Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New Books

By Stephen Luntz

Your guide to new science books this month.

Bigger or Better
Ian Lowe, University of Queensland Press, $34.95
Every now and then something happens that causes the population debate to seize the front pages, but then the issue fades away and growth continues roughly as before. Australasian Science columnist Ian Lowe starts by putting the debate in context, looking at historic rates of growth and how an ageing population will alter the birth and death rates in future decades. He then points to the motivations of the loudest voices in the debate and argues for a population policy built on long-term goals rather than short-term economic growth.

Nucleus: A Trip into the Heart of Matter
Ray Mackintosh, Jim Al-Khalili, Bjorn Johnson, Teresa Peña, Johns Hopkins University Press, $46.95
The first edition of Nucleus proved a popular introduction to the science at the heart of the atom. The past decade has been a productive one for nuclear physics, and in recognition of the advances made an updated version has been brought out with new images.

Nucleus covers the history of nuclear science as well as what we now know in a way that should be accessible to those without a physics background, as well as serving as a primer for undergraduate students.

Clean Energy, Climate and Carbon
Peter J. Cook, CSIRO Publishing, $39.95
Peter J. Cook comes from an unusual position within the climate change debate. Until last year he was CEO of the CO2CRC, which was responsible for research into the coal industry’s preferred solution to global warming: geosequestration.

Not surprisingly, Cook is an advocate for this approach, although he concedes that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will not be the whole, or maybe even the largest part, of a low emissions future. Most of the book explores how CCS could work and the obstacles that must be overcome, but there are also several chapters providing an overview of the wider climate change picture.

Microscopic Worlds
Kerry Swanson, CSIRO Publishing, $39.95
Most of the world’s biodiversity is too small to see with the naked eye. In three books – Bugs of the Land, Bugs of the Ocean and Bacteria, Fungi, Lichens and Plants – University of Canterbury geologist Kerry Swanson allows us to see these creatures in extra­ordinary detail. Each book comes with a pair of 3D glasses capable of turning the slightly blurry microscope images into sharp, textured portraits of microscopic life.

In Pursuit of the Travelling Salesman
William J. Cook, Princeton University Press, $41.95
The challenge of finding the shortest path between a string of points that must be visited in a non-specified order has befuddled mathematicians for centuries, and travellers themselves for much longer. A million dollar prize is on offer for anyone who can produce a solution or prove it cannot be done. Meanwhile vast quantities of computer time are being used to measure every possible route in various scenarios, and calculating the shortest.

Georgia Institute of Technology mathematician William J. Cook takes readers on his own tour through attempts to solve the problem, including the computers he has ground to a halt in his own efforts.