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Day 12: Science & Space Books

Explore the mysteries of the natural world with these out-of-this-world nonfiction science books.

From an intimate memoir by Buzz Aldrin to a landmark novel about chaos theory, today's selections explore the secrets of space and our home planet. 

Buy Return to Earth at Amazon

Return to Earth

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Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s courageous, candid memoir of his return to Earth after the historic moon landing and his personal struggle with fame and depression.

“We landed with all the grace of a freight elevator,” Buzz Aldrin relates in the opening passages of Return to Earth, remembering Command Module Columbia’s abrupt descent into the gravity of the blue planet. With that splash, Aldrin takes readers on a journey through the human side of the space program, as one of the first two men to land on the moon learns to cope with the pressures of his new public persona.

In honest and compelling prose, Aldrin reveals a side of instant fame for which West Point and NASA could never have prepared him. One day a fighter pilot and engineer, the next a cultural hero burdened with the adoration of thousands, Aldrin gives a poignant account of the affair that threatened his marriage, as well as his descent into alcoholism and depression that resulted from trying to be too many things to too many people.

Deal price: $2.99

Buy The Edge of the Sea at Amazon

The Edge of the Sea

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From the National Book Award–winning author of Silent Spring: An exploration of marine life that takes us into “a truly extraordinary world” (The Atlantic Monthly).

In her luminous descriptions of intertidal life, Carson shows her remarkable ability to describe the beauties of science and the natural world.

Deal price: $2.99

The Edge of the Sea

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Buy The Goldilocks Enigma at Amazon

The Goldilocks Enigma

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The Goldilocks Enigma is Paul Davies’s eagerly awaited return to cosmology, the successor to his critically acclaimed bestseller The Mind of God. Here he tackles all the “big questions,” including the biggest of them all: Why does the universe seem so well adapted for life?

In his characteristically clear and elegant style, Davies shows how recent scientific discoveries point to a perplexing fact: many different aspects of the cosmos, from the properties of the humble carbon atom to the speed of light, seem tailor-made to produce life. A radical new theory says it’s because our universe is just one of an infinite number of universes, each one slightly different. Our universe is bio-friendly by accident—we just happened to win the cosmic jackpot.

Deal price: $2.99

The Goldilocks Enigma

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Buy Chaos at Amazon

Chaos

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The “highly entertaining” New York Times bestseller, which explains chaos theory and the butterfly effect, from the author of The Information (Chicago Tribune).

For centuries, scientific thought was focused on bringing order to the natural world. But even as relativity and quantum mechanics undermined that rigid certainty in the first half of the twentieth century, the scientific community clung to the idea that any system, no matter how complex, could be reduced to a simple pattern. In the 1960s, a small group of radical thinkers began to take that notion apart, placing new importance on the tiny experimental irregularities that scientists had long learned to ignore. Miniscule differences in data, they said, would eventually produce massive ones—and complex systems like the weather, economics, and human behavior suddenly became clearer and more beautiful than they had ever been before.

In this seminal work of scientific writing, James Gleick lays out a cutting edge field of science with enough grace and precision that any reader will be able to grasp the science behind the beautiful complexity of the world around us.

Deal price: $2.99

Buy Strange Angel at Amazon

Strange Angel

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“A riveting tale of rocketry, the occult, and boom-and-bust 1920s and 1930s Los Angeles.” —Booklist

ROCKET SCIENTIST KILLED IN PASADENA EXPLOSION screamed the headline of the Los Angeles Times. John Parsons, a maverick rocketeer who helped transform the rocket from a derided sci-fi plotline into a reality, was at first mourned as a scientific prodigy. But reporters soon uncovered a more shocking story: Parsons had been a devotee of black magic. George Pendle re-creates the world of John Parsons in this dazzling portrait of prewar superstition, cold war paranoia, and futuristic possibility. Fueled by childhood dreams of space flight, Parsons was a leader of the motley band of enthusiastic young men who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a cornerstone of the American space program. But Parsons’s wild imagination also led him into the occult—for if he could make rocketry a reality, why not magic? With a cast of characters including Howard Hughes, L. Ron Hubbard, and Robert Heinlein, Strange Angel explores the unruly consequences of genius.

Deal price: $2.99

Buy Challenger: An American Tragedy at Amazon

Challenger: An American Tragedy

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On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seventy-three seconds after launch, the fiery breach of a solid motor joint caused a rupture of the propellant tanks, and a stunned nation watched as flames engulfed the craft, killing all seven crew members on board. It was Hugh Harris, “the voice of launch control,” whom audiences across the country heard counting down to lift-off on that fateful day.

With over fifty years of experience with NASA’s missions, Harris presents the story of the Challenger tragedy as only an insider can. With by-the-second accounts of the spacecraft’s launch and a comprehensive overview of the ensuing investigation, Harris gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the devastating accident that grounded the shuttle fleet for over two years. This book tells the whole story of the Challenger’s tragic legacy.

Deal price: $1.99

Challenger: An American Tragedy

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Buy Moon Shot at Amazon

Moon Shot

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A revised edition of the New York Times bestselling classic: the epic story of the golden years of American space exploration, told by the men who rode the rockets.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, and the space race was born. Desperate to beat the Russians into space, NASA put together a crew of the nation’s most daring test pilots: the seven men who were to lead America to the moon. The first into space was Alan Shepard; the last was Deke Slayton, whose irregular heartbeat kept him grounded until 1975. They spent the 1960s at the forefront of NASA’s effort to conquer space, and Moon Shot is their inside account of what many call the twentieth century’s greatest feat—landing humans on another world.

Collaborating with NBC’s veteran space reporter Jay Barbree, Shepard and Slayton narrate in gripping detail the story of America’s space exploration from the time of Shepard’s first flight until he and eleven others had walked on the moon.

Deal price: $2.99

Buy X-15 Diary at Amazon

X-15 Diary

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The riveting true story of the world’s fastest plane and the first manned flights into outer space.

First tested in 1959, the X-15 rocket plane was at the forefront of the space race. Developed by the US Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in collaboration with North American Aviation, the X-15 was sleek, black, and powerful—a missile with stubby wings and a cockpit on the nose. By 1961 it could reach speeds over three thousand miles per hour and fly at an altitude of thirty-one miles above the earth’s surface—the lower reaches of outer space.

Acclaimed journalist and bestselling author Richard Tregaskis tells the story of the X-15’s development through the eyes of the brave pilots and brilliant engineers who made it possible. From technological breakthroughs to disastrous onboard explosions to the bone-crushing effects of intense g-force levels, Tregaskis captures all the drama and excitement of this crucial proving ground for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.

Deal price: $2.99

Buy Martian Summer at Amazon

Martian Summer

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A space enthusiast goes inside mission control with a motley crew of rocket scientists in this “fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor” (Publishers Weekly).

The Phoenix Mars mission was the first man-made probe ever sent to the Martian arctic. Its purpose was to find out how climate change could turn a warm, wet planet (read: Earth) into a cold, barren desert (read: Mars). Along the way, Phoenix discovered a giant frozen ocean trapped beneath the north pole of Mars, exotic food for aliens, and liquid water, and laid the foundation for NASA’s current exploration of Mars using the Curiosity rover.

This is not science fiction. It’s fact. And for the luckiest fanboy in fandom, it was the best vacation ever. Andrew Kessler spent the summer of 2008 in NASA’s mission control with one hundred thirty of the world’s best planetary scientists and engineers as they carried out this ambitious operation. He came back with a story of human drama about modern-day pioneers battling NASA politics, temperamental robots, and the bizarre world of daily life in mission control.

Deal price: $1.99

Buy The Dolphin in the Mirror at Amazon

The Dolphin in the Mirror

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For centuries, humans and dolphins have enjoyed a special relationship, evident not just in mythology and folklore but in many documented encounters. Diana Reiss is one of the world’s leading experts on dolphin intelligence, and her decades of research and interactions with dolphins have made her a strong advocate for their global protection. In The Dolphin in the Mirror, Reiss combines her science and activism to show just how smart dolphins really are and why we must protect them.

Dolphins are creative and self-aware, with distinct personalities and the ability to communicate with humans. They craft their own toys, use underwater keyboards, and live in complex societies in the seas. And yet some nations continue to slaughter them indiscriminately. This story of Reiss’s encounters and research with dolphins is both a scientific revelation and an emotional eye-opener, revealing one of the greatest intelligences on the planet and exposing our terrible mistreatment of the smartest creatures in the sea.

Deal price: $2.99

The Dolphin in the Mirror

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Buy Farewell to Reality at Amazon

Farewell to Reality

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From acclaimed science author Jim Baggot, a pointed critique of modern theoretical physics.

In this stunning new volume, Jim Baggott argues that there is no observational or experimental evidence for many of the ideas of modern theoretical physics: super-symmetric particles, super strings, the multiverse, the holographic principle, or the anthropic cosmological principle. These theories are not only untrue; they are not even science. They are fairy-tale physics: fantastical, bizarre and often outrageous, perhaps even confidence-trickery. This book provides a much-needed antidote. Informed, comprehensive, and balanced, it offers lay readers the latest ideas about the nature of physical reality while clearly distinguishing between fact and fantasy. With its engaging portraits of many central figures of modern physics, including Paul Davies, John Barrow, Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, and Leonard Susskind, it promises to be essential reading for all readers interested in what we know and don’t know about the nature of the universe and reality itself.

Deal price: $2.99

Farewell to Reality

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Buy The Little Blue-Eyed Vampire from Hell at Amazon

The Little Blue-Eyed Vampire from Hell

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Seek out the mysterious vampire squid on a stunning journey into the ocean’s depths with leading marine conservationist Richard Ellis.

Renowned marine conservationist Richard Ellis gives a fascinating account of the vampire squid. Named Vampyroteuthis infernalis (“the vampire squid from Hell”) by its nineteenth-century discoverer because of its sinister appearance, it is neither a vampire nor a true squid, and lives in the deep ocean where few humans ever catch sight of it. A unique, stunning creature, it is sometimes called a “living fossil,” and it can light up or turn inside out at a moment’s notice.

Ellis’s narrative of the vampire squid’s history, evolution, and characteristics is brought into context by his broad knowledge of other squid, octopus, and marine species. More than thirty dazzling images illustrate the book. The Little Blue-Eyed Vampire from Hell is an exhilarating journey into the ocean’s abyss, boldly illuminating one of the earth’s most elusive creatures.

Deal price: $0.99

The Little Blue-Eyed Vampire from Hell

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Published on 14 Dec 2017

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