Books & Arts | Published:

Books in brief

Nature volume 515, page 197 (13 November 2014) | Download Citation

Barbara Kiser reviews five of the week's best science picks.

Looking Inside the Brain: The Power of Neuroimaging


(Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan) Princeton University Press (2014) 9780691160610

Who better to lead us into the technological wonderland of in vivo brain imaging than Denis Le Bihan, pioneer of diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI)? His densely factual narrative takes us from the seminal work of French surgeon Paul Broca through evolving technologies such as X-rays and MRI. Now the story is being carried forward by Le Bihan's brainchild NeuroSpin, a French Atomic Energy Commission institute for ultra-high-field brain imaging. In 2015 it will gain an 11.7-tesla magnet and begin the search for a 'neural code'.

Ocean Worlds: The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets

Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams. Oxford University Press (2014) 9780199672882

For this exhilarating foray into our increasingly water-rich Universe, geologist Jan Zalasiewicz and palaeontologist Mark Williams navigate oceans earthly and elsewhere. They explore our ocean systems' formation in deep time, eons of service as life's nursery, current state of crisis and evaporation a billion years hence, under a Sun that will be 10% hotter. They then boldly go to seas actual and putative in the Solar System and beyond, such as the methane-rich Kraken Mare on Saturn's moon Titan, or oceans on exoplanet 55 Cancri e, which may host expanses of that ambiguity, pressurized 'supercritical' water.

The Best American Infographics 2014

Edited by Gareth Cook

Mariner (2014) 9780547974514

The second in the US infographics series edited by Pulitzer-prizewinning journalist Gareth Cook, this is as brilliant as its predecessor. Try the 'Taste Tube Map': James Wannerton's “synaesthetic tour” ascribing mouthfeel to the name of every London Underground station: Bethnal Green is “Boiled Cabbage”; Mile End, “Fingernails”. National Geographic's 'In Harm's Way' is a gorgeous rendering of how tornadic thunderstorms form. And Nature's own 'In the Flesh' beautifully realizes research suggesting that Tyrannosaurus rex may have sported fetching plumage.



Faber & Faber (2014) 9780385352772

This tale of cyber-hackery set against recent upheavals in Australian government is audacious and deliriously strange. Self-described “shit-stirrer” Felix Moore, a journalist in meltdown, is commissioned to write an exclusive on Melbourne radical Gaby Baillieux. Through Moore's eyes and taped conversations, Gaby's relationship with proto-geek Frederic Matovic emerges as a fury-fuelled mission to right corporate wrongs. The two, with thousands of others, are eventually, paradoxically, liberated by malware. Peter Carey's novel jolts us out of a collective amnesia about political trouble Down Under.

The Book of Beetles: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature's Gems


Ivy (2014) 9781782400493

A beetle with “dense, decumbent golden pubescence” inhabiting an air bubble in submerged wood: what's not to love? Imaged in glorious, furry close-up, Lutrochus germari is just one of the 600 species (out of a total of 400,000) featured in this paean to the insects that entranced evolutionary-theory pioneer Alfred Russel Wallace. Curator Patrice Bouchard has picked a bevy of beauties, from the tubercle-covered Gagatophorus draco to the stunning Atlas beetle (Chalcosoma atlas) — three-horned, lustrous and the size of a human hand.

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