Tag: science

Feb 26

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach is Out of This World!

Audio Books, Non Fiction, Science 18

Bookworms, We Have a Problem.

I’m LYING. I’m just trying to make space jokes because I just finished listening to the awesome audio book version of Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. I don’t read a lot of non fiction, but now that I’ve discovered Mary Roach, that may all change.

packingformarsPacking for Mars is ostensibly about what a mission to Mars would entail mingled with a history lesson of human space travel. Sound awesome? Not so much? Well what about if I tell you that Mary Roach researched all the interesting bits of space travel for you? I mean, you were always curious about motion sickness in zero gravity, right? And what happens when you have to go to the bathroom? What about keeping yourself clean in space? Or, you know, what would happen if a pair of astronauts fell in love and, well, stuff happened in space?!

Mary Roach told me all the gross stuff that I really care about. I mean, sure, there’s plenty of science in there, but it’s the science of every imaginable bodily fluid in space. It’s about just how long an astronaut can go without bathing before stinking their suits up so badly they make themselves ill. It’s about how teams of dietitians study which foods to feed space travelers that will produce the least amount of solid waste. It’s about filtering pee, you guys! If you were ever THAT KID in science class who was interested in the science of boogers, Packing for Mars is 100% your guide to space travel. Take my word for it, kids, this book is a winner!

Talk to me Bookworms! Did you ever daydream about being an astronaut?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Am I too old to go to Space Camp?*

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Sep 29

The Sparrow Readalong Finish Line

Readalong, Religion, Science 17

Greetings Bookworms!

As you know I’ve been participating in a readalong of The Sparrow hosted by Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity. I took a short break from reading this bad boy in the midst of Banned Books Week and Diversiverse, but now that those are in the history books, as it were, I was able to finish reading The Sparrow and what a ride it was! WARNING: If you hate animated gifs, run away now!

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Where do I even begin? Thanks to some heavy foreshadowing, I knew how things were going to end up… In a manner of speaking. But the way they got there? Holy crap balls! I did NOT see that coming! As far as romantic entanglements I was like:

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After which I thought, “well, okay, that’s probably for the best then.” But then there were some journeys and some revelations once people got back and I was like:

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And THEN we found out the nature of the relationship between the very nice folks with tails and the rather suspicious folks with tails and I was like:

Shocked

Are you KIDDING ME?! And then the rest of the story came out and I was like:

Love-and-Other-DrugsSo basically, The Sparrow shocked, appalled, and ripped me to pieces. And I liked it! The hype is well-deserved, kids! Mary Doria Russeel is the real deal. Big thanks to Trish for putting this party together!

Let’s talk, Bookworms! What’s the last supremely well-plotted book you read?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will NOT be using it to attempt contact with alien life forms, unless I can be assured that they’re only the NICE FOLKS WITH TAILS.*

 

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Apr 07

The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

Non Fiction, Science 24

Hello Bookworms,

It’s Monday again (how does this keep happening?!) The good news? You don’t have tuberculosis. (I hope.) Yes, folks, I just finished reading some of the germiest non-fiction this side of the 20th century, and it was fascinating. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I was offered a copy of The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz, I knew I had to give it a shot. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Honesty rules.

theremedyThe Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis begins with Dr. Robert Koch hacking off limbs during the Franco-Prussian War. Dr. Koch, among others, began to realize that some of the post-surgical infections they’d been encountering could be prevented… You know. If the medical staff washed their hands. Germ theory was fledgling and had plenty of detractors who still insisted on sticking leeches to people to balance their humors. Gross, right?

You know what else everybody did that was super gross? Spit all over the place. Back in the day, hawking loogies in public was a fact of life. People were just barely starting to understand germ theory (thanks to scientists like Koch and his frenemy Pasteur) so nobody thought about spreading disease with all the spitting. It was the perfect environment for the breeding and transmission of one of humanity’s oldest foes, Tuberculosis.

TB was no joke. It accounted for something like a third of all deaths, and nobody could quite pin down how it was transmitted or how to treat it. Dr. Koch’s research into Tuberculosis allowed him to identify the microbe that caused TB, which was a huge breakthrough. Shortly after this discovery, Koch claimed to have discovered a cure. A CURE FOR CONSUMPTION! A miracle!

Enter Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle. You may know him as “Sir” and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but Conan Doyle was first a doctor. He was fascinated by germ theory and Dr. Koch’s experiments. Dr. Conan Doyle made the trek to Berlin to observe Koch’s work, but came away troubled. Was this “remedy” indeed curing Tuberculosis, or was it little more than snake oil?

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis was an enjoyable read. I learned all sorts of gross medical details and scientific tidbits. I never realized just how widespread TB had been, or how recently the medical field was revolutionized by germ theory. Very interesting stuff. For me there was a slight drawback, though. Because this book was so chock full of science and factoids and microscopes, it took me quite a bit longer to read than my typical fictional fare. I think it was just a lot more to absorb for my atrophied brain. In any case, it was a good read, ESPECIALLY if scientific non-fiction is your thing.

Tell me Bookworms… Do any of you find you read non-fiction more slowly than fiction? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 13

It's a Very, Very MaddAddam World

Dystopian, Frightening, Science 38

Salutations Bookworms!

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. NOBODY does a dystopia like Atwood, believe you me. (I mean, have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?!) I have been waiting for what feels like FOREVER for the release of MaddAddamThis book completed Atwood’s epic dystopian trilogy that began with the 2003 release of Oryx and Crake and continued with 2009’s In The Year of the FloodI’ve been desperate to know the fate of humanity for YEARS now!

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Atwood is a passionate environmentalist, and the future she paints as a result of environmental catastrophes is disturbing. In Atwood’s version of the future, global warming has taken a serious toll on the planet. Large portions of California and the Eastern Seaboard are underwater and therefore uninhabitable thanks to the melting of the polar ice caps. Science is now able to manufacture actual meat without having to harm any animals; they can grow a chicken breast in isolation. They’ve played around with gene splicing so much, the native species are all jacked up. Atwood doesn’t go into detail about all of the hybrid animals, but her naming of them gives clues as to their origins. There are now sheep who grow human hair and pigs with human brain tissue. Pharmaceuticals have been perverted by giant corporations so that in addition to curing diseases, they also spread them. Every extreme you can imagine has come to fruition, and it’s not pretty.

Our motley cast of characters are born into this reality. People not under the employ of a major corporation are cast out into the dangerous and impoverished pleeblands. New religions emerge that worship petroleum on one end of the spectrum and extreme recycling on the other. (Let’s face it. Handmade sandals fashioned from recycled tires are sexy, y’all.) Criminals are given the option to suspend their prison sentences by opting to fight to the death in an arena, gladiator style. (Painball is no Hunger Games- these aren’t little kids in the field, they’re psychotic murderers. Butchering one’s victims and devouring their kidneys is par for the course.)

plagueThis brave new world is the perfect chaos into which a genius with a God complex can enter to wreak havoc. Our doom fixated genius is a misguided young man named Glenn, though he has taken on the pseudonym “Crake” because he’s all about extinct species. The term “God complex” gets flung around pretty regularly to refer to people who like to control situations, but Crake is the very definition of the term. He was a scientific genius, but instead of sticking to commercial pursuits, he decided to crafted himself a new race. He gene spliced himself a new humanoid species that was meant to “correct” all the foibles that have plagued humans. He pulled a GENESIS, yo. That’s CRAZY! Much like the vengeful God of the Old Testament, Crake has determined that he needs to wipe the slate clean of the existing human race. The apocalyptic flood was unleashed in the form of a lethal genetically modified microbe nestled inside an sexual enhancement pill. Sinners and saints alike perished in Crake’s wrath. The handful of survivors attempt to regroup and figure out how to persevere in their new nightmarish reality.

I could go on and on about how insane Atwood’s world building is or how much I LOVE all the biological oddities she created. The work is intense, poignant, and cautionary. It will make you ponder ethical conundrums you never anticipated. You really, really, REALLY need to read this.

Alright Bookworms. Let’s throw out consequences for a second and take a trip into the land of imagination. If you could create a hybrid animal what two would you smush together?

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May 09

No One Mourns The WICKED: The Death Cure by James Dashner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction, Zombies 33

Good Day Bookworms!

I would like to tell you a story today. It’s a story about LOST. Do you remember that show? Sawyer and Jack and Kate and all these people stranded on a crazy island? The creators kept SAYING they’d tie it all together at the end, but they pretty much just introduced a tertiary storyline that turned out to not be real and everyone re-united in the hereafter? Nobody ever explained why there was a frickin polar bear on the island other than some vague allusion to science experiments and fish biscuits? Why were they testing polar bears? For heaven’s sake, WHY POLAR BEARS?! Apparently it wasn’t important.

Sawyer. Reading. You're welcome.

Sawyer. Reading. You’re welcome.

I just finished The Death Cure by James Dashner and I feel a little bit of LOST letdown. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is the end of a series that I really enjoyed. Perhaps it’s because I still have questions. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don’t know. I’m just a little… ambivalent about the way things were left. But let’s back up a moment.

When we left the poor unfortunate souls from the Glade, they were being fried out in the desert and trying to complete a mysterious experiment for a mysterious entity known as WICKED. We learned in The Scorch Trials that after the earth was stricken with a devastating set of solar flares, a man made virus was somehow released that caused people to go insane. Not insane in a treatable realistic mental illness sort of way, but insane in a zombie sort of way. After victims of “the Flare” hit a certain level of brain deterioration, they begin running amok and feasting on human flesh. As it turns out, the boys and girls of the maze experiments were chosen by and large because their brains resisted the virus. They could be exposed to the air born virus all they liked and never succumb to the madness. (A few unfortunate subjects who were NOT immune were included as a control group, so the minute they were turned loose in the desert they were basically screwed. Thanks, WICKED!)

Thomas is our hero and he is one stubborn son of a gun. Once the group emerges alive from their trials in The Scorch, they’re returned to WICKED headquarters and told that the cure is nearly complete. The brilliant scientists just need to run a few more tests. By this point, Thomas and his cronies have had more than enough of this nonsense and they refuse to have their memories re-instated since they don’t trust WICKED with scalpels. All those questions I was hoping to have answered about what in the sam heck went on with Thomas before these trials started? I might know the answers to them now if THOMAS weren’t so STUBBORN!

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Thomas and his faithful crew decide they’ve had QUITE enough of WICKED’s tests and break out, jailbird style. That’s when we find out what’s become of the rest of the world. It’s not quite as dire as a full on zombie apocalypse or Captain Tripps, but it ain’t pretty. The group bounces around the remnants of a supposedly infection free Denver for a while before deciding to take a stand and destroy the entity that used them as lab rats. Even if the fate civilization is at stake. They figure that if after torturing children for 2 years WICKED didn’t get the appropriate brain wave patterns they were seeking, the search for the cure was moot. Game over, humanity! Or is it? Muahahahaha. Read the book y’all.

So. About me feeling a bit LOST. There IS a prequel. And I WILL be reading it. Don’t pull a LOST on me, Dashner, just don’t do it! My psyche is fragile! I shall keep you apprised of the happenings, my dear bookworms. Until then, tell me. These books bring up a lot of ethical questions about the rights of the few being sacrificed for the good of the many. We could totally have that discussion. OR. We could talk about why cheese is delicious and why penguins are so damn cute. Your choice, the floor is open.

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Jan 25

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: A Letter To Science

Contemporary Fiction, Personal, Psychological, Tear Jerkers 39

Dear Science,

I just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Are you familiar with the work? No? You are Science, after all, I can’t expect you to keep up with literature. I’ll give you a brief synopsis:

Alice Howland is a respected professor of linguistics and cognition at Harvard. When she begins to forget things, she believes she’s going through menopause or stressed. After a couple of harrowing experiences, Alice goes to visit her doctor. Her diagnosis is something she’d never have expected. At the age of 50, Alice is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

still alice

As you are well aware, Science, Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that typically affects the elderly. Alice is a sprightly fifty years old. Fifty isn’t even retirement age! Well, it isn’t retirement age unless you’re really really lucky… Or independently wealthy. You can relate, can’t you Science? What with all the grants you have to beg for? Seriously, how is a person supposed to deal with that kind of diagnosis? How does a spouse react to that news? How can children cope with their parents not recognizing them? It’s unfathomable to me, but so is calculus… Perhaps you’ll understand better.

I think Genova did a beautiful job portraying the emotions Alice feels as things begin to slip away from her memory. I love the way the family’s reactions are written as well. The people felt so REAL. The whole narrative was very genuine and thought provoking. And, well, let’s face it, a bit of a tear jerker. (Yes, Science. I think this would squeeze even YOUR muscular ventricles.)

Tissues aren't a bad idea if you plan to read this...

Unfortunately, Alice’s Alzheimer’s doesn’t just steal her memory and break her family’s hearts. It has a genetic component. Each of Alice’s children have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the early onset Alzheimer’s. This revelation just opens up ANOTHER whole can of ethical worms. The advances in genetic testing are miraculous, but are there any advantages to knowing that you’re destined to succumb to a virtually untreatable illness? I know I shouldn’t be asking rhetorical questions of you, Science, but since I don’t expect an answer, I can’t see the harm.

Now that I’m feeling all the feels and pondering the ethics of genetic testing, I’m going to go ahead and hit below the belt with an extra dosage of sad face. Dementia sucks the big one no matter how old you are when it hits. I don’t want to get all sob story on you, but my Grandma had dementia. I didn’t witness much of my Grandma’s decline first hand, but I DID make sure that she got a crap ton of greeting cards. (You’re WELCOME, postal service!) It would be a big fat lie to tell you that I knew the pain of having her not recognize me or that I had to calm her panic in the middle of the night when she didn’t know where she was. I really didn’t know how bad things had gotten until she was gone, and “dementia” was always the word being tossed about because “Alzheimer’s” was too frightening. Reading this book was a revelation to me- I felt like I finally understood what she must have gone through… THAT is really what turned on the water works.

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Psst. Science, if you’re not too busy, could you explain to Jim that I will not, in fact, shrink to Grandma size in my old age? I honestly don’t think she was ever very tall to begin with…

Here’s my plea to you, Science. There are other Grandmas out there. Let’s get to fixing this crappy disease now, okay? I know, Science. You’re very busy. Hypotheses don’t prove themselves, and there are lots and lots of diseases that need curing. I’m sure you’ll get around to revealing your secrets in your own good time. Until then, I, and the rest of the world, will be waiting. Impatiently.

Yours,

Katie

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