Annal: 2010 Royal Society Prize for General Science Book

Results of the Royal Society Prizes in the year 2010.

Book:Life Ascending

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

Nick Lane

A renowned biochemist draws on cutting-edge scientific findings to construct the mosaic of life’s astounding history.

How did life invent itself? Where did DNA come from? How did consciousness develop? Powerful new research methods are providing vivid insights into the makeup of life. Comparing gene sequences, examining atomic structures of proteins, and looking into the geochemistry of rocks have helped explain evolution in more detail than ever before. Nick Lane expertly reconstructs the history of life by describing the ten greatest inventions of evolution (including DNA, photosynthesis, sex, and sight), based on their historical impact, role in organisms today, and relevance to current controversies. Who would have guessed that eyes started off as light-sensitive spots used to calibrate photosynthesis in algae? Or that DNA’s building blocks form spontaneously in hydrothermal vents?

Lane gives a gripping, lucid account of nature’s ingenuity, and the result is a work of essential reading for anyone who has ever pondered or questioned the science underlying evolution’s greatest gifts to man.

Book:Everyday Practice of Science

Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic

Frederick Grinnell

Scientific facts can be so complicated that only specialists in a field fully appreciate the details. Professor Frederick Grinnell believes that the nature of everyday practice that gives rise to these facts should be understandable by everyone interested in science. Grinnell has an insider’s knowledge of biomedical research based on more than thirty-five years of experience. Over much of the same period, he also has been teaching about philosophical and ethical issues in science. Now, he integrates these perspectives into an enlightening and entertaining description of Everyday Practice of Science.

Grinnell describes how real life researchers bring their own interests and passions to their work. Through the discovery process, they try to learn new things about the world. Through the credibility process, they try to convince other scientists that what they have learned is correct. Diversity of interests and backgrounds amongst researchers enhances both discovery and credibility.…[more]

Book:God's Philosophers

God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science

James Hannam

The adjective ‘medieval’ is now a synonym for superstition and ignorance. Yet without the work of medieval scholars there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution.

In “God’s Philosophers”, James Hannam traces the neglected roots of modern science in the medieval world. He debunks many of the myths about the Middle Ages, showing that medieval people did not think the earth was flat, nor did Columbus ‘prove’ that it is a sphere. Contrary to common belief, the Inquisition burnt nobody for their science, nor was Copernicus afraid of persecution. No Pope tried to ban human dissection or the number zero. On the contrary, as Hannam reveals, the Middle Ages gave rise to staggering achievements in both science and technology: for instance, spectacles and the mechanical clock were both invented in thirteenth-century Europe. Ideas from the Far East, like printing, gunpowder and the compass, were taken further by Europeans…[more]

Book:We Need to Talk About Kelvin

We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us About the Universe

Marcus Chown

Marcus Chown uncovers the cosmic signs in the world around us. Look around you…

The reflection of your face in a window tells you that the universe at its deepest level is orchestrated by chance.

The iron in a spot of blood on your finger tells you that out in space there must be a furnace at a temperature of 4.5 billion degrees.

The static on a badly tuned TV screen tells you that the universe began in a big bang.

In fact, your very existence tells you this may not be the only universe but merely one among an infinity of others, stacked like the pages of a never-ending book.

Marcus Chown, author of the hugely successful Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, shows how familiar features of the world reveal profound truths about the ultimate nature of reality. With the aid of a falling leaf, or a rose, or a starry night sky, Chown makes cutting-edge science clear and meaningful. His new book will literally change the way you see the world.

Book:Why Does E=mc2?

Why Does E=mc2?: (and Why Should We Care?)

Brian Cox, Jeff Forshaw

The most accessible, entertaining, and enlightening explanation of the best-known physics equation in the world, as rendered by two of today’s leading scientists.

Professor Brian Cox and Professor Jeff Forshaw go on a journey to the frontier of 21st century science to consider the real meaning behind the iconic sequence of symbols that make up Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc2. Breaking down the symbols themselves, they pose a series of questions: What is energy? What is mass? What has the speed of light got to do with energy and mass? In answering these questions, they take us to the site of one of the largest scientific experiments ever conducted. Lying beneath the city of Geneva, straddling the Franco-Swiss boarder, is a 27 km particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider. Using this gigantic machine—which can recreate conditions in the early Universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang—Cox…[more]

Book:A World Without Ice

A World Without Ice

Henry Pollack, Ph.D.

Much has been written about global warming, but the crucial relationship between people and ice has received little focus-until now. As one of the world’s leading experts on climate change, Henry Pollack provides an accessible, comprehensive survey of ice as a force of nature, and the potential consequences as we face the possibility of a world without ice.

A World Without Ice traces the effect of mountain glaciers on supplies of drinking water and agricultural irrigation, as well as the current results of melting permafrost and shrinking Arctic sea ice-a situation that has degraded the habitat of numerous animals and sparked an international race for seabed oil and minerals. Catastrophic possibilities loom, including rising sea levels and subsequent flooding of lowlying regions worldwide, and the ultimate displacement of millions of coastal residents. A World Without Ice answers our most urgent questions about this pending crisis, laying out the necessary steps for managing the unavoidable and avoiding the unmanageable.

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