With Christmas just around the corner, here’s some last-minute science books for the curious in your family.
Molecules – Theodore Gray
In the sequel to his bestselling Elements, Gray looks at molecules and compounds, with lavish photos and diagrams bringing the likes of sodium laureth sulphate (artificial soap) and acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) to life. Gray even speculates that life could have started from a soap-like molecule.
You Are Here – Chris Hadfield
The photos that Chris Hadfield tweeted from the International Space Station caused a sensation – but he didn’t put all his pictures on social media. Around a thousand previously unseen snaps make up this collection, from mysterious circles in the Libyan desert to the brightly coloured lagoons of Ukraine.
Knowledge Is Beautiful – David McCandless
Five years ago, McCandless published the hugely popular infographics bible, Information Is Beautiful. Now he returns with another collection of inventive, statistics-based illustrations covering everything from the correct posture for meditation to the size and frequency of near-Earth asteroids.
What If? – Randall Munroe
XKCD webcomic creator and former NASA roboticist Randall Munroe addresses questions such as ‘If we all disappeared, how long before the last light went out?’ and ‘Can you warm up a cup of tea just by stirring it?’. It’s like Focus’s Q&A section fell down the rabbit hole… but the author’s inquisitive mind is the star.
Deep Space – Govert Schilling
Top astronomy author Govert Schilling’s tour of the cosmos is a tour de force. There are beautiful photos and diagrams to explain variable stars, sunspots and cosmic voids, while a star chart section will be helpful for those getting started in practical stargazing.
Remarkable Plants That Shape Our World – Helen & William Bynum
This book celebrates plants that have healed, clothed and fed us, from the rice eaten by half the world to cash crops such as sugar cane. It’s packed with surprising facts. Did you know that linseed oil forms the basis of lino floors, or that tobacco comes from the same family as the tomato?
The Wild Cat Book – Fiona Sunquist and Mel Sunquist
The cat family tree, DNA studies have shown, contains a total of 37 species in eight related groups. All 37 species are included here, complete with photos and maps showing the location of their natural habitats. Bizarrely, though, there’s no mention of lolcats…
Build A Robot – Steve Parker and Owen Davey
This up-to-date illustrated guide to robotics past and present also contains everything you need to build three wind-up cardboard robots: the Walk-Bot, Wiggle-Bot and Wave-Bot. Be warned, though: Focus’s finest minds struggled with two of them, so it’s not the ideal present for young children.
Ocean – Dan Kainen and Carol Kaufmann
Remember those ‘lenticular’ cards you used to find in cereal packets? Ocean has eight of those, each the size of a postcard, plus informative text on each species. It’s not just a gimmick. As you tilt the pages, you’ll see exactly how seahorses, turtles and anglerfish swim around.
Stories In The Stars – Susanna Hislop and Hannah Waldron
This book lists 88 constellations by size, from Andromeda (the chained maiden) to Vulpecula (the little fox), each beautifully illustrated by artist Hannah Waldron. Hislop’s accompanying text goes beyond the usual creation myths to include facts about legendary astronomers and more.