Ten Great Ideas about Chance
Persi Diaconis and Brian Skyrms
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS: 2017. 272 PP. £22.95.
Probabilities are central to scientific discourse, not least in astronomy and astrophysics. Diaconis and Skyrms explain how chance came to be scientifically understood through a series of pioneers: from the measurement of chance by algebraist — and professional gambler — Cardano to Bayes and Laplace’s foundation of modern statistics and the more modern true algorithmic randomness defined by Martin-Löf. The book examines chance through the lenses of science, history and philosophy.
The Cambridge Photographic Atlas of Galaxies
Michael König and Stefan Binnewies (translated by Phillip Helbig)
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS: 2017. 352 PP. £44.99.
Galaxies, “the siblings of the Milky Way” as the authors dub them, present an astonishing variety of shapes and properties. Following a morphological classification akin to Hubble’s, this atlas showcases spirals, ellipticals and everything in between. Each section begins with a brief introduction to the phenomenology and astrophysics of each class. The book boasts spectacular images of galaxies together with descriptions and some related literature for the interested reader.
Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think
Elaine Howard Ecklund and Christopher P. Scheitle
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS: 2018. 240 PP. £19.99.
Religion and science are often seen as two frameworks of thinking that cannot be reconciled. This is particularly true for cosmology, which deals with the very creation of the Universe. The authors tackle this dichotomy using 320 in-depth interviews and a survey of 10,000 religious and non-religious Americans. It is shown that the perception of science and scientists in religious circles is significantly nuanced. Understanding these nuances is critical for scientists wishing to engage people of faith.
The Tyranny of Metrics
Jerry Z. Muller
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS: 2018. 240 PP. £19.95.
There is an ongoing discussion about the relevance of performance metrics in education and research. How accurate a predictor of performance in grad school are GRE results? How useful is an h-index in assessing a tenure candidate? Muller brings together different strands of research and case studies (in academia and beyond) of how metrics are applied to show what many have long suspected: not all that can be measured should, nor should immeasurable things be shunned from the decision process.