world today. Mr. White’s research is as fascinating as it is frightening, gripping us and emboldening readers to continue the changes in the world such that these caps cannot continue to atrophy at the rate they are. Since Mr. White traveled to Montana, and did research regarding the Rocky Mountain Ice, the Melting World hits close to home for Coloradoan readers. The book is neither overly long nor overly short, so one is left with a satisfied feeling of comprehension of the situation without being bombarded by information overload. Naturally, the Melting World is not a light book, and can be an upsetting one, but a book which is important to read nevertheless. To anyone who cares about the environment, I would recommend this gripping read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rebecca D

Book Review: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Author: 
Alda, Alan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While miscommunication might be the source of conflict for romantic comedies, it’s a much more significant problem in the real world. If people aren’t able to efficiently and accurately communicate with their fellow man, then we all have room for improvement. Scientists and doctors are often the worst offenders, even though their ideas need to be communicated to the world for the advancement of society. Alan Alda has spent years trying to figure out why people are unable to communicate, and he has also figured out what we can do to improve this situation. As a scientist and writer, I feel many of his insights have merit.

I grew up watching Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers, so I know how often he has interacted with scientists. His conclusions that we can all become better communicators through empathy and understanding of our audience makes sense. I dabbled in improvisational theatre a little in college as I was studying to earn my Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Having first-hand experience of successfully improvising, I always touted its benefits for technical professions. Now I know why. When we synchronize with others, our message has a much better chance of being communicated.

As if to prove his point, this book is not necessarily a scientific account of the research, but merely a personal (and relatable) set of anecdotal stories that should open people’s eyes to the potential communicators trapped within each of us. We all have to communicate on some level, whether it’s orally or written, so if we can all improve our communication skills by learning to empathize with others, maybe society could one day be able to hold civil and vigorous debates without instantly devolving into mud-slinging contests.

A must-read for anyone who communicates (i.e., everyone), I give If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: 
Skloot, Rebecca
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a powerful narrative detailing one of the most revolutionary scientific and medical discoveries of the 20th century: HeLa cells. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951 when she was 31 years old. During a surgery to remove some of her tumor, one of her surgeons took a sample of that tumor for testing in his lab. As he had tested many other cancerous cells, he expected Henrietta's cells to die within a few hours. They never did. Her cells continued to reproduce, and still do to this day. Henrietta's family, however, was never notified that her cells were taken. They discovered this in a news article years after the fact. The book not only tells Henrietta's story, but her family's as well. Rebecca Skloot worked for years with the Lacks family to ensure that justice was done, and Henrietta was not lost to history. I enjoyed the personal perspective that Skloot used to tell the story. It had the full potential of being written like a scientific journal, but Skloot told it as a beautiful narrative. Henrietta, her husband and children, and even Rebecca herself were characters and there was emotion on every page. It reads like a novel. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in medicine and its history.

Reviewer's Name: 
Hannah H.

Book Review: Trees

Trees
Author: 
Lemniscates
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today. -Chinese Proverb

This is a lovely book that quietly conveys what trees are, how they live, and what they do. The illustrations beautifully magnify the simple text in what I would call biblioharmony. Snuggle up with your little one and check out Trees by Lemnisactes.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kristin B.

Book Review: Thing Explainer

Thing Explainer
Author: 
Munroe, Randall
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Growing up in the 1990’s, one of the defining books that helped me understand the world around me was David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work. Using “cartoonish” drawings of plenty of everyday (and not so everyday) machines, I gained plenty of useful knowledge that probably led me to eventually earn my Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2009. While Macaulay’s illustrations were straight forward enough that they didn’t need explanations, some concepts around today certainly need some words to help gain an understanding of the way things work.

Enter Randall Munroe, famed “xkcd” webcomic author and an all around smart guy. In late 2012, he published a comic that described each of the systems in NASA’s Saturn V rocket with simple words. Described as “U.S. Space Team’s Up Goer Five,” the concept of using shorter, more common words to explain complicated concepts came to its full fruition in Thing Explainer. Using the thousand most common words, Munroe manages to humorously and thoroughly explain such “things” as the U.S. Constitution, The International Space Station, and the Large Hadron Collider (amongst many other common and complicated ideas).

While the concept is fun and this book could easily be used to help children understand these fascinating ideas, the thousand-word constraint is also its biggest weakness. Sure, I could deduce that “shafts” were usually “sticks” (or “hallways” if they were like mine shafts), and “fire water” often meant gasoline (or some other combustible fuel). However, I often found myself trying to figure out what the actual name of the item or part in question was because the “simple” name wasn’t self-explanatory. Also, it was sometimes a challenge to read all the small text, as it usually wasn’t arranged in a linear format, instead appearing in chunks around the illustrations to be close to the parts that were being described.

A unique concept to bring advanced technological knowledge to everyone, I give Thing Explainer 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Unstoppable: Harnessing Science To Change The World

Unstoppable: Harnessing Science To Change The World
Author: 
Nye, Bill
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I grew up on Bill Nye’s science show on PBS. I appreciated his
straightforward approach to teaching science to children that was both
informative and humorous. Possibly in part due to this, I now find myself
with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and employed in a very
technical field. I also find myself writing books which are surreptitiously
educational, hoping that the entertainment value of my writing will subtly
inspire people to learn more about science. Consequently, merely based on the
author of this book, I was interested in reading it, despite the somewhat
vague and ambiguous title.

While there was plenty of very interesting material presented in this book,
much of it I had already known about by keeping up with the technological
advances of the world today, I felt like its order was a little off. Right
from the get-go, Nye hammers home that global climate change is a problem.
The entire rest of the book then explores technologies and developments that
could potentially solve, or at least abet the rapid rate of change leading to
our soon-to-be unsustainable world. As a result, there’s a bit of fear
introduced from the beginning that is tugged on throughout. I would have
flipped these topics around and shown all the neat scientific breakthroughs
(or near breakthroughs) we have in our current world, then use the knowledge
of these advancements to address the climate change issue. In this way, I
think the tone would be more inspiring and lead more people to pursue the
solutions instead of being alarmist and driving people to act out of fear
instead of out of the hope of what our future could be if we act now.

Nye’s trademark humor is sprinkled throughout his writing, which made
reading this book enjoyable. Furthermore, since he takes a very personal
approach with his examples and stories (I love his “love/hate”
relationship with Ed Begley Jr.), many of his opinions leak through. Many
times throughout the book, these opinions came off to me as a bit
off-putting, especially if the person reading this book happens to be of an
opinion differing from Nye’s. As such, there was a bit of “preaching to
the choir” that might not be helpful when trying to change the minds of
those who don’t share the same opinions. Still, his attempts at re-framing
the problem of global climate change and adjusting how we think about it were
quite admirable and I think everyone should give his ideas a chance.

A tale of both imminent danger and inspiration, I give Unstoppable 3.5 stars
out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Rivers of Sunlight: How The Sun Moves Water Around the Earth

Rivers of Sunlight: How The Sun Moves Water Around the Earth
Author: 
Bang, Molly
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"I am your sun. My energy warms your days. I light up your world." So begins a lovely book about how the entire Earth's water system works. The illustrations are the sort you can sink into and perseverate over. This book is so beautiful, in fact, that you will absorb the complexity of our Earth's hydrology without even realizing it. Check out Rivers of Sunlight and pour yourself into knowledge and beauty.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kristin

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