Concise and accessible, although one-sided, the book is a decent acquisition in a mostly empty field.

CITIZEN SCIENCE

HOW ANYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY

A slim primer outlining the many ways amateurs contribute to scientific research and discovery.

Focused on the diversity of citizen science initiatives and participants, this succinct, jargon-free volume reads like a feature story. The author likens the practice to democratic government in that ordinary people take part in activities that shape society. The book opens with a glimpse at the birth of scientific inquiry, emphasizing the importance of formal education but spotlighting people either excluded or absent from the academy. The second chapter advocates vast data collection and the wisdom of crowds, citing the role of citizens in untangling mysteries like monarch butterfly migration and weather patterns. Chapter three delves into the human knack for pattern recognition and problem-solving: Whether tagging, transcribing, and interpreting data or engaging in gamified tasks, amateurs are indispensable in organizing digital information and training artificial intelligence software. The final chapter explores grassroots enterprises such as activism around inequality in exposure to environmental toxins. Prominent criticisms of citizen science—including attacks on expertise in public discourse, the intersections of business and academia, and the ethics of uncompensated labor—are conspicuously absent. Clean design intersperses text with color images and sidebars; appendices point inspired readers to information to spur immediate action.

Concise and accessible, although one-sided, the book is a decent acquisition in a mostly empty field. (source notes, projects and organizations, additional reading, index, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68282-735-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: ReferencePoint Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010).

EXOPLANETS

WORLDS BEYOND OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

An enticing overview of tools, techniques, and discoveries in what the author rightly characterizes “a red-hot field in astronomy.”

Alas; it is perhaps too red-hot. Not only is Kenney’s count of accepted and potential exoplanets (as of May 2016) well out of date already, but her claim that “Wolf-1061” (sic: that’s actually the name of the star and its system) is the nearest Earthlike planet in the habitable “Goldilocks Zone” has been trumped by the recent discovery of a closer candidate orbiting Proxima Centauri. Still, along with describing in nontechnical terms each tool in the researcher’s kit—from space- and ground-based telescopes of various types to instruments that detect subtle stellar wobbles, spectrum changes, microlensing, and other telling signs—the author fills in the historical background of exoplanet research and profiles some of its weirder findings. She also casts side glances at extremophile life on Earth and other, at least tangentially related, topics. The small format gives the assortment of photos, artists’ renditions, diagrams, and generic star fields a cramped look, but readers curious about how researchers could possibly detect such dinky, distant objects as planets belonging to other star systems will come away satisfied and intrigued.

A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010). (index, source notes, bibliography, websites) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0086-1

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A subject much in demand, but there are better resources available.

FAKE NEWS AND THE MANIPULATION OF PUBLIC OPINION

An abbreviated overview of a hotly debated issue.

“Fake news,” is defined here as “fabricated news or information that is meant to be perceived as factual,” a definition that carefully excludes unintended errors, biases, or satire. It’s hardly a new complaint, but this account examines few instances outside the 2016 U.S. elections and mostly ignores print and broadcast media. Technological innovations and widespread use of social media have dramatically increased disinformation’s reach and impact; focusing on online phenomena permits tangents on algorithms creating ideological bubbles, harvesting of personal data, precise targeting of audiences, and strategic releases of hacked information. Partisan politics, foreign (mostly Russian) interference, and greed for ad revenue are presented as the chief villains, allowing brief digressions to recent cases in France, Great Britain, Kenya, and India; the last is the only noted example with violent results despite similar incidents elsewhere (including the U.S.). Indeed, while the earnest, meandering, and repetitive text adopts an ominous tone, it offers little evidence for any concrete consequences beyond the erosion of public trust. Proposed solutions include hopeful predictions for artificial intelligence and vague assurances from tech companies, but the author leans heavily on individual responsibility to become educated and remain skeptical and vigilant. Appendices provide a useful rubric for evaluating information and list some reputable fact-checking sites; the index is scattershot and sloppy.

A subject much in demand, but there are better resources available. (source notes, appendices, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68282-539-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: ReferencePoint Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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