Jul 18 2012
Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society by Bill Bryson. $ 1.99
From the Jacket Copy:
Edited and introduced by Bill Bryson, with original contributions from “a glittering array of scientific writing talent” (Sunday Observer) including Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Richard Holmes, Martin Rees, Richard Fortey, Steve Jones, James Gleick, and Neal Stephenson, among others, this incomparable book tells the spectacular story of science and the international Royal Society, from 1660 to the present. Seeing Further is also gorgeously illustrated with photographs, documents, and treasures from the Society’s exclusive archives.
On a damp weeknight in November three hundred and fifty years ago, a dozen men gathered in London. After hearing an obscure twenty-eight-year-old named Christopher Wren lecture on the wonders of astronomy, his rapt audience was moved to create a society to promote the accumulation of useful—and fascinating—knowledge. At that, the Royal Society was born, and with it, modern science.
Since then, the Royal Society has pioneered global scientific exploration and discovery. Its members have split the atom, discovered the double helix and the electron, and given us the computer and the World Wide Web. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Joseph Banks, Humphry Davy, John Locke, Alexander Fleming, Stephen Hawking—all have been fellows. Bill Bryson’s favorite fellow is the Reverend Thomas Bayes, a brilliant mathematician who devised Bayes’ theorem. Its complexity meant that it had little practical use in Bayes’ own lifetime, but today his theorem is used for weather forecasting, astrophysics, and even stock-market analysis. A milestone in mathematical history, it exists only because the Royal Society decided to preserve it—just in case.
Truly global in its outlook, the Royal Society now is credited with creating modern science. Seeing Further is an unprecedented celebration of its history and the power of ideas, bringing together the very best of science writing.
The Science of Superstition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs by Bruce M. Hood. $ 1.99
From the Jacket Copy:
The majority of the world’s population is religious or believes in supernatural phenomena. In the United States, nine out of every ten adults believe in God, and a recent Gallup poll found that about three out of four Americans believe in some form of telepathy, déjà vu, ghosts, or past lives. Where does such supernatural thinking come from? Are we indoctrinated by our parents, churches, and media, or do such beliefs originate somewhere else? In SuperSense, award-winning cognitive scientist Bruce M. Hood reveals the science behind our beliefs in the supernatural.
Superstitions are common. Many of us cross our fingers, knock on wood, step around black cats, and avoid walking under ladders. John McEnroe refused to step on the white lines of a tennis court between points. Wade Boggs insisted on eating a chicken dinner before every Boston Red Sox game. President Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary and continued the tradition on every subsequent election day.
Supernatural thinking includes loftier beliefs as well, such as the sentimental value we place on photos of loved ones, wedding rings, and teddy bears. It also includes spiritual beliefs and the hope for an afterlife. But in this modern, scientific age, why do we hold on to these behaviors and beliefs?
It turns out that belief in things beyond what is rational or natural is common to humans and appears very early in childhood. In fact, according to Hood, this “super sense” is something we’re born with to develop and is essential to the way we learn to understand the world. We couldn’t live without it!
Our minds are designed from the very start to think there are unseen patterns, forces, and essences inhabiting the world, and it is unlikely that any effort to get rid of supernatural beliefs, or the superstitious behaviors that accompany them, will be successful. These common beliefs and sacred values are essential in binding us together as a society because they help us to see ourselves connected to each other at a deeper level.
Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum. $ 2.99
From the Jacket Copy:
Don’t Look Back heralds the arrival of an exotic new crime series featuring Inspector Sejer, a smart and enigmatic hero, tough but fair. The setting is a small, idyllic village at the foot of Norway’s Kollen Mountain, where neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But when the body of a teenage girl is found by the lake at the mountaintop, the town’s tranquillity is shattered forever. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went so terribly wrong? Doggedly, yet subtly, Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon layer of distrust and lies beneath the town’s seemingly perfect facade.
Critically acclaimed across Europe, Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer novels are masterfully constructed, psychologically convincing, and compulsively readable, and are now available in the United States for the first time.
Final Jeopardy by Linda Fairstein. $ 3.99.
From the Jacket Copy:
This critically acclaimed, explosive thriller is a book only prosecutor Linda Fairstein could write. Patricia Cornwall knows the morgue; John Grisham knows the courtroom; but no one knows the inner workings of the D.A.’s office like Linda Fairstein, renowned for two decades as head of Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit. Now that world comes vividly to life in a brilliant debut novel of shocking realism, powerful insight, and searing suspense.
Alexandra Cooper, Manhattan’s top sex crimes prosecutor, awakens one morning to shoking news: a tabloid headline announcing her own brutal murder. But the actual victim was Isabella Lascar, the Hollywood film star who sought refuge at Alex’s Martha’s Vineyard retreat. Was Isabella targeted by a stalker or — mistaken for Alex — was she in the wrong place at the wrong time? In an investigation that twists from the back alleys of lower Manhattan to the chic salons of the Upper East Side. Alex knows she’sin final jeopardy…and time is running out. She has to get into the killer’s head before the killer gets to her.