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Books in brief

Nature volume 507, page 305 (20 March 2014) | Download Citation

Governing Marine Protected Areas: Resilience through Diversity

Peter J. S. Jones

Routledge (2014)

Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs — ocean zones limiting human activity — cover little more than 2% of the world's oceans, despite an internationally agreed target of 10% by 2020. And thousands of those that do exist are little more than 'paper parks', many scientists have found. Entering these choppy waters is geographer Peter Jones, who shows, through some 20 case studies, how and how not to govern MPAs effectively. Jones compellingly concludes that a diversity of incentives, from economic to social, is as essential as the diversity of the ecosystems MPAs are designed to protect.

Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age

James Secord

Oxford University Press (2014)

Angst over scientific literacy is nothing new, notes James Secord. The political unease and religious turmoil in early Victorian Britain prompted John Herschel and fellow scientific utopians to urge a corrective: the dissemination of 'useful', or scientific, knowledge across society. As Secord shows, access to texts such as Charles Babbage's searing 1830 Reflections on the Decline of Science in England helped to foment an intellectual revolution in step with those in industry and modern science.

The Galapagos

Henry Nicholls

Profile Books (2014)

From the plangent cries of blue-footed boobies to the plash of swimming iguanas, the Galapagos islands remain pristine — but for how long? In this natural and human history of Darwin's living laboratory, Henry Nicholls surfs from geology, oceanography and marine biology to resident land species, not least the burgeoning population of Homo sapiens. Throughout, he intertwines key accounts such as Darwin's inspired musings on geological uplift and the piscine encounters of pioneer diver William Beebe. One for the scientific islomane with a sense of the bigger picture.

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance

Steven Kotler

New Harvest (2014)

In extreme athletics, 'redefining the possible' is happening at an unprecedented rate. In this high-octane study, Steven Kotler explores 'flow', a neurochemically rich state in which cognitive and physiological processes mesh. The stupendous physical feats of the late ski-base jumper Shane McConkey and others are riveting. Equally surprising is what we know of flow science, such as how the brain's superior frontal gyrus deactivates to speed decision-making — and how 'bliss addiction' can result from too much exposure to flow states.

A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants

Ruth Kassinger

William Morrow (2014)

After 'murdering' a kumquat tree through hard pruning, Ruth Kassinger set out to understand plant physiology through the history of botany. In this scientific wonderland, we encounter Robert Hooke's exquisite drawings of plant structure in Micrographia (1665); arsenic-gobbling brake ferns; and the single eukaryote that, 1.6 billion years ago, engulfed a cyanobacterium and spawned the multitude of chloroplasts that made life on Earth possible.

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