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5 Summer Pop Science Books Not to Be Missed

Whether you're interested in science history, how brains work, or the mathematics of gender...

The Great Quake Debate: The Crusader, the Skeptic, and the Rise of Modern Seismology by Susan Hough

In the first half of the twentieth century, when seismology was still in in its infancy, renowned geologist Bailey Willis faced off with fellow high-profile scientist Robert T. Hill in a debate with life-or-death consequences for the millions of people migrating west. Their conflict centered on a consequential question: Is southern California earthquake country? These entwined biographies of Hill and Willis offer a lively, accessible account of the ways that politics and financial interests influenced the development of earthquake science. 

Manhattan Project: The Story of the Century by Bruce Cameron Reed 

Though thousands of articles and books have been published on various aspects of the Manhattan Project (the United States Army’s program to develop and deploy atomic weapons in World War II), this book is the first comprehensive single-volume history prepared by a specialist for curious readers without a scientific background. This is a wide-ranging survey that not only tells the story of how the project was organized and carried out, but also introduces the leading personalities involved and features simplified but accurate descriptions of the underlying science and the engineering challenges. The technical points are illustrated by reader-friendly graphics. 

The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move by Sonia Shah

A prize-winning journalist upends our centuries-long assumptions about migration through science, history, and reporting–predicting its lifesaving power in the face of climate change. Conclusively tracking the history of misinformation from the 18th century through today’s anti-immigration policies, The Next Great Migration makes the case for a future in which migration is not a source of fear, but of hope.

Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn by Sanjay Sarma and Luke Yoquinto

Grasp is a groundbreaking look at the science of learning: how it’s transforming education and how we can use it to discover our true potential, as individuals and across society by a renowned MIT professor.  Sarma debunks long-held views such as the noxious idea of “learning styles,” while equipping readers with a set of practical tools for absorbing and retaining information across a lifetime of learning. He presents a vision for learning that’s more inclusive and democratic–revealing a world bursting with powerful learners, just waiting for the chance they deserve.

x + y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender by Eugenia Cheng 

Why are men in charge? After years in the male-dominated field of mathematics and in the female-dominated field of art, Eugenia Cheng has heard the question many times. In x + y, Cheng argues that her mathematical specialty — category theory — reveals why. Category theory deals more with context, relationships, and nuanced versions of equality than with intrinsic characteristics. Category theory also emphasizes dimensionality: much as a cube can cast a square or diamond shadow, depending on your perspective, so too do gender politics appear to change with how we examine them. Because society often rewards traits that it associates with males, such as competitiveness, we treat the problems those traits can create as male. But putting competitive women in charge will leave many unjust relationships in place. If we want real change, we need to transform the contexts in which we all exist, and not simply who we think we are.

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