Two new book reviews about small but powerful things

I’ve updated my Science Shelf book review archive with two interesting titles, Pluto Confidential and Rising Plague.


News about the Science Shelf archive of book reviews, columns, and comments by Fred Bortz

Issue #32, Small But Powerful Objects Edition, September-October2009

NOTE: Many of the links that follow take you to the review of the book in question. Each review has a link to buy at if you are interested.

Dear Science Readers,

The pace of my reviewing is slowing for the rest of this year, but the topics are just as fascinating. In case you missed the previous (“Small Steps and Giant Leaps”) edition of the Science Shelf newsletter click the link for one of the most well-received set of books to date.
If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing. I put out a new newsletter roughly every two months, so if you you won’t be inundated with e-mails from me.

This newsletter highlights new titles about two objects with a power to fascinate that is disproportionate to their small size: the planet Pluto and antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The Great Pluto-versy Rises Again
Readers of all ages, but especially my favorite audience of kids, are fascinated with Pluto and wonder why it has been “demoted” to dwarf status. My “Ask Dr. Fred” question on that subject continues to get about 80 hits per day during the school year and about half that number during vacation periods.

Newspaper book review editors and readers apparently share that fascination, as I was able to sell my third review in two years on the subject. Two new book reviews about small but powerful thingsPluto Confidential: An Insider Account of the Ongoing Battles about the Status of Pluto is a paperback original by Laurence A. Marschall and Stephen P. Maran, two experts who come down on opposite sides of the argument.

The authors may disagree with each other on the 2006 decision of the International Astronomical Union, but they share an enthusiasm for planet hunting that puts one of the most fascinating subfields of science in historical perspective. This is not the first time that a planet has been “demoted,” and it is certainly not the last time that a Solar System object that Maran thinks should be called a planet will be discovered.

To learn more, read the review. Besides a link to buy the book, it has links to my previous Pluto reviews plus one to my favorite historical planet-hunting story, The Neptune File by Tom Standage.

Revenge of the Superbugs
The heading is light-hearted here, but the subject matter is about as serious as it can get.

My review of Two new book reviews about small but powerful thingsRising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them by infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg, M.D. is written in the form of a letter to our national leaders because Spellberg points out that the reason for the “dwindling arsenal” in the title is a complex social and political issue.

Read my review and you may want to send it and a copy of the book to your representatives in Congress.

My Usual Thanks
Thank you to the growing number of people who are kind enough to buy some of the books that they discovered here through the Science Shelf links. Many use the link on the Science Shelf homepage to enter every time they shop for books or other Amazon products. It’s their way of thanking me for these archiving these reviews and occasionally publishing reviews by other people with varying points of view.

At the current pace, monthly commisions cover the cost of the web address, webhosting, and enough to buy me and my wife some Chinese take-out. I don’t expect commissions to cover the time I spend maintaining the archive of book reviews and sending out messages like this. That’s a labor of book- and science-love, and your feedback (in terms of increasing numbers of clicks) tells me you appreciate it.

As always, happy science reading, and thanks in advance for your support!

Fred Bortz

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Have a question? Let us know.


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