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

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THE BIG THAW

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 and photographer Linder 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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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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