The New York Times bestselling author of Viper Pilot chronicles another thrilling chapter in American aviation history: the race to break the sound barrier.
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States accelerated the development of technologies that would give it an advantage over the Soviet Union. Airpower, combined with nuclear weapons, offered a formidable check on Soviet aggression. In 1947, the United States Air Force was established. Meanwhile, scientists and engineers were pioneering a revolutionary new type of aircraft which could do what no other machine had ever done: reach mach 1 - a speed faster than the movement of sound - which pilots called "the demon."
Chasing the Demon recreates an era of excitement and danger, adventure and innovation, when the future of the free world was at stake and American ingenuity took the world from the postwar years to the space age. While the pressure to succeed was high, it was unknown whether man or machine could survive such tremendous speeds.
A decorated military pilot with years of experience flying supersonic fighter jets, Dan Hampton reveals in-depth the numerous potential hazards that emerged with the Air Force's test flights: controls broke down, engines flamed out, wings snapped, and planes and pilots disintegrated as they crashed into the desert floor. He also introduces the men who pushed the envelope taking the cockpits of these jets, including World War II ace Major Dick Bong and twenty-four-year-old Captain Chuck Yeager, who made history flying the Bell X-1 plane faster than the speed of sound on October 14, 1947.
Illustrated with thirty black-and-white photographs, Chasing the Demon recalls this period of the emerging Cold War and the brave adventurers pursing the final frontier in aviation.
By Berger, Joel
"By turns lyrical, despairing, and hilariously funny. . . . Informative and impassioned." - Publishers Weekly
On the Tibetan Plateau, there are wild yaks with blood cells thinner than those of horses' by half, enabling the endangered yaks to survive at 40 below zero and in the lowest oxygen levels of the mountaintops. But climate change is causing the snow patterns here to shift, and with the snows, the entire ecosystem. Food and water are vaporizing in this warming environment, and these beasts of ice and thin air are extraordinarily ill-equipped for the change. A journey into some of the most forbidding landscapes on earth, Joel Berger's Extreme Conservation is an eye-opening, steely look at what it takes for animals like these to live at the edges of existence. But more than this, it is a revealing exploration of how climate change and people are affecting even the most far-flung niches of our planet.
Berger's quest to understand these creatures' struggles takes him to some of the most remote corners and peaks of the globe: across Arctic tundra and the frozen Chukchi Sea to study muskoxen, into the Bhutanese Himalayas to follow the rarely sighted takin, and through the Gobi Desert to track the proboscis-swinging saiga. Known as much for his rigorous, scientific methods of developing solutions to conservation challenges as for his penchant for donning moose and polar bear costumes to understand the mindsets of his subjects more closely, Berger is a guide par excellence. He is a scientist and storyteller who has made his life working with desert nomads, in zones that typically require Sherpas and oxygen canisters. Recounting animals as charismatic as their landscapes are extreme, Berger's unforgettable tale carries us with humor and expertise to the ends of the earth and back. But as his adventures show, the more adapted a species has become to its particular ecological niche, the more devastating climate change can be. Life at the extremes is more challenging than ever, and the need for action, for solutions, has never been greater.
University of Chicago Press
By Margonelli, Lisa
The award-winning journalist Lisa Margonelli, national bestselling author of Oil on the Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank, investigates the environmental and economic impact termites inflict on human societies in this fascinating examination of one of nature's most misunderstood insects.
Are we more like termites than we ever imagined? In Underbug, the award-winning journalist Lisa Margonelli introduces us to the enigmatic creatures that collectively outweigh human beings ten to one and consume $40 billion worth of valuable stuff annually -- and yet, in Margonelli's telling, seem weirdly familiar. Over the course of a decade-long obsession with the little bugs, Margonelli pokes around termite mounds and high-tech research facilities, closely watching biologists, roboticists, and geneticists. Her globe-trotting journey veers into uncharted territory, from evolutionary theory to Edwardian science literature to the military industrial complex. What begins as a natural history of the termite becomes a personal exploration of the unnatural future we're building, with darker observations on power, technology, historical trauma, and the limits of human cognition.
Whether in Namibia or Cambridge, Arizona or Australia, Margonelli turns up astounding facts and raises provocative questions. Is a termite an individual or a unit of a superorganism? Can we harness the termite's properties to change the world? If we build termite-like swarming robots, will they inevitably destroy us? Is it possible to think without having a mind? Underbug burrows into these questions and many others -- unearthing disquieting answers about the world's most underrated insect and what it means to be human.
Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The Disordered Mind
By Kandel, Eric R
Nobel Prize recipient Eric R. Kandel investigates The Disordered Mind to uncover what brain disorders reveal about human nature. This challenging study will not only help transform medical care but also encourage a new humanism based in part on the biological confirmation of individuality. Eric R. Kandel, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, is one of the pioneers of modern brain science. His work has helped shape our understanding of how learning and memory work. Building from this scientific research, Kandel explores one of the most fundamental questions we face: How does our mind, our individual sense of self, arise from the physical matter of the brain? The brain's 86 billion neurons communicate with one another through very precise connections. If those connections are disrupted, the brain processes that give rise to our mind can become disordered, resulting in diseases such as depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson's, and autism. The Disordered Mind illustrates how breakthrough studies of these disruptions can deepen our understanding of thought, feeling, behavior, memory, and creativity, and perhaps in the future will lead to the development of a unified theory of mind.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The World in a Grain
By Beiser, Vince
The gripping story of the most important overlooked commodity in the world--sand--and the crucial role it plays in our lives.
After water and air, sand is the natural resource that we consume more than any other--even more than oil. Every concrete building and paved road on Earth, every computer screen and silicon chip, is made from sand. From Egypt's pyramids to the Hubble telescope, from the world's tallest skyscraper to the sidewalk below it, from Chartres' stained-glass windows to your iPhone, sand shelters us, empowers us, engages us, and inspires us. It's the ingredient that makes possible our cities, our science, our lives--and our future.
And, incredibly, we're running out of it.
The World in a Grain is the compelling true story of the hugely important and diminishing natural resource that grows more essential every day, and of the people who mine it, sell it, build with it--and sometimes, even kill for it. It's also a provocative examination of the serious human and environmental costs incurred by our dependence on sand, which has received little public attention. Not all sand is created equal: Some of the easiest sand to get to is the least useful. Award-winning journalist Vince Beiser delves deep into this world, taking readers on a journey across the globe, from the United States to remote corners of India, China, and Dubai to explain why sand is so crucial to modern life. Along the way, readers encounter world-changing innovators, island-building entrepreneurs, desert fighters, and murderous sand pirates. The result is an entertaining and eye-opening work, one that is both unexpected and involving, rippling with fascinating detail and filled with surprising characters.
By Swartz, Mimi
It wasn't supposed to be this hard. If America could send a man to the moon, shouldn't the best surgeons in the world be able to build an artificial heart? In Ticker, Texas Monthly executive editor and two time National Magazine Award winner Mimi Swartz shows just how complex and difficult it can be to replicate one of nature's greatest creations.
Part investigative journalism, part medical mystery, Ticker is a dazzling story of modern innovation, recounting fifty years of false starts, abysmal failures and miraculous triumphs, as experienced by one the world's foremost heart surgeons, O.H. "Bud" Frazier, who has given his life to saving the un-savable.
His journey takes him from a small town in west Texas to one of the country's most prestigious medical institutions, The Texas Heart Institute, from the halls of Congress to the animal laboratories where calves are fitted with new heart designs. The roadblocks to success - medical setbacks, technological shortcomings, government regulations - are immense. Still, Bud and his associates persist, finding inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. A field beside the Nile irrigated by an Archimedes screw. A hardware store in Brisbane, Australia. A seedy bar on the wrong side of Houston.
Until post WWII, heart surgery did not exist. Ticker provides a riveting history of the pioneers who gave their all to the courageous process of cutting into the only organ humans cannot live without. Heart surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley, whose feud dominated the dramatic beginnings of heart surgery. Christian Barnaard, who changed the world overnight by performing the first heart transplant. Inventor Robert Jarvik, whose artificial heart made patient Barney Clark a worldwide symbol of both the brilliant promise of technology and the devastating evils of experimentation run amuck.
Rich in supporting players, Ticker introduces us to Bud's brilliant colleagues in his quixotic quest to develop an artificial heart: Billy Cohn, the heart surgeon and inventor who devotes his spare time to the pursuit of magic and music; Daniel Timms, the Brisbane biomedical engineer whose design of a lightweight, pulseless heart with but a single moving part offers a new way forward. And, as government money dries up, the unlikeliest of backers, Houston's furniture king, Mattress Mack.
In a sweeping narrative of one man's obsession, Swartz raises some of the hardest questions of the human condition. What are the tradeoffs of medical progress? What is the cost, in suffering and resources, of offering patients a few more months, or years of life? Must science do harm to do good? Ticker takes us on an unforgettable journey into the power and mystery of the human heart.
Through Two Doors at Once
By Ananthaswamy, Anil
The intellectual adventure story of the "double-slit" experiment, showing how a sunbeam split into two paths first challenged our understanding of light and then the nature of reality itself--and continues to almost 200 years later.
Many of the greatest scientific minds have grappled with this experiment. Thomas Young devised it in the early 1800s to show that light behaves like a wave, and in doing so opposed Isaac Newton's view that light is made of particles. But then Albert Einstein showed that light comes in quanta, or particles. Quantum mechanics was born. This led to a fierce debate between Einstein and Niels Bohr over the nature of reality--subatomic bits of matter and its interaction with light--again as revealed by the double-slit experiment. Richard Feynman held that it embodies the central mystery of the quantum world. Decade after decade, hypothesis after hypothesis, scientists have returned to this ingenious experiment to help them answer deeper and deeper questions about the fabric of the universe.
How can a single particle behave both like a particle and a wave? Does a particle, or indeed reality, exist before we look at it, or does looking create reality, as the textbook "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics seems to suggest? How can particles influence each other faster than the speed of light? Is there a place where the quantum world ends and the familiar classical world of our daily lives begins, and if so, can we find it? And if there's no such place, then does the universe split into two each time a particle goes through the double-slit?
Through Two Doors at Once celebrates the elegant simplicity of an iconic experiment and its profound reach. With his extraordinarily gifted eloquence, Anil Ananthaswamy travels around the world, through history and down to the smallest scales of physical reality we have yet fathomed. It is the most fantastic voyage you can take.
By Gregory, Alice
Sleep is vital to the way we learn, remember and forget, to how we feel about family and partners, our wellbeing, and our mental and physical health. It is essential for life itself. In Nodding Off, renowned sleep researcher Alice Gregory explores every aspect of sleep, from the different stages of sleep and how our sleeping patterns change throughout our lives, to what happens when things go wrong and getting some shut-eye becomes more of a trial than a pleasure.
Using cutting-edge findings in the field, Gregory tackles the big questions, such as:
- How do things that happen before we are even born affect our sleep? - What sleep problems should raise a red flag in children? - How do genes influence the way we sleep? - What are the consequences of sleep problems in the elderly?
Most of us spend a large portion of our lives asleep without ever thinking about why we do this. Nodding Off lifts the lid on this mysterious and universal past time. It examines all of the biggest sleep secrets, and Professor Gregory provides solutions to some of the common sleep problems that people suffer throughout their lives.
The Tangled Tree
By Quammen, David
Nonpareil science writer David Quammen explains how recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life's history, with powerful implications for human health and even our own human nature.
In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field - the study of life's diversity and relatedness at the molecular level - is horizontal gene transfer (HGT) , or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection - a type of HGT.
In The Tangled Tree David Quammen, "one of that rare breed of science journalists who blends exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling" (Nature) , chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them - such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about "mosaic" creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health.
"Quammen is no ordinary writer. He is simply astonishing, one of that rare class of writer gifted with verve, ingenuity, humor, guts, and great heart" (Elle) . Now, in The Tangled Tree, he explains how molecular studies of evolution have brought startling recognitions about the tangled tree of life - including where we humans fit upon it. Thanks to new technologies such as CRISPR, we now have the ability to alter even our genetic composition - through sideways insertions, as nature has long been doing. The Tangled Tree is a brilliant guide to our transformed understanding of evolution, of life's history, and of our own human nature.
Simon & Schuster
By Shetterly, Susan Hand
Glimpse the wonders of a hidden world.
An ancient, and vital, part of nature's ecosystem, seaweed is now emerging as an increasingly important source of food in a world faced with diminishing natural resources.
In Seaweed Chronicles, acclaimed nature writer Susan Hand Shetterly opens a window into the world of this fascinating organism by providing an elegant, often poetic look at life on the rugged shore of the Gulf of Maine. Shetterly offers a close look at the life cycle of seaweed, and introduces us to the men and women who farm and harvest it - and their increasingly difficult task of protecting this critical natural resource against forces both natural and man-made.
Ideal for readers of such books as The Hidden Life of Trees and How to Read Water, Seaweed Chronicles is a beautiful tribute to a little-known part of our country and a significant contribution to our understanding of our natural habitat.