The End of Everything (Astrophysics)
by Katie Mack (Buy the book from Amazon*)
For some seasonal donations, why not look at the end of the universe? Thankfully, Katie Mack’s “The End of Everything” (Scribner) isn’t an apocalyptic vision, but a riveting and often entertaining journey through all the possible end of our universe Way. Mack’s love of physics is outstanding — and contagious. She describes primordial black holes as “pretty lovely in a terrifying theoretical way”, antimatter as the “evil twin of matter annihilation joy” and the universe as “very strange.” All true, Mike’s explanation was entertaining and informative. the end of everything It’s a fascinating shift from the problems of the present to the colossal disruptions of the far future.
Leah Cranereporter, new scientist
they are already here
by Sarah Scholes (Buy the book from Amazon*)
Need an apolitical holiday gift for the likes X-Files? Try Sarah Scoles’ “They Are Already Here” (Pegasus Books), a tour of the world of UFOs and aliens. The first flying saucers were reported in 1947 and became part of popular culture, despite the lack of scientific evidence for their existence. Scholes rides Nevada’s alien highway (actually Route 375) to science fiction hotspot 51, visits the UFO Watchtower in Hooper, Colorado, and hears enthusiasts explain why they continue Look for. While exploring the unknown, she discovered a community of shared curiosity and camaraderie. It’s a good story with valuable insights about humans, but sadly no real aliens.
Jeff Hechtconsultant, new scientist
less is more
Jason Hickel (Buy the book from Amazon*)
In our world, GDP is king: this is the metric we strive to improve. But GDP is a blind measure of economic activity and doesn’t care whether that activity comes from a disruptive source. So if you clear large swathes of forest for timber and livestock, GDP goes up. In eye-opening and passionate less is more (William Heinemann), Jason Hickel shows how the drive to increase GDP can lead to an ecological crisis, revealing the history and Colonial roots and believe that based on “degrowth” is necessary for us to thrive.
Rowan Hooperpodcast editor, new scientist
Killer Robot Series
by Martha Wells (Buy the collection from Amazon*)
Spend a very murderous robot Christmas with Martha Wells.two parts terminator to a part my so called life, her Murder Robot series (Tor.com) is 21st century pulp fiction. Between festivities, crouch down and enjoy, for, All systems red, artificial conditions, rogue agreement, exit strategy and network effects. They’re action-packed, addictive, and centered on the exploits of a socially anxious, philosophical (but murderous) robot that’s one of the most human and relatable the genre has to offer. Take a break from Zoom and Netflix and spend a new Christmas with Murderbot.
Sally AddyFreelance writer
Rebecca Rag Sykes (Buy the book from Amazon*)
For a fresh and exciting look at the discoveries and evolving understanding of our ancient Neanderthal relatives, try Kindred (Bloomsbury Sigma). In it, Rebecca Wragg Sykes sets out to separate valid questions like “Why do Neanderthals no longer exist?” Get rid of the prejudice that sees them as “stupid losers.” Neanderthals are not our cadet version, and she reveals their needs, impulses, fun, and survival strategies. Fascinating stuff.
Simon IngsFreelance writer
How to argue with a racist
Adam Rutherford (Buy the book from Amazon*)
Some house parties are likely to find Adam Rutherford’s How to Argue Racist (Weidenfeld and Nicholson) a great asset. Not only does it show what science really says about race, ancestry, and genetics, but it also helps us fight the idea that some people are biologically disadvantaged and encourages informed conversation about race. It targets surprisingly common racist beliefs, from the notion that certain groups of men have larger or smaller than average penises to the idea that people of different racial groups are more or less intelligent than average. In the end, Rutherford had to confront the question at the heart of many racist stereotypes: Is race really a biological category? The gift of this book is to use science to talk about a pseudoscience.
leal liverpoolreporter, new scientist
There are places in the world where rules are less important than kindness
Carlo Rovelli (Buy the book from Amazon*)
Hailed as a “physics poet” by his previous bestsellers, including Seven Physics Lessons and Chronologically, Carlo Rovelli’s latest book is a collection of essays (Allen Lane), in which Italian quantum gravity researchers cast a net. He traveled in physics, philosophy, cultural history and anthropology, covering topics ranging from the cosmological revolution created by Copernicus and Galileo to literary giant Vladimir Nabokov’s passion for butterflies and his own research on black holes . Inspiring, thought-provoking, and filled with a passion for knowledge and ideas, it’s an eclectic piece of work, a far cry from traditional scientific reading or gifting.
Richard WeberExecutive Editor, new scientist
Ministry of the Future
by Kim Stanley Robinson (Buy the book from Amazon*)
In Bogota, Colombia, the world’s largest climate conference launched a new United Nations agency to advocate for the world’s future citizens and defend “all creatures that cannot speak for themselves, now and in the future.” This institution is at the heart of Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest sci-fi epic, The Ministry of the Future (Orbit). It wasn’t long before millions died in India’s heatwave – a tragedy that begins with heartfelt detail in this disturbing book. How should new institutions (or any of us) respond to climate disasters? Can personal or state-sanctioned ecoterrorism help save the planet? department Ask tough questions, using a multi-angle approach to create complexities that reflect climate change and its possible remedies. Give it to everyone you know.
Liz othercultural editor, new scientist
What are stars made of
Donovan Moore (Buy the book from Amazon*)
How many young scientists are unknown? Donovan Moore’s biography, What Are The Stars Made Of (Harvard University Press), tells the story of British astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin Fundamental assumptions of the universe. In the 1920s, she analyzed the spectral patterns of stars and found that they contained a million times more hydrogen than previously thought, making them the most abundant matter in the universe. Four years later, a male scientist (who had previously dismissed her discovery as “apparently impossible”) took credit for the discovery. This well-researched and illuminating biography will make a heartwarming gift.
Donna Loureporter, new scientist
The age of drones
Michael J Boyle (Buy the book from Amazon*)
From business to war, from spy ships to disaster relief, our menus of choices “have been altered or limited by drone technology itself,” says Michael J. Boyle in The Age of Drones (Oxford University Press), which is a concise and comprehensive overview of the world created by drones. Based on technical details suitable for drone enthusiasts, it is broader in scope, describing not the machines but the kind of thinking they introduce. It turned out to be a solution to the problem, no longer distinguishing between peace and war. Several discreet drone strikes under President Obama (and more so under President Trump) spread to a global counterinsurgency air platform. “It’s hard to feel like a human being when shrunk down to pixels under the watchful eye of a drone,” Boyle wrote. As the pool of collected information expands to engulf us all, where’s the positivity? Find out how deep the rabbit hole is. If you come up with a book about drones, this is it.
Simon IngsFreelance writer
Covid-19, lessons so far
This pandemic still has a long way to go, but we can start now with confidence in better days ahead. Now is a good time to think about masks, hand sanitizers, and grim statistics from the past: what did this disaster reveal about us, what did we do wrong, and how can we make sure we never end up here again? To get the answer, try these three excellent but very different books.
Italian physicist Paolo Giordano’s excellent How Infectious Diseases Work (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) was the earliest work on the pandemic, when Italy was the first European country to be submerged. Giordano saw “anger, panic, apathy, cynicism, doubt, resignation”. But he urged us to be kind, not to see the pandemic as an accident or a scourge, but as predictable and proof that our worlds have become inseparable. The origin of the outbreak has to do with the most invasive species on our planet.
For an insight into years of policy mistakes, ignored warnings, and the virus lurking as we invade more and more ecosystems, turn to Debora MacKenzie’s magnificent Covid-19: This The Pandemic That Shouldn’t Happen, and How to Stop the Next Pandemic (The Bridge Street Press). Read about the Nipah virus to see what a civilization-threatening pandemic could look like. Fear.
McKenzie’s call to action is complemented by Richard Horton’s Covid-19 Disaster (Polity), which focuses more on what Western governments have failed to address effectively. The global story of covid-19 is inevitably half told. Countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States remain underperforming, while others such as China and New Zealand have recorded few deaths. We need honest explanations.Holden, editor Lancetto help us start the painful calculation.
Alan AndersonHonorary Editor, new scientist
(*We may earn a small commission when you buy through links on this page, but this has no bearing on what we review or how we think about it.)
More information on these topics: