Bell, Jim. The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission. Dutton. Feb. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780525954323. $27.95. ASTRONOMY
The Voyager spacecraft mission was launched in 1977 with the aim of traveling into interstellar space; Voyager 1 left the solar system in 2013 and sister craft Voyager 2 is expected to do so in 2015. Clipping along at 11 miles a second, Voyager 1 (carrying artifacts of human civilization) will pass its first star in 40,000 years. President of the Planetary Society and recipient of the 2011 Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society, Bell (The Space Book) explains how the mission came about and what we have learned so far.
Dunn, Robb. The Man Who Touched His Own Heart: True Tales of Science, Surgery, and Mystery. Little, Brown. Feb. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780316225793. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316225809. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. SCIENCE
An evolutionary biologist at North Carolina State University whose most recent book was the much-praised The Wild Life of our Bodies, Dunn here delivers a study of the human heart—not, of course, in the emotive sense but as the vital organ driving our bodies. As he chronicles our study of the heart from the time of persevering body snatchers to today’s heart transplants, he answers interesting questions such as why we often succumb to heart disease when close kin like chimpanzees don’t.
Gazzaniga, Michael S. Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience. Ecco. Feb. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780062228802. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062228819. NEUROSCIENCE
If you go about proclaiming that you are a right-brain or a left-brain sort of person, you can thank Gazzaniga (Who’s in Charge: Free Will and the Science of the Brain). Director of the SAGE Center of the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and sometimes called the father of cognitive neuroscience, Gazzaniga was part of the team that first determined that the two different hemispheres of the brain have different capabilites and can act independently. Here he relates his life in science while telling us everything we’d like to know about split-brain brain theory. With a 30,000-copy first printing.
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harper. Feb. 2015 464p. ISBN 9780062316097. ebk. ISBN 9780062316103. $29.99. EVOLUTION
What’s especially interesting about this book on evolution? Harari is actually a lecturer in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here he blends the historical and the scientific, starting with the advent of modern cognition about 70,000 years ago as he considers why, given the number of human species that existed in the millennia beforehand, Homo sapiens came out on top. A no. 1 best seller in Israel set to be translated into 28 languages; with a 50,000-copy first printing.
Kirschvink, Joe & Peter Ward. A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9781608199075. $30. LIFE SCIENCES
Our understanding of evolution has, well, evolved since Charles Darwin first proposed his theories 150 years ago, and Kirschvink and Ward, a professor of biology and of Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington and a professor of geobiology at the California Institute of Technology, respectively, are here to argue that it’s high time to change our current master view. Drawing from multiple disciplines and dropping fun ideas like eight-foot centipedes and seeds of life coming from Mars, this should be a provocative read.
Konner, Melvin. Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy. Norton. Feb. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780393239966. $26.95. EVOLUTION
Best known for The Tangled Wing, a celebrated study of the biological roots of human behavior, Konner—Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University—draws on a lifetime of study to argue for the natural superiority of women. Grabbing evidence from sources as wide-ranging as coral reef fish and hunter-gatherer societies in Botswana, he sees not the end of men but the end of ruthless male supremacy, which emerged at a time of intensifying wars among humans.
Price, Catherine. Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection. Penguin Pr. Feb. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781594205040. $27.95. NUTRITION
Winner of the Gobind Behari Lal Prize for science writing, Price explains pointedly that while we know there are 13 dietary chemicals called vitamins, we don’t know exactly what they do or how much we need of each for optimum health. The result? A blitz of vitamin supplements obscuring the fact that all the vitamins (and other nutrients) we need are right there in our food. Price covers a century of research and mythologizing (the word vitamin was coined only in 1912) while looking at how we can rethink our attitudes and our eating habits.
Ritland, Mike & Gary Brozek. Team Dog: How To Train Your Dog—the Navy Seal Way. Putnam. Feb. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780399170751. $27.95. DOGS
After 12 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, Ritland quit to found his own company to train dogs for SEAL teams, work he has already chronicled in the New York Times best seller Trident K9 Warriors. Here he shows how his training techniques can be extended to the family dog to assure its trust, obedience, and loyalty. Go, hounds!