Planet Earth

Microcosm On the Longlist for Royal Society Science Book Prize (Along With A Dozen Great Books)

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerMay 22, 2009 8:13 PM


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Okay--for real, this is the last post before the weekend. The Royal Society has posted its longlist for their science book prize, and Microcosm is on it. Here's the full line-up, with comments from the judges. Excellent company to be in.

What the nose knows: The science of scent in everyday life by Avery Gilbert (Crown Publishers) "It's a really original subject matter - how many smells can you actually distinguish and how smells evoke emotions. What's so good about it is that the book's not just about science - it's about the science of everyday life." (Deborah Cohen) Bad science by Ben Goldacre (Harper Perennial) "It proves the theory that science can be funny." (Danny Wallace) The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science by Richard Holmes (HarperPress) "To my mind this is the most original book on our long-list. Holmes has thought about the subject in a way that other people haven't done, and it's beautifully put together." (Philip Ball) Living with Enza: The forgotten story of Britain and the great flu pandemic of 1918 by Mark Honigsbaum (Palgrave Macmillan) "More people died due to the1918 flu pandemic than died in the First World War, so it's amazing that we haven't heard more about it. The book is also really relevant for the times in which we live." (Maggie Aderin-Pocock) Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the great debate about the nature of reality by Manjit Kumar (Icon Books) "This is the history of quantum mechanics, which I think is one of the most romantic stories in the history of science. It's a story that's tough to grasp and this is a pretty good shot at it." (Tim Hunt) Strange fruit: Why both sides are wrong in the race debate by Kenan Malik (Oneworld Publications) "Probably one of the most controversial books on the long list. It's a debate people tend to steer clear of so it's interesting to see it addressed in a scientific way. A book that challenges and provokes." (Deborah Cohen) Decoding the heavens: Solving the mystery of the world's first computer by Jo Marchant (William Heinemann) "This is the extraordinary story behind the world's first computer: this thing called the Antikythera Mechanism which is from ancient Greece, and was found under the sea on a shipwreck. This is a great detective story, unravelling the mystery behind this strange contraption which appears to be so far ahead if its time" (Deborah Cohen) The drunkard's walk: How randomness rules our lives by Leonard Mlodinow (Allen Lane, Penguin Press) "We all find this book intriguing. It's a fascinating look at what happens in our lives and whether our efforts and hard work actually mean anything, or whether it's down to whim and blind chance. It's an immediately interesting concept well written, meaningful and fun." (Danny Wallace) Physics for future presidents: The science behind the headlines by Richard A Muller (WW Norton) "Is it really possible to put a hydrogen bomb in a suitcase? What do you do if a nasty white powder slips out of an envelope? This book tackles questions about real terrorist threats using quantitative information. One could easily imagine it on Obama's table." (Tim Hunt) Your inner fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor by Neil Shubin (Allen Lane, Penguin Press) "If you came round to my house and described this book to me I'd ask you to leave. But in print, it really works." (Danny Wallace) Ice, mud and blood: Lessons from climates past by Chris Turney (Palgrave Macmillan) "Climate change has always happened, so by looking at the climates of the past we can perhaps understand where we might be going wrong. Just taking a snapshot in time is too localised, which is why this book is so important." (Maggie Aderin-Pocock) Microcosm: E. coli and the new science of life by Carl Zimmer (William Heinemann) "The bacteria in your gut is a pretty unlikely topic. But Carl Zimmer turns it into an exploration of what a living organism is, and opens up the mechanisms of life." (Philip Ball) The universe in a mirror: The saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the visionaries who built it by Robert Zimmerman (Princeton University Press) "Hubble is approaching the end of its life, which really has been an exciting saga. So reviewing that life story is a wonderful thing to do. We see the time, the energy and the passion it takes to build something that amazing and also the understanding that it gave us of our universe." (Maggie Aderin-Pocock)

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