The Fabric of the Cosmos; Brian Greene

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene explorers the nature of space and time and how the structure of the universe is tied into these two interwoven concepts. Topics range from the latest developments in superstring and M theory, to time travel and quantum teleportation; from Newton’s ideas of a clockwork universe through Einstein’s theories of general relativity to quantum mechanics and the arrow of time.

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Ark; Stephen Baxter

An epic tale of mankind’s destruction due to rising sea levels. The hope of survival is put in the hands of an ambitious project Ark which intends to send just a small number of survivors to a new home planet (Earth 2). The book is of course fiction, but the author includes reference material in appendices based on real theoretical ideas, such as exosolar planets, interstellar travel, generation ships. He also provides a narrative in the qualities needed, and the science and practicalities of space travel by human explorers.

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It’s Not Rocket Science; Ben Miller

It’s Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller, the slightly shorter half of “Armstrong and Miller” (who looks like Rob Brydon) is a brilliant storm through the main disciplines of science by way of personal anecdote and clever explanation by the author.

He begins by explaining how and why he became a stand-up comic rather than continuing his PhD in “Novel quantum effects in low-temperature quasi-zero dimensional mesoscopic electron systems”. This lets you into the world of Ben Miller who, despite not following it as a career, clearly has a deep love of science. I liked the premise of the author being an ex-scientist who despite not continuing in the field is able to articulate the scientific process, why science is important and his love for science clearly. The start of the book is framed in a way that assumes that his reader is an adult layman who is revisiting the science of their school days. This is kind of a shame, because I thought the language, humour and subject matter and level made this book a really good fit for GCSE students, so I hope they wouldn’t be put off by this assumption.

He moves on to an amusingly just out-of-date foray into the search of the Higgs Boson (recent evidence was found a week or so before the book’s publication). This is followed by lovely tour of the night’s sky that soon had me standing outside for 2 hours with my head facing up and the book in hand for reference. I especially liked the simple star maps that Ben has provided. There are good explanations on life and genetics with simple, hand drawn illustrations and diagrams by the author (with only one error that I noticed: “cell wall” instead of “cell membrane” on an animal cell). Chemistry is tackled by way of a bake off with Gordon Ramsay and space travel and global warming are covered with great skill.

This is the definition of a popular science book, in a similar vein to Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (but with less words).

Review by @a_weatherall
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Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us; Daniel Pink

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel Pink takes common ideas about what motivates people and turns them on their head to reveal that autonomy, a love of learning and creating things are the best motivators. He compares studies that have been done over the last 4 decades to the common practices of businesses the world over to demonstrate that the “carrot-and-stick” approach really doesn’t work.

Some fantastic ideas for motivating yourself, people you work with, students, children to be the best you can be. Watch the video below for more information.


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Big Bang; Simon Singh

Big Bang by Simon Singh explains the history and development of the big bang model of the universe. It covers the scientists involved as well as the various hypotheses and experiments that have helped form our understanding of the universe we live in. Ranging back to the Ancient Greeks measuring the distance to the sun, through Einstein’s theory of General Relativity to the discovery of the cosmic background radiation from the big bang itself.

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Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science; Jim Al-Khalili

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Engimas in Science by Jim Al-Khalili is a collection of his favourite puzzles and conundrums in science from Einstein’s theories about space and time, to the latest ideas of how the quantum world works. Some of the “perceived paradoxes”  may be familiar, such as Schrödinger’s famous cat, which is seemingly alive and dead at the same time; or the Grandfather Paradox – if you travelled back in time and killed your grandfather you would not have been born and would not therefore have killed your grandfather. Other paradoxes will be new to you, but no less bizarre and fascinating.


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Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science; Jim Al-Khalili

For over 700 years the international language of science was Arabic. In Pathfinders, Jim Al-Khalili celebrates the forgotten, inspiring pioneers who helped shape our understanding of the world during the golden age of Arabic science, including Iraqi physicist Ibn al-Haytham, who practised the modern scientific method over half a century before Bacon; al-Khwarizmi, the greatest mathematician of the medieval world; and Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, a Persian polymath to rival Leonardo da Vinci.

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The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True; Richard Dawkins/Dave McKean (Illus.)

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins is a graphic science book aimed at children and young adults. It describes lots of different natural phenomena, and explains the myths, folklore or legends that have been used to explain those phenomena and then how science explains them.

It is beautifully illustrated by Dave McKean. The text is interwoven with the pictures which creates a very engaging and colourful read. Read more of this post