Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New books

By Stephen Luntz

Your guide to new science books this month.

Lily’ Numbers Puzzles
Lily Serna, Hardie Grant, $19.95
For teachers sick of hearing their students complain that maths is neither relevant nor fun, Lily Serna is here. The co-author of SBS’s Letters and Numbers Australia series says that maths is in her blood: half of her close relatives are engineers along with an analyst and a math’s teacher.

Lily’s Numbers Puzzles contains more than 300 mathematical puzzles demonstrating both the everyday use of mathematics and providing enjoyable challenges to stretch one’s skill.

Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History
Eric Chaline, Allen and Unwin, $35.00
Eric Chaline’s past writing credits include History’s Worst Inventions and a tourist guide to ancient Greece. In Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History he looks at the way certain substances have created trade routes and wars, as well as making new technologies possible. Stretching the boundaries of minerals to breaking point he includes items such as ivory along with many metals, gemstones and rocks.

Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale
Tom Wilbur, Footprint Books, $39.95
Few issues are changing the political landscape as dramatically as the extraction of coal seam gas via the process known as fracking. Australia has seen farming communities divided, often with a majority in alliance with environmentalists previously regarded as the enemy. The same process is taking place in the United States, but with an earlier start.

To observe the conflict where it is most evolved one needs to go to the Marcellus Shale, a formation rich in natural gas running through parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. This is what Tom Wilbur has done, interviewing farmers, miners, scientists and concerned citizens to bring the story to life.

Evolving: The Human Effect and Why It Matters
Daniel J. Fairbanks, Footprint Books, $31.95
Comprehension of evolution is essential not only to understanding where humanity came from, but to tackling the problems we face today, argues geneticist Daniel Fairbanks. Author of the highly successful Relics of Eden, Fairbanks collates the evidence of the ways humans continue to evolve. He also looks at the challenges posed by the evolution of animal, plant and bacterial species in response to the pressures we put on them, and how important it is that we can predict these moves.

The Jewel Hunter
Chris Gooddie, WILDGuides, $29.95
When Chris Gooddie decided to escape High Wycombe, outside London, he went to the opposite extreme. He chased through the tropics looking for what he calls rainforest jewels – the most brightly coloured birds in the world. The journey forced him to deal with venomous snakes, parasitic invertebrates and running out of fuel while crossing the Pacific, but he did see some truly exotic birds.