Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New books

Your guide to new books this month.

Ian Frazer: The Man Who Saved a Million Lives

Madonna King, University of Queensland Press, $29.95

The title is a little overblown, since Prof Ian Frazer’s vaccines against cervical cancer have not been applied long enough for the anticipated decrease in cervical cancer rates to appear. Nevertheless, with 275,000 women each year dying as a result of strains of the human papillomavirus that are largely prevented by Gardasil and Cervarix, the potential lives saved could eventually be far higher.

Journalist Madonna King reveals the man behind the research and the challenges he faced both in the lab and in the courtroom to ensure the vaccine reaches those who lack the capacity to pay.

Unnatural Selection: Why the Geeks Will Inherit the Earth

Mark Roeder, ABC Books, $29.99

Technology has changed the definition of fittest when it comes to who survives, argues Mark Roeder. Instead of speed, strength and good looks determining who thrives and passes on their genes, the most beneficial traits are now to be at home in the technological world.

Butterflies

Ross P. Field, Museum Victoria, $29.99

After retiring as head of sciences at Museum Victoria, Dr Ross Field produced a book on his passion, Victorian butterflies. From the extra­ordinary dimples of the tailed emperor butterfly egg to the bright colours and intricate patterns of the adults, this book provides images of remarkable clarity while raising questions about the evolutionary benefits of some of the activities described.

Penguins: Their World, Their Ways

Tui De Roy, Mark Jones & Julie Cornthwaite, CSIRO, $49.95

Few animals have captured the public imagination like penguins: so graceful in the water, so awkward on land and ice. The social lives of these animals are constantly being revealed as more complex than suspected, and research into them even won an IgNobel award for the discovery of the pressure Adélies generate to eject their faeces and avoid fouling their nests. With more than 400 photographs this book brings all 18 species to life.

Abominable Science

Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero, Footprint Books, $35.95

Why do people believe in Yetis or the Loch Ness Monster? This book explores the origins of stories of mythical beasts and why they persist. The authors consider the evidence for and against each creature, look at the major figures in crypto­zoology and explore the psychology of belief in the face of evidence.

The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation

Jay Harman, Allen and Unwin, $29.99

With millions of years of trial and error behind it, nature has often found solutions to the problems humans face. Jay Harman is among the many inventors who have looked to animals and plants for solutions. Harman designed turbines, boats and fans as founder of ERG Australia, and now works at US firm PAX Scientific. In The Shark’s Paintbrush he argues that, far from running out of ideas to copy, humans are about to find in nature techniques that will drive the next scientific revolution.