Armageddon Science: The Science of Mass Destruction

  • Brian Clegg
St Martin's Press 304 pp. $25.99 (2010)

From biohazards to climate change, there are many ways to erase humanity. Physicist Brian Clegg assesses a range of doomsday scenarios in his book. Although he remains unshaken by the rumoured risk of miniature black holes being created by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe's particle-physics lab in Geneva, Switzerland, he accepts that nanobots and nuclear technologies are credible threats. Ultimately, he is an optimist, who hopes that better science education will help us to make the best choices about our future.

The Darwinian Tourist: Viewing the World Through Evolutionary Eyes

  • Christopher Wills
Oxford University Press 288 pp. $34.95 (2010)

In this travel book with an evolutionary bent, biologist Christopher Wills relates his personal journeys to the world's wildest places. He describes the biodiversity of the Peruvian rainforest, and meets wolf cubs in a Mongolian village to reveal how the domestication of dogs began. He goes on to piece together the story of human evolution with that of the hunter-gatherer peoples of the African Kalahari and the bones of ancient hominins in the island caves of Flores, Indonesia.

Living with Complexity

  • Donald A. Norman
The MIT Press 280 pp. $24.95 (2010)

The complexity of modern technology is a boon rather than a problem, argues influential designer Donald Norman. Just as the owner of a messy desk can quickly locate papers in seemingly random piles, even the most difficult technologies can be tamed through good design and mastery. He sees this as a partnership between the designers who produce objects that tame complexity, and the consumers who must learn the skills needed to use those innovations. Once under control, the cleverest technologies may become as easy to use as a pencil or salt shaker.

Gregory Petsko in Genome Biology: The First 10 Years

  • Gregory Petsko
BioMed Central 304 pp. Available for Kindle ($1.13) and on iPad and iPhone (free) (2010)

To mark the tenth anniversary of the launch of the journal Genome Biology, publisher BioMed Central is releasing an e-book compilation of the columns of structural biologist Gregory Petsko, who has written for the journal every month since 2000. With his characteristic wit and perception, Petsko muses on trends in genomics research, funding and policy. He also discusses how the culture of genomics research is changing in an era of blogs and social networks.

The Colours of Infinity: The Beauty and Power of Fractals (Second Edition)

Edited by:
  • Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon
Springer 174 pp. $59.95 (2010)

In 1995, a groundbreaking television documentary introduced the world to the psychedelic geometries of the Mandelbrot set. Essays on the beauty and mathematics of fractals by the film's contributors, including the father of the field, Benoît Mandelbrot, are collected in Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon's book. This updated edition includes a new chapter written by Mandelbrot just before his death, and the 1995 documentary has been remastered on an associated DVD.