A captivating nature tour and a convincing warning that “the deep needs decisive, unconditional protection.”

THE BRILLIANT ABYSS

EXPLORING THE MAJESTIC HIDDEN LIFE OF THE DEEP OCEAN AND THE LOOMING THREAT THAT IMPERILS IT

An investigative foray into the world of deep-sea waters with a veteran marine biologist.

“This is without a doubt a golden era for deep-sea exploration,” writes Scales in this beguiling journey into the ocean’s deep, a wondrous landscape full of mystery and adventure: “Here lie entire ecosystems shut away in the dark that are based around the chemical powers of microbes, where worms are nine feet long, crabs dance, and snails grow suits of shiny metal armor.” At the same time, however, the ever increasing knowledge of the abyss leads to further evidence that there is money to be made by harvesting the resources held there. Scales begins by describing the deep sea’s uniqueness and biodiversity. She examines many of its miraculous denizens, such as the “bone-eating snot flower,” found off the coast of Sweden; the ultra-black fish; and gossamer worms, which “wriggle elegantly in tight pirouettes through the water.” Scales also discusses such features as seamounts, coral beds, and hydrothermal vents as well as chemical reactions such as bioluminescence and chemosynthesis (the dark equivalent of photosynthesis). Tracking the massive circulatory patterns of the ocean currents, the author demonstrates how they are disrupted by the forces of climate change, and she looks into possible medical advances that could originate from the ocean floor, including chemotherapy ingredients, genetic-testing materials, and new antibiotics. As in her two previous books, Spirals in Time and Eyes of the Shoal, Scales offers crisp, engaging prose, linking everything together in an accessible, entertaining manner. With plenty of scientific research to back her up, the author displays legitimate concerns about a wide variety of maladies, including plastic waste, raw sewage, oil spills, radioactive elements, and deep-sea mining, which “pose[s] dangerous risks to biodiversity and the environment, on timescales and intensities that cannot yet be fully quantified but could be catastrophic and permanent.”

A captivating nature tour and a convincing warning that “the deep needs decisive, unconditional protection.”

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5822-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

HOW TO PREVENT THE NEXT PANDEMIC

The tech mogul recounts the health care–related dimensions of his foundation in what amounts to a long policy paper.

“Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional.” Thus states the epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, a Gates adviser, who hits on a critically important point: Disease is a fact of nature, but a pandemic is a political creation of a kind. Therefore, there are political as well as medical solutions that can enlist governments as well as scientists to contain outbreaks and make sure they don’t explode into global disasters. One critical element, Gates writes, is to alleviate the gap between high- and low-income countries, the latter of which suffer disproportionately from outbreaks. Another is to convince governments to ramp up production of vaccines that are “universal”—i.e., applicable to an existing range of disease agents, especially respiratory pathogens such as coronaviruses and flus—to prepare the world’s populations for the inevitable. “Doing the right thing early pays huge dividends later,” writes Gates. Even though doing the right thing is often expensive, the author urges that it’s a wise investment and one that has never been attempted—e.g., developing a “global corps” of scientists and aid workers “whose job is to wake up every day thinking about diseases that could kill huge numbers of people.” To those who object that such things are easier said than done, Gates counters that the development of the current range of Covid vaccines was improbably fast, taking a third of the time that would normally have been required. At the same time, the author examines some of the social changes that came about through the pandemic, including the “new normal” of distance working and learning—both of which, he urges, stand to be improved but need not be abandoned.

Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-53448-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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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