Beyond the Hype
Fiona Fox Elliott & Thompson (2022)
It is 20 years since journalist Fiona Fox set up the influential Science Media Centre in London, to persuade more scientists to engage with the media. This absorbing, detailed book is her memoir of that period — not, as she makes clear, an “objective record”. Separate chapters deal with controversies such as “Climategate”, “Frankenfoods”, the politicization of science, sexism in research and how the current pandemic epitomizes an “age-old dichotomy” between the need for simple public messaging and the messy complexity of science.
Lucy Cooke Doubleday (2022)
“Try explaining the need to be passive” to a female spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), writes zoologist and author Lucy Cooke, “and she’ll laugh in your face, after she’s bitten it off”. She is dominant in rough play, scent‑marking and territorial defence. By analysing numerous animals, this sparkling attack on scientific sexism draws on many scientists — of multiple genders — to correct stereotypes of the active male versus passive female. Many such concepts were initiated by Charles Darwin, who is nevertheless Cooke’s “scientific idol”.
Marina Umaschi Bers MIT Press (2022)
Early-childhood technologist Marina Bers developed the KIBO robot, which young children can program with coloured, barcoded wooden blocks to learn computer coding. It is the chief character in her engaging book, which presents four key ways to consider coding for kids: as a “playground”; “another language”; a “palette of virtues”; and a “bridge”. The palette includes infusing ethics and moral education into programming. The bridge involves finding points of connection between diverse cultural, ethnic and religious groups.
Robert A. Jacobs Yale Univ. Press (2022)
The Japanese word hibakusha originally described the victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power-plant disaster, the term has been widely extended to denote worldwide victims of radiation exposure. Yet it does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary: evidence that “these ‘global hibakusha’ have been largely invisible to us”, because of their relative political insignificance, notes Hiroshima-based historian Robert Jacobs in this grimly important analysis of the cold war.
Travels with Trilobites
Andy Secher Columbia Univ. Press (2022)
The fascinating marine invertebrate known as a trilobite belongs to the beginning of complex animal life. It appeared some 521 million years ago, and endured for more than 250 million years, evolving more than 25,000 recognized species. Palaeontologist Andy Secher coedits the trilobite website for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He owns more than 4,000 trilobite fossils, many of which are pictured in this paean to “the omnipresent monarchs of the world’s ancient seas”.
The author declares no competing financial interests.