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On the Scent - Paola Totaro and Robert Wainwright ***

When I started to read this book I wasn't aware of the significance of the second part of the tag line. I assumed it was a book about the science of the much-underrated sense of smell - and part of it is - but the main theme is that 'how its loss can change your world' part. Paola Totaro lost her sense of smell early in the Covid pandemic, and this would have a big impact on her life, driving forward the urge to find out more about changes that can occur to the sense of smell.  Loss or modification of the ability to detect odours is more common than we tend to think, but has largely been ignored by the medical profession, in part because we tend to under-rate the importance of the ability to detect odours. Totaro covers both the total loss of detection and also the, arguably more devastating, situation where substances as innocuous as water, along with many foods, can start to smell disgusting - another common impact of Covid. I'm not a great fan of 'me-centred'
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Star Binder (SF) - Robert Appleton ****

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The Book of Minds - Philip Ball ****

It's fitting that this book on the nature of minds should be written by the most cerebral of the UK's professional science writers, Philip Ball. Like the uncertainty attached to the related concept of consciousness, exactly what a mind is , and what makes it a mind, is very difficult to pin down. Ball takes us effectively through some of the difficult definitions and unpacking involved to understand at least what researchers mean by 'mind', even if their work doesn't not necessarily enlighten us much. A lot of the book is taken up with animals and to what extent they can be said to have minds. Ball bases his picture of a mind on a phrase that is reminiscent of Nagel's famous paper on being a bat. According to Ball, an organism can be said to have a mind if there is something that is what it is like to be that organism. (You may need to read that a couple of times.) At one end of the spectrum - apes, cetaceans, dogs, for instance - it's hard to believe that t

How to Tame a Fox (and build a dog) - Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut ****

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Forget Me Not - Sophie Pavelle ***(*)

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The Midwich Cuckoos (SF) - John Wyndham *****

The recent TV adaptation of John Wyndham's classic science fiction novel inspired me to dig out my copy (which has a much better cover than the current Penguin version) to read it again for the first time in decades - and it was a treat. Published in 1957, the book takes a cosy world that feels more typical of a 1930s novel - think, for example, of a village in Margery Allingham's or Agatha Christie's books - and applies to it a wonderfully innovative SF concept. Rather than give us the classic H. G. Wells alien invasion, which, as a character points out, is really just conventional warfare with a twist, Wyndham envisaged a far more insidious invasion where the aliens are implanted in every woman of childbearing age in the village (in a period of time known as the Dayout, when everyone is rendered unconscious).  Apparently like humans but for their bright golden eyes, a joined consciousness and the ability to influence human minds, the Children effectively take over the vil

Mathematical Intelligence - Junaid Mubeen ***

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