The Calculus Diaries
by Jennifer Ouellette
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Calculus was boring to me in school because “it was all theoretical,” said Sarah Zielinski in Smithsonian.com. Science writer Jennifer Ouellette proves it didn’t have to be that way in this new book, showing how even a modest grasp of the subject can bring out the hidden wonders of roller coasters, ocean waves, craps games, and even zombie reproduction. “What surprised me” is that Ouellette didn’t just make me see the world differently—she “made me want to do the math.”
The Perfection Point
by John Brenkus
ESPN’s John Brenkus is interested in finding “the absolute limits of human performance,” said David M. Shribman in The Wall Street Journal. His deep research amply demonstrates why not just anybody can hit a professional curveball or win in the breaststroke. But the fun of the book comes from his boldly specific predictions. Somebody, someday, will run 100 meters in 8.98 seconds? Or bench-press 921 pounds? “This stuff is catnip” to a sports fan.
Earth (The Book)
by Jon Stewart et al.
(Grand Central, $28)
The new faux-textbook from the staff of The Daily Show is funniest “when it takes on subjects of real substance,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. Presented as a guidebook for future extraterrestrials who may wonder what human civilization was like, it’s mildly amusing on throwaway subjects such as dinnerware and pants. Get the writers riffing on world religions, though, and they’re at their best: Islam, they write overcautiously, is “a beautiful harmless happy daffodil.”
by Jennifer Ackerman
Walking around without a coat isn’t the reason you catch colds, said Dennis Drabelle in The Washington Post. Science writer Jennifer Ackerman has devoted an entire book to separating myths about these “mundane” seasonal annoyances from the actual facts. The takeaways? Hands are the chief spreaders of cold viruses, so keeping them washed is more important than keeping yourself warm. And there really is no cure for a cold, so focus on treating the symptoms.
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