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The SB&F Reviews page is updated regularly with new reviews. See our featured reviews below. Check back often for the latest science book reviews from SB&F.

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Featured Children's Book Review

Heinecke, Liz Lee. Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park. (Photographs by Amber Procaccini.) Boston: Little, Brown, 2016. 144pp. $24.99. 2016003845. ISBN 9781631591150. C.I.P.


Rating: **

This is an awesome book for kids and the adults in their lives. In it, the reader will find 52 science experiments dealing with topics involving botany, physics, solar science, and ecology. The experiments are geared toward kids from preschool to middle school—although the majority is more appropriate for a younger crowd. Each experiment includes a list of materials, enrichment ideas, safety tips, and a brief explanation of the science that made the experiment possible. The experiments are largely easy to perform, fun and engaging for kids, and use relatively inexpensive or readily available materials. Some experiments require access to ponds or streams or fields, while others can be done in a more urban setting; meaning this book has an appeal for kids from all types of neighborhoods. The Protocol section of each lab (the scientific procedure) typically has very few steps but is easy to follow. Safety tips and warnings give the adults supervising the experiments a heads up, although the author did fail to mention concerns over pollen allergies. There is enough slime, and bugs, and icky stuff in this book to hold the interest of just about any curious kid. This book is a great addition to a science classroom library, an afterschool program, or a family looking to add a little more science to their lives!--Jane P. Gardner, Littleton Jr./Sr. High School, Littleton, MA

Featured Young Adult Book Review


Jahren, Hope. Lab Girl. New York, NY: Knopf, 2016. 290pp. $26.95. 2015024305. ISBN 9781101874936. C.I.P.

JH, YA, C, T, GA

Rating: **

Reading Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl is almost like reading three books for the price of one. In addition to being a memoir by a three-time Fulbright winning geobiologist, it is also a fascinating tutorial on botany, paleontology, and soil studies. Of even greater value to school- and college-age readers (and their parents and teachers) is how well the author describes the life of a real scientist as one who “doesn’t perform prescribed experiments,” but “develops her own and thus generates wholly new knowledge.”

Jahren grew up in southern Minnesota as the youngest daughter of a community college science professor father and of a mother whose financial status forced her to abandon her love of science and eventually study literature and writing as an adult. The author’s obvious love of science and the book’s exquisite writing ("Being paid to wonder seems like a heavy responsibility at times.") show how thoroughly she has channeled and extended her parents’ interests. Lab Girl begins with Jahren accompanying her father to his teaching lab, with table surfaces so solid they couldn’t be damaged with a hammer (“so don’t try”), and includes her undergraduate and graduate education, subsequent teaching positions, and research postings as far afield as an isolated Arctic Ocean island. Jahren also addresses the compound challenges she faced as a woman scientist in a male-dominated profession, coupled with her eventual diagnosis as a manic-depressive. This book is highly recommended as one of the very few scientist memoirs that is also a great read.--Jonathan Goldman, Director, Computing Resources, Volgenau School of Engineering, George Mason University

Featured Adult Book Review

Musser, George. Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything. . New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2015. 286pp. $27.00. 2015010155. ISBN 9780374298517. Index.

C, T, GA

Rating: **

Is our universe truly comprehensible when some aspects seem totally hidden from understanding (“The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” [Einstein, 1936])? The topics of quantum field theory, gauge invariance, entanglement of particles and fields, general and special relativity, and gravitational warping of space time are examined in detail in an effort to answer that question. The age-old battle of relativistic (Einsteinian) versus classical (Newtonian) physics as well is re-fought here in search of what each has to offer in terms of understanding our universe. The fundamental meaning of place, time, and existence in the universe could, perhaps, be regarded as part of the background theme of this book.

This book challenges the reader to examine the common “understanding” of our universe, its content, and how it came to be. At every turn winding one’s way through it, that understanding may seem confused, incomplete, or, perhaps, even incorrect. I think that is the author’s point—we really don’t comprehend the full aspect of the physical universe on all scales, or at least its very foundations, but that science offers us a better chance of doing so, eventually.

Found in this book are the very fundamental basics of what defines space, matter, and time and what the differences among them may actually be. Very difficult topics are treated with a far-reaching and broad perspective provided by summaries of advanced research in physics and cosmology. In essence, the universe consists of nothing more than fields and particles and yet their interaction by seemingly unconnected ways creates all that we behold and at which we marvel. This book is a recommended read for those who wish to begin investigating why this is so.--Gary W. Finiol, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver, CO