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Rewilding: Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe ****

Those who are enthusiastic about saving the environment often have a mixed relationship with science. They might for example, support organic farming or oppose nuclear power, despite organics having no nutritional benefit and requiring far more land to be used to raise the same amount of crops, while nuclear is a green energy source that should be seen as an essential support to renewables. This same confusion can extend to the concept of rewilding, which is one reason that the subtitle of this book uses the word 'radical'.

As Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe make clear, though, radical change is what is required if we are to encourage ecological recovery. To begin with, we need to provide environments for nature that take in the big picture - thinking not just of individual nature reserves but, for example, of corridors that link areas allowing safe species migration. And we also need to move away from an arbitrary approach to restricting to 'native' species, as sometimes…
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Lucy Jane Santos - Four Way Interview

Lucy Jane Santos is an expert in the history of 20th century leisure, health and beauty, with a particular interest in (some might say obsession with) the cultural history of radioactivity. Writes & talks (a lot) about cocktails and radium. Her debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium was published by Icon Books in July 2020.

Why science?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of science especially our daily interactions with and understandings of science – especially in a beauty context. I could spend hours pondering the labels of things on my bathroom shelf. What is 4-t-butylcyclohexanol (as a random example)? Do I really understand what I am putting on my face and spending my money on? Would it change my purchase habits if I did?  

Why this book?

This book came from an accidental discovery – that there was a product called Tho Radia which contained radium and thorium. I found out about it because I actually bought a pot of it – along with a big batch of other produc…

Grubane (SF) - Karl Drinkwater ****

Following on from Helene, this is the second novella that Karl Drinkwater has used to fill in some of the backstory of his Lost Solace novels. Here we meet the strategic genius ship captain Major William Grubane in a complex game of an engagement where the relatively dove-like Grubane has to fulfil  a mission that involves suppressing a rebellious planet while appeasing the more hawk-like side of his chain of command.

As is common to all the books in this series, an important factor is the interaction between a human and an artificial intelligence, in this case one of the many clone-like parts of the ship's AI known as Aurikaa12, which Grubane has encouraged towards a more human-like state of general intelligence than the other 'splinters'. The story is narrated from Aurikaa12's viewpoint. 

Along the way, chapters are interlaced with sections from Grubane's treatise The Philosophy and Application of Ancient Games in which he considers strategy in chess in a way that …

Is Einstein Still Right? - Clifford Will and Nicolas Yunes ***

If there's one thing that gets a touch tedious in science reporting it's the news headlines that some new observation or experiment 'proves Einstein right' - as if we're still not sure about relativity. At first glance that's what this book does too, but in reality Clifford Will and Nicolas Yunes are celebrating the effectiveness of the general theory of relativity, while being conscious that there may still be situations where, for whatever reason, the general theory is not sufficient.

It's a genuinely interesting book - what Will and Yunes do is take experiments that are probably familiar to the regular popular science reader already and expand on the simplified view of them we are usually given. So, for example, one of the first things they mention is the tower experiments to show the effect of gravitational red shift. I was aware of these experiments, but what we get here goes beyond the basics of the conceptual experiment to deal with the realities of d…

The Science of Sci-Fi Music - Andrew May ****

If you had to write a description of the target audience for this book - interested in science, science fiction and serious music - I am such a perfect match that I confess my rating of it may be slightly inflated. Andrew May takes on the whole gamut of the interaction between science fiction and music, from the use of music in science fiction films to the influence of science on music which gave it a 'sci-fi' feel. Along the way we get a whole host of revelations, and though May makes it clear that there will be very limited consideration of the theory of music itself, even there for many there will be discoveries.

We begin with 'alien sounds' - what makes music sound in some way alien or spacey. This mixes musical ideas and the move away from classical techniques in serious composing. From the 1950s, music for science fiction movies had a tendency to look to both electronics (for example in the downright weird soundtrack of the classic Forbidden Planet) to using much …

Captured by Aliens? - Nigel Watson ***

Some might regard a 'history and analysis of American [alien] abduction claims' as more science fiction than science fact, but Nigel Watson makes a reasonable case that either the abductions are real - in which case we're talking astrobiology - or they are in the minds and imaginations of the alleged abductees, in which case it's an interesting psychological phenomenon.

As someone who really enjoyed the X-Files, it was fascinating to see how much of that TV show appears to have been based on 'real' claims. Far and above my favourite show was a season three episode called José Chung's "From Outer Space". Not only is it extremely funny, it explores well the multiple layers of how incidents can be seen from different viewpoints in totally different and entirely contradictory ways - and this seems absolutely typical of the experts that Watson calls on (some believers, others sceptics) in looking at how abductions have been handled.

The backbone of the b…

Jeremy Szal - Four Way Interview

Jeremy Szal was born in 1995 and was raised by wild dingoes, which should explain a lot. He spent his childhood exploring beaches, bookstores, and the limits of people's patience. He's the author of over forty science-fiction short stories, many of which have been translated into multiple languages. He was the editor for the Hugo-winning StarShipSofa until 2020 and has a BA in Film Studies and Creative Writing from UNSW. He carves out a living in Sydney, Australia with his family. He loves watching weird movies, collecting boutique gins, exploring cities, cold weather, and dark humour. Stormblood is his first novel. 

Why SF?

It’s a genre I’ve loved since I was a kid watching Star Wars on a wet Sunday afternoon. Giant spaceships, laser cannons, desert planets, bizarre aliens, mind-bending weapons, the outlandish nature and weirdness of all it just struck a chord with me, and I know it always will.

Why this book?

I wanted to try something first-person, something voice driven, while …