Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New Books

By Stephen Luntz

Your guide to new science books this month.

The Elements
Theodore Gray, Murdoch Books, $35.00
Theodore Gray spent 5 years photographing every known element in its pure form to produce his striking take on the periodic table. Released in 2009, his collection of images of elements under extreme conditions, such as liquid oxygen at –183°C, has spawned various spinoffs.

After a photographic card deck and a smartphone app, Gray has now released a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle (RRP $24.95). Besides its beauty, the puzzle is a way to get children interested in chemistry and for students to learn the periodic table in an enjoyable way.

*****

Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future
John MacCormick, Princeton University Press, $39.95
If you have no capacity for computer programming, but feel you ought to know something about how the devices that are changing our world work, this book may be a place to start. John MacCormick is a professor of computer science at Dickinson College, and describes in lay language the methods that make data compression and page ranking possible.

*****

Capturing the Essence: Techniques for Bird Artists
William T. Cooper, CSIRO Publishing, $34.95
William Cooper is responsible for some of the astonishing paintings of birds that adorn ornithologists’ field guides. While Capturing the Essence is designed to help others follow in his footsteps, it may also have interest for those lacking such skill who simply want to know how it is done. Bird lovers may also be captured by the images

*****

Transit of Venus: 1631 to the Present
Nick Lomb, New South Books, $49.95
Transits of Venus happen in pairs, 8 years apart. More than a century elapses after each pair before the event reoccurs. This year 6 June marks the second in a pair, and therefore the last chance for most people living to witness this historically significant event.

Nick Lomb of the Sydney Observatory has updated the book he produced before the 2004 transit to explain the science and history of this rare astronomical phenomenon, which is best known to most Australians as the reason Captain Cook sailed to the south seas.

*****

The Aha! Moment: A Scientist’s Take on Creativity
David Jones, Johns Hopkins University Press, $35.95
David Jones is the writer of the Daedalus column, now based at The Guardian but once published in Nature. He has also made experiments for TV science programs and museums. The combination required a steady stream of ideas, and led Jones to contemplating where creativity comes from and how it can be stimulated.

The Aha! Moment sets out Jones’ theories on the sources of ideas, and is filled with examples.