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If you really want to develop an appreciation for those early pathologists who went so far as to taste-tested truly horrible samples from corpses to establish a system for detecting poisons, read a new book by US-based physiology and biophysics professor Neil Bradbury. We discuss Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers who used them: A Taste for Po…
 
Indigenous communities are among the most affected by climate change, yet their work and knowledge has long been dismissed as unscientific. In her first book Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science, Maya Ch’orti’ and Zapotec environmental scientist Jessica Hernandez recounts case studies, personal stories and f…
 
This episode examines the science behind auto racing by digging into Racing Green: How Motorsports Became Smarter, Safer, Cleaner and Faster, by science journalist and science historian Kit Chapman. In this his second book, following Superheavy in 2019, the former Chemistry World comment editor chronicles how motorsport science is advancing and bec…
 
Why is duct tape the answer to fixing everything? How do geckos cling to walls? And what, exactly, keeps our car tyres rolling down the road? In Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces, physicist and science writer Laurie Winkless paints a vivid picture of the vast array of surfaces we interact with every day – and explores the mysteries we’re still…
 
In this episode, we discuss Her Hidden Genius. It’s the new book by Marie Benedict, a lawyer and best-selling author who unearths the historical stories of women who have left important legacies. In this her third book about a female scientist, Benedict chronicles the life of Rosalind Franklin, an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who labo…
 
In this episode, we’re delving deep into the science of one of the best-selling fiction writers of all times: Agatha Christie. We look for evidence of her pioneering forensic writing with Murder Isn’t Easy: The Forensics of Agatha Christie, the second book by pathology technician and medical historian Carla Valentine. At a time when there was no in…
 
This episode is for anybody interested in how human beings have altered the world around us since we came on the scene tens of thousands of years ago. University of California Santa Cruz evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro weaves fascinating and fun personal anecdotes from her own life and research on ancient DNA to tell the story of the evolution …
 
This month, we’re reading The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science. It’s the new book by Sam Kean, who many might know as the author of the periodic table book The Disappearing Spoon. In what is now his sixth book, Kean tells true stories of what happens when ambition pushes …
 
In this episode, we’ll tackle Deep Sniff: A History of Poppers and Queer Futures by Adam Zmith. In his first book, Zmith blends historical research with wry observation to tell the story of how amyl nitrites wafted out of the lab and into gay bars, corner shops and bedrooms. Zmith leads readers through the 19th century discovery of nitrites as an a…
 
This episode is for all those people who have turned to gardening or amassed houseplants during the Covid lockdowns as we’ll be talking about Lessons from Plants. In it, the biochemist Beronda Montgomery explores the vigorous and creative life of organisms often treated as static and predictable. Writing about plants’ fascinating ability to perceiv…
 
In this month’s episode we’ll talk about Science in Black and White: How Biology and Environment Shape Our Racial Divide by medical anthropologist Alondra Oubré. She delves into the science behind the nature versus nurture debate to expose racially biased research and debunk claims of inborn racial disparities and the gendered brain. The result is …
 
Get your garlic and crucifix ready as we tackle Kathryn Harkup’s latest book Vampirology: The Science of Horror’s Most Famous Fiend. Harkup is a chemist and science communicator, and an expert at casting a scientific eye on cultural phenomena, literature and film. Her debut, A is for Arsenic – about the poisons in Agatha Christie’s works – featured…
 
How do you make a chemical-resistant beaker out of a material as fragile as glass? And how do you tell the temperature of a piece of steel without a thermometer? These are questions Anna Ploszajski tackles in her book Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning through Making. A materials scientist, engineer, science communicator and occasional stan…
 
We might like to think that science is purely objective, driven only by scientific principles and free of social disturbances — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In this episode, we read Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s debut The Disordered Cosmos, a book exposing how racism and sexism persist across all scientific disciplines. Part introducti…
 
In this episode, we’re looking for answers to the important questions in life like ‘Why do you believe in diets?’ or ‘Why are you working in a bullshit job?’ Biochemist and immunologist Luke O’Neill certainly doesn’t mince words in his new book Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science: A Scientist’s Guide to the Biggest Challenges Facing our Spe…
 
This month we find out drug testing has come a long way, as we read The Poison Trials: Wonder Drugs, Experiment and the Battle for Authority in Renaissance Science, the latest book from historian of science and medicine Alisha Rankin. The book tells little-known stories of medicine in 16th century Europe, such as Pope Clement VII’s personal physici…
 
This month we’re celebrating 20 years of a popular science classic: Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks. In his memoir, Sacks – who later became a famous neurologist – recounts how he discovered his love for science growing up in the 1930 and 40s. We’ll try to find out whether this book is worth reading (or re-reading), c…
 
Whether you’re looking for a sciencey Christmas present for the young readers in your life or just want to delve into the science of children’s science writing, this kid’s books roundup is for you. We brought together three families and their four children aged three to nine to review Once Upon an Atom by James Carter; I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast …
 
This time, we’re reading Written In Bone: Hidden Stories in what We Leave Behind by forensic anthropologist Sue Black and author of the 2018 Sunday Times bestseller All That Remains. Black discusses criminal and historical cases from her own career, showing how everything we do – from what we eat to where we go – leaves behind traces in our skeleto…
 
It’s the end times in this episode as we’re reading The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking). In five scenarios, cosmologist Katie Mack explores how the universe might meet its ultimate demise and what this might look like if anyone were still around to see it. The book promises to be a wildly fun ride to the farthest reaches of scientific …
 
In this episode we’re reading United We Are Unstoppable: 60 Inspiring Young People Saving Our World, a book of short stories, told by the people who are fighting for their homes and their futures in the face of climate change. Find out what we thought about the book, whether you should read it, and hear from editor Akshat Rathi about what it was li…
 
This month we’re reading Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium by historian Lucy Jane Santos. The book traces the story of a radioactive element, from its ascendance as a cure-all ingredient in the late 19th century to the gradual downfall and eventual discredit of the entire radium industry. Find out what we thought about the book, and hear f…
 
In this episode we’re tackling the coronavirus information overload by comparing three books on pandemics past and present: Outbreaks and Epidemics by Meera Senthilingam, Adam Kucharski’s The Rules of Contagion, and The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum (the only one written well before the current pandemic hit). Find out what we thought about ea…
 
From photographic film to scientific glassware, Ainissa Ramirez’s new book The Alchemy of Us offers a unique insight into our relationship with technology. Find out what we thought about the book, and hear from Ramirez herself as she talks about digging into archives around the world to uncover forgotten characters and intriguing stories.…
 
This month, we take a peek behind the curtain with Gemma Milne’s Smoke & Mirrors. In her first book, the technology journalist looks at headline-grabbing science present and past – from cancer treatments to fusion energy and quantum computers. Will the book deliver on its promise to be a guide on how to recognise hype and how to cut through it? Fin…
 
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