Science/Mathematics

Book Review: Rocket Boys

Rocket Boys
Author: 
Hickam, Homer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

(Very immersive story) Rocket Boys is a book that shows the struggles of boys trying to break the tradition of a stereotypical miner town, dubbed Coalwood. I love how the descriptions bring light to the conditions of mining, and the towns surrounding the mine. It also brings light to the uproar that the Space Race caused, especially Sputnik. As the boys slowly figured out the basics of rocketry, it got more and more into the detail on how hard it was to create rockets when you live in a small town like that. As a footer, I just want to say that the boy’s determination to create those rockets was well shown.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan

Book Review: Dinosaurs The Grand Tour: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops

Dinosaurs The Grand Tour: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops
Author: 
Pim, Keiron
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Dinosaurs: The Grand Tour is a remarkably well-encompassing resource, covering everything from polar dinosaurs (yes, you read that right) to a dinosaur three times taller than a giraffe. The information is presented in such a way that a layperson can follow along without feeling overwhelmed by scientific jargon. The author even included a pronunciation guide for the dinosaurs’ tongue-twisting names.

One of the main selling points of this book is the fact that it’s currently one of the most up-to-date resources on dinosaurs, with a publication date of 2019. Considering how quickly the field of paleontology continues to evolve, resources that were up-to-date ten years ago soon become... well… prehistoric. Notably, it’s also the second edition and has been expanded and updated since the original was published in 2016. Since I didn’t read the first edition, I can’t comment on how the two editions compare, but from what I can tell, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more cutting-edge resource on dinosaurs.

The illustrations are also nicely done, especially the color pieces that encompass two pages. It should be noted that most of the illustrations are not in color, so if you’re looking for a coffee table book, you might be disappointed. Still, the illustrations are beautiful as a whole and complement the text nicely.

Speaking of color, Pim explains how scientists have used fossilized pigment cells to determine both the colors of certain dinosaurs and the physical advantages these colors might have conferred. Considering this topic has been a source of mystery for many years, this section was particularly illuminating.

Finally, the quizzes peppered throughout the book are engaging and help you retain what you’ve learned. The author also includes an answer key at the back of the book, so if you don’t feel like hunting for the answer, you can always cheat.

Overall, I would recommend this resource to anyone interested in dinosaurs and paleontology in general.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lisa

Book Review: The Family that Couldn't Sleep

The Family that Couldn't Sleep
Author: 
Max, D. T.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

The Family that Couldn’t Sleep is a bit of a misnomer. Although the underlying thread revolves around a mysterious and terrifying disease called fatal insomnia, multiple chapters are devoted to other diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (better known as mad cow disease) and kuru (a fatal neurodegenerative disorder thought to be caused by cannibalism). All of these conditions are caused by mutations in prions, which are proteins of the central nervous system.

Most of the information on these diseases is fascinating, though some of the more technical information might require several re-reads if you’re a non-specialist (like me). Also, if you picked up this book wanting to learn exclusively about fatal insomnia, you might find yourself wanting to skip some of the other chapters.

Even so, this book provides a fascinating look at the tragic nature of fatal insomnia, especially the Italian family genetically predisposed to it. You’ll find yourself both sympathizing with them and horrified by the unrelenting nature of the disease.

I would recommend The Family that Couldn’t Sleep to anyone who is interested in prion diseases or epidemiology in general.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lisa

Book Review: The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring
Author: 
Preston, Richard
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

You might know Richard Preston from his nonfiction thriller The Hot Zone or Micro, a techno-thriller Michael Crichton started before his untimely death in 2008. Although the subject matter of The Wild Trees is very different from these works, it continues Preston’s trend of combining scientific detail with narrative finesse. Specifically, this book focuses on the California redwoods, but readers will learn as much about the redwoods themselves as they will about the men and women who study them. Steve Sillett, for instance, started climbing redwoods freehand without any equipment to break his fall. Considering some redwoods are nearly 400 feet tall, this feat is as awe-inspiring as it is terrifying.

This book also provides fascinating detail on redwood canopies, which house salamanders, copepods (a type of crustacean), and even other trees! Thanks to Preston’s meticulous research and eye-popping descriptions, readers will feel like they’re exploring the redwoods alongside him.

The Wild Trees is a must-read for anyone who loves the redwoods or nature in general.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lisa

Book Review: Humans: A Brief History of How We F---ed It All Up

Humans: A Brief History of How We F---ed It All Up
Author: 
Phillips, Tom
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

A thoroughly entertaining account of how far modern humans have come and how often they messed it up in groan-worthy ways despite best intentions. Journalist and humor writer Tom Phillips relies on sound scholarship to inform, entertain and maybe demoralize (in a funny way) the reader. Examples run the gamut from a Chinese emperor who stored gunpowder in his palace then hosted a lantern festival, the inadvertent forensics pioneer/lawyer defending an accused murderer who proved to the jury that the victim may have accidentally shot himself by accidentally shooting himself, the Austrian army that attacked itself one drunken night, and other equally spectacular blunders of modern times.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves
Author: 
Nestor, James
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

James Nestor’s book Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves is both literally and figuratively the most breathtaking book I’ve ever read. It’s literally breathtaking because it’s about freediving, AKA diving sans scuba equipment, an activity as awe-inspiring as it is dangerous. (Side effects may include death, blood squirting out of your nose, mouth, and eyeballs, and paralysis.) Herbert Nitsch, the world’s self-proclaimed “deepest man” dove more than 800 feet on a single breath without using a scuba tank. And he lived to tell the tale.

Deep is also figuratively breathtaking because it reveals some of the most awe-inspiring facts about our ocean that you’ll ever read. Freediving is the only way to see sperm whales up close and personal. These behemoths' brains are shockingly similar to our own and allow them to communicate using a click-based language. Resulting studies have even shown that sperm whales have their own culture and distinct accents.

But freediving with sperm whales is, naturally, not without risks. Sperm whales’ clicks are so loud, their pulsations can literally kill us. One intrepid freediver found his hand temporarily paralyzed when a sperm whale greeted him with a click.

Deep is the rare sort of nonfiction book that reads like a thriller novel. Every page is chock-full of awe-inspiring revelations that will make you look at the sea with a sense of wonder typically reserved for children. Scientific journalism has never been this entertaining.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lisa

Book Review: The Science of Star Wars

Book Cover
Author: 
Brake, Mark & Chase, John
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Science of Star Wars by Mark Brake and John Chase is a fantastic read!
Explaining the science behind Star Wars the movie series through
understandable language and with humorous tone, the authors explore the
possibilities of realizing some of the fantasies of the galaxy far, far,
away. They also explain why some concepts in Star Wars will never be possible
in our own home. This book is appropriate for readers 16 and up. As a Star
Wars and science fan myself, I would definitely recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rebecca D.

Book Review: The Science of Breath

Book Cover
Author: 
Ramacharaka, Yogi
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In the Science of Breath, by author Yogi Ramacharaka teaches about
deep breathing. He teaches of the incredible scientifically-proven benefits
to health, spirit, and mind through this simple act of something we already
need to survive—breathing. Captivating and engaging, this book grips
readers and equips them with knowledge to improve their moods, health, and
life. This book is appropriate for ages 14 and up. Anyone with an interest in
lowering stress, or simply with an interest in the science of breath, would
enjoy this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rebecca D.

Book Review: Women in Science

Book Cover
Author: 
Ignotofsky, Rachel & Mollo-Christensen, Sarah
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Women In Science, by Rachel Ignotofsky and Sarah Mollo-Christensen, provides
an overview of the lives of fifty women who contributed greatly and, in the
authors’ words, “fearlessly”, to the scientific field. In the book,
these fifty women’s contributions to science are highlighted and described.
Well and engagingly written, this book is an important read for any young
woman interested in the scientific field. By teaching us about the lives of
these women, the authors encourage young women to pursue their passions in
the sciences by showing previous women who have paved the way. I would
recommend this book to readers ages 12 and up. The book is appropriate for
anyone interested in the STEM field and women’s contributions to it.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rebecca D.

Book Review: The Brain that Changes Itself

Author: 
Doidge, Norman
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Dr. Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself, introduces
the revolutionary new science of neuroplasticity. The brain and its ability
to change itself and re-wire is the core of Dr. Doidge’s research, a
research which carries fundamental repercussions for day-to-day life for
every human being on the planet. Inspiring stories of stroke victims learning
to speak again and other incredible tales of brain change bring a sense of
awe to the reader. Teaching us about this amazing new frontier in science,
this book is certainly a fascinating read. In my own experience,
neuroplasticity helps me create a better life for myself through lower stress
and brain re-wiring. I would recommend this book to readers ages 16 and up.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rebecca D.

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