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review 2018-07-23 09:40
Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls
Sleepyhead: Narcolepsy, Neuroscience and the Search for a Good Night - Henry Nicholls

TITLE:  Sleepyhead:  Narcolepsy, Neuroscience and the Search for a Good Night's Rest

 

AUTHOR: Henry Nicholls

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:       

4 September 2018

 

FORMAT: ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13: 978-1-5416-7257-4

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"A narcoleptic's tireless journey through the neuroscience of disordered sleep
Whether it's a bout of bad jet lag or a stress-induced all-nighter, we've all suffered from nights that left us feeling less than well-rested. But for some people, getting a bad night's sleep isn't just an inconvenience: it's a nightmare. In Sleepyhead, science writer Henry Nicholls uses his own experience with chronic narcolepsy as a gateway to better understanding the cryptic, curious, and relatively uncharted world of sleep disorders. We meet insomniacs who can't get any sleep, narcoleptics who can't control when they sleep, and sleep apnea victims who nearly suffocate in their sleep. We learn the underlying difference between morning larks and night owls; why our sleeping habits shift as we grow older; and the evolutionary significance of REM sleep and dreaming. Charming, eye-opening, and deeply humanizing, Sleepyhead will help us all uncover the secrets of a good night's sleep.  "

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Sleepyhead is a well-written, interesting and informative book about sleep, focusing specifically on Narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.  The author relates his own experiences with narcolepsy, as well as interviewing a variety of sleep-disorder sufferers, neurologists and other specialists.  The book is relatively accessible without insulting the intelligence of readers.  I would recommend this book to anyone who suffers from narcolepsy or knows someone with sleep-disorders.

 

 

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review 2018-07-19 07:41
Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn
Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live - Rob Dunn

TITLE:  Never Home Alone:  From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live

 

AUTHOR: Rob Dunn

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:       

6 November 2018

 

FORMAT: ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13: 9781541645769

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"A natural history of the wilderness in our homes, from the microbes in our showers to the crickets in our basements

Even when the floors are sparkling clean and the house seems silent, our domestic domain is wild beyond imagination. In Never Home Alone, biologist Rob Dunn introduces us to the nearly 200,000 species living with us in our own homes, from the Egyptian meal moths in our cupboards and camel crickets in our basements to the lactobacillus lounging on our kitchen counters. You are not alone. Yet, as we obsess over sterilizing our homes and separating our spaces from nature, we are unwittingly cultivating an entirely new playground for evolution. These changes are reshaping the organisms that live with us--prompting some to become more dangerous, while undermining those species that benefit our bodies or help us keep more threatening organisms at bay. No one who reads this engrossing, revelatory book will look at their homes in the same way again."

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Never Home Alone explores the variety of life that shares our living spaces with us, from microbes and fungi, to insects and other arthropods; as well as the ways in which those lifeforms are evolving.  This is a well written, popular science book that shows us that the ecosystems in our homes are more diverse than we may suspect, and that most of our co-inhabitants are beneficial or benign as opposed to harmful.  The author’s enthusiasm for this subject is evident as he tells readers about various interesting studies about the creatures living with us.   

 

The author discusses such things as swabbing the International Space station (ISS) for bacteria and fungi; chronic autoimmune diseases associated with lack of microbes; microbes living in water heaters, showerheads, tap water, dry-walling; technophilic fungi that eat metal and plastics; the “uses” that our co-inhabitants may provide in terms of health and industrial applications; the evolution of pesticide resistance and the use of social spiders as non-toxic fly catchers; pets and the additional creatures they bring indoors; fermented food and bread making (Herman the yeast starter makes an appearance here); and the inoculation of beneficial microbes to prevent colonization by harmful microbes. 

 

I found the sections that deal with microbes and fungi on the Space Stations (ISS and Mir) to be especially interesting.  Dunn points out that these fungi are more successful in establishing themselves in space in terms of procreation and living out many generations, that humans have been. 

 

I really would have loved more scientific details, but that’s just my preference.  I found this book to be interesting and informative, with a chatty and informal writing style. Human houses provide living spaces and ecosystems for a myriad of organisms. After reading this book, you will never look at your home in the same way again.

 

 

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review 2018-07-09 07:14
Lost in Math by Sabine Hossenfelder
Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray - Sabine Hossenfelder

TITLE:  Lost in Math:  How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

 

AUTHOR:  Sabine Hossenfelder

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  12 June 2018

 

FORMAT:  ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780465094257

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"Most physicists think of beauty as the royal road to discovery; a leading critic shows it is instead the road to nowhere.
Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of physics for more than four decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification, invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria. Worse, these "too good to not be true" theories are actually untestable and they have left the field in a cul-de-sac. To escape, physicists must rethink their methods. Only by embracing reality as it is can science discover the truth.
"

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Lost in Math is the story of how aesthetic judgement drives contemporary research; how theoretical physicists produce ideas that are "highly controversial and yet exceedingly popular, speculative yet intriguing, pretty yet useless"; and how these theories are untestable but the physicist believes them to be too good not to be true.  

In the past, scientists observed the world around them and performed experiments.  Then they developed theories to explain these observations.  These theories would then be tested against addition observations and experiments.  These days, theoretical physicists (especially in particle physics) concoct theories that are only supported by beautiful mathematics, and which can never be confirmed by experiments or which are unlikely (due to cost and difficulty) to be examined experminentally.

In an effort to find out what went wrong with theoretical physics, Hossenfelder interviews several physicists and takes a look at the current popular physics theories.  The author makes a convincing case that this reliance on the beauty/maths-only criteria to determine which theories to study and promote has resulted in a lack of progress in certain physics fields.  In the author's own words, "in the end the only way to find out which theory is correct is to check whether it describes nature; non-empirical theory assessment will not do it".  

The writing style of this book is conversational and accessible (for the most part - just pretend the physics is Star Trek physics), and the topic covered is important not only for physicists.  I did find the physics explanations somewhat baffling but then most of the physicists interviewed state that no-one understands quantum physic.  However, this book is a book about how physicists work, not about the physics itself, so it didn't matter much.  I found this book to be interesting and informative.

 

 

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review 2018-07-04 09:32
The Science of Science Fiction by Mark Brake
The Science of Science Fiction: The Influence of Film and Fiction on the Science and Culture of Our Times - Mark Brake

TITLE:  The Science of Science Fiction: The Influence of Film and Fiction on the Science and Culture of Our Times

 

AUTHOR:  Mark Brake

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:  2 October 2018

 

FORMAT:  ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9781510739369

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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In "The Science of Science Fiction", Mark Brake explores how science fiction has driven science and ultimately shaped the world we live in, and how it may possibly shape the future.  The book is formatted into numerous short chapters that attempt to answer questions suggested by a variety of science fiction novels and movies, in terms of current scientific knowledge.  This makes it a great book for dipping in and out or when you only have short periods to squash a reading session into.

The book is separated into 4 categories:  Space; Time; Machine; and Monster.  Topics covered in the book include  various astrobiology questions involving aliens, parallel worlds, time travel, life in the universe, wormholes, quantum physics, space exploration, colonising Mars and the Moon, space travel, space tourism, cybernetics, flying cars, cyberspace, robots and artificial intelligence, the internet, state surveillence as described in 1984 by George Orwell, genetic engineering, superpowers (X-men, spiderman), supersoldiers, cloning, androids, and a whole lot more.

I found this an entertaining and well-written book, but rather superficial in terms of the science covered.  I really would have liked more science, but then this is a book exploring how science fiction influenced science and not a science book. However, the book did provide several interesting factoids such as "[Johannes] Kepler, who also wrote science fiction, used the power of imagination to conjure spaceships over 350 years before men landed on the Moon."  Who knew that the 17th century mathematician and astonomer also wrote science fiction?  

NOTE:  This book refers heavily to science fiction novels and movies, so those not interested at all in science fiction might feel a bit lost.  But it is a great introduction to other science-fiction novels/movies and how science fiction encourages scientific research and our modern world.

 

 

 

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review 2018-07-02 12:14
Seeds of Resistance by Mark Schapiro
Seeds of Resistance: The Fight to Save Our Food Supply - Mark Schapiro

TITLE:  Seeds of Resistance:  The Fight to Save Our Food Supply

 

AUTHOR:  Mark Schapiro

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:  18 September 2018

 

FORMAT:  ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9781510705760

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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From the blurb:

"Sun. Soil. Water. Seed. These are the primordial ingredients for the most essential activity of all on earth: growing food. All of these elements are being changed dramatically under the pressures of corporate consolidation of the food chain, which has been accelerating just as climate change is profoundly altering the conditions for growing food. In the midst of this global crisis, the fate of our food has slipped into a handful of the world’s largest companies. Seeds of Resistance will bring home what this corporate stranglehold is doing to our daily diet, from the explosion of genetically modified foods to the rapid disappearance of plant varieties to the elimination of independent farmers who have long been the bedrock of our food supply.

Seeds of Resistance will touch many nerves for readers, including concerns about climate change, chronic drought in essential farm states like California, the proliferation of GMOs, government interference (or purposeful ignorance), and the alarming domination of the seed market and our very life cycle by global giants like Monsanto.

 

But not all is bleak when it comes to the future of our food supply. Seeds of Resistance will also present hopeful stories about farmers, consumer groups, and government agencies around the world that are resisting the tightening corporate squeeze on our food chain."

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This book is primarily about seeds, specifically the seeds that we grow commercially and then turn into various food products.  This is an extremly interesting and well written book that explores how corporations and governments have taken over (i.e. messed with) the millenia old traditions of seed saving, seed cultivation, seed planting and ultimately food production and how this is ultimately detrimental to our food security.  Genetically modified crop plants and are briefly covered, as well as seed libraries (the rebels).  I found the section on seed vaults to be particularly intersting.    This book manages to squash a whole lot of important information into a mere 160 pages, covering the important aspects of this topic and still managing to be accessible, easy to read/understand and personable.     

 

 

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