The Essex Serpent, Anna Symon, lead writer, Apple TV+, 2022

The age-old conflict between science, reason, and faith comes to a head in The Essex Serpent, an atmospheric six-part TV adaption of Sarah Perry’s best-selling 2016 novel. In the late 19th century, a massive earthquake hits the east coast of England, and rumors abound that a mysterious sea serpent has been seen in the waters. Recently widowed Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes), along with the local pastor, William Ransome (Tom Hiddleston), decide to investigate whether the serpent is a real dinosaur or something more ordinary. Local villagers, however, are certain it’s a nefarious creature from hell. Beautifully shot in Essex, England, the series captures the awe and enthusiasm for science at a time when it seemed that new discoveries were occurring daily. —pkg

The Essential Writings of Vannevar Bush, G. Pascal Zachary, ed., Columbia U. Press, 2022, $120.00

Perhaps no individual had a greater impact on postwar US science policy than Vannevar Bush, an engineer and administrator whose advocacy for governmental support of science—famously expressed in the 1945 report Science: The Endless Frontier—laid the groundwork for the founding of NSF. Edited by G. Pascal Zachary, this volume collects over 50 letters, memos, and essays dating from the 1920s to the 1970s. The texts discuss inventions like Bush’s proposed “memex,” a desk-based microfilm reader that presaged the World Wide Web, and major issues like the Cold War arms race, which Bush futilely tried to slow. Readers will likely be impressed by his prescience. As early as September 1944, for example, Bush predicted that another advanced nation could construct an atomic weapon within three to four years. Sure enough, the USSR tested its first bomb in 1949, a little over four years after the Trinity test. —rd