A subject much in demand, but there are better resources available.

READ REVIEW

FAKE NEWS AND THE MANIPULATION OF PUBLIC OPINION

An abbreviated overview of a hotly debated issue.

“Fake news,” is defined here as “fabricated news or information that is meant to be perceived as factual,” a definition that carefully excludes unintended errors, biases, or satire. It’s hardly a new complaint, but this account examines few instances outside the 2016 U.S. elections and mostly ignores print and broadcast media. Technological innovations and widespread use of social media have dramatically increased disinformation’s reach and impact; focusing on online phenomena permits tangents on algorithms creating ideological bubbles, harvesting of personal data, precise targeting of audiences, and strategic releases of hacked information. Partisan politics, foreign (mostly Russian) interference, and greed for ad revenue are presented as the chief villains, allowing brief digressions to recent cases in France, Great Britain, Kenya, and India; the last is the only noted example with violent results despite similar incidents elsewhere (including the U.S.). Indeed, while the earnest, meandering, and repetitive text adopts an ominous tone, it offers little evidence for any concrete consequences beyond the erosion of public trust. Proposed solutions include hopeful predictions for artificial intelligence and vague assurances from tech companies, but the author leans heavily on individual responsibility to become educated and remain skeptical and vigilant. Appendices provide a useful rubric for evaluating information and list some reputable fact-checking sites; the index is scattershot and sloppy.

A subject much in demand, but there are better resources available. (source notes, appendices, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68282-539-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: ReferencePoint Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010).

EXOPLANETS

WORLDS BEYOND OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

An enticing overview of tools, techniques, and discoveries in what the author rightly characterizes “a red-hot field in astronomy.”

Alas; it is perhaps too red-hot. Not only is Kenney’s count of accepted and potential exoplanets (as of May 2016) well out of date already, but her claim that “Wolf-1061” (sic: that’s actually the name of the star and its system) is the nearest Earthlike planet in the habitable “Goldilocks Zone” has been trumped by the recent discovery of a closer candidate orbiting Proxima Centauri. Still, along with describing in nontechnical terms each tool in the researcher’s kit—from space- and ground-based telescopes of various types to instruments that detect subtle stellar wobbles, spectrum changes, microlensing, and other telling signs—the author fills in the historical background of exoplanet research and profiles some of its weirder findings. She also casts side glances at extremophile life on Earth and other, at least tangentially related, topics. The small format gives the assortment of photos, artists’ renditions, diagrams, and generic star fields a cramped look, but readers curious about how researchers could possibly detect such dinky, distant objects as planets belonging to other star systems will come away satisfied and intrigued.

A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010). (index, source notes, bibliography, websites) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0086-1

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist.

MAYA LIN

THINKING WITH HER HANDS

One of the world’s most celebrated creators of civic architecture is profiled in this accessible, engaging biography.

Similar in style and format to her Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family (2014) and Wideness and Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe (2011), Rubin’s well-researched profile examines the career, creative processes, and career milestones of Maya Lin. Rubin discusses at length Lin’s most famous achievement, designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Chinese-American Lin was a reserved college student who entered and won the competition to design and build the memorial. Her youth and ethnicity were subjects of great controversy, and Rubin discusses how Lin fought to ensure her vision of the memorial remained intact. Other notable works by Lin, including the Civil Rights Memorial for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, a library and chapel for the Children’s Defense Fund, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the outdoor Wave Field project are examined but not in as much depth as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Attractively designed, the book is illustrated extensively with color photos and drawings.

An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0837-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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