12 Science Books You Should Read Right Now

This The sofa beckons, and the brain longs for the perfect book: a lyrical, rave-worthy tome that also spreads a great deal of knowledge. That’s how the authors of these top games from 2019 made it. It’s easy for them to put the remote control aside, get out of the attention economy, and season the soul with perfect prose. Grab a copy of these page turners and start living the life of a learned couch potato.

Looking back on a year: What WIRED learned from technology, science, culture, and more in 2019

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Novelist Danny Shapiro’s husband reaches middle age and becomes curious about his family history, so he sends him for a DNA test. He asked her if she wanted one too. Looking up at the wall covered with tan portraits of her Orthodox Jewish family, her interest was barely piqued. But spousal solidarity prevails. She spat, sent, and quickly forgot about it. Until, a few weeks later, her results came back, shattering the reality she had been clinging to.

first half heritage Reads like an emotionally thrilling slash detective story as Shapiro uses modern genealogy tools — genetic data and Google — to uncover a long-buried family secret. While the details of her parents’ lifelong deception are special to Shapiro, in the modern age of cheap DNA testing, thousands of others have shared her experience. These tests are often conducted out of a spirit of curiosity that can throw genetic circular saws on the branches of people’s family trees.

The emotional impact of this serendipitous discovery fills the latter half of Shapiro’s sought-for, tender memoir. At Wired, we tend to report on technological advances in genetic testing and the privacy implications of rapidly expanding DNA databases. For anyone looking to understand the personal aspects of these cultural shifts, heritage should be considered required reading. —Megan Molteni

Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Richard Feynman once called calculus “the language of God”, but I dare not say that I know nothing about it because I have never taken a calculus class. Sometime in high school, I made the mistake of thinking that calculus — and math in general — was a completely uncreative pursuit, mostly shuffling numbers and letters on a page.I just wish I had one infinite power Cornell mathematician Steven Strogatz as a correction.

This is probably the only calculus book ever written that can truly be called a page-turner, which speaks to Strogatz’s strength as a writer and teacher. This book provides a high-level overview of the basic concepts of calculus and details how they are used in modern life. Strogatz eschews complex formulas—few of which appear on these pages—in favor of simple diagrams and illustrations. While the extreme simplifications of extremely exciting mathematics may be daunting for calculus experts, there is something for everyone in this book, especially as he digs deep into the minds of some of the greatest thinkers in history. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the intellectual history of science and mathematics, and for calculus dropouts like myself who wonder what they’re missing. —Daniel Oberhouse

Courtesy of Harper Collins

read A bottle of lies It turned out to be more expensive than I expected. Of course, I paid $14.99 for the Kindle version. But that’s nothing compared to the price of vowing never to buy another generic drug. Pills with the wrong dose, unstable compounds, broken glass, or even insects? I’d rather keep my kidneys, thanks.

Eban build A bottle of lies The extraordinary deception surrounding Indian drugmaker Ranbaxy, which for years produced generic versions of cholesterol drug Lipitor, among other blockbuster drugs. When FDA inspectors showed up at its factories, executives trotted down a Potemkin village with gleaming machines, flawless protocols and laptops with inconvenient data deleted. The actual pill-making takes place in an abandoned shadow laboratory that investigators have never seen before.

What’s particularly maddening, however, is not Ranbaxy’s ethical lapses, but the structural flaws that keep its business afloat. The FDA has been under pressure to provide Americans with cheap drugs. It knows about Ranbaxy’s many missteps — and still allows its products to get into pharmacies and people’s homes. The agency’s dual mandate of keeping the cost of drugs low and making sure they don’t hurt people is in direct conflict, and the desire for a low-price label often wins out. Nobody believed it. —Sandra Upson

Courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing

Californians understand the reality of climate change better than most. We inhaled wildfire smoke and heard calls from city officials for fewer showers and flushes. But the local decisions that help us solve this problem are mostly opaque.Mark Arax, ex los angeles times Journalist, a writer with rare patience for exploring such issues. He has been studying California agriculture for decades, in the fields and coffee shops of the Central Valley farm towns along Route 99. To this day, water deals are made here, and gossip converges into a thread. Journalists can follow in the fog of Thule.

dream land It is Arax’s magnificent history of water in California, which began before the arrival of the Spanish and followed and intensified the current human decisions. It’s a story of how undue court battles and shady deals led to a set of Byzantine laws better suited to draining British swamps than managing vast swathes of quasi-desert. The story ends insidiously with our current era of relative abundance, when rainwater is flowing again and water harvesting has slowed. As fields and orchards expand again, everyone can go back and pretend the land has been tamed. dream land That leaves us with the question: will we go too far when the next drought comes? —Gregory Barber

Courtesy of Abrams Press

In 2011, a gender equality initiative forced the small Swedish town of Karlskoga to reassess its policies. So, the topic of snow removal arose. One official joked that the gender fighters will eventually have nothing to say. Qingxue, sexism? what!

But because men and women travel differently — men are more likely to drive, women are more likely to walk or take public transportation — the town’s farming schedule isn’t, in fact, gender-neutral. It prioritizes cars by ploughing major traffic arteries ahead of sidewalks and bike paths, which are causing more women to be injured by slips and falls.


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