Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New books

Your guide to new books

Will Mozart Make My Baby Smart?

Andrew Whitehouse, UWA Publishing, $27.99

Few areas attract myths like pregnancy and early child-rearing. From being able to tell the sex of a child to techniques to boost fertility or claims about what it takes to produce model offspring, everyone has heard a rumour. Professor Andrew Whitehouse of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research tackles 13 beliefs, such as the effect of mobile phones on sperm, the behavioural impact of sugar and the idea that pregnant women can’t focus.

The Curious Country

Leigh Dayton (ed), ANU Press, $40.00

With a foreword by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, The Curious Country is a response to a survey Chubb commissioned about the science questions Australians wished to see explained. Health and climate issues topped the list, followed by the latest space research. Leading Australian scientists provide chapters on the backgrounds to these issues with references to relevant peer-reviewed papers. The Curious Country is also available online for free via ANU press.

The Dynamics of Disaster

Susan W. Kieffer, Norton, $32.95

We make the mistake, geologist Prof Susan Kieffer argues, of treating natural disasters as outliers. In fact they will always be part of our lives as long as we choose to build our cities on active faults and flood plains or near volcanoes. Our ignorance of such disasters increases the dangers we face, and Kieffer explains what occurs when the Earth withdraws its geological consent.

Let the Land Speak

Jackie French, Harper Collins, $39.99

The lessons of disaster management are written in the land, says Jackie French. A 30 cm hole in the ground can reveal whether a location is subject to fire or flood, yet hardly anyone undertakes this test before building. Certain species of wattles set more seed in bushfire years yet these warnings are routinely ignored, as is the evidence that different management practices work best to prevent fires in different ecosystems.

While best known for her whimsical fiction, such as Diary of a Wombat, French takes ecology seriously, combining it with extensive research into historical documents revealing the often-unacknowledged ways that plants and animals have shaped Australian history.

Booderee National Park: The Jewel of Jervis Bay

David Lindenmayer, Christopher MacGregor, Nick Dexter, Martin Fortescue & Esther Beaton, CSIRO Publishing, $29.95

Booderee National Park attracts almost half a million visitors per year, mostly from Sydney 200 km to its north. While the wave-cut platforms and sea caves may be prime attractions, this book focuses on its exceptional biodiversity, with 260 species of vertebrates and 625 species of plants in its 65 km2 of land surface.

Lindenmayer, one of Australia’s foremost forest ecologists, has combined with a fellow academic, two staff from the park and award-winning photographer Esther Beaton to reveal the processes of predation, fire and invasive species that have shaped the park.