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Big Think: What if?

Readers' Cafe

Astronomy 101 From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe
Beyond Earth Our Path to a New Home in the Planets
A Big Bang in a Little Room The Quest to Create New Universes
Caesar's Last Breath Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us
Chasing New Horizons Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto
Evolutions Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World
Graphene The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize  the World
How to Invent Everything A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler
Light of the Stars Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth
Machines That Think The Future of Artificial Intelligence
The Order of Time
Powering Forward
Physics of the Future How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100
Re-Engineering Humanity
The Rise of Yeast How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization
Space Exploration Past, Present, Future
Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece
The Spinning Magnet The Electromagnetic Force That Created the Modern World--and Could Destroy It
Tesla Inventor of the Modern
The Science of TV's the Big Bang Theory Explanations Even Penny Would Understand
The Violinist's Thumb And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code
Welcome to the universe  an astrophysical tour
The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics
Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe / Carolyn Collins Petersen

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

Explore the curiosities of the cosmos in this engaging book!?Too often, textbooks go into more detail than readers have in mind when they want to learn a little something about astronomy. This is where?Astronomy 101?comes in. It takes you out to the stars and planets and galaxies and discusses some of the latest Big Astronomy discoveries while presenting the basic facts about astronomy and space. From the Big Bang and nebulae to the Milky Way and Sir Isaac Newton, this celestial primer is packed with hundreds of fascinating and entertaining astronomy charts and photographs selected to guide you through the universe.Whether youre looking to unravel the mystery behind black holes, or just want to learn more about your favorite planets, Astronomy 101 has a LOT of answers--even the ones you didnt know you were looking for.

Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets / Charles P Wohlforth & Amanda Hendrix

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

From a leading planetary scientist and an award-winning science writer: a propulsive account of the developments and initiatives that have transformed the dream of space colonization into something that may well be achievable.

We are at the cusp of a golden age in space science, as increasingly more entrepreneurs - Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos - are seduced by the commercial potential of human access to space. But Beyond Earth does not offer another wide-eyed technology fantasy: instead, it is grounded not only in the human capacity for invention and the appeal of adventure, but also in the bureaucratic, political, and scientific realities that present obstacles to space travel - realities that have hampered NASA's efforts ever since the Challenger fiasco. In Beyond Earth, the authors offer groundbreaking research and argue persuasively that not Mars, but Titan - a moon of Saturn with a nitrogen atmosphere, a weather cycle, and an inexhaustible supply of cheap energy; where we will be able to fly like birds in the minimal gravitational field - offers the most realistic, and thrilling, prospect of life without support from Earth.
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A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes / Zeeya Merali

An award-winning science writer takes us into the lab to answer some of life's biggest questions: How was the universe created? And could we create our own?

What if you could become God, with the ability to build a whole new universe? As startling as it sounds, modern physics suggests that within the next two decades, scientists may be able to perform this seemingly divine feat - to concoct an entirely new baby universe, complete with its own physical laws, star systems, galaxies, and even intelligent life. A Big Bang in a Little Room takes the reader on a journey through the history of cosmology and unravels - particle by particle, theory by theory, and experiment by experiment - the ideas behind this provocative claim made by some of the most respected physicists alive today.

Beyond simply explaining the science, A Big Bang in a Little Room also tells the story of the people who have been laboring for more than thirty years to make this seemingly impossible dream a reality.?

Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us / Sam Kean

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Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

In Caesar's Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it.

With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world. On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you're probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra's perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe's creation.

Tracing the origins and ingredients of our atmosphere, Kean reveals how the alchemy of air reshaped our continents, steered human progress, powered revolutions, and continues to influence everything we do. Along the way, we'll swim with radioactive pigs, witness the most important chemical reactions humans have discovered, and join the crowd at the Moulin Rouge for some of the crudest performance art of all time. Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar's Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second.

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto / Alan Stern

On July 14, 2015, something amazing happened. More than 3 billion miles from Earth, a small NASA spacecraft called New Horizons screamed past Pluto at more than 32,000 miles per hour, focusing its instruments on the long mysterious icy worlds of the Pluto system, and then, just as quickly, continued on its journey out into the beyond.

Nothing like this has occurred in a generation -- a raw exploration of new worlds unparalleled since NASA's Voyager missions to Uranus and Neptune -- and nothing quite like it is planned to happen ever again. The photos that New Horizons sent back to Earth graced the front pages of newspapers on all 7 continents, and NASA's website for the mission received more than 2 billion hits in the days surrounding the flyby. At a time when so many think that our most historic achievements are in the past, the most distant planetary exploration ever attempted not only succeeded in 2015 but made history and captured the world's imagination.

Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World / Oren Solomon Harman

A brilliant lyrical exploration of how modern science illuminates what it means to be human, from the award-winning author of The Price of Altruism. We don't think anymore, like the ancient Chinese did, that the world was hatched from an egg, or, like the Maori, that it came from the tearing apart of a love embrace. The Greeks told of a tempestuous Hera and a cunning Zeus, but we now use genes and natural selection to explain fear and desire, and physics to demystify the workings of the universe. Science is an astounding achievement, but are we really any wiser than the ancients? Has science revealed the secrets of fate and immortality? Has it provided protection from jealousy or love? There are those who believe that science has replaced faith, but must it also be a death knell for mythology? Evolutions brings to life the latest scientific thinking on the birth of the universe and the solar system, the journey from a single cell all the way to our human minds.

Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World / Les Johnson

Two scientists give an enthusiastic, layperson's overview of a new supermaterial now in development that could transform many features of daily life, from creating new conveniences to improving health and safety.What if you discovered an infinitesimally thin material capable of conducting electricity, able to suspend millions of times its own weight, and yet porous enough to filter the murkiest water? And what if this incredible substance is created from the same element that fills the common pencil? That's graphene--a flat, two-dimensional, carbon-based molecule with a single sheet measuring only one atom thick.In this layperson's introduction to this revolutionary substance, a physicist and a chemist explain how graphene was developed, discuss the problems in scaling up production for large-scale commercial use, and forecast the potentially transformative effects of incorporating graphene into everyday life.

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler / Ryan North

Get ready to make history. . . better.

What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past . . . and then broke? How would you survive? Could you improve on humanity's original timeline? And how hard would it be to domesticate a giant wombat?

Don't worry: in How to Invent Everything, bestselling author and time-travel enthusiast Ryan North has figured out the answers to those four questions - and more - just for you. This guide contains all the science, engineering, mathematics, art, music, philosophy, facts, and figures required for even the most clueless time traveler to build a civilization from the ground up. Your new world will be one in which humanity matured quickly and efficiently, instead of doing what we did (i.e., spending 200,000 years stumbling around without language, thinking disease was caused by weird smells, and living completely oblivious to the fact that tying a rock to a string would unlock navigating the entire world).
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Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth / Adam Frank

Light of the Stars tells the story of humanity's coming of age as we awaken to the possibilities of life on other worlds and their sudden relevance to our fate on Earth. Astrophysicist Adam Frank traces the question of alien life and intelligence from the ancient Greeks to the leading thinkers of our own time, and shows how we as a civilization can only hope to survive climate change if we recognize what science has recently discovered: that we are just one of ten billion trillion planets in the Universe, and it's highly likely that many of those planets hosted technologically advanced alien civilizations. What's more, each of those civilizations must have faced the same challenge of civilization-driven climate change.

Thrilling science at the grandest of scales, Light of the Stars explores what may be the largest question of all: What can the likely presence of life on other worlds tell us about our own fate?

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Machines That Think: The Future of Artificial Intelligence / Toby Walsh

How will Artificial Intelligence impact our lives? Toby Walsh, one of the leading AI researchers in the world, takes a critical look at the impact Artificial Intelligence is set to have on our lives.

Based on a deep understanding of the technology, Walsh describes where Artificial Intelligence is today, and where it will take us. The author concludes that, if we plan well, thinking machines could be our greatest legacy, the last invention human beings will ever need to make.

The Order of Time / Carlo Rovelli

From the bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, a concise, elegant exploration of time. Why do we remember the past and not the future? What does it mean for time to "flow"? Do we exist in time or does time exist in us? In lyric, accessible prose, Carlo Rovelli invites us to consider questions about the nature of time that continue to puzzle physicists and philosophers alike. For most readers this is unfamiliar terrain. We all experience time, but the more scientists learn about it, the more mysterious it remains. We think of it as uniform and universal, moving steadily from past to future, measured by clocks. Rovelli tears down these assumptions one by one, revealing a strange universe where at the most fundamental level time disappears.

Powering Forward / Bill Ritter

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

A historic energy revolution is underway in the United States. Wind, sunlight, and other sustainable resources are now the fastest growing sources of energy in the U.S. and worldwide. American families are installing power plants on their roofs and entire communities are switching to 100 percent renewable energy. The urgent need to prevent climate change is causing people around the planet to question their reliance on carbon-intensive oil, coal, and natural gas.

Author Bill Ritter, Jr., the 41st governor of Colorado and one of America's key thought leaders on this topic, discusses the forces behind the energy revolution, the new ways we must think about energy, and the future of fossil and renewable fuels. It is an essential read for any who want to understand one of history's biggest challenges to peace, prosperity, and security in the United States.

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 / Michio Kaku

Imagine, if you can, the world in the year 2100.

In Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku-the New York Times bestselling author of Physics of the Impossible-gives us a stunning, provocative, and exhilarating vision of the coming century based on interviews with over three hundred of the world's top scientists who are already inventing the future in their labs. The result is the most authoritative and scientifically accurate description of the revolutionary developments taking place in medicine, computers, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, energy production, and astronautics.

In all likelihood, by 2100 we will control computers via tiny brain sensors and, like magicians, move objects around with the power of our minds. Artificial intelligence will be dispersed throughout the environment, and Internet-enabled contact lenses will allow us to access the world's information base or conjure up any image we desire in the blink of an eye.? ? ?
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Re-Engineering Humanity / Brett M Frischmann

Every day, new warnings emerge about artificial intelligence rebelling against us. All the while, a more immediate dilemma flies under the radar. Have forces been unleashed that are thrusting humanity down an ill-advised path, one that's increasingly making us behave like simple machines? In this wide-reaching, interdisciplinary book, Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger examine what's happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. They explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people. Detailing new frameworks, provocative case studies, and mind-blowing thought experiments, the authors reveal hidden connections between fitness trackers, electronic contracts, social media platforms, robotic companions, fake news, autonomous cars, and more.

The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization / Nicholas P Money

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

The great Victorian biologist Thomas Huxley once wrote, "I know of no familiar substance forming part of our every-day knowledge and experience, the examination of which, with a little care, tends to open up such very considerable issues as does yeast." Huxley was right. Beneath the very foundations of human civilization lies yeast--also known as the sugar fungus. Yeast is responsible for fermenting our alcohol and providing us with bread--the very staples of life. Moreover, it has proven instrumental in helping cell biologists and geneticists understand how living things work, manufacturing life-saving drugs, and producing biofuels that could help save the planet from global warming. In The Rise of Yeast, Nicholas P. Money--author of Mushroom and The Amoeba in the Room--argues that we cannot ascribe too much importance to yeast, and that its discovery and controlled use profoundly altered human history.

Space Exploration: Past, Present, Future / Carolyn Collins Petersen

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

Humanity has always looked to the stars, but it hasn't been until relatively recently that we have managed to travel into space. Carolyn Collins Petersen takes us on a journey from the first space pioneers and their work, through the First World Warled technological advances in rocketry that formed the basis for the Space Age, to the increasing corporate interest in space. This detailed examination of our steps into space is viewed from our potential future there - on Mars to be exact - and considers how we will reach that point. The author concludes with our current advances and our immediate ambitions in space exploration. The future and its scientific possibilities are enthralling: who will be the first to step on Mars? Will matter/antimatter annihilations take us to the Kuiper Belt, or will it be ion propulsion? What is the Alcubierre Warp Drive? Will it take us to the stars?.

Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece / Michael Benson

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the film's release, this is the definitive story of the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, acclaimed today as one of the greatest films ever made, including the inside account of how director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke created this cinematic masterpiece.

Author Michael Benson explains how 2001 was made, telling the story primarily through the two people most responsible for the film, Kubrick and science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke. Benson interviewed Clarke many times, and has also spoken at length with Kubrick's widow, Christiane; with visual effects supervisor Doug Trumbull; with Dan Richter, who played 2001's leading man-ape; and many others.

The Spinning Magnet: The Electromagnetic Force That Created the Modern World--and Could Destroy It / Alanna Mitchell

An engrossing history of the science of one of the four fundamental physical forces in the universe, electromagnetism, right up to the latest indications that the poles are soon to reverse and destroy the world's power grids and electronic communications

A cataclysmic planetary phenomenon is gathering force deep within the Earth. The magnetic North Pole will eventually trade places with the South Pole. Satellite evidence suggests to some scientists that the move has already begun, but most still think it won't happen for many decades. All agree that it has happened many times before and will happen again. But this time it will be different. It will be a very bad day for modern civilization.

Award-winning science journalist Alanna Mitchell's delightful storytelling introduces enchanting characters from investigations into magnetism in thirteenth-century France to the discovery in the Victorian era that electricity and magnetism emerge from the same force. No one has ever told so eloquently how the Earth itself came to be seen as a magnet, spinning in space with two poles, and that those poles dramatically, catastrophically reverse now and then...
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Tesla: Inventor of the Modern / Richard Munson

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

Tesla's inventions transformed our world, and his visions have continued to inspire great minds for generations.

Nikola Tesla invented the radio, robots, and remote control. His electric induction motors run our appliances and factories, yet he has been largely overlooked by history. In Tesla, Richard Munson presents a comprehensive portrait of this farsighted and underappreciated mastermind.

When his first breakthrough - alternating current, the basis of the electric grid - pitted him against Thomas Edison's direct-current empire, Tesla's superior technology prevailed. Unfortunately, he had little business sense and could not capitalize on this success. His most advanced ideas went unrecognized for decades: forty years in the case of the radio patent, longer still for his ideas on laser beam technology. Although penniless during his later years, he never stopped imagining. In the early 1900s, he designed plans for cell phones, the Internet, death-ray weapons, and interstellar communications. His ideas have lived on to shape the modern economy.

The Science of TV's the Big Bang Theory: Explanations Even Penny Would Understand / Dave Zobel

"The Big Bang Theory" often features Sheldon, Howard, Leonard, and Raj wisecracking about scientific principles as if Penny and the rest of us should know exactly what they are talking about. The Science of TVs The Big Bang Theory lets all of us in on the punchline by breaking down the shows scientific conversations.

From an explanation of why Sheldon would think 73 is the best number, to an experiment involving the physical stature of Wolowitz women, to an argument refuting Sheldons assertion that engineers are the Oompa-Loompas of science, author Dave Zobel maintains a humorous and informative approach and gives readers enough knowledge to make them welcome on Sheldons couch.

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code / Sam Kean

In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In The Violinist's Thumb, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.

Welcome to the universe : an astrophysical tour / Neil deGrasse Tyson

Welcome to the Universe is a personal guided tour of the cosmos by three of today's leading astrophysicists. Inspired by the enormously popular introductory astronomy course that Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott taught together at Princeton, this book covers it all--from planets, stars, and galaxies to black holes, wormholes, and time travel.

Describing the latest discoveries in astrophysics, the informative and entertaining narrative propels you from our home solar system to the outermost frontiers of space. How do stars live and die? Why did Pluto lose its planetary status? What are the prospects of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? How did the universe begin? Why is it expanding and why is its expansion accelerating? Is our universe alone or part of an infinite multiverse? Answering these and many other questions, the authors open your eyes to the wonders of the cosmos, sharing their knowledge of how the universe works.

Breathtaking in scope and stunningly illustrated throughout, Welcome to the Universe is for those who hunger for insights into our evolving universe that only world-class astrophysicists can provide.

The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics / Adam Becker

Meet the author at FoCo Book Fest.

What is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quanum Physics.


Every physicist agrees quantum mechanics is among humanity's finest scientific achievements. But ask what it means, and the result will be a brawl. For a century, most physicists have followed Niels Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation and dismissed questions about the reality underlying quantum physics as meaningless. A mishmash of solipsism and poor reasoning, Copenhagen endured, as Bohr's students vigorously protected his legacy, and the physics community favored practical experiments over philosophical arguments. As a result, questioning the status quo long meant professional ruin. And yet, from the 1920s to today, physicists like John Bell, David Bohm, and Hugh Everett persisted in seeking the true meaning of quantum mechanics. What Is Real? is the gripping story of this battle of ideas and the courageous scientists who dared to stand up for truth.

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