Skip to main content

The Beekeeper’s Lament – Hannah Nordhaus ****

This was, without doubt a very enjoyable book to read, even though it wasn’t much of a science book. If you want to find more about bees themselves, read The Buzz About Bees, which I think is unbeaten as an exploration of the nature of bees. Here you won’t really even get a feel for what a superorganism is, or how individual bees really aren’t animals in their own right. However what you will find a lot about is beekeepers and their complication-ridden business.
I was amazed at the complexity of industrial scale beekeeping in the US – how, for example, the bee people are paid large sums by almond growers to transport their hives into the almond groves to perform the pollination, then have to move out again swiftly as there is no food at all for the bees once the blossoms have gone. This whole idea of driving thousands of hives across America is one I simply hadn’t realized existed.
Similarly it was fascinating to read about all the difficulties industrial beekeepers have faced. Like most people I was vaguely aware of the ‘disappearing bees’ when Colony Collapse Disorder struck, but not just how delicate bees were and how afflicted by other disasters, particular a nasty mite that destroys them wholesale.
Equally, along with that vague awareness I thought bees were in danger of disappearing – and they would if left to their own devices – but so effective is the industrial process that bee numbers are being kept up by setting up new colonies with remarkable rapidity.
This is, without doubt a very readable book, though I do find Hannah Nordhaus’s writing style a little self-consciously arty. There are bits of science that you’ll find out along the way, but it’s much more about the industry and its ups and downs, something that’s fascinating in its own right. Recommended.
Also on Kindle:  
Review by Brian Clegg


Popular posts from this blog

The Feed (SF) - Nick Clark Windo ****

Ever since The War of the Worlds, the post-apocalyptic disaster novel has been a firm fixture in the Science Fiction universe. What's more, such books are often among the few SF titles that are shown any interest by the literati, probably because many future disaster novels feature very little science. With a few exceptions, though (I'm thinking, for instance, The Chrysalids) they can make for pretty miserable reading unless you enjoy a diet of page after page of literary agonising.

The Feed is a real mixture. Large chunks of it are exactly that - page after page of self-examining misery with an occasional bit of action thrown in. But, there are parts where the writing really comes alive and shows its quality. This happens when we get the references back to pre-disaster, when we discover the Feed, which takes The Circle's premise to a whole new level with a mega-connected society where all human interaction is through directly-wired connections… until the whole thing fails …

Everything You Know About Space Is Wrong - Matt Brown ****

What we have here is a feast of assertions some people make about space that are satisfyingly incorrect, with pithy, entertaining explanations of what the true picture is. Matt Brown admits in his introduction that a lot of these incorrect facts are nitpicking - more on that in a moment - but it doesn't stop them being delightful. I particularly enjoyed the ones about animals in space and about the Moon.

Along the way, we take in space exploration, the Earth's place in space, the Moon, the solar system, the universe and a collection of random oddities, such as the fact that Mozart didn't write Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Sometimes the wrongness comes from a frequent misunderstanding. So, for example, Brown corrects the idea that Copernicus was the first to say that the Earth moves around the Sun. Sometimes there's some very careful wording. This is used when Brown challenges the idea that the Russian dog Laika was the first animal in space. What we discover is that, i…

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs - Lisa Randall ****

I did my PhD in galactic dynamics - which is an awkward subject when people want to know what its relevance to the 'real world' is. So I was excited when Clube and Napier's book The Cosmic Serpent came out, around the same time, because it provided me with a ready-made answer. It argued that the comets which occasionally crash into Earth with disastrous results - such as the extinction of the dinosaurs - are perturbed from their normal orbits by interactions with the large-scale structure of the galaxy.

I was reminded of this idea a few years ago when there was a flurry of media interest in Lisa Randall's "dark matter and the dinosaurs" conjecture. I was sufficiently enthusiastic about it to write an article on the subject for Fortean Times - though my enthusiasm didn't quite extend to purchasing her hardback book at the time. However, now that it's out in paperback I've remedied the situation - and I'm glad I did.

Dark matter is believed to exi…