Want to know what’s hot off the press? Check out our pick of 10 of the best popular science books coming out this month
10 of the best popular science books out in March 2021
A World on the Wing
Birds disappear from our gardens in the winter, and reappear around spring. We know that they head south for warmer weather. But have you ever thought about how remarkable that journey is?
A sandpiper, for example, can fly non-stop for six days with no food, covering over 5,000km from the Canadian subarctic to northern South America, navigating by the Earth’s magnetic field.
In A World on the Wing, Scott Weidensaul tells the tale of tracking bird migration around the world, and the story of his own journey from amateur bird watcher to expert ornithologist.
Burn: The Misunderstood Science of Metabolism
The metabolism is the subject of many a diet myth. Luckily, evolutionary biologist Herman Pontzer is here to debunk them with his book Burn.
The main one he takes on is the idea that exercise increases our metabolism. In fact, he says, we all burn nearly 3,000 calories per day, no matter our activity level.
Drawing on his own research, Pontzer explores the myriad ways that our metabolism affects our body as a whole, from our immune system to fertility.
A remote archipelago off the North coast of Germany doesn’t seem like an obvious location for ground-breaking scientific research to take place. But in the 1920s, following an intense bout of hay fever, 23-year-old Werner Heisenberg retreated to the tree-less island of Helgoland, where he made remarkable progress in the field of quantum physics.
Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli uses this anecdote to explore the history of quantum mechanics in Helgoland. And of course, Rovelli explores the science in depth, as well as the history. He looks at the popular competing theories, and introduces his own: the ‘relational’ interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Notes From Deep Time
From the Earth’s perspective, humans are a tiny speck in a vast timeline of billions of years. In the story of our ever-changing world, inscribed in the planet itself, we are only the most recent chapter.
Helen Gordon tells that story in Notes from Deep Time. She looks far into the past, to see what knowledge we can glean, and forwards into the future, to see what trace we will leave behind. This story covers ancient rocks in the Scottish Highlands, to volcanoes beneath Naples, to a state-of-the-art earthquake monitoring system in California.
Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain
Lisa Feldman Barrett
The brain is the most important organ in the body, but it’s also the one we understand the least about. Somewhere in this lump of stuff between our ears lies the mind – and that’s the very thing that makes us who we are.
Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett’s Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain debunks common brain myths using cutting-edge research. She looks into the notion of the primitive “lizard brain” controlling our instincts, whether our thoughts do battle with our emotions, and why we even have brains at all.
- Read more about your brain from Lisa Feldman Barrett
- Buy now from Amazon UK, Bookshop.org or Waterstones
The Brilliant Abyss
The deep sea is a world completely unlike our own, with chilly waters, next to no light, and immense pressure. And the life down in the deep has captured humanity’s imagination for centuries, with tales of sea monsters in cultures around the world.
But now we’re in the golden age of deep-sea exploration, and so there are plenty of new discoveries for Helen Scales to bring to the surface in The Brilliant Abyss. However, as she illuminates, it’s not just scientists who have a keen interest in the deep sea: there are also those looking to make a profit.
The Mission: A True Story
David W Brown
With three Mars landings last month alone, the search for life on the Red Planet is alive and well. But Mars isn’t necessarily the best place in our galaxy to look for life – or even the best in our Solar System.
Europa, a moon of Jupiter, is believed to be the home of the first-known ocean off Earth – which makes it a perfect candidate for harbouring life. However, convincing NASA to send a mission there wasn’t an easy task.
In The Mission, David W Brown tells the remarkable story of the team of scientists whose determination made the Europa Clipper mission happen, despite resistance from all quarters.
This is the Voice
Your voice has a very long, very complex and amazingly interesting history. Or specifically, your larynx – the body part allowing you to speak – does.
As author John Colapinto outlines in the fascinating book This Is the Voice, this intricate organ has evolved over millions of years and is partly what made humans the dominant force on Earth.
Over 300 pages, Colapinto travels the corners of the globe – from Harvard University to remote settlements on the Amazon – to explain how our voice boxes are so effective at communicating, and how our unique sonic signatures shaped civilisation.
We Are Nature
We tend to think of humans as somehow set apart from the natural world. We talk about animals as though we aren’t one ourselves. But nature will always be a part of us, and we will always be a part of nature.
Bushcraft expert Ray Mears is keen for us to embrace nature and understand our place within it. In We Are Nature, Mears tells us how not just to survive in the wild, but to share our planet with the other creatures that inhabit it.
The World Before Us: How Science is Revealing a New Story of Our Human Origins
Imagine living on Earth 50,000 years ago. Our Homo sapiens ancestors lived alongside at least four other species of human: Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis. How did they live alongside each other? Did they mix, interbreed, even share ideas?
We know better than ever that to tell the story of the human race, we must make sure to include all the characters.
Tom Higham is a professor of Archaeological Science at the forefront of research into the Denisovans. In The World Before Us, he explains what we know about our ancient relatives and the cutting-edge science that allows us to know it.
The best books of all time
We reckon this is a fine selection of books to read this month, but there are plenty more that are well worth your time from the annals of history. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, here are a few more of our book recommendations to mull over:
- 20 of the best wildlife books and nature writing
- 16 of the best maths books
- 5 best physics books, according to Jim Al-Khalili
- AI: 5 of the best must-read artificial intelligence books
- 5 race science books you must read
- Science books for kids: 5 books for budding scientists
Are you excited to read any of the books on this list? Let us know what you think of our pick of the best science books out this month by messaging us on Twitter or Facebook, tag us in a picture of you reading any of the books on Instagram, and join the Science Focus Book Club for a community of other science book lovers.