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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…
 
This time we're reading Ingredients, a book that promises to make chemistry more fun than Hogwarts. First-time author George Zaidan investigates the stuff inside stuff and tries to answer the question of whether you should eat that cheeto or not. Find out what we thought about the book, and hear from Zaidan himself as he reads an excerpt and talks …
 
Why don't we think of coffee as a drug? Are you hooked on heroin the moment you take it...or is the answer more complicated? In Say Why to Drugs: Everything You Need to Know About the Drugs We Take and Why We Get High Suzi Gage looks at the misconceptions, theories and attitudes surrounding all kinds of drugs – and attempts to separate fact from fi…
 
This month, we’re talking about giraffes, a magic sandwich hole and the question of whether robots will take over the world. All of these things come up in Janelle Shane’s You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, a book about the wonderful and often weird world of artificial intelligence. The title, incidentally, is an AI-generated pickup line, though…
 
This month, we’re delving deep into chemistry’s history as we discuss Peter Wothers' book Antimony, Gold, and Jupiter’s Wolf: How the Elements Were Named. Some chemists may know Wothers’ writing in the form of chemistry textbooks, but this is his first popular science book. As Wothers unearths the stories behind the elements’ names, he also explore…
 
In her new book Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time Gaia Vince assembles everything you need to know about the world and how human beings have come to rule over so many aspects of it. If it sounds like a mammoth task...that's because it is! Vince skillfully breaks it down into five distinct sections, looking a…
 
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