BOOKS AND ARTS

The social-media war, reclaiming classics from the alt-right, and a fusion of physics and dance: New in paperback

Mary Craig reviews the highlights of this season’s releases.
Mary Craig is Nature’s Books & Arts editorial assistant.

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LikeWar P. W. Singer & Emerson T. Brooking Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2019)

As reports on politics and war flood social media, the medium itself is becoming weaponized: virality is valued over veracity. If you’re online, you inadvertently become part of the war. Warning that ‘you are what you share’, defence specialists P. W. Singer and Emerson Brooking explore the real-world and online geopolitical impacts of this conflict, and how to prepare ourselves for the next unprecedented threat.

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Wizards, Aliens and Starships Charles L. Adler Princeton Univ. Press (2019)

Physicist Charles Adler tracks his own field and maths through science-fiction tropes to separate the plausible from the impossible. The shape-shifting transfiguration spells in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, for instance, pose problems related to conservation of mass.

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Gene Machine Venki Ramakrishnan Oneworld (2019)

This scientific memoir by UK Nobel laureate and Royal Society president Venki Ramakrishnan is invitingly witty. He gives a frank account of the race to demystify the ribosome (the cell’s protein factory), and the highs and frustrations of scientific success (see G. Ferry Nature 561, 32; 2018).

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Big Mind Geoff Mulgan Princeton Univ. Press (2019)

Innovation specialist Geoff Mulgan’s timely work draws on philosophy and computer science to explore collective intelligence: how combining human and technical abilities could help to tackle everyday problems, along with large-scale challenges in public health and climate change.

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Dawn of The Code War John P. Carlin & Garrett M. Graff PublicAffairs (2019)

This cautionary insider story by security strategist John Carlin and journalist Garrett Graff examines targeting of US interests in cyberspace. From election hacking to terrorist recruitment, they provide legal insight into the risky situation facing the United States online.

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Not All Dead White Men Donna Zuckerberg Harvard Univ. Press (2019)

With the proliferation of anti-feminist rhetoric online, the extreme right is using ancient philosophy to boost its credibility. As Stoic ethics moves from lecture halls to Reddit, classicist Donna Zuckerberg exposes this misappropriation, meant to enforce the concept of male superiority.

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Origins of Darwin’s Evolution J. David Archibald Columbia Univ. Press (2019)

Biologist David Archibald examines an unsung hero of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory: historical biogeography, the natural history of species in time and place. Archibald invites us to enrich our understanding through Darwin’s ideas on species evolution in different regions.

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Physics and Dance Emily Coates & Sarah Demers Yale Univ. Press (2019)

New York City Ballet dancer Emily Coates and CERN physicist Sarah Demers interweave science and choreographic research in this unique study. That fusion, they show, can enrich understanding of both fields. An insightful pas de deux between physics and ballet.

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Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits Chip Colwell Univ. Chicago Press (2019)

The fight to reclaim Native American culture goes on. Here, curator Chip Colwell sensitively explores repatriation of human remains held in museum collections, including the scalp of a Native American murdered by the US Army in Colorado’s 1864 Sand Creek massacre.

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Power Up Matthew Lane Princeton Univ. Press (2019)

Passionately nerdy mathematician Matthew Lane reveals how video games could be useful teaching aids. He explores the not-so-hidden maths in the classics — for example, using Mario Kart turtle shells to elucidate the study of pursuit and evasion trajectories. Enlightening.

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To Repair The World Paul Farmer Univ. California Press (2019)

This heartfelt manifesto calls for the next generation to tackle challenges ranging from climate change and health-care access to essential human rights. With humour and passion, medical anthropologist Paul Farmer advocates a cure for society and the planet.

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Virtual Competition Ariel Ezrachi & Maurice E. Stucke Harvard Univ. Press (2019)

From price-comparison algorithms to phone operating systems, technology has altered competitive commerce. Lawyers Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice E. Stucke question the democratic consequences of this dual-edged power.

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Ten Great Ideas About Chance Persi Diaconis & Brian Skyrms Princeton Univ. Press (2019)

Philosopher Brian Skyrms and mathematician Persi Diaconis weave the foundations of probability with economics and history in this engrossing discourse. A must-read for anyone interested in the dissection of probability.

Nature 574, 324-330 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03053-x

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