Dispatches From Planet 3 – Thirty-two (Brief) Tales on the Solar System, The Milky Way, and Beyond, by Marcia Bartusiak
Synopsis: An award-winning science writer presents a captivating collection of cosmological essays for the armchair astronomer.
The galaxy, the multiverse, and the history of astronomy are explored in this engaging compilation of cosmological tales by multiple-award-winning science writer Marcia Bartusiak. In thirty-two concise and engrossing essays, the author provides a deeper understanding of the nature of the universe and those who strive to uncover its mysteries.
Bartusiak shares the back stories for many momentous astronomical discoveries, including the contributions of such pioneers as Beatrice Tinsley, with her groundbreaking research in galactic evolution, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the scientist who first discovered radio pulsars. An endlessly fascinating collection that you can dip into in any order, these pieces will transport you to ancient Mars, when water flowed freely across its surface; to the collision of two black holes, a cosmological event that released fifty times more energy than was radiating from every star in the universe; and to the beginning of time itself.
(Alternative Title: Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?)
Synopsis: History has portrayed Australia’s First Peoples, the Aboriginals, as hunter-gatherers who lived on an empty, uncultivated land. History is wrong.
In this seminal book, Bruce Pascoe uncovers evidence that long before the arrival of white men, Aboriginal people across the continent were building dams and wells; planting, irrigating, and harvesting seeds, and then preserving the surplus and storing it in houses, sheds, or secure vessels; and creating elaborate cemeteries and manipulating the landscape. All of these behaviors were inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag, which turns out have been a convenient lie that worked to justify dispossession.
Using compelling evidence from the records and diaries of early Australian explorers and colonists, he reveals that Aboriginal systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern retellings of early Aboriginal history, and that a new look at Australia’s past is required ― for the benefit of all Australians.
Published: 2014 | ISBN: 978-1947534087
Mini-bio: Bruce Pascoe is an Australian Indigenous writer, from the Bunurong clan, of the Kulin nation. He has worked as a teacher, farmer, a fisherman and an Aboriginal language researcher. Wikipedia
Synopsis: Our foremost storyteller returns with an audacious new novel, Machines Like Me.
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.
Machines Like Meoccurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard H Thaler, Cass R Sunstein
Synopsis: Every day we make choices—about what to buy or eat, about financial investments or our children’s health and education, even about the causes we champion or the planet itself. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. Nudge is about how we make these choices and how we can make better ones. Using dozens of eye-opening examples and drawing on decades of behavioral science research, Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein show that no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way, and that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions. But by knowing how people think, we can use sensible “choice architecture” to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice.
Published: April 2008 | ISBN: 978-0143115267
Mini-bio: Richard H Thaler is an American economist and the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In 2015, Thaler was president of the American Economic Association. He is a theorist in behavioral economics, and collaborated with Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and others in further defining that field. In 2018, he was elected a member in the National Academy of Sciences. In 2017, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to behavioral economics.
Richard’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/r_thaler
Mini-bio: Cass Robert Sunstein is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School.
Cass’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/CassSunstein
You are Stardust, by Elin Kelsey and illustrated by Soyeon Kim
Synopsis: You Are Stardust begins by introducing the idea that every tiny atom in our bodies came from a star that exploded long before we were born. From its opening pages, the book suggests that we are intimately connected to the natural world; it compares the way we learn to speak to the way baby birds learn to sing, and the growth of human bodies to the growth of forests. Award-winning author Elin Kelsey — along with a number of concerned parents and educators around the world — believes children are losing touch with nature. This innovative picture book aims to reintroduce children to their innate relationship with the world around them by sharing many of the surprising ways that we are all connected to the natural world.
Published: September 2012 | ISBN: 978-1526360342 | Ages: 5-12 years
Synopsis: Explore and discover how science, technology, engineering, and maths shape the world around us with 25 hands-on experiments for curious kids.
From racing wind-up cars and building a sturdy sandcastle to creating a wave machine and making music with a homemade guitar, STEM Lab is packed with 25 exciting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) activities. Why do rafts float? How do bridges stay upright? How do seals stay warm? And how can you make a ball levitate? Each activity in the book has its own “How it works” section uncovering core STEM ideas to help young readers discover the fascinating answers for themselves.
Simple, easy-to-follow, photographic steps guide young readers through each experiment, along with essential tips and engaging STEM facts. “Test and tweak” boxes encourage readers to take their projects to the next level, while “Real world” stories show how STEM ideas make up our modern, everyday world.
Perfect for firing up kids’ imaginations, for homework help and for rainy day projects, STEM Lab will excite and inspire curious young minds.
Synopsis: “Ralph 124C 41+” by Hugo Gernsback is an early science fiction novel, written as a twelve-part serial in “Modern Electrics” magazine beginning in April 1911. It was compiled into novel/book form in 1925. It is considered one of the most influential science fiction stories of all time. The title itself is a play on words, ( 1 2 4 C 4 1 + ) meaning “One to foresee for one another”. Some successful predictions from this novel include television (and channel surfing), remote-control power transmission, the video phone, transcontinental air service, solar energy in practical use, sound movies, synthetic milk and foods, artificial cloth, voiceprinting, tape recorders, and spaceflight. It also contains “…the first accurate description of radar, complete with diagram…” according to Arthur C. Clarke in his “non-genre” novel “Glide Path.” (1963)
First Published: 1925 | ISBN: 978-1614275770
Mini-bio: Hugo Gernsback was a Luxembourgish-American inventor, writer, editor, and magazine publisher, best known for publications including the first science fiction magazine. His contributions to the genre as publisher—although not as a writer—were so significant that, along with the novelists H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, he is sometimes called “The Father of Science Fiction”. In his honour, annual awards presented at the World Science Fiction Convention are named the “Hugos”. – Wikipedia
The Qualified Self: Social Media and the Accounting of Everyday Life, by Lee Humphreys
Synopsis: How sharing the mundane details of daily life did not start with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube but with pocket diaries, photo albums, and baby books.
Social critiques argue that social media have made us narcissistic, that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are all vehicles for me-promotion. In The Qualified Self, Lee Humphreys offers a different view. She shows that sharing the mundane details of our lives—what we ate for lunch, where we went on vacation, who dropped in for a visit—didn’t begin with mobile devices and social media. People have used media to catalog and share their lives for several centuries. Pocket diaries, photo albums, and baby books are the predigital precursors of today’s digital and mobile platforms for posting text and images. The ability to take selfies has not turned us into needy narcissists; it’s part of a longer story about how people account for everyday life.
Humphreys refers to diaries in which eighteenth-century daily life is documented with the brevity and precision of a tweet, and cites a nineteenth-century travel diary in which a young woman complains that her breakfast didn’t agree with her. Diaries, Humphreys explains, were often written to be shared with family and friends. Pocket diaries were as mobile as smartphones, allowing the diarist to record life in real time. Humphreys calls this chronicling, in both digital and nondigital forms, media accounting. The sense of self that emerges from media accounting is not the purely statistics-driven “quantified self,” but the more well-rounded qualified self. We come to understand ourselves in a new way through the representations of ourselves that we create to be consumed.
Published: Apri 2018 | ISBN: 9780262037853
Mini-bio: Lee Humphreys studies the social uses and perceived effects of communication technology. Her research has explored mobile phone use in public spaces, emerging norms on mobile social networks, and the privacy and surveillance implications of location-based services. – Adapted from Cornell University bio
I highly recommend Humphreys’ book to whomever wants to deepen their understanding of how and why people document, share, and re-engage with their own media traces. – Information, Communication and Society
The Qualified Self offers a new perspective on how social media users construct and distribute ‘self-portraits’ through media technologies. Lee Humphreys has delivered a truly original revision of ‘mediated memories’ and a much-needed update to the age of connectivity. – José van Dijck, Distinguished University Professor, Utrecht University; author of Mediated Memories in the Digital Age and The Culture of Connectivity
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M Barry
Synopsis: At the height of WWI, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research and now revised to reflect the growing danger of the avian flu, The Great Influenza is ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, which provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. John M. Barry has written a new afterword for this edition that brings us up to speed on the terrible threat of the avian flu and suggest ways in which we might head off another flu pandemic.
Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, by Clive Thompson
Synopsis: Hello, world.
Facebook’s algorithms shaping the news. Self-driving cars roaming the streets. Revolution on Twitter and romance on Tinder. We live in a world constructed of code–and coders are the ones who built it for us. From acclaimed tech writer Clive Thompson comes a brilliant anthropological reckoning with the most powerful tribe in the world today, computer programmers, in a book that interrogates who they are, how they think, what qualifies as greatness in their world, and what should give us pause. They are the most quietly influential people on the planet, and Coders shines a light on their culture.
In pop culture and media, the people who create the code that rules our world are regularly portrayed in hackneyed, simplified terms, as ciphers in hoodies. Thompson goes far deeper, dramatizing the psychology of the invisible architects of the culture, exploring their passions and their values, as well as their messy history. In nuanced portraits, Coders takes us close to some of the great programmers of our time, including the creators of Facebook’s News Feed, Instagram, Google’s cutting-edge AI, and more. Speaking to everyone from revered “10X” elites to neophytes, back-end engineers and front-end designers, Thompson explores the distinctive psychology of this vocation–which combines a love of logic, an obsession with efficiency, the joy of puzzle-solving, and a superhuman tolerance for mind-bending frustration.
Along the way, Coders thoughtfully ponders the morality and politics of code, including its implications for civic life and the economy. Programmers shape our everyday behavior: When they make something easy to do, we do more of it. When they make it hard or impossible, we do less of it. Thompson wrestles with the major controversies of our era, from the “disruption” fetish of Silicon Valley to the struggle for inclusion by marginalized groups.
In his accessible, erudite style, Thompson unpacks the surprising history of the field, beginning with the first coders — brilliant and pioneering women, who, despite crafting some of the earliest personal computers and programming languages, were later written out of history. Coders introduces modern crypto-hackers fighting for your privacy, AI engineers building eerie new forms of machine cognition, teenage girls losing sleep at 24/7 hackathons, and unemployed Kentucky coal-miners learning a new career.
At the same time, the book deftly illustrates how programming has become a marvelous new art form–a source of delight and creativity, not merely danger. To get as close to his subject as possible, Thompson picks up the thread of his own long-abandoned coding skills as he reckons, in his signature, highly personal style, with what superb programming looks like.
To understand the world today, we need to understand code and its consequences. With Coders, Thompson gives a definitive look into the heart of the machine.