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2012 Lane Anderson Award Shortlist: Celebrating the Best Science Writing in Canada

One of the highlights of the year for me is the Lane Anderson Award shortlist announcement.

From their website:

The Lane Anderson Award honours the very best science writing in Canada today, both in the adult and young-reader categories. Each award will be determined on the relevance of its content to the importance of science in today’s world, and the author’s ability to connect the topic to the interests of the general trade reader.”

The annual Lane Anderson Award honours two jury-selected books, in the categories of adult and young-reader, published in the field of science, and written by a Canadian.

Which given my Canadianness and my very evident love of science books, and especially lists of science books and awards, is naturally something I'm very excited about.

Let's get to the award. From the press release I received from the organizers today:

Lane Anderson Award Shortlist

Celebrating the Best Science Writing in Canada

 

The six finalists competing for the 2012 Lane Anderson Award were announced today by Hollister Doll and Sharon Fitzhenry, directors of the Fitzhenry Family Foundation. The annual Lane Anderson Award honours two jury-selected books, in the categories of adult and young reader, published in the field of science, and written by a Canadian. The winner in each category will receive a prize of $10,000. Winners will be announced on 26th September.
 

The 2012 Lane Anderson Prize Adult Finalists:

Fatal Flaws by Jay Ingram (Harper Collins) Jay Ingram unties a complicated interweaving of biology, medicine, human tragedy, surprise and disbelief in the world of prions, and unravels some of history’s most stunning revelations about disease, the brain and infection. He was the host of Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet from the first episode until June 2011. Prior to joining Discovery, Ingram hosted CBC Radio’s national science show, Quirks & Quarks.

The Universe Within by Neil Turok (Anansi) The most anticipated nonfiction book of the season, this year's Massey Lectures is a visionary look at the way the human mind can shape the future. Neil Turok is one of the world’s top physicists and founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). He is currently the Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Superbodies by Greg Wells (Harper Collins) Based on the wildly popular segments broadcast during the Vancouver Olympics, Superbodies explores how genetics and DNA, the brain, muscles, lungs, heart and blood work together in extreme conditions. Greg Wells, PhD, is a physiologist, researcher and professor of high-performance sport at the University of Toronto.
 

The 2012 Lane Anderson Prize Young Reader Finalists:

The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea by Helaine Becker (Kids Can Press) Based on the idea that knowledge is power, The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea shows how the ocean works and why this immense ecosystem needs our protection. Experiments using everyday materials help explain the scientific concepts. Helaine Becker is a bestselling writer of children’s fiction, nonfiction and verse.

Canada Recycles by Peter Cooke and Laura Suzuki (Scholastic Canada) Everyone knows that recycling our waste helps the environment, but do you know how? Canada Recycles looks at why people need to recycle and takes readers through the recycling process.

How to Raise Monarch Butterflies by Carol Pasternak (Firefly) With more than 50 unique, close-up photographs readers will learn about the life cycle of the Monarch and how to encourage populations in their own backyards. Carol Pasternak is a photographer, personal trainer and educator who raises Monarch butterflies with her family.

 

The Lane Anderson designation honours the maiden names of Robert Fitzhenry’s mother, Margaret Lane, and his wife, Hilda Anderson Fitzhenry. The Fitzhenry Family Foundation is a privately directed Canadian foundation established in 1987 by Canadian publisher Robert I. Fitzhenry (1918-2008). The Lane Anderson Award is administered by Christopher Alam, a partner at the law firm of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

 

For further information, please contact:
Debby de Groot
MDG & Associates
Phone: (647) 295-2970
E-mail: debby@mdgassociates.com
www.laneanderson.ca

Cool linky stuff for science undergrads (8)

I have a son who's starting his second year as a physics undergrad. As you can imagine, I occasionally pass along a link or two to him pointing to stuff on the web I think he might find particularly interesting or useful. Thinking on that fact, I surmised that perhaps other science students might find those links interesting or useful as well. Hence, this series of posts here on the blog.

By necessity and circumstance, the items I've chosen will be influenced by my son's choice of major and my own interest in the usefulness of computational approaches to science and of social media for outreach and professional development.

The previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Reading Diary: How to fake a moon landing: Exposing the myths of science denial by Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham's How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial is a bit different from most of the graphic novels I've reviewed in this space. Most of the earlier books I've reviewed have been biographical or historical in nature with the more expository ones at least having some fictional narrative wrapped around the scientific content. I guess you could say there's quite a bit of sugar to make the medicine go down a bit more smoothly.

This book however is really nothing but exposition with just enough bare-bones narrative to keep the facts rolling. It's a series of eight chapters, most very directly taking on a different area of science where there's a lot of misinformation and misplaced skepticism out there: The Moon Hoax, Homeopathy, Chiropratic, The MMR Vaccination Scandal, Evolution, Fracking, Climate Change and Science Denial. The Fracking chapter is a bit different in that the rest given that it's more specifically about a technology that is poorly understood fairly new technology rather than one where there's a long and storied history of misinformation and willful, misinformed denialism. The final chapter on Science Denial is a nice summary of what's gone before, putting the rest of the book in nice context.

So what is this book for, you ask? I'm really not sure. On the one hand, the run throughs of the various topics are quite nice given the short space. The make the main points and present the relevant facts and directly address specific misunderstandings or fake controversies. On the other hand, they are still fairly short and superficial, just by virtue of the limited space. In that sense, to me it seems unlikely that this would change the mind of any convinced science denier. Of course, changing the minds of the hard core is probably impossible at this point, so maybe the fact that this book won't help you there isn't really that big a deal.

So what's left? I can think of a couple of really nice uses. First of all, the main points are so well laid out that the book serves as a nice refresher and source of talking points for the pro-science crowd. And perhaps most importantly, this would be a great resource to give to the still impressionable youngsters out there, setting the stage for a life of science acceptance among the undecideds. In other words, a great book for kids.

And this is where the book's simple, clean and engaging narrative and illustration will come in handy. The book is lively and accessible, not condescending at all. It's also quite fun and light-hearted at times, finding the right tone for fairly serious material.

I would recommend this book primarily to any public or school library. It is a wonderful resource for children and young adults as well as adults. The cheeky title and colourful and playful cover will assure it of heavy circulation. Academic libraries that collect science graphic novels would also do well to get this book.

Cunningham, Darryl How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial. New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2013. 176pp. ISBN-13: 978-1419706899

 

 

Other science graphic novels I have reviewed:

Around the Web: I'm Not Your Sweetheart, Schol Comm competencies for academic librarians & the frustration thereof and more

Friday Fun: Disappointment for scientists as new super-computer fails to go mad

Newsbiscuit is my favourite humour site and has been for a while. The dry British humour combined with OTT story ideas is irresistible.

And speaking of irresistible, I just love this one:

Disappointment for scientists as new super-computer fails to go mad

Scientists at Mal-Tech University, Wisconsin have expressed their immense disappointment at the failure of their new super-computer Off White to show any signs of megalomania.

The technological titan went online six months ago has since performed flawlessly, displaying nary a hint of sentience, lunacy or vague curiosity. Project leader Professor Eugene Blank said ‘We were really looking forward to pitting our wits against a self-aware computing colossus with a God complex but the damn thing just sits there all day doing really big sums and getting them right every time without so much as a hint of smugness or even a ‘Good Morning Eugene’. It has less personality than my cousin Maurice who works in real estate and drives a Toyota.’

Makes me think of just about every Star Trek episode ever.

An update on reading and reviewing

I've been mostly on vacation for the last little while so I've fallen a bit behind on writing the book reviews I feature here on the blog fairly regularly. In fact, there might even be a few books that, ahem, have been sitting around read and unreviewed for perhaps even longer than the last month or so.

I thought I'd use this post as a bit of internal incentive to actually get the damn things written.

I'll take a crack at listing some books here. I'll go with those that are read but unreviewed, in process of being read (or that I intend to start very soon).

I'm also listing those that are on the to-be-read pile that I'm looking forward to getting to in the hopefully not too distant future. I'm also considering this part of the list a bit of an "over the transom" list of review copies I've received recentish. Some of these I won't get to reading/reviewing but at least by listing them here I'm providing the publisher at least some publicity. At end I'll mention a few that haven't been released yet but that I am anxiously awaiting.

 

Books I've Finished Reading but Haven't Written the Review Yet (Probably in order I'm going to write reviews)

  

In Progress or Imminent

  

To Be Read / Over the Transom

  

Forthcoming Publications

  

Some of the in progress or to be read books I may never get around to reviewing or even finishing reading. Some I might end up combining into group reviews. And I do occasionally get review copies of books from publishers, maybe 10-12 per year. I don't read all the ones I receive -- or finish all the ones I start -- but I do usually review the ones I end up reading. The to be read list includes some of the publisher-supplied books.

Finally, if you want a little bit of a closer (and wider!) look at my day-to-day reading habits, you can follow me on Goodreads.

Around the Web: Non-librarian librarians, Lego librarians, Sweetheart librarians, Superhero librarians and more

Friday Fun: Print Dead At 1,803

Sometimes The Onion just nails it. I don't have to say how funny/happy/sad/conflicted/overjoyed/suicidal/smug/ your average librarian is going to find this one.

Print Dead At 1,803

Reaction to print’s tragic demise was overwhelming, with countless individuals within the publishing sector left reeling at its death.

“I’m in absolute shock right now,” said Charles Townsend, CEO of Condé Nast Publications, who reportedly worked closely with the beloved medium throughout his career. “I knew that it had been struggling recently, but, still, I thought it had many more happy, healthy years in it. I always hoped it would be around forever, I guess. I loved print.”

*snip*

“You have to hand it to print, it really had an incredible run,” said Madison, WI resident and avid reader Emily Burnett, 39, noting that though she always knew in her heart print would pass away one day, it still hasn’t been easy to bid it farewell. “Look at print’s list of accomplishments: the Magna Carta, the King James Bible, the oldest surviving manuscript of the I Ching, the Declaration of Independence, the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, every single issue of The Onion ever printed. That’s quite a legacy print’s leaving behind. And the world will not soon forget it.”

“On second thought,” Burnett added, after pausing a moment, “the world will probably forget it pretty soon, actually.”

Hey, Print, it was nice knowing you. I remember you fondly, especially those first comic books I bought with my own money in the early 1970s and Perry Rhodan books I so enjoyed when I was a bit older.

If anyone would like to add their own remembrances of our dear friend, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Reading Diary: On a beam of light: A story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky

Albert's Ideas helped build spaceships and satellites that travel to the moon and beyond. His thinking helped us understand our universe as no one ever had before.

But still, Albert left us many big questions. Questions that scientists are working on today.

Questions that someday you may answer...by wondering, thinking and imagining.

So ends the incredibly wonderful children's book On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein with words by Jennifer Berne and pictures by Vladimir Radunsky.

Aimed at a preschool audience, this book tells the story of Albert Einstein's life in lively and accessible prose and, appropriately for Einstein's era, very impressionistic pictures. It tells the tale of a dreamy and curious boy who grew up to be a dreamy, curious and very famous man. One of the things I like most about the book is the way it emphasizes the role of curiosity -- thinking, dreaming, reading and especially asking questions -- in Einstein's life and career. His years at the Swiss patent office are highlighted as a time where he could really think deeply.

It even broaches some of topic areas of his discoveries like Brownian motion or relativity. One missed opportunity perhaps would have been to show one of Einstein's thought experiments in a bit more depth. Perhaps it was thought that the target audience was too young to be able to get a good explanation at the right level. On the other hand, some illustrated Einsteinian thought experiments might make a very fine children's book on their own.

The tone is both light-hearted and engaging, a sense of fun and whimsy permeate the words and pictures throughout which is very fitting for Einstein since he never lost his playfulness. This is definitely a book that children will find as wondrous and delightful as the adults in their lives will feel virtuous and serious-minded for buying it for them.

This is a book I would recommend without hesitation to any library that serves small children, up until the age when they start reading. That would include public libraries and daycare collections for sure. This would also make a great gift for any family with young children -- which is what's going to happen to my copy now that I'm done with it.

My previous kid's book review was of The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham which was also wonderful. That review also contains some recommendations for kid's books about female mathematicians.

Berne, Jennifer and Vladimir Radunsky. On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2013. 56pp. ISBN-13: 978-0811872355