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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Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

HOW TO PREVENT THE NEXT PANDEMIC

The tech mogul recounts the health care–related dimensions of his foundation in what amounts to a long policy paper.

“Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional.” Thus states the epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, a Gates adviser, who hits on a critically important point: Disease is a fact of nature, but a pandemic is a political creation of a kind. Therefore, there are political as well as medical solutions that can enlist governments as well as scientists to contain outbreaks and make sure they don’t explode into global disasters. One critical element, Gates writes, is to alleviate the gap between high- and low-income countries, the latter of which suffer disproportionately from outbreaks. Another is to convince governments to ramp up production of vaccines that are “universal”—i.e., applicable to an existing range of disease agents, especially respiratory pathogens such as coronaviruses and flus—to prepare the world’s populations for the inevitable. “Doing the right thing early pays huge dividends later,” writes Gates. Even though doing the right thing is often expensive, the author urges that it’s a wise investment and one that has never been attempted—e.g., developing a “global corps” of scientists and aid workers “whose job is to wake up every day thinking about diseases that could kill huge numbers of people.” To those who object that such things are easier said than done, Gates counters that the development of the current range of Covid vaccines was improbably fast, taking a third of the time that would normally have been required. At the same time, the author examines some of the social changes that came about through the pandemic, including the “new normal” of distance working and learning—both of which, he urges, stand to be improved but need not be abandoned.

Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-53448-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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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