Download the Universe, the new science ebook review that I and a group of other writers and scientists recently launched, is now entering its second week. I’ve written this week’s first review, of an ebook called Controlling Cancer, by evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald. Ewald argues that the best way to reduce the death rate from cancer is to treat it like an infectious disease–which, to a surprising extent, it really is. Check it out.
We’ve come to the end of the first week of Download the Universe, a science ebook review. Today’s review is from Maggie Koerth-Baker, the science editor of Boing-Boing and author of the forthcoming Before the Lights Go Out, a book about the future of energy. She reviews Into the Forbidden Zone by William Vollmann, in which the author recounts his journey into Japan’s post-tsunami hell. Maggie weaves in her own reflections on how hard it can be for us to judge the real risks we face from nature and from our own technology.
It’s been a great experience to see the idea for this project go from conference-hallway gabbing to actual publication. Here are the rest of this week’s offerings:
“A New Kind of Review for a New Kind of Book”–my introduction to the site and some thoughts about the history of science in books.
“A Cabinet of (Chemical) Curiosities”–Deborah Blum reviews The Elements, an iPad app about chemistry
“The State of the ebook, Early 2012″–John Timmer surveys the business and creative possibilities of ebooks today.
“Narrative and Neuroscience”–Annalee Newitz reviews Blindsight, an Atavist publication about a brain injury that sends a man into a different kind of existence.
Stay tuned (or rss’d)–there’s a lot more to come.
One of the most interesting features of Google’s new social media service, Google+, is Google+ Hangout On Air. A group of people get onto G+ all at once, fire up their computers’ cameras, and have a conversation. Google puts whoever is speaking at the moment on the main screen. You can join a hangout if it’s public or if you have an invitation, and–coolest of all–it automatically records the conversation and throws it onto Youtube.
Right now only a few people have access to this service. I jealously watched fellow Discover blogger Phil Plait talk about exoplanets last month. (You can too.) And then I got invited to join the folks at the Singularity Hub for a hangout, too. It’s up on Youtube, and you can also see it embedded here below. We talked about all sorts of things–from mind-controlling parasites to bird flu to using viruses to cure antibiotic-resistant bacteria to the future of ebooks and much more.
I deeply crave this technology. I used to participate in a primitive forerunner of this, known as Bloggingheads. I bowed out due to editorial differences, but I still think the basic system is an exciting medium. I hope Google opens up their Hangout On Air service to more people, because it could be a whole lot of fun.
By weird coincidence, on the same day I announce the launch of an ebook review, I get to enjoy some of the harsh realities of the ebook business. Over the past year I’ve published two collections of my pieces about the brain, Brain Cuttings and More Brain Cuttings. I just found out that Amazon has decided, for now, not to sell them. (Here’s some background.)
You still have lots of options for getting your hands on these ebooks.
Update: Publisher’s Lunch has the details of the showdown between Amazon and Independent Publishers Group over Kindle titles.