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Books in brief

Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History

Doubleday 320 pp. $26.95 (2011)

In 2002, NASA fellow Thad Roberts, aided by three interns, stole lunar and martian samples from a Johnson Space Center vault in Houston, Texas. As writer Ben Mezrich deftly recounts, Roberts's motivation was not geological obsession, but a desire to impress one of his accomplices, Tiffany Fowler. In a bizarre act that was both poetic and literal-minded, Roberts made love to her on a bed strewn with Moon rocks — hence the book's title. Rarely has career suicide been so entertaining.

A Martian Stranded on Earth: Alexander Bogdanov, Blood Transfusions, and Proletarian Science

University of Chicago Press 192 pp. $35 (2011)

We sometimes forget that the Russian revolution convulsed science as well as society. Now philosopher of science Nikolai Krementsov gives a portrait of a Bolshevik scientist at the epicentre of that revolution. A political rival to Lenin, Alexander Bogdanov was a physician, philosopher and sci-fi writer. Krementsov sketches a rounded picture of a polymath who set up the world's first institute for blood-transfusion research and whose philosophical work laid the foundations of systems theory.

Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer

Broadway Books 416 pp. $24.99 (2011)

American wilderness artist and writer Everett Ruess, a contemporary of photographer Ansel Adams, was an archaeologist–naturalist manqué who ventured solo into remote areas of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, starting when he was just 15. Ruess was a prodigious journal-keeper, poet and printmaker, but disappeared in November 1934 near Escalante, Utah, aged just 20. His fate remains a mystery but his works continue to astound. Roberts shows that we can still 'find' Ruess in compilations of his art and writings.

Sustainability Management: Lessons from and for New York City, America, and the Planet

Columbia University Press 256 pp. $35 (2011)

Some 25 years after the concept of sustainability emerged, policy solutions to implementing it remain elusive. Cohen, executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute in New York, argues that we now have enough successful examples to draw up blueprints for keeping the planet viable and economies afloat. Through case studies such as New York's community gardens, Cohen looks at sustainable practice in business, energy, water and food supply, and the technical, financial and political challenges of transmuting ideas into action.

Litmus: Short Stories from Modern Science

Edited by:
Comma Press 298 pp. £9.99 (2011)

From Jeremiah Horrocks's observation of the transit of Venus in 1639 to Alan Turing's revelations about morphogenesis in 1952, 'eureka' moments shift our take on the cosmos. They can also make for supercharged narratives. In 17 short stories, novelists and poets including Sean O'Brien and Kate Clanchy retell lightbulb moments from centuries of science. Each has an afterword by an expert, from Jim Al-Khalili on Einstein's special theory of relativity to Denis Noble on heart modelling and Giacomo Rizzolatti on mirror neurons.

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Books in brief. Nature 475, 171 (2011).

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