This wondrous and timely work—featuring stunning photos—explores a crucial environmental problem that endangers the planet.

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ANCIENT CARBON, MODERN SCIENCE, AND A RACE TO SAVE THE WORLD

An intrepid band of scientists chases after carbon lurking beneath Arctic permafrost that threatens to destroy the world.

Teaming up with experts from the Woods Hole Research Center, science writer Scigliano (Seeing the Elephant, 2006, etc.) and photographer Linder (Science on Ice, 2011, etc.) tell the bleak true story of Arctic regions whose permafrost has trapped deadly carbon. (“Permafrost soils are rich in carbon—the legacy of the grasslands, peatlands, and forests of past epochs, protected by freezing from microbial breakdown.”) Now, with Earth’s temperature rising, these greenhouse emissions threaten to unleash untold devastation on the planet: “As it thaws, the Arctic’s permafrost has the potential to upend the lives of people living in seaside condos in Miami, in exurban dream houses overlooking scenic wildlands in California...and in flimsy houses perched precariously on slippery hillsides in Haiti and on the floodplains of Bangladesh.” But far from being a despairing portrayal, this work celebrates some undergraduate researchers, directed by a group of experienced and knowledgeable scientists from Woods Hole, as they travel to Arctic regions to study this potential catastrophe with an enthusiasm and engagement that prove courageous and inspirational. Here, in the Arctic taiga (forests) and tundra, these researchers are depicted in their daily investigative pursuits in Scigliano’s text—written with scientists/debut authors Holmes ,Natali, and Schade—and Linder’s color photographs. The young team members display such a passion and joy in their love of science and the exacting and repetitive work of gathering important information that they will capture readers’ hearts and minds through the many beautifully shot images and lucid prose that support this illuminating venture. Enhanced by sidebars that skillfully detail the lives and backgrounds of the young band and their mentors from Woods Hole, this volume is a tribute to the years of amassing compelling research into this problem that threatens to release more greenhouse emissions than humans will know what to do with. The book demonstrates the demanding activity of collecting data that is an antidote to the depression and helplessness many feel in the face of climate change. In its splendid design, well-written text, and revealing photos of the Arctic world and those who probe the impact of thawing permafrost on the climate, this book perfectly captures this critical issue and those who are meeting the challenge.

This wondrous and timely work—featuring stunning photos—explores a crucial environmental problem that endangers the planet.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68051-247-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Braided River

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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