These are the books shortlisted for this year’s Royal Society Prize for Science Books 2010:
- A World Without Ice by Henry Pollack (Avery Books, Penguin Group): review. Pollack says, “Nature’s best thermometer, perhaps its most sensitive and unambiguous indicator of climate change, is ice. When ice gets sufficiently warm, it melts. Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts.”
- Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic by Frederick Grinnell (Oxford University Press): review. Science is not a logical, passionless subject.
- God’s Philosophers: How the medieval world laid the foundations of modern science by James Hannam (Icon Books): review. The author oddly cites the Renaissance as proof that the Middle Ages weren’t the Dark Ages. A commented adds, “I was irked by the author’s bias in favour of Roman Catholicism.”
- Life Ascending by Nick Lane (Profile Books): review
- We Need To Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown (Faber and Faber): review. Enthusiastic and interesting.
- Why Does E=mc2? by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw (Da Capo Press, Perseus Books Group): review. “Even the hardest bits feel like being taken on an army assault course by the two friendliest drill sergeants in the world. You may have to read some bits twice but, boy, will you feel better for it once the insights become clear.”
The winner is Life Ascending, which is about the innovations of evolution. Here’s the Guardian’s review.
Lane… brings his readers up to speed on the latest scientific insights into 10 great evolutionary “inventions”, among them the origin of life itself, DNA, photosynthesis, complex cells and sight…. The [last] 30-odd years… have seen astonishing advances in our understanding of the machinery of life, not only through the sequencing of the genomes of organisms, from bacteria to worms to people, but also by comparing and contrasting their biochemical workings. These studies have revealed the deep, unambiguous relatedness of all life on Earth, and are tracing our life line much further back than the fossil record ever could – right back to the start.