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See Inside May 2011

Recommended: The Fate of Greenland

Books and recommendations from Scientific American



Photograph by Gary Comer, courtesy of MIT Press

The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change
by Philip W. Conkling, Richard Alley, Wallace Broecker and George Denton. MIT Press, 2011

Spanning more than 600,000 square miles, Greenland’s ice sheet is the largest outside Antarctica. But it is melting fast, with the thunderous sounds of icebergs calving off glaciers filling the air. This is not the first time Greenland has undergone abrupt climate change. Comparatively balmy temperatures in the 10th century allowed Norse settlers to colonize the area; the ensuing Little Ice Age coincided with their disappearance. In this book, illustrated with dramatic color photographs, four leading climate experts chronicle Greenland’s climate history and discuss what the current warming means for this frozen place and for the rest of the world.

The Book of Universes: Exploring the Outer Limits of the Cosmos
by John D. Barrow. W. W. Norton, 2011

Universes that spin, ones that occupy black holes, ones that permit time travel—these are but a few of the bizarre types of universes that modern physics tells us exist parallel to our own. John D. Barrow, professor of mathematical sciences and director of a public outreach math program at the University of Cambridge, takes readers on an armchair tour of these exotic corners of the cosmos and explains how they might all be part of a single “multiverse.”

The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good
by David J. Linden. Viking, 2011

Pleasure takes many forms—from runner’s high to the rush from winning big at the casino—each of which activates pleasure circuitry in the brain. Neuroscientist David J. Linden of Johns Hopkins University examines the neurobiology of pleasure and explains, among other things, how the brain’s reward system can backfire, leading to addiction.

A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher
by Joel Achenbach. Simon and Schuster, 2011

It is one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history: on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and unleashing a gusher of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. By the time engineers plugged the Macondo well on September 19, nearly five million barrels of crude had fouled the Gulf. Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach looks at what went wrong and how engineers eventually figured out how to kill Macondo.

ALSO NOTABLE
Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science,
by Philip Mirowski. Harvard University Press, 2011

A Planet of Viruses,
by Carl Zimmer. University of Chicago Press, 2011

Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy,
by Seth Fletcher. Hill and Wang, 2011

The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments,
by Jim Baggott. Oxford University Press, 2011 ($29.95)

EXHIBITS
The World’s Largest Dinosaurs. April 16, 2011–January 2, 2012, at the American Museum of
Natural History in New York City.

Suited for Space. April 6–September 25 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

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