7 books to tickle the mind
From lost civilisations and human hybrids to astrophysics and octopus brains, these invigorating books on science are sure to keep you hookedThe Singularity is Near
by Ray Kurzweil
Futurist Ray Kurzweil has thought deeply about the role computational power and artificial intelligence will play in our future. In the book, Kurzweil discusses what he sees as the next step in the evolutionary process: When our biology becomes so intertwined with machines that we improve our physical and mental capabilities well beyond what normal homo sapiens are capable of.
The Sixth Extinction
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Over the last 500 million years or so, the world has been faced with five distinct mass extinction events. In her latest work, Kolbert takes a look into the science behind what she deems the “Sixth Extinction” — and it’s primarily caused by us. While accompanying geologists, marine biologists, and botanists on their fieldwork, Kolbert introduces readers to species that are being wiped out of existence because of our impact on the planet.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
by Charles Mann
Mann’s look at what the complex societies of the Americas were like before Christopher Columbus’s fateful arrival is eye-opening. The author lifts the veil on the spectacular cities and civilisations of the ‘New World,’ and how they rivaled the empires in Europe and Asia.
He also explores how places like the Amazon rainforest have actually been subject to human intervention for over thousands of years.
by Jared Diamond
Diamond’s look into the causes of social and environmental collapse is a worthy read as we grapple with similar issues on a global scale. He uses Easter Island, the Mayans, early Viking settlements on Greenland and Iceland, and other prominent civilisations as case studies in how misguided political decisions, rapid population growth, and unsustainable agricultural practices lead to calamity.
The Soul of an Octopus
by Sy Montgomery
Montgomery’s immersion into the astounding world of octopus intelligence is both funny — when she recounts how some creatures make daring escapes — and a deeply pr o - fou nd look at the intelligence (and humanity) of a species so different from us. Scientists are only just beginning to understand how the eight-armed animals view the world, and what their color-coded communication means. If you are at all curious, start with this book.
by Stephen Pinker
Bill Gates called Enlightenment Now his “new favourite book of all time”. Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, takes a sweeping look at human history and comes to the optimistic conclusion that we’re living in the most peaceful era humans have ever enjoyed. He analyses 15 indicators, like literacy, quality of life, and safety, and compares data to show how they have changed over time.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
If you want to contemplate black holes, quantum mechanics, and time itself but you also have a day job, Tyson’s book is for you. A survey of the most important topics in cosmology and astrophysics, it offers a readable introduction to the universe and may help you understand a little bit more about what scientists are looking for in the great beyond.