Sometimes the deadliest weapons are the most unobtrusive:
Cholera-covered flies in the ceramic
containers that Japanese bombers
dropped on southern China in May
1942 triggered epidemics that ultimately claimed more than 200,000
lives — similar to the short-term death
toll from the two atomic bombs that
ended World War II.
Six-Legged Soldiers is a fascinating
account of the many ways that scientists and military strategists have used
insects to torture, starve and kill targets. As Lockwood notes, many techniques of modern germ warfare would
depend in large part on disease-ridden
insects such as flies, fleas and mos-quitoes. Microbes often can’t survive
long periods outside of their hosts, but
insects can act as delivery vessels.
The Lightness of Being:
Mass, Ether, and the
Unification of Forces
F or a safari-like adventure into the
world of physics, follow Wilczek’s
lead. Quirky but knowledgeable, he
explores the essence of the matter that
makes up the universe — combining the
enthusiasm of someone like Jeff
Corwin with the thoughtfulness of a
“I invite you to expand your view of
reality,” Wilczek writes. “I invite you to
expand the way you think.”
Over the past
few decades, physi-
cists’ ideas of reality
have changed dra-
matically. Matter is
like light, and mass
comes from energy,
Wilczek explains. He
describes space as a
dynamic “Grid” that hums as it creates
and destroys particles. And he renames
the standard model of particle physics
the “Core” for his purposes, because,
Sometimes, however, the insects
themselves have been the weapons.
Combatants including Romans and
pirates heaved beehives at their enemies, and the Viet Cong often created
booby-traps from nests of wild bees
along well-traveled trails.
Human diseases aren’t the only possible downside to insect-based biowarfare: The economic
impact of crop-destroying pests successfully deployed by
easily measure in the
billions of dollars.
In this book,
oughly and objectively assembles an
engaging chronicle on a topic for which
official documentation is often sparse
and the opportunity for propaganda is
rife. — Sid Perkins
Oxford Univ., 2009, 377 p., $27.95.
he says, it is not as boring as the name
“standard model” makes it sound.
Tracing recent discoveries in particle
physics, Wilczek explains why gravity
is weak, and he foreshadows a grand
unification theory. (Though he’ll have
to wait longer than expected for any
developments from the Large Hadron
Collider, the world’s largest particle
accelerator, near Geneva.)
Short chapters, bullet points and
repetition of major themes make for
easy reading, even as Wilczek skillfully
sidesteps potential pitfalls. He skips
over and later returns to topics including the masses of electrons and quarks
and, of course, the unknowns of dark
matter and dark energy — so these difficult topics don’t interrupt his tale.
Wilczek welcomes readers to join
him on his journey, and his excitement
makes the trip interesting, even when
the waters get murky. — Elizabeth Quill
Basic Books, 2008, 270 p., $26.95.
Editor’s note: Frank Wilczek is on the
board of trustees for the Society for
Science & the Public, which publishes
Nobel: A Century of
Michael Worek, ed.
Profiles of laureates
and of great achievements since 1901.
Firefly, 2008, 320 p., $24.95.
The Annotated Turing:
A Guided Tour through
Historic Paper on
Computability and the
A programmer and best-selling author
expands Turing’s 36-page paper by
adding historical and intellectual background. Wiley, 2008, 372 p., $29.99.
Bargaining for Eden:
The Fight for the
Last Open Spaces in
A writer, photographer
and environmentalist tells character-driven stories of land-use disputes in
the American West. Univ. of California,
2008, 319 p., $29.95.
and the Brain
Roderick I. Nicolson
and Angela J. Fawcett
take a theoretical
approach to a complex question: What
is dyslexia? MIT, 2008, 283 p., $38.
Cranes: A Natural
History of a Bird
Janice M. Hughes
An intimate profile of
these statuesque wad-
ers and a call for conservation.
Firefly, 2008, 256 p., $45.
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