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Barbara Kiser's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Barbara Kiser recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Barbara Kiser's favorite book recommendations of all time.

From the glaciers of the Alps to the towering cumulonimbus clouds of the Caribbean and the unexpectedly chaotic flows of the North Atlantic, Waters of the World is a tour through 150 years of the history of a significant but underappreciated idea: that the Earth has a global climate system made up of interconnected parts, constantly changing on all scales of both time and space. A prerequisite for the discovery of global warming and climate change, this idea was forged by scientists studying water in its myriad forms. This is their story.

Linking the history of the planet...
Recommended by Barbara Kiser, and 1 others.

Barbara KiserIt’s inspired. Sarah Dry is a science historian specialising in climate. And it is history, she shows, that helps to ground our understanding of the nature and findings of baggy multidisciplinary fields like climate science. So at a time when millions of people worldwide are demonstrating over the climate crisis — basically fighting for a future — Dry looks to the past: to the very roots of the... (Source)

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A breakthrough work in neuroscience and an incisive corrective to a long history of damaging pseudo-science, finally debunking the myth that there is a biological binary between male and female brains.

For decades if not centuries, science has backed up society's simple dictum that men and women are hardwired differently, that the world is divided by two different kinds of brains--male and female. However, new research in neuroimaging suggests that this is little more than "neurotrash."

In this powerfully argued work, acclaimed professor of cognitive neuroimaging...
Recommended by Barbara Kiser, and 1 others.

Barbara KiserIt’s a sizzling response to the ongoing intensity of need, in society and some scientific enclaves, to ‘sex’ the brain. That is an issue the psychologist Cordelia Fine, among others, has explored in studies such as Delusions of Gender. But we need to revisit it, Gina Rippon argues: myths and misconceptions persist. She accordingly debunks a great deal of bad science and received wisdom, while... (Source)

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The remarkable story of the heroic effort to save and preserve Afghanistan's wildlife-and a culture that derives immense pride and a sense of national identity from its natural landscape.

Postwar Afghanistan is fragile, volatile, and perilous. It is also a place of extraordinary beauty. Evolutionary biologist Alex Dehgan arrived in the country in 2006 to build the Wildlife Conservation Society's Afghanistan Program, and preserve and protect Afghanistan's unique and extraordinary environment, which had been decimated after decades of war.

Conservation, it turned...
Recommended by Barbara Kiser, and 1 others.

Barbara KiserAlex Dehgan’s account of conservation along the country’s ‘biological Silk Road’ is alternately hair-raising, poignant and enlightening. He recounts the setbacks and stresses of assembling a crack team under impossible conditions, of field research in a bullet-strewn wilderness, of setting up the country’s first national park in Band-e Amir. It was, he shows, a grueling, complex operation with... (Source)

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*Shortlisted for the 2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize*

One of the most fascinating scientific detective stories of the last fifty years, an exciting quest for a new form of matter. “A riveting tale of derring-do” (Nature), this book reads like James Gleick’s Chaos combined with an Indiana Jones adventure.

When leading Princeton physicist Paul Steinhardt began working in the 1980s, scientists thought they knew all the conceivable forms of matter. The Second Kind of Impossible is the story of Steinhardt’s...
Recommended by Barbara Kiser, Nigel Shadbolt, and 2 others.

Barbara KiserIt’s a window on the process of discovery, a blow-by-blow account of a long wrangle with theory and evidence. Paul Steinhardt — a cosmologist fascinated by novel forms of matter — relates his indefatigable decades-long quest for an ‘impossible’ material, the quasicrystal, with Holmesian intensity…This is a book offering a real sense of the collaborative, generous-minded aspect of doing science. (Source)

Nigel ShadboltPaul Steinhardt, a world-renowned physicist, takes us on a journey through the history of our understanding of crystals. He explains how scientific orthodoxy came to a firm view as to the sorts of structures nature would generate. (Source)

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A pioneering neuroscientist argues that we are more than our brains
To many, the brain is the seat of personal identity and autonomy. But the way we talk about the brain is often rooted more in mystical conceptions of the soul than in scientific fact. This blinds us to the physical realities of mental function. We ignore bodily influences on our psychology, from chemicals in the blood to bacteria in the gut, and overlook the ways that the environment affects our behavior, via factors varying from subconscious sights and sounds to the weather. As a result, we alternately...
Recommended by Barbara Kiser, and 1 others.

Barbara KiserHe reminds us that brains are organs: messy, awash with fluids and glue-like glial cells as well as neurons. Like (and unlike) our other organs, our brains interact with the rest of our bodies. (Source)

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A contrarian argues that modern physicists' obsession with beauty has given us wonderful math but bad science.

Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of physics for more than four decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable to...
Recommended by Barbara Kiser, and 1 others.

Barbara KiserThis is a firecracker of a book—a shot across the bows of theoretical physics. Sabine Hossenfelder, a theoretical physicist working on quantum gravity and blogger, confronts failures in her field head-on. (Source)

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Patricia Fara unearths the forgotten suffragists of World War I who bravely changed women's roles in the war and paved the way for today's female scientists.

Many extraordinary female scientists, doctors, and engineers tasted independence and responsibility for the first time during the First World War. How did this happen? Patricia Fara reveals how suffragists including Virginia Woolf's sister, Ray Strachey, had already aligned themselves with scientific and technological progress, and that during the dark years of war they mobilized women to enter conventionally...
Recommended by Angela Saini, Barbara Kiser, and 2 others.

Angela SainiFara looks at the sometimes forgotten history of women who took up ‘men’s work’ in science and industry during the First World War. It’s a book that I think fills an important gap in our understanding of the history of suffrage. (Source)

Barbara KiserScience historian Patricia Fara’s powerful book looks at the socio-political ferment around women’s suffrage through a scientific lens. We walk the walk with scores of women in science from the nineteenth century, through the war years and into the early twentieth century, when sexism was pervasive and blatant. (Source)

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Alan Stern and David Grinspoon take us behind the scenes of the science, politics, egos, and public expectations that fueled the greatest space mission of our time: New Horizons' misison to Pluto.

On July 14, 2015, something amazing happened. More than 3 billion miles from Earth, a small NASA spacecraft called New Horizons screamed past Pluto at more than 32,000 miles per hour, focusing its instruments on the long mysterious icy worlds of the Pluto system, and then, just as quickly, continued on its journey out into the beyond.

Nothing like this has occurred in a...
Recommended by Brad Feld, Barbara Kiser, and 2 others.

Brad FeldIf you read one book from this list, read this one, especially if you live in Boulder. Alan Stern, the PI on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, wrote – with David Grinspoon – a riveting story that spans around 30 years. Both Alan and David are at CU Boulder, which plays a key role in the exploration of the last planet in our solar system (there – I said it – Pluto is a planet, the IAU be damned.)... (Source)

Barbara KiserThis is an account of NASA’s New Horizons probe, which zipped past Pluto on a July 2015 flyby 4.8 billion kilometres from Earth—a dynamic soup-to-nuts treatment of the mission by its principal investigator Alan Stern and astrobiologist David Grinspoon. Thus, it’s the ultimate insider’s account. (Source)

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The Moon

A History for the Future

An intimate portrait of the Earth's closest neighbor--the Moon--that explores the history and future of humankind's relationship with it

Every generation has looked towards the heavens and wondered at the beauty of the Moon. Fifty years ago, a few Americans became the first to do the reverse--and shared with Earth-bound audiences the view of their own planet hanging in the sky instead.
Recently, the connection has been discovered to be even closer: a fragment of the Earth's surface was found embedded in a rock brought back from the Moon. And astronauts are preparing to...
Recommended by Tom Holland, Barbara Kiser, and 2 others.

Tom HollandI finish @Eaterofsun’s The #Moon: A History For The Future. It is probably the best book on astronomy I have ever read. Brilliant on the interface between hard science & the imagination. I learnt so much. It’s also wonderfully written. #Recommended. (Source)

Barbara KiserThe writing ever edges into the poetic; it’s just a constant pleasure. At a time when many are eyeing up that dusty expanse again for what Morton calls the Return, this book steps back, deftly explaining the science on our satellite and its cultural niche in the charged space between the once and future Moons. (Source)

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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....
Recommended by Robert Macfarlane, Barbara Kiser, and 2 others.

Robert Macfarlane@josephQED @abinadi Quammen’s is a great book. (Source)

Barbara KiserQuammen is one of the great science journalists, and this is a monument of a book—a masterful retelling of how the ‘tree of life’ was recast in the twentieth century by a band of original thinkers. (Source)

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