THE COSMIC MACHINE

THE SCIENCE THAT RUNS OUR UNIVERSE AND THE STORY BEHIND IT

A book offers a history of science and the figures who helped develop its major pillars, presented in a biographical style to raise interest in the discipline.

In this “science story,” the development of four of the most important topics in the study of mathematics, chemistry, and physics—energy, entropy, atoms, and quantum mechanics—is presented with an in-depth look at the experts whose inquiries and experimentations established them. This includes the influences, upbringings, and reputations of these trailblazers as well as the not always receptive times they worked in. Energy’s origins are traced back to Galileo’s interests in Euclid and Aristotle, then up to Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and beyond. Entropy looks at the growth of Sadi Carnot and the competing work by both Rudolf Clausius and William Thomson, only to be set aside by later scientists such as James Clerk Maxwell. The atom’s discovery is told from the earliest notions in Greek culture, with its understanding through history tied to a battle between rational study and spiritual pressures. Scientists ranging from John Dalton to J.J. Thomson and Niels Bohr labored not only under the scientific burden of proof, but societal measures of acceptance as well. The quantum mechanics section examines Albert Einstein and his work up until his death as well as those who preceded him in the development of what would become quantum theory. Throughout, their research or their inspirations and interactions with one another (when historically possible) are chronicled, while simple, approachable examples of what they’re attempting to prove or disprove are demonstrated by the author. Bembenek (Calculation of the Surface Tension of Oxygen Using Molecular-Dynamics Simulations, 2006, etc.) employs a largely casual narrative tone, never talking down to his readers even when broaching big ideas. Overall, the book acknowledges that scientific theories and experimentation can be seen as boring or tedious and encourages readers to engage with the material in a manner comfortable for them. The volume suggests starting with the concepts readers feel ready to tackle while skipping certain mathematical equations or illustrations they are not yet ready for. Extensive citations and a full bibliography with thorough footnotes should give interested readers numerous reasons to revisit the personable text and seek out other works. A superb resource for science fans or those struggling to understand the subject; an impressive fit in an age of Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson Web videos.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 315

Publisher: Zoari Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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