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Current Issue: October 2014 Vol. 50 Iss.10

October Issue Highlights

Our October issue features a special look at Richard Preston's The Hot Zone in light of the current Ebola crisi.

Click here to see a  list of books and AV materials reviewed in this issue of SB&F. In order to view full text reveiws you must be a subscriber (subscribers download the current issue to view these reviews). To learn more about subscribing visit our subscription page.

For back issues, see Archives.

Featured Reviews.

Turner, Pamela S. The Dolphins Of Shark Bay. (Photographs by Scott Tuason.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2013. 76pp. $18.99. 2012048463. ISBN 9780547716381. Index; C.I.P.

EA, JH, YA **

This book from the Scientists in the Field series features the work of Janet Mann and a team of researchers at the Shark Bay Dolphin Project in Western Australia as they study the Shark Bay bottlenose dolphin, the only known tool‑using dolphin. Mann has documented the use of sponges as "nose mitts" (p. 4) by over 50 Shark Bay dolphins, who use a sea sponge to protect their nostrums as they rummage along channel bottoms in search of fish. Turner presents an overview of the physical characteristics and behavior of the dolphins but emphasizes the study of the Shark Baby dolphins' social behavior, focusing on such relationships as mother and child, groups of "flirting" juvenile females, and male alliances of mature individuals. Focusing on certain individual dolphins (which have been given names by the researchers) throughout the text and in the color photographs as the study of foraging, maternal care, echolocation, and intelligence as well as social interactions is carried on adds interest. Back matter includes a "More About Dolphins" section with notes on dolphin echolocation, threats to dolphins, communicating ideas and discoveries (with examples about dolphin research), a brief list of books and films, and an update on the researchers and dolphins of Shark Bay and an index. Turner's engaging close‑up look at the intriguing bottlenose dolphins that Janet Mann has now studied for over 25 years emphasizes the importance of the careful observation and data collection over a long period of time that is essential to the making of significant discoveries about animals and their behavior. ‑‑Carolyn Angus, Children's Literature Specialist, Claremont, CA


Barrow, John D. Mathletics: A Scientist Explains 100 Amazing Things About the World of Sports. (Illus.)  NY:  Norton,  2012. xiv+298pp. 2012009794. ISBN 9780393063417. C.I.P.

YA, C, T, GA **

This work consists of 100 essentially independent essays primarily using applied mechanics to model some aspects athletic performances in a variety of sports in order to identify the salient issues needing to be addressed to improve the opportunity for success. The author's writing style is engaging and historical data and interesting asides are interspersed throughout the work which includes some statistical modeling. The work can be read in its entirety simply to enjoy the author's analyses. It can also be selectively used as a reference to add to the reader's repertoire of analytical tools with which to analyze one's favorite sports. While some of the articles do look at team sports such as soccer, Barrow is primarily concerned with individual performances and modeling the individual's activity to identify opportunities for improvement. The reader need not be mathematically proficient to appreciate the author's modeling. While the engineer or scientist might reconfirm or disagree with some of the assumptions and simplifications, most will appreciate the author's models and see them as the intended identification of the major issues to be addressed by participants in a sport. As such, the reader who is not mathematically inclined can simply accept the consequences of the model and proceed from that point to enjoy the author's discussion.‑‑ M. Jerry Kenig, emeritus, University of New Haven,  West Haven, CT


Lourie, Peter.  The Polar Bear Scientists.  (Illus.; from the Scientists in the Field Series.)  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin,  2012. 80pp. $18.99. 2011003449. ISBN 9780547283050. Glossary; Index; C.I.P

.EI‑YA **

Impressively, Peter Lourie describes the "real life" daily world of polar bear biologists. He describes data collection, not just the glamour of handling anesthetized polar bears, but also the details of preparing for fieldwork and entering data after a long day in the field. He connects data collection with the need for data because data by itself is not science. Data must be part of a methodical system of inquiry. Lourie alludes to the larger questions and squarely provides evidence for the need to collect data. He portrays scientists as tangible people and may inspire students to pursue careers as scientists. We need books that do all this. Lourie also accurately depicts wildlife biology as a career. As a professor of a wildlife biology program, I was impressed that he conveyed, in fewer than 100 pages, concepts that we teach in our bachelor's degree in wildlife science. Although a college program goes into more detail, Lourie provides substantial details that I have not read in a book about wildlife biology that was meant for the general public, and school age readers at that! The photos are distinctive and uniquely suited for the theme of the book. For instance, one photo has a sketch overlaying the bear's body to illustrate the best places to administer anesthetic from a dart gun. The work is accurate and has broader applications to science in general. This book should sit on the library shelves of grade and high schools to encourage students to explore science as a career.‑‑Jorie M. Favreau, Paul Smith's College,  Paul Smith's, NY


Terra Antarctica: Rediscovering the Seventh Continent. Video Project, , San Francisco, CA 94141-1376; 2011. Color. 46 min. DVD: $89.00 (K-12 Schools & Non-Profits), $195.00. (Colleges, Institutions, & Businesses). Closed Captioned.

YA, C, GA **

 This is an excellent, up-to-date documentary film about the continent of Antarctica. The video quality is very high; the scenery is breath-taking and all of the commentary is clear and understandable. In addition, the film is very interesting. It would be very appealing to high school and college students because it portrays the real-life adventure of visiting Antarctica - the conditions are high-risk but the explorers are exceptionally well-prepared. They sail from Argentina to Antarctica, then use sea kayaks to explore the coastline for six weeks, returning to the ship every few days but sometimes camping on the mainland. They visit several of the scientific research stations to talk with scientists, such as a team doing penguin research, and capture superb footage of the penguins. Current issues facing Antarctica, particularly the impact of global warming, are discussed and illustrated. For example, they explain that when it is warm enough to rain instead of snow, which it does for about a week, the ice melts much faster and the penguins (who are adapted for snow) have trouble maintaining body temperature. They also catch a spectacular collapse of an "ice arch" in a floating iceberg. One of the strengths of this documentary is that it doesn't lecture the audience with scientific facts - it simply shows you what is happening in Antarctica and what scientists think the consequences will be, which makes the point much better.--Denise A. Brush, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ



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