Middle-school science students will find this title a useful jumping-off place for science explorations using readily available household products, including toothpaste, shampoo, soap, hand lotion, sun block, detergent, aspirin, and orange juice. The author begins with a review of the scientific method and detailed safety warnings, then presents a variety of projects, for example, evaluating shampoos for cleaning power, analyzing aspirin for the amount of active ingredient, and testing the vitamin C content of orange juice. The author notes all the experiments included are to help the reader become a more educated consumer and to have fun with science. For science-fair projects, additional research and elaboration would be necessary. Some useful extension ideas include investigating “anti-bubbles,” and exploring the scientific concerns regarding overuse of antibacterial products. One experiment, testing large doses of lipid-soluble vitamins on the ability of planarian worms to regenerate lost parts does not seem to provide sufficient safeguards for humane treatment of the experimental animals. A sturdy, readable, and useful title in the “Science Fair Success Series.” (brief glossary, further reading, useful Web sites, suppliers, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)
In the Science Sourcebook series, a clear and sensible approach to the wonders and mysteries of virtual reality, including its history and some possible scenarios for the future. Grady compares the state of virtual reality to the situation of television in its earliest years: Everyone thought it was great, but it was wildly expensive, and the technology had not yet caught up to the possibilities. He takes a tour through virtual reality's history, and describes its current uses, still in their infancy, in medicine, architecture, business, science, and, of course, fun and games. He writes quite accurately about the function of virtual realityessentially to fool the mind and body into creating a multidimensional experience from computers, software, and devices. While he doesn't delve deeply into the philosophical questions raised by this fascinating medium, he does mention them, and presents a coherent picture of the technology to date. (b&w illustrations, photographs, index, not seen, glossary, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-14)
A provocative report on world-changing developments promised by a dawning breakthrough in biotechnology.
Ridge first goes over the ins and outs of chromosomes and genomes, then explains how certain clusters of “palindromic repeats” found in the DNA of single-celled creatures can be employed to edit with precision any cell’s genetic “instruction manual.” Though just missing the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she goes on to explore the technique’s current and potential uses and misuses. The former include creating better medicines, cures for cancer and other systemic diseases, new plant varieties, and better livestock; the latter, scrambling ecological balances, cooking up frightening bioweapons, and “Playing God” with human germlines to make designer babies. In general she comes down on the positive side (if for no other reason than that it’s too late to get the cat back into the bag) but doesn’t skimp on laying out complications and quandaries for readers to chew over in formulating their own views. She leavens the hefty informational load as best she can (“The genetic similarity between a human and a banana is 60%”), and Boersma supplies a generous array of staid but lucid diagrams, schematics, and infographics in support. Though it is marketed as a book for readers 14 and up, both graphic design and complexity of language seem to suit it better for middle schoolers.
Science literally on the cutting edge, offering prospects of wonder and terror in equal measure.
(sources, resource lists, index)