The 5 Best New Science & Tech Books for Fall
Photo: Astronaut Bruce McCandless on Untethered Spacewalk, 1984, NASA Digital photograph, dimensions variable. Picture credit: NASA
We live in a world where science and technology are moving at an accelerated rate, rapidly outpacing our ability to process the changes let alone keep up with the impact of this constant evolution on our bodies and minds. Remember when you were growing up and your mother warned, “Don’t sit so close to the TV?” Well, not we spent dozens of hours a week just inches away from massive computer screens.
But the physical and psychological impact of computers, mobile devices, and the Internet is just one of the countless ways technology and science are transforming our lives. Sometimes it’s for the better and sometimes it’s for the worse, and in many ways we won’t really understand the impact until the benefit of hindsight enables us to better evaluate the consequences.
But in the meantime, there are books, gorgeous, glorious forms of traditional media that are perfectly designed for the human form. These quiet, intimate objects are a treasure of knowledge and a repository of soul, the perfect way to get away from it all while still keeping up to date on the latest in our world. Crave has put together six of the best new science and technology books coming out this fall, offering a wealth of information that will inspire, delight, tickle, and appall.
All of your science fiction fears and fantasies are about to come true with the robot revolution of the twenty-first century, taking shape with every passing minute. You might ask, “What does it mean to be human?” and be astounded by the diversity of responses to this fundamental question about the nature of our species – for it cannot be overlooked at one of those qualities is what myths have always warned. The desire to replicate the divine mystery of life could result in our downfall.
You think not? Well just remember this: artificial intelligence is outperforming people in the job sector at an alarming rate, as we reported earlier this year. Add to this that AI is now being shaped to have human form and you start thinking back to those late-night movies you caught on cable back when special effects made it seem impossible.
But those nights have met a new dawn as Max Aguilera-Hellweg documents in his book Humanoid (Blast Books). Humanoid is the first collection of portraits documenting android and humanoid robots in their many forms – from Joey Chaos, an android head hailing from Hanson Robotics in Plano, Texas, who has strong opinions on politics and capitalism to CB2, an infant robot from Asada Laboratory at Osaka University, Japan, built to understand how robots learn. These machines are on the cusp of transforming human life as we know it to be. This is truly a major step in human evolution, such as it were.
Play With Me: Dolls, Women and Art
Invariably industry is designed not only to innovate but to also meet a demand. Where many women were once considered property and denied agency or legal rights, their image was the provenance of men who circulated and sold it among themselves for consumption. While women fought for basic human rights they had long been denied, the image of women remained subject to the controls of the power structure.
In recent years, an effort to reclaim the image has occurred, but in many ways the paradigm remains the same by and large. Beauty standards have appropriated so that all we’re looking at as a variation on a preconceived theme. Few are willing to challenge the fundamental structure that upholds these ideas and ideals.
In Play With Me: Dolls, Women and Art (Laurence King) author Grace Banks looks at the history and new developments in the creation of lifelike representations of women. From dolls, mannequins, robots, and effigies to female artists using their actual bodies as a source, Play With Me asks the question: “Is it still objectification if women do it to themselves?”
It’s a significant conversation in light of the rise of an industry catering exclusively to men, providing them with female dolls for companionship in place of actual women. As technology advances making these humanoids even more realistic, we enter a new space for discussion of the social impact of these objects – whether they are considered art or play things – in people’s lives.
Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America
Are you being watched? Would you even know? What rights have you signed away to countless technology companies for the comforts and conveniences of their services?
In Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America (University of Texas Press), author Randolph Lewis takes on an issue few people can fully fathom: the state of constantly being watched (by who? and to what end?) through CCTV cameras, TSA scanner, NSA databases, big data marketers, predator drones, Facebook algorithms. The list goes on and on — and on.
Under Surveillance takes a compelling, and very chilling, look at the changes in our culture since 9/11. Did you know the NSA intercepts millions of images each day texted each day in order to build a facial recognition database? Were you aware that police patrol cars, whose dashboard camera never seem to work during an incident of abuse or brutality, are being increasingly equipped with automated license plate readers that record thousands of plates per hour, even if drivers have done nothing suspicious?
Are your rights being eroded? Is their any recourse? Can we escape Big Brother or are we living into a dystopian future that is unfolding right in plain sight before our very eyes? Lewis examines the issue from a multiplicity of angles, all of which are worth giving deeper thought.
Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World
From ancient times to the present day, the universe beyond planet earth has always captivated the human imagination. Long before we had the capacity to launch satellites into outer space, people have charted the planets and the stars in an effort to understand the nature of existence that lies beyond our grasp. For more than 17,000 years the subject of outer space has been a space for the investigation of scientific, symbolic, religious, spiritual, and aesthetic discourse.
Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World (Phaidon) is a groundbreaking survey that looks at the ways people have studied astronomy throughout time and space. For the book an international panel of experts have selected 300 classic works by renowned photographers, artists, and astronomers alongside previously unpublished finds that provide a breathtaking look at what lies beyond earth.
From ancient cave paintings to NASA photographs, Universe features iconic images by everyone from Gallileo, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Isaac Newton to Yayoi Kusama, Pablo Picasso, and Wolfgang Tillmans. This book is perfect for anyone interested in the spaces where technology, science, anthropology, and art intersect, revealing the profound human desire to make sense of the vast mysteries of the cosmos.
The earth hangs in a balance of which few are fully aware. Just imagine that for every person on earth, there are two million insects co-existing with us as part of our daily lives, largely unseen and unappreciated — or abjectly despised. Insects comprise 85% of all known animal species and account for 80% of the total biomass of animals. It almost makes your skin crawl just thinking about it.
For the better part of human history, we have lacked the capacity to see thee creatures that keep that balance in check, but now with the help of high-end digital imaging, these creatures can finally be revealed in their full complexity and splendor.
In Insecta (teNeues), authors Charles Nesbit and Adrienne Nesbit bring these incredible creatures to life in photographs composed of 10 or more individual images captured at different focus points and then stacked to create a single portrait with incredible detail. Using the latest in photographic technology, the authors have magnified these creates 500% or more, and the results are amazing ~ what is an annoyance at best is transformed into a magical sight that will provide deeper appreciation for the things we call “bugs.”
The result is a fascinating collection of creatures known and unknown to us, from the charming bumble bee and the elegant dragonfly to the cacophonous cicada and the creepy Daddy Long Legs to so many more. Each insect is presented in a large photograph then profiled at the end of the book, offering a fascinating study of these remarkable lives that are oft the subject for extermination. Insecta reframes our understanding of these creatures and their purpose on earth, so that the next time you see a spider you might think twice about killing it.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.