Newsletter, Nov 4th 2022
This was the newsletter I was writing last week, before I got side-swiped by Covid! All is well now and we are back in business. And the first order of business is to announce our First Anniversary/Birthday Party for Friday 11/25 - ALL Day!
Can you believe it's almost a year since we first opened doors? We weren't quite ready to open but the books had arrived, even though the book cases hadn't. We decided to do an open house to showcase the selection just for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was mostly a friends and family affair, but there was enough interest that we decided to stay open since and never got around to the Grand Opening. And here we are a year later. Thanks to the hundreds of you that have joined us since then, this venture seems less crazy every day.
Now's the time to take a moment - or day - to step back and look at everything we've accomplished and all that we have to celebrate! Come join us! Details will be added to the event site as we go.
Friday Nov 11th 4p - Robotics workshop with STEM Builders. Need minimum 4 registrations to run the session. I've heard several area schools have the day off. If you're looking for something fun for them to do, this is your chance.
Saturday Nov 26th 7p - Matt Kessen's comedy show, which had to be canceled due to my Covid infection, has been rescheduled to be part of our Anniversary weekend festivities. Show theme will be slightly different than originally planned.
Sunday Dec 4th 2p - Conversation with Jessica Nordell - Award-winning Author of “End of Bias”. Thanks to all who answered the survey on this topic. The event is setup and ready for you to register. Looking forward to a great conversation!
Middle Grades (Ages 7-12) - Sunday 11/13 4p - Discussing “Flush” by Carl Hiaasen.
Science Nonfiction - 18+ - Sunday 11/20 2p - This will be the first session on Joy of x.
Science News of the Week
This one's a couple months old, but I'd picked it out to be the perfect complement to Halloween. Little late but no less creepy - Scientists at Yale were able to bring back pig cells that had been “dead" for an hour …"team was especially surprised to observe involuntary and spontaneous muscular movements in the head and neck areas…". Yikes!
Keeping with the medical theme, researchers in Canada have made nano-bots from DNA that can deliver medicine directly to tumors in the body! This initial success bodes well for the treatment of cancer and other diseases, they say.
New Book Recommendations
I'm sharing more than my usual 5 this week and will probably continue with a larger list for the next few weeks. I'm also adding the genre and age recommendation for each. Hopefully, that'll help you as you start tackling your holiday gift list.
A quick shout-out and thank you to our friend and mentor Gary Berosik for presenting us with this hand calligraphy version of Carl Sagan's quote. That quote inspired today's subject line. Look for it next time you're in-store.
Keep finding the magic and see you at The Spot soon,
New Releases this week
The Song of the Cell
By Siddhartha Mukherjee
Released: Oct 25th 2022 / Medical History
From the author of The Emperor of All Maladies, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and The Gene, a #1 New York Times bestseller, comes his most spectacular book yet, an exploration of medicine and our radical new ability to manipulate cells. Rich with Mukherjee’s revelatory and exhilarating stories of scientists, doctors, and the patients whose lives may be saved by their work, The Song of the Cell is the third book in this extraordinary writer’s exploration of what it means to be human. Mukherjee begins this magnificent story in the late 1600s, when a distinguished English polymath, Robert Hooke, and an eccentric Dutch cloth-merchant, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked down their handmade microscopes. What they saw introduced a radical concept that swept through biology and medicine, touching virtually every aspect of the two sciences, and altering both forever. It was the fact that complex living organisms are assemblages of tiny, self-contained, self-regulating units. Our organs, our physiology, our selves—hearts, blood, brains—are built from these compartments. Hooke christened them “cells”. The discovery of cells—and the reframing of the human body as a cellular ecosystem—announced the birth of a new kind of medicine based on the therapeutic manipulations of cells. A hip fracture, a cardiac arrest, Alzheimer’s dementia, AIDS, pneumonia, lung cancer, kidney failure, arthritis, COVID pneumonia—all could be reconceived as the results of cells, or systems of cells, functioning abnormally. And all could be perceived as loci of cellular therapies. In The Song of the Cell, Mukherjee tells the story of how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them, and are now using that knowledge to create new humans. He seduces you with writing so vivid, lucid, and suspenseful that complex science becomes thrilling. Told in six parts, laced with Mukherjee’s own experience as a researcher, a doctor, and a prolific reader, The Song of the Cell is both panoramic and intimate—a masterpiece.Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of The Gene: An Intimate History, a #1 New York Times bestseller; The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction; and The Laws of Medicine. He is the editor of Best Science Writing 2013. Mukherjee is an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in many journals, including Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cell, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters. Visit his website at: SiddharthaMukherjee.com.
A Poison Like No Other
By Matt Simon
Released: Oct 25th 2022 / Science / Environmental Science
“Informed, utterly blindsiding account.” - Booklist, starred review It’s falling from the sky and in the air we breathe. It’s in our food, our clothes, and our homes. It’s microplastic and it’s everywhere—including our own bodies. Scientists are just beginning to discover how these tiny particles threaten health, but the studies are alarming. In A Poison Like No Other, Matt Simon reveals a whole new dimension to the plastic crisis, one even more disturbing than plastic bottles washing up on shores and grocery bags dumped in landfills. Dealing with discarded plastic is bad enough, but when it starts to break down, the real trouble begins. The very thing that makes plastic so useful and ubiquitous – its toughness – means it never really goes away. It just gets smaller and smaller: eventually small enough to enter your lungs or be absorbed by crops or penetrate a fish’s muscle tissue before it becomes dinner. Unlike other pollutants that are single elements or simple chemical compounds, microplastics represent a cocktail of toxicity: plastics contain at least 10,000 different chemicals. Those chemicals are linked to diseases from diabetes to hormone disruption to cancers. A Poison Like No Other is the first book to fully explore this public health threat, following the intrepid scientists who travel to the ends of the earth and the bottom of the ocean to understand the consequences of our dependence on plastic. As Simon learns from these researchers, there is no easy fix. But we will never curb our plastic addiction until we begin to recognize the invisible particles all around us.
Matt Simon is a science journalist at Wired magazine, where he covers the environment, biology, and robotics. He’s the author of two previous books, Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal About Our World—and Ourselves and The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution's Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life's Biggest Problems. He enjoys long walks on the beach and trying not to think about all the microplastics there.
By Joan E. Strassmann
Released: Oct 25th 2022 / Nature / Animals / Birds
A one-of-a-kind guide to birding locally that encourages readers to slow down and notice the spectacular birds all around them. Many birders travel far and wide to popular birding destinations to catch sight of rare or “exotic” birds. In Slow Birding, evolutionary biologist Joan E. Strassmann introduces readers to the joys of birding right where they are. In this inspiring guide to the art of slow birding, Strassmann tells colorful stories of the most common birds to be found in the United States—birds we often see but might not have considered deeply before. For example, northern cardinals thrive in the city, where they are free from predators. White brows on a male white-throated sparrow indicate that he is likely to be a philanderer. This essential guide to the fascinating world of common, everyday birds features:
detailed portraits of individual bird species and the scientists who have discovered and observed them
advice and guidance on what to look for when slow birding, so that you can uncover clues to the reasons behind specific bird behaviors
bird-focused activities that will open your eyes more to the fascinating world of birds
Slow Birding is the perfect guide for the birder looking to appreciate the beauty of the birds right in their own backyard, observing keenly how their behaviors change from day to day and season to season.
Joan Strassmann has been a slow birder all her life. She is an award-winning teacher of animal behavior, first at Rice University in Houston and then at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is Charles Rebstock professor of biology. She has written more than two hundred scientific articles on behavior, ecology, and evolution of social organisms. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives with her husband in St. Louis, Missouri.
By Katharina A. Zweig
Released: Oct 25th 2022 / Computers / Artificial Intelligence
An expert offers a guide to where we should use artificial intelligence—and where we should not. Before we know it, artificial intelligence (AI) will work its way into every corner of our lives, making decisions about, with, and for us. Is this a good thing? There’s a tendency to think that machines can be more “objective” than humans—can make better decisions about job applicants, for example, or risk assessments. In Awkward Intelligence, AI expert Katharina Zweig offers readers the inside story, explaining how many levers computer and data scientists must pull for AI’s supposedly objective decision making. She presents the good and the bad: AI is good at processing vast quantities of data that humans cannot—but it’s bad at making judgments about people. AI is accurate at sifting through billions of websites to offer up the best results for our search queries and it has beaten reigning champions in games of chess and Go. But, drawing on her own research, Zweig shows how inaccurate AI is, for example, at predicting whether someone with a previous conviction will become a repeat offender. It’s no better than simple guesswork, and yet it’s used to determine people’s futures. Zweig introduces readers to the basics of AI and presents a toolkit for designing AI systems. She explains algorithms, big data, and computer intelligence, and how they relate to one another. Finally, she explores the ethics of AI and how we can shape the process. With Awkward Intelligence. Zweig equips us to confront the biggest question concerning AI: where we should use it—and where we should not.
Katharina A. Zweig is Professor of Computer Science at the TU Kaiserslautern in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Wild New World
By Dan Flores
Released: Oct 25th 2022 / Science / Natural History
A deep-time history of animals and humans in North America, by the best-selling and award-winning author of Coyote America.
In 1908, near Folsom, New Mexico, a cowboy discovered the remains of a herd of extinct giant bison. By examining flint points embedded in the bones, archeologists later determined that a band of humans had killed and butchered the animals 12,450 years ago. This discovery vastly expanded America’s known human history but also revealed the long-standing danger Homo sapiens presented to the continent’s evolutionary richness.