Magic Universe: A Grand Tour of Modern Science

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OUP Oxford, Oct 13, 2005 - Science - 768 pages
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This is a marvellously engaging tour covering the whole of modern science, from transgenic crops to quantum tangles. Written by one of the most experienced and well-known names in science writing, it is also assuredly reliable science. Although arranged for convenience and quick reference as a collection of topics in alphabetical order, it is very different from any conventional encyclopedia. Each topic tells a story, making the book eminently browsable. Packed with information, yet carrying its immense learning lightly, this is a book that would appeal to anyone with the slightest interest in how the world works.

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HIGGS BOSONSThe multibilliondollar quest for the massmaker
HIGHSPEED TRAVELThe common sense of special relativity
HOPEFUL MONSTERSHow they herald a revolution in evolution
HOTSPOTSAre there really chimneys deep inside the Earth?
HUMAN ECOLOGYHow to progress beyond ecocolonialism
HUMAN GENOMEThe industrialization of fundamental biology
HUMAN ORIGINSWhy most of those exhumations are only of greataunts
ICERAFTING EVENTSGlacial surges in sudden changes of climate

BIODIVERSITYThe mathematics of coexistence
BIOLOGICAL CLOCKSMolecular machinery that governs lifes routines
BIOSPHERE FROM SPACEI want to do the whole world
BITS AND QUBITSThe digital world and its looming quantum shadow
BLACK HOLESThe awesome engines of quasars and active galaxies
BRAIN IMAGESWhat do all the vivid movies really mean?
BRAIN RHYTHMSThe mathematics of the beat we think to
BRAIN WIRINGHow do all those nerve connections know where to go?
BUCKYBALLS AND NANOTUBESDoing very much more with very much less
CAMBRIAN EXPLOSIONEasy come and easy go among the early animals
CARBON CYCLEExactly how does it interact with the global climate?
CELL CYCLEHow and when one living entity becomes two
CELL DEATHHow life makes suicide part of the evolutionary deal
CELL TRAFFICZip codes steppingstones and the recognition of lifes complexity
CEREALSGenetic boosts for the most cosseted inhabitants of the planet
CHAOSThe butterfly versus the ladybird and the Mercury Effect
CLIMATE CHANGEShall we freeze or fry?
CLONINGWhy doing without sex carries a health warning
COMETS AND ASTEROIDSSnowy dirtballs and their rocky cousins
CONTINENTS AND SUPERCONTINENTSCollagemaking since the world began
COSMIC RAYSWhere do the punchiest particles come from?
CRYOSPHEREIce sheets seaice and mountain glaciers tell a confusing tale
DARK ENERGYRevealing the power of an accelerating Universe
DARK MATTERA wind of wimps or the machinations of machos?
DINOSAURSWhy small was beautiful in the end
DISCOVERYWhy the top experts are usually wrong
DISORDERLY MATERIALSThe wonders of untidy solids and tidy liquids
DNA FINGERPRINTINGFrom parentage cases to facial diversity
EARTHWhy is it so very different from all the other planets of the Sun?
EARTHQUAKESWhy they may never be accurately predicted or prevented
EARTHSHINEHow bright clouds reveal climate change and perhaps drive it
ECOEVOLUTIONNew perspectives on variability and survival
ELECTROWEAK FORCEHow Europe recovered its fading glory in particle physics
ELEMENTSA legacy from stellar puffs collapsing giants and exploding dwarfs
EL NIÑOWhen a warm sea wobbles the global weather
EMBRYOSThink of the control genes operating a chemical computer
ENERGY AND MASSThe cosmic currency of Einsteins most famous equation
EVOLUTIONWhy Darwins natural selection was never the whole story
EXTINCTIONSWere they nearly all due to bolts from the blue?
EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFECould we be all alone in the Milky Way?
EXTREMOPHILESCreatures that thrive in unexpected places
FLOOD BASALTSCan impacting comets set continents in motion?
FLOWERINGColourful variations on a theme of genetic pathways
GALAXIESLooking for Junos milk in the infant Universe
GAMMARAY BURSTSNew black holes being fashioned every day
GENESWords of wisdom from our ancestors in four colours
GENOMES IN GENERALThe whole history of life in a chemical code
GLOBAL ENZYMESWhy they now fascinate geologists chemists and biologists
GRAMMARDoes it stand between computers and the dominion of the world?
GRAVITATIONAL WAVESShaking the Universe with weighty news
GRAVITYDid Uncle Albert really get it right?
HANDEDNESSMysteries of left versus right that wont go away
IMMORTALITYShould we be satisfied with 100 years?
IMMUNE SYSTEMWhats me whats you and whats a nasty bug?
IMPACTSPhysical consequences of collisions with comets and asteroids
LANGUAGESWhy women often set the new fashions in speaking
LIFES ORIGINWill the answer to the riddle come from outer space?
MAMMALSTracing our milkmaking forebears in a world of drifting continents
MEMORYTracking down the chemistry of retention and forgetfulness
MICROWAVE BACKGROUNDLooking for the pattern on the cosmic wallpaper
MINERALS IN SPACEFrom stellar dust to crystals to stones
MOLECULAR PARTNERSLetting natural processes do the chemists work
MOLECULES EVOLVINGHow the Japanese heretics were vindicated
MOLECULES IN SPACEExotic chemistry among the stars
NEUTRINO OSCILLATIONSWhen ghostly particles play hideandseek
NEUTRON STARSTicking clocks in the sky and their silent shadows
NUCLEAR WEAPONSThe desperately closerun thing
OCEAN CURRENTSA centralheating system for the world
PARTICLE FAMILIESCompleting the Standard Model of matter and its behaviour
PHOTOSYNTHESISHow does your garden grow?
PLANT DISEASESAn evolutionary arms race or just trench warfare?
PLASMA CRYSTALSHow a newly found force empowers dust
PLATE MOTIONSWhat rocky machinery refurbishes the Earths surface?
PREDATORSCome back Brer Wolf all is forgiven
PREHISTORIC GENESSorting the travelling salesmen from the settlers
PRIMATE BEHAVIOURClues to the origins of human culture
PRIONSFrom cannibals and mad cows to new modes of heredity and evolution
PROTEINMAKINGFrom an impressionistic dance to a real molecular movie
PROTEIN SHAPESLook forward to seeing them shimmy
PROTEOMESThe molecular corps de ballet of living things
QUANTUM TANGLESFrom puzzling to spooky to useful
QUARK SOUPRecreating a world without protons
SMALLPOXThe dairymaids blessing and the generals curse
SOLAR WINDHow it creates the heliosphere in which we live
SPACE WEATHERWhy it is now more troublesome than in the old days
SPARTICLESA wishedfor superworld of exotic matter and forces
SPEECHA gene that makes us more eloquent than chimpanzees
STARBURSTSGalactic traffic accidents and stellar baby booms
STARSHearing them sing and sizing them up
STEM CELLSTissue engineering natural and medical
SUNS INTERIORHow sound waves made our mother star transparent
SUPERSTRINGSRetuning the cosmic imagination
TIME MACHINESThe biggest issue in contemporary physics?
TRANSGENIC CROPSFor better or worse a planetary experiment has begun
TREE OF LIFEPromiscuous bacteria and the course of evolution
UNIVERSEIt must have known we were coming
VOLCANIC EXPLOSIONSWhere will the next big one be?

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About the author (2005)

Nigel Calder is a long-established and widely known science writer, and a former Editor of New Scientist.

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