Simply Einstein, Jimena Canales, Simply Charly, 2021, $9.99 (paper)

Given the ever-growing pile of books devoted to Albert Einstein, readers might reasonably wonder whether yet another volume about the most famous physicist of the 20th century is necessary. Yet Jimena Canales has made Simply Einstein worth the read by drawing on recent scholarship and providing a concise and incisive introduction to his science, politics, and personal life. Part of Simply Charly’s Great Lives series, the book provides a rigorous overview of special and general relativity for the lay reader. Canales effectively places the theories in historical context by describing how Einstein’s work built on contributions from Henri Poincaré, Hendrik Lorentz, and David Hilbert. Outside the scientific realm, her portrayal of Einstein’s poor treatment of his first wife, Mileva Marić, does not pull any punches. In the end, Canales rightly concludes that his life of celebrity serves as a lens through which 20th-century history’s “changing mores and values” can be discerned. The book contains a helpful list of suggested reading for those who want to learn more about Einstein. —rd

Periodic Table of Videos, Brady Haran, host, YouTube, 2008–

To provide a more visual representation of the periodic table, filmmaker and video journalist Brady Haran and researchers at the UK’s University of Nottingham have created a series of videos about all 118 elements. The videos are a mix of description, experiments, and demonstrations, and are designed to provoke viewers’ interest and curiosity. New videos are continually being posted on various chemistry topics, such as the chemical composition of acid rain and how to make plutonium. Presenter Martyn Poliakoff received the Royal Society’s Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture in 2019 in recognition of his work on the videos. —cc

Pay Attention: Sex, Death, and Science, John Horgan, Terra Nova Press, 2020, $25.95 (paper)

This intensely personal book by well-known science journalist John Horgan describes a day in his life—or rather, the life of his thinly veiled alter ego, Eamon Toole: He commutes to work to teach an introductory humanities course at an engineering school; has lunch with colleagues; and meets his girlfriend, Emily, for dinner. It is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that feels almost voyeuristic at times, especially when Toole/Horgan ruminates about his personal struggles and the dissolution of his marriage. A particular highlight is Toole’s lunchtime debate with his colleagues François, an engineer who is a philosophical realist; Jim, a postmodern historian of science; and Dave, a mathematician with a philosophical position somewhere between those two opposites. Although Pay Attention assumes a certain degree of familiarity with historians of science like Thomas Kuhn and philosophers like Bruno Latour, even readers without that prior knowledge will be intrigued by the unique work. —rd

How to Make a Vaccine: An Essential Guide for COVID-19 and Beyond, John Rhodes, U. Chicago Press, 2021, $15.00 (paper)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic comes How to Make a Vaccine, in which immunologist John Rhodes sheds light on the world of vaccine research. Covering some 300 years of immunization history, Rhodes uses stories of past pandemics to launch a discussion of viruses and how they operate, the history of immunology and some of the principal researchers involved, the different types of vaccines, the lengthy clinical trials required before a vaccine can be administered to the public, and the difficulties associated with rolling out mass vaccines during a global emergency. The author’s fascination with vaccines is apparent, and the result is a highly readable introduction to the subject of disease and immunization for the general reader. —cc

Science History Podcast, Frank A. von Hippel, host, 2017–

The interface between science, history, and societal issues is the focus of this podcast hosted by ecotoxicologist Frank A. von Hippel of the University of Arizona. An ongoing topic of discussion is chemical contaminants, von Hippel’s own area of expertise; for example, a recent episode with epidemiologist Shanna Swan discusses how environmental toxins are affecting humans’ ability to reproduce. Other episodes cover obesity, gravitational waves, whistleblowers, and the ways in which corporations sow doubt in scientific findings. A new episode is released every month. —rd