10 of the best popular science books out in March 2020

Zoology, climate change and a book about blood make our list of the best new science books out this month.

Check out our pick of the new popular science books out this month

30-Second Zoology Edited by Mark Fellowes £14.99, Ivy Press, 3 March 2020

30-Second Zoology

Edited by Mark Fellowes

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£14.99, Ivy Press, 3 March 2020

The animal kingdom is a beautiful thing, but it is also broad and complex, so the study of zoology can be a daunting prospect for many. This beautifully illustrated book has been put together by University of Reading Professor of Ecology Mark Fellowes, and pulls out 50 of the most fundamental categories and concepts from the study of animals, explaining them in 300 words or fewer (hence ‘30-second zoology’).

As well as covering a diverse range of subjects, from how we came to understand evolution to the problems posed by habitat loss, the book also profiles some of the most important figures in the field.

Our House is on Fire Malena and Beata Ernman, Svante and Greta Thunberg £16.99, Allen Lane, 5 March 2020

Our House is on Fire

Malena and Beata Ernman, Svante and Greta Thunberg

£16.99, Allen Lane, 5 March 2020

How does a teenager become the head of a mass climate change campaign? What led to fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg going on her first school strike on Friday, 20 August 2019, and how does she now stand up in front of some of today’s biggest figures to lecture them on their mistakes?

In this book, Malena Ernman tells the story of how her daughter Greta became one of the world’s leading climate activists. It is not a memoir, Malena stresses, but a series of scenes that describe their family and experiences leading up to that day, when Greta sat outside the Swedish parliament to protest climate inaction, and their lives forever changed.

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils David Farrier £16.99, 4th Estate, 5 March 2020

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils

David Farrier

£16.99, 4th Estate, 5 March 2020

What modern-day materials will we leave behind for future humans to discover? What will they learn about us, our culture, our values, our achievements, through these future fossils?

In Footprints, David Farrier tells the tale of a changing world. It is in the Anthropocene’s ashes – landfill lined with plastic, the roads we have built which make concrete cuts into landscapes, environments forever changed by our doing – that the future’s history books will find their stories. This is a book that will make you think about how you’re living in the 21st Century, and how you want to be remembered.

Death By Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts Kathryn Harkup £16.99, Bloomsbury Sigma, 5 March 2020

Death By Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts

Kathryn Harkup

£16.99, Bloomsbury Sigma, 5 March 2020

When you think of Shakespeare, you probably think of his sweeping romances, heart-breaking tragedies and comedies of mistaken identity. But there’s one common feature that runs through all of his work: death. From the famous poisonings and stabbings to bear mauling, Shakespeare never shied away from tackling the subject. To him, death would have been an everyday occurrence, living in a time when 50 was old age.

Chemist Kathryn Harkup dissects the science behind the casualties in Death By Shakespeare. He might have lived 400 years ago, but the Bard was up-to-date with the forefront of medical advances, and his understanding of things, from the circulatory system to cures for syphilis, was well ahead of his contemporaries.

Explaining Humans Dr Camilla Pang £14.99, Viking, 12 March 2020

Explaining Humans

Dr Camilla Pang

£14.99, Viking, 12 March 2020

Camilla was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when she was eight years old. She struggled to understand the world around her, and once asked her mother if there was ‘an instruction manual for humans’. Her first book, Explaining Humans, is a guide to navigating life, love and relationships using the lessons she’s learned in her scientific career so far.

Drawing on examples from how the different proteins in the human body can reflect the different roles in a social group, to the way light refracts through a prism helping her to break down fear into something manageable, Camilla’s book is an accessible guide to scientific concepts that is humorous and engaging.

The Rules of Contagion Adam Kucharski £XX, Wellcome Collection, 19 March 2020

The Rules of Contagion

Adam Kucharski

£16.99, Wellcome Collection, 19 March 2020

From infectious diseases to financial crises, viral social media posts to technological innovation, epidemiologist Adam Kucharski shows how scientists are using maths to predict and contain contagion – and why some outbreaks still take us by surprise.

The Rules of Contagion is a timely release, but expands further than the viruses that make the headlines: ‘what about the outbreaks that never happen at all?’ asks Kucharski.

Sunfall

Jim Al-Khalili

£8.99 [paperback], Bantam, 19 March 2020

In the year 2041, climate change has scorched the Earth, and humanity is faced with yet another existential threat: the Earth’s magnetic field is dying. Life on Earth is left unprotected from threats from outer space, namely, enormous blasts of solar energy that could wipe out satellites and electronics.

Jim Al-Khalili’s sci-fi thriller Sunfall explores how humanity reacts to threats almost too big to comprehend. There isn’t a supervillain that can be defeated by an action hero. Instead, the scientists and engineers of the world must work together, racing against time to develop an ambitious plan to save us all. And of course, all the futurism is based on real science.

Eat Like the Animals David Raubenheimer & Stephen J. Simpson £20, Williams Collins, 19 March 2020

Eat Like the Animals

David Raubenheimer & Stephen J. Simpson

£20, Williams Collins, 19 March 2020

Eating delicious, beautifully-cooked food is one of the universal joys of being human. Unfortunately, another fact of life for us is how easy it is to be overweight. The growing rates of obesity have been blamed on many things, including processed foods, poverty and the amount of time we spend sitting down.

Nutrition experts David Raubenheimer and Stephen J. Simpson look at the problem from a different angle. To explain why so many of us struggle to keep off those few extra kilos, they look to the natural world. Why is it that wild animals know what to eat, and how much, but we have to learn about nutrients and calories and we still get it wrong? Raubenheimer and Simpson use the science of nutrition to explain how to learn from our furry friends and eat like the animals.

Blood Rush: The Dark History of a Vital Fluid Jan Verplaetse £15.00, Reaktion Books, 31 March 2020

Blood Rush: The Dark History of a Vital Fluid

Jan Verplaetse

£15, Reaktion Books, 31 March 2020

Is ‘blood lust’ – the idea that coming into contact with blood can lead to an awakening of a hidden, insatiable desire to spill more – a real experience? What started the superstition that menstrual blood was toxic, and why can’t scientists prove this isn’t the case, even today?

In Blood Rush, moral philosopher Jan Verplaetse writes an account of our relationship with life’s vital liquid throughout history. From the pagan ritual of sacrifice to the blood horror written into great works of literature such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Blood Rush weaves an engaging narrative with science, technology, culture and art. Jan even anticipates the bloodless slaughterhouses of the future. Where will our blood lead us next?

Data Feminism Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein £25, MIT Press, 31 March 2020

Data Feminism

Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein

£25, MIT Press, 31 March 2020

Data is a wonderful thing. Data analysis helped Apollo 11 return from the Moon, has improved healthcare around the world and exposes injustices within a population. But it is this power to reveal the hidden patterns in our society that also makes data science dangerous. It can be used to police people, and its measures in surveillance are less about security and more about suppression.

In Data Feminism, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein reveal that data science is currently dominated by white males, and how this imbalance of power obstructs the potential benefits for us all. It’s not about simply getting more women into the industry, say D’Ignazio and Klein: it’s time to throw out classification systems altogether, and move forward with intersectional feminism so that everyone can reap the benefits.

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