Annal: 2008 Royal Society Prize for General Science Book

Results of the Royal Society Prizes in the year 2008.

Book:Six Degrees

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet

Mark Lynas

Possibly the most graphic treatment of global warming that has yet been published, Six Degrees is what readers of Al Gore’s best-selling An Inconvenient Truth or Ross Gelbspan’s Boiling Point will turn to next. Written by the acclaimed author of High Tide, this highly relevant and compelling book uses accessible journalistic prose to distill what environmental scientists portend about the consequences of human pollution for the next hundred years.

In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report projecting average global surface temperatures to rise between 1.4 degrees and 5.8 degrees Celsius (roughly 2 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Based on this forecast, author Mark Lynas outlines what to expect from a warming world, degree by degree. At 1 degree Celsius, most coral reefs and many mountain glaciers will be lost. A 3-degree rise would spell the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, disappearance…[more]

Book:Coral: A Pessimist in Paradise

Coral: A Pessimist in Paradise

Steve Jones

While writing this book, Steve Jones had beside him the coral brooch that his sea captain grandfather brought back across the Indian Ocean as a gift for his wife. This simple object is a starting point for a dazzling narrative that touches on a number of the most important issues facing us today. Following in the footsteps of Darwin and Captain Cook, Jones reveals what coral has to tell us about the human genome project, cloning, and the possibility of a cure for cancer and genetic diseases; what insights it can offer us into the future of trade in oil and other forms of carbon; how it is linked to the fluctuations in weather patterns that have lead to destruction along the coasts of the Americas and the Far East. Finally, Jones considers what coral—exploited and destroyed in many ways and under siege from climate change—tells us about the likely future of the planet and humankind: it is a warning that both may be close to the point of no return.

Coral: A Pessimist in Paradise is an inspired, eclectic book that links science with history, literature, politics and myth. It belongs to a vivid tradition of thinking and writing about humankind and its place in nature.

Book:Gut Feelings

Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious

Gerd Gigerenzer

An engaging explanation of the science behind Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling Blink'

Gerd Gigerenzer is one of the researchers of behavioral intuition responsible for the science behind Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller Blink. Gladwell showed us how snap decisions often yield better results than careful analysis. Now, Gigerenzer explains why our intuition is such a powerful decision-making tool. Drawing on a decade of research at the Max Plank Institute, Gigerenzer demonstrates that our gut feelings are actually the result of unconscious mental processes—processes that apply rules of thumb that we’ve derived from our environment and prior experiences. The value of these unconscious rules lies precisely in their difference from rational analysis—they take into account only the most useful bits of information rather than attempting to evaluate all possible factors. By examining various decisions we make—how we choose a spouse, a stock, a medical procedure, or the…[more]

Book:A Life Decoded

A Life Decoded: My Genome - My Life

J. Craig Venter

The triumphant true story of the man who achieved one of the greatest feats of our era——the mapping of the human genome

Growing up in California, Craig Venter didn’’t appear to have much of a future. An unremarkable student, he nearly flunked out of high school. After being drafted into the army, he enlisted in the navy and went to Vietnam, where the life and death struggles he encountered as a medic piqued his interest in science and medicine. After pursuing his advanced degrees, Venter quickly established himself as a brilliant and outspoken scientist. In 1984 he joined the National Institutes of Health, where he introduced novel techniques for rapid gene discovery, and left in 1991 to form his own nonprofit genomics research center, where he sequenced the first genome in history in 1995. In 1998 he announced that he would successfully sequence the human genome years earlier,…[more]

Book:The Sun Kings

The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began

Stuart Clark

In September of 1859, the entire Earth was engulfed in a gigantic cloud of seething gas, and a blood-red aurora erupted across the planet from the poles to the tropics. Around the world, telegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe. However, nobody knew what could have released such strange forces upon the Earth—nobody, that is, except the amateur English astronomer Richard Carrington.

In this riveting account, Stuart Clark tells for the first time the full story behind Carrington’s observations of a mysterious explosion on the surface of the Sun and how his brilliant insight—that the Sun’s magnetism directly influences the…[more]

Book:Why Beauty is Truth

Why Beauty is Truth: The History of Symmetry

Ian Stewart

Hidden in the heart of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, and modern cosmology lies one idea: symmetry. Symmetry has been a key concept for artists, architects, and musicians for centuries, but as a mathematical principle it remained, until very recently, an arcane pursuit. In the twentieth century, however, symmetry emerged as central to the most fundamental ideas in physics and cosmology. Why Beauty Is Truth chronicles its history, from ancient Babylon to twenty-first century physics. World-famous mathematician Ian Stewart tells the compelling stories of the eccentric and occasionally tragic mathematical geniuses as he describes how symmetry grew into one of the most important ideas of modern science.

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