The book for anyone who wants to understand some of the world’s most important scientific questions.

HOW TO MAKE AN APPLE PIE FROM SCRATCH

IN SEARCH OF THE RECIPE FOR OUR UNIVERSE––FROM THE ORIGINS OF ATOMS TO THE BIG BANG

An entertainingly accurate account of how everything in the universe came to be, as told by a leading experimental physicist and popularizer.

Carl Sagan once said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” On July 4, 2012, the scientific community celebrated Higgsdependence Day, when the more than 10,000 physicists from around the world who had worked together for more 15 years announced conclusive evidence for the Higgs boson, the “God particle.” Without the Higgs boson and all the other star stuff that makes the universe and holds it together, butter, flour, water, and apples wouldn’t exist, and bakeries would have nothing to sell. In his first book, Cliff, a particle physicist at Cambridge and researcher at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, brings physics down to Earth and persuades us that even if one can easily buy fruit and pie crusts, we should still care about their deep origins. Through a clear knowledge of many areas of physics as well as individual physicists, years spent in hands-on work at CERN, the instincts of a good storyteller, and a wicked sense of humor, Cliff draws readers into the bizarre and beautiful world inside the atom, offering an accessible education on the “standard model…a deceptively boring name for one of humankind’s greatest intellectual achievements. Developed over decades through the combined efforts of thousands of theorists and experimentalists, [it] says that everything we see around us—galaxies, stars, planets, and people—is made of just a few different types of particles, which are bound together inside atoms and molecules by a small number of fundamental forces.” In addition to the ins and outs of the Standard Model, this outstanding book, sometimes as funny as The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, will also teach readers why experimental subjects are often called “guinea pigs.”

The book for anyone who wants to understand some of the world’s most important scientific questions.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54565-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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