Best Science & Technology of 2021

Dark matter, seashells, and CRISPR feature in the best science and technology books of 2021.

Alexander, Stephon. Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics. Basic. ISBN 9781541699632.

In engaging and accessible writing, theoretical physicist Alexander sheds light on the mystery of dark matter and explains how physics is inflected by nonscience disciplines, including art, philosophy, and sociology. This is an interesting collection of thought experiments for physicists, cosmologists, and aspiring scientists who want to think outside the box.

Barnett, Cynthia. The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans. Norton. ISBN 9780393651447.

Barnett explores what seashells can tell us about the animals that inhabit them, the ecosystems they grow in, and the people who use them. The in-depth and lively narrative about sea shells crosses disciplines, resulting in a delightful, informative, and momentous read for both enthusiasts and readers who have never picked up a shell.

Isaacson, Walter. The Code Breaker: JennifeDoudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. S. &. S. ISBN 9781982115852.

Isaacson takes a close look at how scientific collaboration happens in the modern age in this mix of biography and science. He does an admirable job explaining CRISPR in accessible terms, while focusing on the human side of its invention.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future. Crown. ISBN 9780593136270.

With this work of popular science, Kolbert invites us to explore the question of whether technological solutions are the only answers left to rectify human-generated environmental problems. This is a sobering, realistic look at humankind’s perhaps misplaced belief that technology can work with nature to produce a more livable planet.

Prescod-Weinstein, Chanda. The Disordered Cosmos: A Journeyinto Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred. Bold Type. ISBN9781541724709.

Part introduction to quantum mechanics and cosmology, part memoir, and part sociological study, this work challenges readers to question the nature of how science develops in contemporary society, as well as what it means when everyone has a seat at the cosmological table. A thought-provoking account of popular science.

Roach, Mary. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law. Norton. ISBN 9781324001935.

Roach brings readers on her journey into the realm of human-wildlife conflict, and her occasionally awkward interactions with people and animals make for the engaging narrative style she is famous for. The expert on quirky science writing doesn’t disappoint in this latest work, which will inform and entertain wildlife enthusiasts.

Scales, Helen. The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat ThaImperils It. Atlantic Monthly. ISBN 9780802158222.

Scales introduces readers to the deep ocean, which comprises far more of the ocean’s volume and is likely more vital to the continuation of life on Earth. The result is a fascinating, international glimpse of Earth’s last frontier that will draw in readers.

Simard, Suzanne. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. Knopf. ISBN 9780525656098.

In this engaging account of scientific discovery, Simard tells the story of her pioneering research on trees’ use of fungal networks to communicate with one another. There should be strong interest in this memoir, as Simard was the inspiration for a main character in Richard Powers’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Overstory.

Weidensaul, Scott. A World on the Wing: ThGlobal Odyssey of Migratory Birds. Norton. ISBN 9780393608908.

Weidensaul professes and demonstrates reverence for migratory birds in this book, and each chapter on the different bird species and migration experiences will vibrantly inform readers about the habits of these intriguing creatures. Besides appealing to birders, this book will also engage those interested in natural or environmental history.

Zimmer, Carl. Lifes Edge: The Search for What It Means To Be Alive. Dutton. ISBN 9780593182710.

Journalist and author Zimmer addresses the question of what it means to be alive, not so much in the philosophical sense, but by exploring the boundaries of the definition of “alive.” This is a compelling and well-written mapping of the edges of biology, which will have broad appeal to nonscientists.

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