A big Manhattan year : tales of competitive birding

From Jackie Cantwell
Author: David Barrett
Title: A big Manhattan year : tales of competitive birding
Most of us call the act of identifying birds in their natural environment “bird watching”. But the more serious refer to it as “birding”. And those who take birding very seriously sometimes compete with each other to have a “big year” or a “big day”, which is to spy the most birds in a given area in a certain amount of time. So the author, an Upper East Side Manhattan resident, attempted a Manhattan big year in 2012 after birding for only one year. He combined his love of training for competitive running races with his birding. Although there’s no prize awarded to the winner, one can see the totals on ebird.com. He details the preparation that goes into such a feat. First of all, one must buy a good pair of binoculars! One must study the physical appearances of many species and subspecies of birds, along with the bird calls they make, and how they look in flight. He partakes in guided birding walks through Central Park as well as consulting numerous websites, books, and signs up for text alerts of rare bird sightings. Migration patterns and Hurricane Sandy impacted his year greatly. His tone is conversational, and I learned about the different areas within Central Park, as well as Randall’s Island and northern Manhattan. He explains how technology such as the smartphone has aided birders tremendously. He says for the most part, birders are generous in wanting to share their knowledge and their finds. This is a truly unique glimpse into a world most of us never knew about. I dare you not to appreciate birds more after this read!

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

From Ellen Druda
Author:  Lisa Randall
Knocking on Heaven’s Door
We are getting closer and closer to understanding the true scientific nature of the universe,yet there are still many mysteries waiting to be explained. Physicist Lisa Randall describes the latest new particles discovered in the Standard Model, takes us on a detailed tour of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva,talks about advances in cosmology and warped space, discusses string theory and branes,and wraps them all up together with wonderful insights into the nature of science, beauty, and spirit. Randall is equally at home expounding on the new physics as she is dealing with the human quest for meaning in life.

Man down: proof beyond a reasonable doubt that women are better cops, drivers, gamblers, spies, world leaders, beer tasters, hedge fund managers, and just about everything else

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Abrams, Dan
Man down: proof beyond a reasonable doubt that women are better cops, drivers, gamblers, spies, world leaders, beer tasters, hedge fund managers, and just about everything else
 This is a collection of recent studies performed around the world, which test whether men or women are better at certain tasks, such as investing. This is a quick read, as most chapters are only 2 or 3 pages long. This is refreshing for a male author to champion women in almost every aspect of life. The tone of the book is witty and conversational. He throws in references to popular culture and summarizes each research study in layman’s terms. He finds that women are less corruptible, both as politicians and cops. Some chapters are based on polls, and not scientific studies, such as the one entitled “Women are better world leaders”. This is a 2008 Pew Research Center poll about the public’s perception of women’s abilities to lead nations. Oddly enough, women possess more of the qualities voters are seeking in a candidate, yet far more men are still being elected. And similarly, in a 2008 Swiss study, they found that messages read by female newscasters were seen as being more credible, but that male newscasters were seen as more credible overall. Mr. Abrams found that women are better drivers, too. Surveying a few recent studies, he found that men get more tickets, have more accidents, and drive drunk far more often. And two recent studies, one American and one Canadian, found that women are better at giving and following directions. Men tended to give directions when they weren’t really sure, and misestimated the distances involved. Women tended to take the time to think the directions through before giving them, and when following directions, used landmarks. He concludes this chapter with: “So now a woman doesn’t only have to worry about getting in a car with a man who will drive less safely than she would and be less likely to admit that he’s lost; when asking for directions, she also has to make sure to ask another woman or risk being sent on a wild goose chase by some guy who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.” He made a believer out of me!

Black Bodies and Quantum Cats

From Ellen Druda
author: Ouellette, Jennifer
Black Bodies and Quantum Cats
A collection of columns written for the monthly American Physics Society News, Ouellette has traced the history of physics from Da Vinci to string theory, spiced up with contemporary references and human analogies. Non-science majors and physics-phobes can understand and even enjoy how this field of “natural philosophy” affects our place in the world and the universe.

A fly for the prosecution : how insect evidence helps solve crimes

From Andrea Kalinowski
author: Goff, M. Lee
A fly for the prosecution : how insect evidence helps solve crimes
A fly for the prosecution : how insect evidence helps solve crimes by M. Lee Goff was a book right up my alley.  The title, a play on Witness for the Prosecution, drew me in and captured my full attention.  This book explores the cycle of life and death in the bug kingdom and how it can assist forensic scientists, and therefore the police, in determining time of death.  Flies come to a body in an orderly sequence that has been documented in an empirical manner.  They are irrefutable witnesses to the crimes man commits against man.  The evidence offered by the flies cannot be refuted successfully and is therefore invaluable to law enforcement.  A quick and enjoyable read

The Greatest Show on Earth

From Christian Fogarazzo
author: Dawkins, Richard
The Greatest Show on Earth
The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins, is one of many written by him about the Theory of Evolution.  Dawkins is a strong advocate for Darwin’s Theory and he offers an enormous amount of scientific evidence to support the theory.  Dawkins is an exceptional writer who is capable of explaining difficult scientific concepts to the average layperson.  He clearly identifies and clarifies common misconceptions about evolution.  His mastery of the multiple disciplines of science is also truly amazing.  His frustration with individuals who disagree with his position is palpable and is regularly demonstrated with his sarcastic and at times, condescending tone.  This book is not a quick read, but if you are interested in this topic and wish to learn more about evolution, I suggest reading this well written book.

Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void

From Ellen Druda
author: Roach, Mary
Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void
This book was funny. Each chapter took a look at the different ways NASA prepared the astronauts to handle certain personal functions in space: sleeping, going to the bathroom, eating, air sickness, claustrophobia, etc., and how successful they were.  Along the way we learn about the history of the space program both here and in the Soviet Union, some interesting trivia, and the author’s personal experiences researching the book.  Roach focuses on the absurd and the comic in the very serious world of space travel, and the results are enlightening and entertaining.