Advance Copy: Backstories on books by NASW members

Rod Pyle: Interplanetary Robots

From the first images of Mars Mariner 4 sent back to earth in 1965 to those of Pluto New Horizons captured in its 2015 flyby, the solar system has proved “far less friendly and hospitable than we had hoped, but more fascinating than we could have imagined,” Rod Pyle writes. In Interplanetary Robots: True Stories of Space Exploration, Pyle recounts six decades of headline-making history.

Stephen Ornes: Math Art

A mathematician created 13 mathematical quilts providing visual representations of patterns in pi. A topologist worked out equations for inner and outer curves of seashells to sculpt shells from gypsum. A teacher crochets tangible models of the hyperbolic plane. In Math Art: Truth, Beauty, and Equations, Stephen Ornes explains the math and provides stunning examples of mathematical art.

Charles Graeber: The Breakthrough

Skeptical reporters usually avoid the word “breakthrough,” but Charles Graeber deems it the right word for the Nobel Prize-winning scientific discoveries he describes in The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer. More than 3000 clinical trials of immunotherapeutic drugs for cancer are in process. “Even oncologists, a cautious bunch,” he writes, “are using the C word: cure.

Mark Wolverton: Burning the Sky

In the late 1950s, during the Cold War, the U.S. secretly conducted high-altitude atomic bomb tests, aiming to create a radiation shield to block incoming warheads. New York Times reporters pierced the veil of secrecy, raising safety and moral concerns relevant today, Mark Wolverton relates in Burning the Sky: Operation Argus and the Untold Story of the Cold War Nuclear Tests in Outer Space.

Jason Goldman: Wild LA

In Los Angeles, the La Brea Tar Pits hold millions of Ice Ace fossils, bobcats roam urban parks, and the world’s northernmost resident sea turtle population swims in the San Gabriel River. In Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature In and Around Los Angeles, NASW member Jason G. Goldman and colleagues provide an informative guide to these and other attractions, with photos, maps, and directions.

Rod Pyle: Space 2.0

SpaceX sent a Crew Dragon spacecraft with cargo to the International Space Station this month. A planned Crew Dragon trip to ISS later this year will put two NASA astronauts in space for the first time since 2011. In SPACE 2.0: How Private Spaceflight, a Resurgent NASA, and International Partners are Creating a New Space Age, Rod Pyle conveys the excitement of the next era of space exploration.

Christie Aschwanden: Good to Go

Once seen as rest between workouts, recovery today is deemed an active extension of training. Techniques, foods, drinks, and other products that promise to speed recovery abound. Some help; some don’t or even may cause harm. In Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery, Christie Aschwanden helps readers distinguish substance from hype.

Cover: Minecraft Survival

Linda Zajac, Unofficial Guides to Minecraft Survival & Minecraft Mods

How does a writer research a book on the computer game Minecraft for elementary school-age children? By playing it–a lot, Linda Zajac reports. In The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft Survival, she provides tips to help users stay alive in the game, and in The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft Mods, she explains how users can vary their gaming experience. Both books include STEM and coding sidebars.

Steven Nadis: Shape of a Life

Harvard geometer, Fields medalist, and McArthur Award recipient Shing-Tung Yau grew up in poverty in China and Hong Kong. A teacher’s recommendation enabled him to pursue doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In The Shape of a Life: One Mathematician’s Search for the Universe’s Hidden Geometry, Yau and NASW member Steven Nadis tell Yau’s engaging story and explore his work.