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Science Books

June 15, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore (2006)
ISBN: 1594865671

Global warming as an issue is no longer the sole domain of those who don lab coats for a living, which means that any politician worth their salt needs to go and hug a tree immediately. It seems that with the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States, and long time environmental protection advocate, has picked a timely moment to again spread his global warming message - despite sacrificing a few trees to do it. Gore has been campaigning about the impending crises associated with global warming since 1990, much to the delight of George Bush senior, who derisorily dubbed him "ozone man" during his 1992 election campaign. It's been a long time coming, but now, it seems, the tables have finally turned and the public are taking global warming very seriously. Challenging all previous characterizations of Gore as a boring pedant, An Inconvenient Truth is a populist take on a very complex and involved issue, written with a relaxed and lighthearted tone. But despite the generalist approach Gore takes, An Inconvenient Truth does an admirable job at conveying the costs associated with rising temperatures with passion and intellectual rigor. Despite occasional irritating political sound bites, An Inconvenient Truth is an excellent introduction for the layperson interested in getting a handle on global warming arguments, and what we should be doing to curb global warming and its potentially dire consequences.

The Cloudspotter's Guide
Gavin Pretor-Pinney (2006)
ISBN: 0399532560

The Cloudspotter's Guide is a surprisingly nifty and informative little book, where daydream and science are effortlessly woven together to both evoke childlike wonderment and satisfy adult sophistications. Gavin Pretor-Pinney, Oxford University graduate co-founder of The Idler magazine, is the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, and describes The Cloudspotter's Guide - the Cloud Appreciation Society's very first publication - as a "humorous and instructive tour of the sky." The aim of the guide is to draw attention to the beautiful and fascinating phenomenon of cloud formations that once held our childhood imaginations captive. Instead of glumly viewing the presence of clouds as merely a potential dampener on your wedding day or barbecue, Pretor-Pinney tells us how clouds can be used to predict earthquakes, how clouds can be surfed like waves, and what type of cloud is referred to when we talk of "mackerel skies." Pretor-Pinney explains where clouds come from and how they form, and thoroughly covers the A to Z of cloud families. Pretor-Pinney also calls upon famous historical figures whose poetry, art and science adds depth and understanding to the ephemeral existence of clouds, as well as relating his own childhood musings on clouds. Such banter is interspersed with clear and accessible scientific explanations of topics that will augment the experience of cloudspotting. Filled with photographs and line drawings of clouds and the various historical and mass culture references to them, The Cloudspotter's Guide is an eclectic and addictive source of information that will become a well-thumbed addition to any bookshelf.

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