Books in brief

Journal name:
Date published:
Published online

The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy

Jo Marchant Da Capo Press (2013)

The nimbus of romance around Tutankhamun can hide the academic feuds fought over the boy-king's 3,300-year-old mummy. Jo Marchant lifts the golden mask to delve into findings on the enigmatic Egyptian and his relatives. Her rip-roaring story unwraps the science layer by layer, in tandem with the momentous discoveries and the emergence of theories on the ruler's health and parentage. From anatomist Douglas Derry's 1925 autopsy to the X-rays, scans and DNA testing that followed, Marchant lays bare the physical Tut who left behind the crumbling bones.

The Human Spark: The Science of Human Development

Jerome Kagan Basic Books (2013)

As developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan points out, physics (starting with Galileo) is 400 years old; the scientific study of children is 150. This complex field remains in some ways as plastic as the human brain. In his masterful survey, Kagan filters findings in the field. He examines cultural influences, cognition in the first three years of life, morality, the influence of social groupings such as class, and the explosion of mental illness in the young. An authoritative study of the dance of genes and environment in each child as they grow in universally human, and profoundly individual, ways.

The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time

Lance Grande University of Chicago Press (2013)

Fossil, Wyoming, is a ghost town twice over. Its human population drifted away decades ago. But its most famous denizens disappeared in the Eocene epoch tens of millions of years ago: crocodiles, dragonflies, alligators, horses the size of dogs and 23 species of fish. In this lush, in-depth guide to the area's fossilized fauna, palaeontologist Lance Grande, curator at Chicago's wonderful Field Museum, offers an in-depth portrait of an aquatic community that thrived in a subtropical wonderland of jungles and volcanoes. Beautifully illustrated in colour, including a field guide and atlas.

How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction

Robert Martin Basic Books (2013)

Sex, parenting and fertility — human reproduction is one of the most hotly debated areas of human behaviour. Biological anthropologist Robert Martin wields decades of research to get at the evolutionary facts and inform people's reproductive decisions. He explains why it takes hundreds of millions of sperm to fertilize one egg; the low-down on procreation and conception; and key aspects of caregiving, including a natural history of suckling. Fascinating detours abound — such as the successful, and sensitive, toilet training of six-month-old babies by Kenya's Digo people.

Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You

Aleks Krotoski Faber and Faber (2013)

Social psychologist Aleks Krotoski is a geek's geek and authority on the World Wide Web — the social experiment that now involves 2 billion people. Is it working wonders or wreaking havoc? Krotoski joins a host of others in attempting to pick over the claims regarding the pros (such as social empowerment) and cons (such as the growth of cults) of the web. Her verdict is mixed: she avers, for example, that the loss of privacy from digital exposure is real, but that the jury is still out on evidence for Internet addiction.

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