What we're about

This is a popular-science book club where we meet monthly to discuss a non-fiction science book. We normally meet at 7PM on the last Wednesday of the month, at the Panera at Bowie Town Center, but meetings will be held online for the foreseeable future. Members aren't obliged to attend every meeting; you can choose to read only those books that appeal to you.

Some books we've already read include:

"Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus", by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy.

Mary Roach's "Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void"

"A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing", by Lawrence M. Krauss.

Deborah Blum's "The Poisoner's Handbook"

Sam Kean's "The Disappearing Spoon"

You can view a complete historical list of the books we've read (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-W2__nfKbB1GGk-mTZCjeXMv-HamLMzo0MEv4uyGMM8/) in the club.

You can also join our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/621255141548238/ or our e-mail discussion group at < https://groups.io/g/bowie-science >.

Upcoming events (4+)

In person/Online: Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, Mary Roach

Needs a location

This will be a hybrid meeting, held both at the Bowie Branch Library and also accessible on Zoom. The Zoom link for the meeting will be https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88116809321?pwd=NkV3Q29NWmZva05nMmlrUHBoSlY5QT09

Publisher's summary: What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and "danger tree" faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter’s Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque.

Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature’s lawbreakers. When it comes to "problem" wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem―and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.

In person/Online: The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life, Sarah Johnson

This will be a hybrid meeting, held both at the Bowie Branch Library and also accessible on Zoom. The Zoom link for the meeting will be https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81972269186?pwd=VlNadk1KRVhkM2grRDVMM1hjcVlKZz09

Publisher's summary: Mars was once similar to Earth, but today there are no rivers, no lakes, no oceans. Coated in red dust, the terrain is bewilderingly empty. And yet multiple spacecraft are circling Mars, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium, and Mare Sirenum—on the brink, perhaps, of a staggering find, one that would inspire humankind as much as any discovery in the history of modern science. In this beautifully observed, deeply personal book, Georgetown scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson tells the story of how she and other researchers have scoured Mars for signs of life, transforming the planet from a distant point of light into a world of its own.

Johnson’s fascination with Mars began as a child in Kentucky, turning over rocks with her father and looking at planets in the night sky. She now conducts fieldwork in some of Earth’s most hostile environments, such as the Dry Valleys of Antarctica and the salt flats of Western Australia, developing methods for detecting life on other worlds. Here, with poetic precision, she interlaces her own personal journey—as a female scientist and a mother—with tales of other seekers, from Percival Lowell, who was convinced that a utopian society existed on Mars, to Audouin Dollfus, who tried to carry out astronomical observations from a stratospheric balloon. In the process, she shows how the story of Mars is also a story about Earth: This other world has been our mirror, our foil, a telltale reflection of our own anxieties and yearnings.

Empathetic and evocative, The Sirens of Mars offers an unlikely natural history of a place where no human has ever set foot, while providing a vivid portrait of our quest to defy our isolation in the cosmos.

The Genius of Birds, Jennifer Ackerman

Link visible for attendees

Publisher's summary: Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. According to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence. In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores their newly discovered brilliance and how it came about.

As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research, Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are shifting our view of what it means to be intelligent. At once personal yet scientific, richly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures.

Life's Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive, Carl Zimmer

Link visible for attendees

Publisher's summary: In 1708, the chemist Georg Ernst Stahl posed a question. “Above all else, consequently, it comes down to this–to know, what is life?”

In 2018, the biologists Francis Westall and André Brack took stock of what science had learned over the intervening three centuries: “It is commonly said that there as many definitions of life as there are people trying to define it.”

In Life’s Edge, Carl Zimmer explores the nature of life and investigates why scientists have struggled to draw its boundaries. He handles pythons, goes spelunking to visit hibernating bats, and even tries his hand at evolution. Zimmer visits scientists making miniature human brains to ask when life begins, and follows a voyage that delivered microscopic animals to the moon, where they now exist in a state between life and death. From the coronavirus to consciousness, Zimmer demonstrates that biology, for all its advances, has yet to achieve its greatest triumph: a full theory of life.

Past events (137)

In-person/Online: The Doctors Blackwell, Janice P. Nimura

Needs a location

Photos (34)