Tag Archives: Carl Zimmer

A universe in an eBook (or app)

If your are into science books – and enjoying the advantage of eBooks (or planning to), this is a web site you really must bookmark.

Download The Universe has just been launched. Science writer Carl Zimmer is the “fall guy” (his description) – but it brings together an impressive list of leading science writers. As Carl describes its aim it will be “an online forum, featuring incisive reviews of science-themed apps and ebooks, that will serve as a guide to the future of scientific information”

Here is a list of the 15 writers involved – some you will no doubt recognise. Check out others through the links.

Carl provides an interesting analysis of the evolution of books in his essay A New Kind of Review for a New Kind of Book – the first post at the site. He says:

“Ebooks are once again redrawing the boundaries. Walk into a book store and look at the science section. Most of the books are between about 200 and 400 pages. Most are created by large publishing houses. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about a 50-page book, of course. It just doesn’t fit comfortably into the publishing business–a business that has to contend with costs for printing books, storing them in warehouses, shipping them to book stores, and accepting returned books. Ebooks create an economic space for the very short book (and the very long one). They also allow authors to reach readers without having to persuade a publisher that their book will earn back an investment.”

He also talks about the new possibilities introduced by tablets.

One limitation indicated by Zimmer’s essay:

“Here we review science ebooks–broadly defined, except for ebooks that are just spin-offs of print books.”

Pity – although I guess those books probably get reviewed quite widely anyway.

via Keep up with the latest science e-books and apps with “Download the Universe”.

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Real science – warts and all

After the PR hype NASA seemed to purposely promote around “arsenic bacteria” research published by Science (see NASA and old lace) there has been quite a critical reaction. Critical of the way the story was hyped by NASA, but also critical of the work itself.

The whole story does raise issues of how science is done, how it is published and reviewed, and how it is reported in the media.  It also raises issues about the sometimes negative role institutions like NASA can play in all this.

There is a useful discussion of this on the latest Guardian Science Weekly podcast (see Science Weekly podcast: Global criticism of the arsenic bacteria study; plus, we expose some dating myths).

Download mp3

A panel of “those in the know,” including astrobiologist Dr Zita Martins from Imperial College London and science writer David Dobbs who has been blogging and tweeting about this specific research, discuss the issue. David writes for the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, Slate, National Geographic, Audubon, and Scientific American Mind, where he is a contributing editor. There is also a clip from Carl Zimmer speaking on NHPR (New Hampshire Public Radio).

The discussion gives a good idea of how science is actually done – warts and all! It looks behind the sometimes ideally presented public image and considers the problem of scientists own emotional agendas, the reality of peer review and new issues arising from the way science is conducted in the internet age.

The panelists see any problems with the “arsenic bacteria” research being resolved over time by the normal process of science and stress that the issues discussed are more general.

As an extra, and for light relief, the podcast also contains  comments from Dr Petra Boynton from UCL exposing four key myths about dating.

The Guardian Science Weekly recently won an award for the best science podcast. It is well presented and informative. Worth subscribing to and following.

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An Introduction to Evolution

Book Review: The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution by Carl Zimmer

Price: US$43:16
Hardcover: 394 pages
Publisher: Roberts and Company Publishers; 1 edition (October 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981519474
ISBN-13: 978-0981519470

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This Tuesday is the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Charles Darwin’s bookOn the Origin of Species“. And earlier this year we celebrated the 200th anniversary of his birth.

These anniversaries have been marked by publication of books about Darwin’s life, his ideas and various aspects of evolutionary science. Most of these are aimed at the adult reader. But here is one which will appeal to school children and young adults – an important section of readers.

The Tangled Bank is an introductory text book. It will be ideal for introductory classes on evolution and biology. But it is also going to appeal to many adults, and especially to families.

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