Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New books

By Stephen Luntz

Your guide to new science books this month.

Australia’s Fossil Heritage
The Australian Heritage Council, CSIRO Publishing, $59.95
Fascination with Australia’s extinct megafauna is rising – what’s not to love about 3-tonne wombats? For the serious enthusiast The Australian Heritage Council has provided a guide to the sites where these, and more ancient, fossils can be found. Accompanied by beautiful watercolour paintings, along with some photographs, this book provides a guide to where to go to seek Australia’s distant past.

Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives
Daniel Tammet, Hachette Australia, $29.99
Daniel Tammet revealed his life as an autistic savant in Born on a Blue Day. In Thinking in Numbers he revels in his love of mathematics, presenting examples of how everything from Shakespeare to Anne Boleyn’s hands can inspire explorations that lead to mathematical solutions.

The Science of Navigation: From Dead Reckoning to GPS
Mark Denny, Footprint Books, $42.95
Now that satellite navigation devices offer us a choice of multiple guided paths to our destination it can be hard to imagine how hard it was to get around before there were maps. Theoretical physicist Mark Denny provides a history of finding one’s way, along with a background on the physical factors that assist and hinder us in traversing the Earth.

Where Nature’s Compass (AS, July/August 2012, p.40) explores how animals face these challenges, this book considers the human solutions.

The Logician and the Engineer
Paul J. Nahin, Princeton University Press, $37.99
Boolean algebra is at the heart of the electronic circuitry in everything we use. How did a system of mathematics established in the Victorian era become the basis for such incredible technological achievements a century later?

In The Logician and the Engineer, maths historian Paul Nahin tells the remarkable story of how two men in different eras – mathematician and philosopher George Boole (1815–64) and electrical engineer and pioneering information theorist Claude Shannon (1916–2001) – advanced Boolean logic and became founding fathers of the electronic communications age.

A Little History of Science
William Bynum, Yale University Press, $32.95
As part of the Little History series, William Bynum treats science like an adventure story. For such a big topic in a fairly small book there is room only for the highlights, and most of Bynum’s examples are familiar. However, for those unfamiliar with how the structure of DNA was revealed, or what e=mc2 actually means, this could offer an introduction.