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  • Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
    Elizabeth Kolbert


    Can we engineer our way out of the planetary problems we’ve engineered our way into?

    Elizabeth Kolbert’s beautifully written new book Under a White Sky reports from the planetary front lines where modern civilization is colliding with nature and where thoughtful people are working hard to soften the impact. “At this point it might be prudent to scale back our commitments and reduce our impacts,” she writes. “But there are so many… Read More
  • The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
    Walter Isaacson


    A new biography traces CRISPR’s origins and embraces scientist-led oversight of its future

    In The Code Breaker, distinguished historian and biographer Walter Isaacson tells the life story of biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who played a major role in discovering the inner workings of the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. Doudna’s story is compelling and intersects with others, including French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier, with whom Doudna shared the 2020 Nobel Prize… Read More
  • The Andromeda Strain
    Robert Wise, director


    “The Andromeda Strain”’s oft-invoked fictional outbreak continues to offer context for considering possible futures

    Fifty years ago, the blockbuster du jour was The Andromeda Strain, a film based on a new kind of biomedical thriller that depicted a plague of putatively extraterrestrial origins. The film—directed, perhaps incongruously, by Robert Wise of The Sound of Music fame—would in time be hailed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America as the… Read More
  • Collection

    Science at Sundance 2021

    Like most events that have taken place since March of last year, the Sundance Film Festival—normally hosted in the cozy ski town of Park City, Utah—was held virtually in 2021. But what it lacked in celebrity sightings and snowy ambiance was more than made up for in the festival’s assortment of provocative and timely offerings—from… Read More
  • The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens-- and Ourselves
    Arik Kershenbaum


    Bound by finite natural laws, alien life may be more familiar than we imagine

    The late Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould speculated that the history of life on Earth was deeply influenced by chance events (1). In a classic thought experiment, he imagined rewinding the “tape of life” back to its inception and allowing life’s history to play out again. The reemergence of humans, for example, was, in his… Read More
  • Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher: A Monkey's Head, the Pope's Neuroscientist, and the Quest to Transplant the Soul
    Brandy Shillace


    A neurosurgeon’s audacious experiments raised ire from animal rights activists and interest from the Vatican

    Historian Brandy Schillace’s new book, Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher—so titled to evoke Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde—offers a probing and provocative portrait of the American neurosurgeon and neurophysiologist Robert J. White (1926–2010), whose life’s ambition was to establish that the brain—the seat of consciousness, personhood, or, as a pious Catholic like White conceived… Read More
  • Vera Rubin: A Life
    Jacqueline Mitton and Simon Mitton


    A new biography paints a vivid picture of the life of dark matter pioneer Vera Rubin

    Vera Rubin would not have called herself the discoverer of dark matter. In fact, she once tried to prevent a press release from even including the word “discovery,” instead suggesting that the National Science Foundation’s press team write that her observations “provided convincing evidence.” It is, after all, rare that any topic has only a… Read More
  • CRISPR People: The Science and Ethics of Editing Humans
    Henry T. Greely


    A bioethicist breaks down the first human germline genome editing experiment

    On 25 November 2018, He Jiankui, a biophysicist at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, announced that his laboratory had pulled off a previously unthinkable achievement: the successful modification of the germline genome of two living humans. Two children, female fraternal twins known by the pseudonyms Lulu and Nana, had been born… Read More
  • How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need
    Bill Gates


    Microsoft mogul Bill Gates offers a pragmatic approach to achieving greenhouse gas targets

    Bill Gates is not a climate scientist. In his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he explains that he came to climate science indirectly, via issues of energy poverty that arose as part of his health and development work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “I am aware that I’m an imperfect… Read More