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Articles in science

Book Review: The First Domestication

November 24th, 2017
first domestication

The ancient partnership between humans and canines is the subject of a thorough new volume of research

Book Review: The Water Will Come

November 6th, 2017
water will come

A powerful new book covers in terrifying detail what happens to the modern world if Earth’s ice caps dissolve.

From the Archives: Man’s Pest Friend

November 1st, 2017
From the Archives: Man’s Pest Friend

Only one dog out of every five on Earth is somebody’s pet; the rest are roamers in streets and city dumps. A fascinating new book looks at the lives of the canine majority.

Book Review: Tamed & Untamed

October 17th, 2017

Two beloved writers of natural history team up to tell stories about a host of animal species, from the ones in our homes to the ones in our gardens to the ones still prowling the wild.

Book Review: How the Zebra Got Its Stripes

May 9th, 2017

Popular YouTube sensation Léo Grasset imports his brand of easygoing biology lessons to the pages of a slim book.

Of Trowels and Temples

May 1st, 2017
Of Trowels and Temples

Archaeology holds the key to 99% of the human past. But how many people really understand it? A new book by archaeologist Eric H. Cline attempts to shed some light on what’s buried underground.

Book Review: The Imagineers of War

April 3rd, 2017
Book Review: The Imagineers of War

Famed in pop culture, the unconventional geniuses of DARPA were tasked with developing the technology of the future, today. A big new book delves into the history of the Pentagon’s think-tank.

Book Review: Stalin and the Scientists

February 27th, 2017
staline and

The Soviet Union billed itself as a scientific utopia, and yet, as a tremendously readable new history illustrates, the awkward of marriage of state and science gave rise to a parade of absurdities.

Book Review: Homo Deus

February 20th, 2017
homo deus

The author of the popular-science hit Sapiens returns with a book that looks not to humanity’s distant past but rather to its immediate future.

Book Review: Making Faces

January 12th, 2017
making faces

The quintessential human feature – the large, expressive face – gets a thorough and fascinating scientific examination.

Book Review: If Our Bodies Could Talk

December 22nd, 2016
if our bodies could talk

A handy new books ranges over the whole breadth of human aches and pains and losses and gains – and provides the science behind it all.

Book Review: I Contain Multitudes

December 21st, 2016
Book Review: I Contain Multitudes

If who we are includes the multitudes of microscopic organisms that we house and feed, which in turn help regulate our immunity and sculpt our destinies, then what constitutes the individual?

Writhing Bounty

November 1st, 2016
Writhing Bounty

A gruesomely fascinating new book looks at the weird and unsettling phenomenon of venom in animal kingdom. Justin Hickey reviews.

Book Review: Deepwater Horizon

September 13th, 2016

The explosion, fire, sinking, and oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon back in 2010 gets a definitive scholarly analysis.

Single Occupancy, Lots of Sunlight, Water Included

September 1st, 2016
Single Occupancy, Lots of Sunlight, Water Included

For a century, humans have been searching for any sign of extraterrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise. A new book tells the story of that quest – and keeps its geeky hope alive.

Book Review: ADHD Nation

August 31st, 2016
adhd nation

A hard-hitting new book exposes the widespread misdiagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Suffer the Little Children

August 1st, 2016
Suffer the Little Children

According to a new book, not only did God design life, but deep down inside, we all know it. Steve Donoghue remains unconverted.

Book Review: The Gene

June 3rd, 2016
the gene

A generous new book describes the history – and the momentous potential – of genetic research

Let’s All Meet at the Mahalalel Mall

June 1st, 2016
Let’s All Meet at the Mahalalel Mall

A thorough and even-handed new book gives readers a tour of the “Creation Museum” in Kentucky – and warns not to dismiss its dangers too readily.

Book Review: The Next Pandemic

May 25th, 2016
the next pandemic

A lively account of life on the front lines in the fight against the world’s worst diseases.

Book Review: Eruption

March 30th, 2016

Nearly 40 years ago, Washington State’s Mount St. Helens volcano erupted, killing 57 people and spewing hundreds of tons of molten ash into the atmosphere. A gripping new book tells the story.

Book Review: Skeptic

February 20th, 2016

Popular debater and science writer Michael Shermer’s latest book collects some of the columns he’s written for Scientific American

Book Review: Cosmosapiens

January 26th, 2016

A sweeping new overview of the sciences has big ambitions – and some odd sticking points

Book Review: Monsters

September 7th, 2015

The bad science behind the Hindenburg was made tragically obvious by its explosion in 1937; a new book warns that other miracles of science may be equally dangerous

Book Review: A River Runs Again

September 1st, 2015
a river runs again

The huge environmental problems facing India form the backdrop for Meera Subramanian’s fantastic first book

Book Review: The Runes of Evolution

July 9th, 2015
the runes of evolution

Time and again in the history of life, environmental pressures and biological systems combine to produce the same adaptations in wildly different species and epochs. It’s called convergent evolution, and Simon Conway Morris has written its grand opera.

Book Review: The Upright Thinkers

June 24th, 2015
the upright thinkers cover

Millions of years ago, hominids began walking upright – thus expanding their field of view and freeing their hands for mischief and took-making. A new book celebrates the result.

In Paperback: Human Universe

June 24th, 2015
human universe cover

Now in paperback in the US: the companion book to the popular BBC science program hosted by physicist Brian Cox

The Pangs

June 1st, 2015
The Pangs

The ecstasy and anguish of falling in love have been the stuff of poetry for thousands of years – but do they boil down to the workings of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline? Jane Schmidt reviews a new look at romantic love.

Book Review: Noise Matters

May 29th, 2015
noise matters cover

A genuinely thought-provoking new work of science-writing probes the nature – and even the value – of noise

Book Review: Faith vs. Fact

May 7th, 2015
faith vs fact cover

Religion and science – the so-called “non-overlapping magisteria” – are actually deeply adversarial, writes “Why Evolution is True” author Jerry Coyne

Book Reivew: Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War

April 30th, 2015
planck cover

Max Planck, the great physicist and father of quantum theory, gets a marvelous and empathetic new biography

Book Review: Secret Warriors

April 3rd, 2015
Scan 46

Beyond the battles and trenches of the First World War, a dozen less glamorous but no less vital fights were being waged – in laboratories and darkrooms and publishing offices. A vibrant new book tells the story of the other World War I

Press Enter

April 1st, 2015
Press Enter

Author Jacob Silverman contends in his new book that the intrusions of social media into our private lives has reached sometimes intolerable extents. But what does he mean by “intolerable”? And who is he counting as “our”?

Book Review: Galileo’s Telescope

March 29th, 2015
galileo’s telescope cover

One little spyglass – only four fingers long – changed the world; a sparkling new book tells the story of Galileo’s “recounting of the stars”

Book Review: What Stands in a Storm

March 19th, 2015
what stands in a storm cover

A new book details the terrible destruction caused by a record-breaking series of tornadoes that struck the American South in 2011

Book Review: Rust

March 6th, 2015
rust cover

Every day, all around us, everything solid is inexorably corroding into powder. A game new book takes readers inside the surprisingly fascinating world of rust

Book Review: The Next Species

March 3rd, 2015
the next species cover

Species arrive, thrive, and then go extinct – but after the long and frightful reign of Homo sapiens … what?

Blame the Dog

March 1st, 2015
Blame the Dog

When Homo sapiens appeared in Europe 45,000 years ago, most of the long-established species there – including the Neanderthals – began to disappear. Did Homo sapiens wipe them out? And if so, did they have help from somebody right there in your living room?

Book Review: The Interstellar Age

February 20th, 2015
interstellar age cover

Nearly 40 years ago, the Voyager spacecraft left Earth bearing cameras to photograph the solar system – and messages of greetings to the wider galaxy. A terrific new book tells the story of a great human adventure

Book Review: The Age of Consequences

January 29th, 2015
age of consequences cover

An environmentalist writes an energetic and – despite everything – optimistic clarion call to better and smarter thinking about how mankind can ease its disastrous impact on nature

Book Review: Half-Life

January 28th, 2015
half-life cover

In 1950 a prominent Western nuclear physicist disappeared – and re-surfaced years later in the Soviet Union, helping the Russians to develop their atomic arsenal. A gripping new book tells the story of a traitor who was also a genius

Show Me the Body

October 1st, 2013
Show Me the Body

Throughout its history, humankind has been both terrified by and obsessed with monsters – hence the booming ‘cryptid’ industry, traversing the globe in search of legendary beasts like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. A new book looks at the science and psychology behind our modern bogeymen.

With Friends Like These …

September 1st, 2013
With Friends Like These …

What you don’t know about bacteria can hurt you, and a new addition to the Oxford Very Short Introduction series aims to set that straight.

Loud, Loud, Loud: AUDUBON!!!!

May 1st, 2013
Loud, Loud, Loud: AUDUBON!!!!

He travelled the fledgling United States shooting birds, wiring them into poses, and then painting them for eternity – he was John James Audubon, and his epic “The Birds of America” has a beautiful, gargantuan new edition from Abbeville Press

Too Much Signal

December 1st, 2012
Too Much Signal

Nate Silver is currently enjoying his status as that unlikeliest of people, the celebrity statistician. Does his bestseller The Signal and the Noise live up to its carefully calculated expectations?

Leviathan Grimoire

October 1st, 2012
Leviathan <em>Grimoire</em>

Their brains – their digits – their eyes – their locomotion – their families – their staggeringly long reign over the planet Earth: it’s all here, and much, much more. The greatest dinosaur reference work just got even better.

The Silence of the Yams

September 1st, 2012

Can plants see and smell and hear? Can they think? Daniel Chamovitz’s “field guide” to the botanical senses poses those provocative questions, but how well does it answer them?

Tumblr Sphinx

July 1st, 2012

Computers – search engines, interactive databases, digital archives – have the potential to change academic research in ways the previous twenty centuries couldn’t have imagined. But are those changes improvements – or the end of expertise as we know it? Or both?

Book Review: The Sounding of the Whale

May 10th, 2012
Book Review: The Sounding of the Whale

D. Graham Burnett, a young historian of science, produces a fantastic and important encyclopedic history of the long, torturous, often retrograde progress toward “Save the Whales.”

The New Old Atheism

July 1st, 2011

Religion is one of those subjects that are too important to be polite about. But can we at least agree to disagree respectfully about the meaning of life?

Uneasy Witness

August 1st, 2010
Cows – Slaughter House

Vegetarians choose to be vegetarians and meat-eaters choose to be “normal.” Melanie Joy cuts into the language we use to describe our food and the mindset behind it.

A Certain Perturbation

July 1st, 2010

In Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson explores both the dynamics of faith and the complacency of recent anti-faith screeds. But is her own book something of a fall from grace?

The Trickster of Hyacinth Grove

June 1st, 2010

America’s ever-expanding suburbs have brought us right to the doorstep of the wild – and brought the wild to our doorstep – redefining both worlds in the process.

Twilight of the Giants

March 1st, 2010
Southern Right Whale

The elephants of South Africa and the right whales of the North Atlantic are enormous, complex – and confronted with a growing human population. Two books estimate their chances.

The Truth by Candlelight

October 1st, 2009

Two new books, Life Ascending and Why Evolution Is True, explore the details of Darwin’s great theory, and Ben and Terry Soderquist wonder if the election’s been called before all the votes are in.

In a Thing So Small

September 1st, 2009

In Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer suggests that science has prematurely evicted a prime mover from cellular biology, and he would like it put back. Ignazio de Vega tests his case.

‘May Your BlackBerry Rot in Hell’

July 1st, 2009

Brilliant novelist/amateur crank Mark Helprin despairs of your online thievery, and Esther Schell despairs of his new book, Digital Barbarism.

Paddy Whacked

April 1st, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell is once again on the bestseller lists, this time for Outliers, about the social science of genius. Peter Coclanis begs to differ with the vox populi.

Book Review: The Pluto Files

March 10th, 2009

In 2006 Pluto was officially taken off the list of planets. Neil deGrasse Tyson relates the ex-planet’s story.

Who Moved My Charioteer?

March 1st, 2009

In How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer tries to anatomize the choosing brain. Lianne Habinek – with an assist from some guy named Plato – anatomizes the anatomizer.


November 1st, 2008

Three new books trek the red rocks of Mars, and although they don’t exactly admit it, they’re in search of one thing: signs of life. Astrid Van Sarisgaard tells us what they discover, or don’t.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

October 1st, 2008

Neuroscience? In Elsinore? Lianne Habinek has Hamlet on the brain and goes at the question in book and volume. You may never think about Hamlet, or think about thinking, in the same way again.

Wonderful Water World

September 1st, 2008

All life on Earth is bound to our vast and complex oceans, the subject of The Smithsonian Institute’s new exhibit. Ben Soderquist dives into its companion volume: Ocean: Our Water, Our World.

Terror Planet

September 1st, 2008

It has been a part of every human life since mankind was born – but how much does any of us know about lightning? Terry Soderquist reviews John S. Friedman’s Out of the Blue and tries to fill in the gaps on this most scarifying of natural phenomena.

Beautiful Corpses

June 1st, 2008

In The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, George Johnson assays the experiments he sees as most elegantly defining the wonder of the scientific method. But with their reliance on chemicals, voltages, and vivisections, are these experiments really “beautiful?” Lianne Habinek straps on her lab goggles and takes a look.

Wild World

May 1st, 2008

We know that we can digitize books, but is it possible to translate digital texts back onto paper? Carolyn Grantham explores this and other 21st-century dilemmas in her review of Sarah Boxer’s Ultimate Blogs.

Strangers to Ourselves

March 1st, 2008

The premise of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational is that all of us are a lot more irrational a lot more often than we thought; Steve Donoghue tries to determine if the inmates really are running the asylum

Lab v. Library

January 1st, 2008

Jonah Lehrer’s Proust Was a Neuroscientist attempts to reconcile the ageless turf war between the arts and sciences, but, as Lianne Habinek reports, Lehrer’s propositions may leave both sides feelings shortchanged.

Denying Absurdity

December 1st, 2007

The bestselling New Atheists presume that a simple faith in reason will make short work of the longing for God. David G. Moser takes them to task for what Nietzsche would have called their “complacent rationality.”

Just So Stories

September 1st, 2007

Should the brain-cracking complexity of modern science be explained in pithy one-liners? Steve Donoghue says no, even as he yields to the charm of Ira Flatow’s Present at the Future.

A Very Singular Revolution

August 1st, 2007

Simon & Schuster is calling Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution a work of science. Steve Donoghue examines just how blasphemous a claim that is.

Wishful Thinking

July 1st, 2007

Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us has an irresistible premise: what
would happen on Earth if human beings suddenly disappeared? Steve
Donoghue cheerfully follows Weisman’s lead.

A Tiny and Swattable Mind

April 1st, 2007

Steve Donoghue gently debunks the anthropocentric conceits of Pulitzer Prize-winner Douglas Hofstadter’s newest book, I Am a Strange Loop.