Science in the field at its best.

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THE OCTOPUS SCIENTISTS

EXPLORING THE MIND OF A MOLLUSK

From the Scientists in the Field series

An international team of scientists with varied focuses work together on a remote South Pacific island to study octopus behaviors.

Two weeks on Moorea, in French Polynesia, snorkeling and diving around the reefs off the coast, admiring the abundant life, and learning about octopuses. What could be nicer? In her latest observation of scientific fieldwork, Montgomery doesn’t ignore the downside—there's more searching than studying, here, and it’s often physically uncomfortable—but she dwells on the joys of admiring the endless variety in the underwater world and learning about these reclusive, intelligent, surprising creatures. With ease that comes from long practice, she weaves a narrative full of fascinating detail, helpful comparisons, direct quotations, and personal reactions that bring readers into the experience. Chapters of action, with smoothly integrated explanatory background, are interspersed with informative passages about octopuses, the field station, and coral reefs. She describes the team’s daily explorations in the water and their inside lab work, identifying the food remains they’ve collected from neat piles outside the octopuses’ dens. This is an account of a successful expedition, although it raises more questions than it answers. “The field is about serendipity,” expedition leader Jennifer Mather reminds readers. Amazing photographs reveal the octopuses’ remarkable shape-changing abilities and help readers visualize this experience.

Science in the field at its best. (Nonfiction. 10-16)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-23270-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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An outstanding case study in how science is actually done: funny, nuanced, and perceptive.

THE FIRST DINOSAUR

HOW SCIENCE SOLVED THE GREATEST MYSTERY ON EARTH

How does a new, truly revolutionary idea become established scientific fact?

Lendler spins his account of how the awesome age and significance of fossils came to be understood into a grand yarn that begins 168 million years ago. He fast-forwards to 1676 and the first recorded fossil fragment of what was later named Megalosaurus and builds on the premise of “The Blind Men and the Elephant” to trace the ensuing, incremental accretion of stunning evidence over the next two centuries that the Earth is far older than the Bible seems to suggest and was once populated by creatures that no longer exist. It’s a story that abounds in smart, colorful characters including Mary Anning, Richard Owen (a brilliant scholar but “a horrible human being”), and Gideon Mantell, “a dude who really, really loved fossils.” Along the way the author fills readers in on coprolites (“the proof was in the pooing”), highlights the importance of recording discoveries, and explains how the tentative suggestion that certain fossils might have come from members of the “Lizard Tribe” morphed into the settled concept of “dinosaur.” Though he tells a Eurocentric tale, the author incorporates references to sexism and class preconceptions into his picture of scientific progress. Butzer’s illustrations add decorative and, sometimes, comical notes to sheaves of side notes, quotations, charts, maps, and period portraits and images.

An outstanding case study in how science is actually done: funny, nuanced, and perceptive. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2700-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An interesting, engaging collection of snapshot profiles that will encourage readers to explore further and perhaps pursue...

TRAILBLAZERS

33 WOMEN IN SCIENCE WHO CHANGED THE WORLD

With STEM now the hot trend in education and concerted efforts to encourage girls to explore scientific fields, this collective biography is most timely.

Swaby offers 33 brief profiles of some of the world’s most influential women in science, organized in loose groupings: technology and innovation, earth and stars, health and medicine, and biology. Some of the figures, such as Mary Anning, Rachel Carson, Florence Nightingale, Sally Ride, and Marie Tharp, have been written about for young readers, but most have not. Among the lesser known are Stephanie Kwolek, the American chemist who invented Kevlar; Yvonne Brill, the Canadian engineer who invented a thruster used in satellites; Elsie Widdowson, the British nutritionist who demonstrated how important fluid and salt are for the body to properly function; and Italian neuroembryologist Rita Levi-Montalcini, who made breakthrough discoveries in nerve-cell growth. Swaby emphasizes that most of these scientists had to overcome great obstacles before achieving their successes and receiving recognition due to gender-based discrimination. She also notes that people are not born brilliant scientists and that it’s through repeated observation, experimentation, and testing of ideas that important discoveries are made.

An interesting, engaging collection of snapshot profiles that will encourage readers to explore further and perhaps pursue their own scientific curiosities. (source notes, bibliography) (Collective biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-55396-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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