Category > Science and nature

Cosmos

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Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation, Carl Sagan, book reviewThis article is part of our Holiday Reads 2013 series. Cosmos is Matt Haig’s recommendation. Matt just published his second book, The Humans.

I am getting into science books. At school, I hated science, but I think that was mainly because I had not very inspiring teachers. I didn’t get excited by bunsen burners and forceps and those safety goggles you had to wear. Also, I turned up an hour late for my Science GCSE, meaning I ended up getting an F.

Anyway, my allergy to science changed three years ago when I was on holiday in Sardinia. We were staying in a hotel that had books on the bookshelves, most of which were written in Italian. Anyway, one of the few books written in English was Cosmos by Carl Sagan.

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Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes

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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova, book reviewAs Sherlock Holmes has himself noted, there is nothing new under the sun. Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova is far from the first piece of writing to join the worlds of the great fictional detective and psychology. We have had Holmes the addict, Holmes the man with Asperger’s, Holmes the man unable to form normal relationships with those around him. However, given the complexity and enduring appeal of Holmes, it is not perhaps surprising that he now is the hook on which Konnikova’s new book on the science of memory, creativity and reasoning hangs. He even influenced the release date: 6th January, Sherlock Holmes’ birthday.

The basic premise of the book is that our minds work on two systems – one is quick to react and largely unconscious, while the latter is slower, more deliberate and rational.


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Catlopaedia – A Complete Guide to Cat Care

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Catlopaedia A Complete Guide to Cat Care J.M. Evans and Kay White, book reviewCats can be such independent pets, yet they are bound to need proper care just like any other living creature, especially now that they seem to be living longer lives. Nearly ten years ago I adopted a sixteen-year-old cat when I moved into her house, and she lived for another four years. When I eventually had to have her put to sleep, I was horrified to be told by the vet that one of her kidneys was only the size of a baked bean. Not long after that I acquired a rescue kitten, and I decided that it would be a good idea to buy a book about cat care as I had realised how little I knew. The Catlopaedia is a slim volume, but its 206 pages are crammed with information covering everything from breeds to diseases.

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Ingenius

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Building Brainpower, Dilip Mukerjea, book reviewThe Indian parent spends more and more time racking his or her brain as to how the child’s grades can be improved.Unleashing Genius    A Book on Learning Miracles for Children of all Ages  Dilip Mukerjea With marks getting impossibly high in the school system and so much riding on them, it is of course imperative that children be given some sort of brain headstart in the exams race. Aside from brain enhancers like almonds, there are always exercises that help enhance the mind and the memory through various time tested tricks. That’s where Dilip Mukerjea’s set of books come in, published at an invaluable time as far as the Indian school system is concerned.


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Paranormality

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Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There,  Professor Richard Wiseman, book reviewThe paranormal is a subject with seemingly limitless fascination for us, and in which people continue to hold as part of their belief systems. A Gallup poll taken in 2005 indicated that 30% of people believed in ghosts and 15% claimed to have seen one. Another survey taken in 2008 had 58% of respondents stating they believed in the supernatural – more than believed in God (54%). Professor Richard Wiseman states in his latest book that between 40% and 50% of people in the UK (and between 80% and 90% in the US) claim to have had some sort of paranormal experience. These are extraordinary figures. For all that we live in a well-educated society where science is more readily accessible than ever before, belief in the things that go bump in the night is still remarkably persistent. As an arch-sceptic and Britain’s only Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, Wiseman has investigated the paranormal for over twenty years, and all his experience has been poured into his latest book – Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There.


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Saving The World’s Wildlife

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Saving the World's Wildlife: The WWF's First 50 Years - Alexis Schwarzenbach, book reviewSaving The World’s Wildlife: WWF – The First 50 Years by Alexis Schwarzenbach is, rather unsurprisingly, the story of the formation and first five decades of one of the worlds foremost conservation organisations, the World Wide Fund for Nature (or World Wildlife Fund as it started out in the 1960s). The WWF is one of those organisations which is recognised globally by millions, thanks to its iconic panda logo. It is something I have been aware for as long as I can remember – when I was a child, maybe around 5 years old, I collected all the stickers in a WWF sticker album which taught me about the animals of the world and the dangers they face.

When I heard about this book, I thought it would be an account of the work that the WWF has done over the years, how they have helped save species from the brink of extinction and create conservation areas and national parks around the world.


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The Vet: My Wild and Wonderful Friends

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The Vet: My Wild and Wonderful Friends by Luke Gamble, book reviewWhen I was around ten, my dad gave his battered old copy of If Only They Could Talk by James Herriot and told me I would love it. He was right. The tales of a vet’s life in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s were beautifully told, charming, hilarious and rather special. I went on to read all Herriot’s memoirs (James Herriot is a pseudonym), and truly loved the characters (human and animal) which he wrote about. Every so often I still take the (now very) battered paperbacks off my bookshelf and curl up on the sofa to lose myself in Herriot’s world.

So when I was offered the chance to read and review The Vet: My Wild and Wonderful Friends by Luke Gamble, billed as a 21st century James Herriot, I thought it was my lucky day.


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The Complete Thyroid Book

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The Complete Thyroid Book By Kenneth Ain, By M.Sara Rosenthal, book reviewSeldom can something so small and hidden have caused so much trouble. The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ at the base of your neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Most people don’t know they’ve got one, have never given it any thought and most likely don’t have the slightest idea what it does. But for those people who are aware about their thyroid, it’s very likely that this little gland is causing them trouble – and in some cases, such as mine, it looked for a while like big scary trouble.

I was one of the many who didn’t know my thyroid from my thigh bone nine months ago and now, thanks to two operations, numerous blood tests, a dose of radioactive iodine and daily medication, my thyroid is a constant preoccupation even though I haven’t actually got one. Sounds weird? Try a diagnosis of follicular thyroid cancer – it’s a great way to turn you overnight from thyroid ignorant to thyroid expert.

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The Decision Book

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The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus, By Roman Tschappeler, book reviewMost of us face the same questions every day: What do I want? And how can I get it? How can I live more happily and work more efficiently?

A European bestseller, The Decision Book distils into a single volume the fifty best decision-making models used on MBA courses and elsewhere that will help you tackle these important questions – from the well known (the Eisenhower matrix for time management) to the less familiar but equally useful (the Swiss Cheese model). It will even show you how to remember everything you will have learned by the end of it.

We will be publishing series of decision making thought processes our koshkha was going through with the help of The Decision Book.

Today we start with very general thoughts on everyday decisions but be ready for more specific ones in the coming days…

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The New North: The World in 2050

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The New North: The World in 2050 by Laurence C. Smith, book review“The New North: The World in 2050” by Laurence Smith is a good bet to turn out to be the best geography book of the year. If you feel underwhelmed by that statement, then you are probably not alone. Geography is a subject that has suffered greatly over recent years with an image problem; it is often seen as a fuddy-duddy subject taught by dull old men in tweed jackets and really of no great consequence. If you Google “geography popularity” you will see scores of press articles lamenting the decline of this subject in schools and universities across the Western world, and there was apparently even a government task force assigned to this very issue back in 2006. Why this should be the case rather mystifies me, given that we live in a changing world and as geography seeks to explain many of these changes, it is increasingly a vital subject area.


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Sleights of Mind

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Sleights of Mind: Surprising Insights from the New Science of Neuro-magic by  Sandra Blakeslee, Stephen L. Macknik,  Susana Martinez-Conde, book reviewAbout a year ago, the BBC screened an episode of Horizon called “Is Seeing Believing?”, which explored optical illusions and how they work in our minds (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vhw1d). These illusions revealed many loopholes, short-cuts and inconsistencies in the way we perceive the world, which the designers of the tricks had mercilessly exploited in order to create something that simply shouldn’t be possible. This not only showed that these tricks could be interesting way to explore our psychology, but also that the people who designed the tricks seemed to know more about the way our minds worked than the psychologists who studied them. The programme fascinated me, and so I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde’s new book “Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Brains”, which is built around a similar principle.

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Mapping Malignancy

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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer By Siddhartha Mukherjee, book reviewAs a haematologist’s daughter, the terms ‘leukemia’ and ‘remission’ floated fairly frequently through the house. I didn’t quite understand them to begin with except that there were frequent phone calls, stories of children who had come to be examined at the Institute and the haunting tale of a patient who had been told by a psychic that everything would be all right who stopped all treatment despite protests from my father and who finally died, so presumably he was ‘all right’ in the sense that he was free from all physical ills. Later, without being asked, I heard stories about bone marrow transplants and spine taps and how painful it was for children. Leukemia, I gathered was an incurable ill that could only be fought with whatever tools there were at hand while researchers frantically sought to evolve a cure.

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