Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New books

By Stephen Luntz

Your guide to new science books this month.

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines
Michael E. Mann, Footprint Books, $34.95
Climate scientists have come under vicious attack in recent years, from defamatory slurs to death threats. No climatologist has been more vilified than Michael Mann, lead author of several papers plotting Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the past millennium. Independent research from many other places has largely replicated Mann’s results, and independent investigations have found that, while Mann’s work could have been improved, alternative approaches would not have yielded different outcomes.

In The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars Mann explains how his work became the focus of so much attention, and what it is like to be subject to such attacks for simply being good at one’s job.

Science on Ice: Discovering the Secrets of Antarctica
Veronika Meduna, Auckland University Press, $49.95
Antarctica may not be an easy place to conduct research, and it certainly is not a cheap one, but for many scientific questions there is simply no alternative. Whether it is the global food chain, the oceanic thermohaline conveyor belts or the Earth’s climatic history, understanding is impossible without data from the far south.

New Zealand science writer and broadcaster Veronika Meduna provides a study of the scientists who brave the cold and danger of Antarctica, and the oceans around it, to uncover these secrets.

The Universe in Zero Words: The Story of Mathematics
em>Dana Mackenzie, New South Publishing, $39.99
Dana Mackenzie explores the remarkable capacity of numbers to explain, and even predict, the world. She traces this discovery through 4000 years from the meaning of the world’s simplest equation to the solution to Fermat’s last theorem. Along the way she looks at how Newton’s laws of motion, and subsequent work on calculus, both provided unprecedented power over the world and a whole new way of confronting scientific challenges.

Imagine: The Science of Creativity
Jonah Lehrer, Text, $32.95
Jonah Lehrer now works as a journalist and editor, but his degree is in neuroscience. In Imagine he sets out to establish the source of creativity, why humans have such a capacity for it, and how we can do it even better.

Why Cats Land on Their Feet
Mark Levi, Princeton University Press, $29.95
Pennsylvania State University Professor of Mathematics Mark Levi challenges readers to solve how things work, from using a book to remove a cork from a wine bottle to controlling a car on ice. The problems can be solved using logic and experience, with little knowledge of the physics required for most of them.