Hot and heady: an enticing calling card for researchers of tomorrow.

BODY 2.0

THE ENGINEERING REVOLUTION IN MEDICINE

A primer on biomedical engineering.

Veteran science author Latta (Zoom in on Mining Robots, 2018, etc.) here spotlights the fascinating convergence of medicine, engineering, and scientific discovery, offering provocative glimpses into the burgeoning fields of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, neuroscience, microbiology, genetic engineering, and synthetic biology. Inspiring problem-solving–minded teens to explore these STEM disciplines by describing projects so cutting edge they seem like science fiction, Latta also includes brief profiles and photos of diverse researchers that enable readers to imagine themselves pursuing similar careers. Says Dr. Gilda Barabino, “I think there’s a little bit of an engineer in everybody. It’s curiosity! Everybody wants to know how things work.” Areas of potential breakthrough covered include brain-computer interfaces that may one day allow people with paralysis or limited mobility to move their limbs or control a robot helper; editing the human genome to treat chronic diseases like sickle cell disease by removing and replacing damaged DNA; optogenetics, which hopes to combine gene therapy with light to reduce pain and cure blindness; and growing bespoke body parts like bone, skin, arteries, and more in the lab, seeded by one’s own cells and partially crafted by 3-D bioprinters. Full-color diagrams and photos combined with informative text boxes and a lively, conversational style make this an appealing choice.

Hot and heady: an enticing calling card for researchers of tomorrow. (glossary, source notes, bibliography, further information, index, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2813-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Despite the author’s fervor, this story ultimately fizzles.

THE BIGGEST EXPLOSIONS IN THE UNIVERSE

A book for young readers about the science of astronomy.

Howard, an aerospace engineer, enthusiastically instructs readers on the intricacies of the stars–the “biggest explosions” of her title. Beginning with a primer on our place in the universe, she then guides readers through the birth of stars, star groupings, dying stars, supernovae, the lifecycle of the sun, “weird, wacky, and mysterious” stars and the most violent outbursts in the universe. Enticed by the explosive title, some readers will be especially interested in the more frightening aspects of our cosmos, and the author satisfies with information about the eventual death of our sun, and black holes. Her stated goal is to demystify the lifecycle and role of stars, and with the help of eye-catching photographs and relatively nontechnical language, she succeeds. However, while Howard’s passion for the subject is certainly evident, her ability to connect with her intended audience is less assured–her nimble command of the subject matter is in stark contrast to the awkward tone of the prose. At times, it doesn’t seem like she’s addressing young readers. She begins her book by instructing her readers to “pile the whole family into your car,” but it’s unlikely the average child reader would be licensed to drive. On one page, Howard give a complicated lesson on calculating the distance to the edges of our solar system in light years–two pages later, she talks about gravity’s effect on “puppy dogs [and] kitty cats.” Stranger still, she anthropomorphizes the objects she submits to scientific rigor. She claims “a star smiles with its light and dances with joy” and that when “baby stars” are born, “they ignite their smiles [and] give off a big cough and blow all the dust and particles far away from themselves.” Treating the stars as entities with discernable lifecycles is one thing, but suggesting that they have emotions is disingenuous.

Despite the author’s fervor, this story ultimately fizzles.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4392-1527-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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Ambitious in scope; a distinctively nuanced picture of modern science in action.

THE CODE BREAKER—YOUNG READERS EDITION

JENNIFER DOUDNA AND THE RACE TO UNDERSTAND OUR GENETIC CODE

A trimmed—but still hefty—young readers’ adaptation of Isaacson’s much-admired 2021 original.

Substantial discussions of gene tailoring’s promise and thorny ethical quandaries expand this story of how researchers discovered a mechanism that bacteria use to “remember” and nullify attacking viruses and how they have leveraged it with maladies from sickle cell anemia to Covid-19. The work centers pioneering researcher Doudna—tracing her Nobel Prize–winning achievements but also situating her in a teeming international community of fellow researchers whose relationships are fueled by a fizzy mix of egos and altruism. Young readers may be more interested in Doudna’s discoveries than the details of a midlife existential reckoning or a fence-mending web chat with a formerly close colleague. But along with some photos, there are vivid word portraits of her as well as fellow scientists, from James Watson (“difficult and complicated”) to He Jiankui, whose “thirst for fame” led in 2018 to his inserting genomic alterations into viable human embryos. That episode demonstrated that we actually can “hack evolution,” for better or worse: “It’s good that some people have strong opinions about gene engineering in humans, but it’s even better if you know what a gene actually is.” If some passages read like acronymic word salad, the whole package offers a stimulating and topical case study in how rewarding science can be when it’s “letting data dance with big ideas.” An index and resource list would have been helpful.

Ambitious in scope; a distinctively nuanced picture of modern science in action. (endnotes) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66591-066-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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