Quantum Field Theory, as Simply as Possible, A. Zee, Princeton U. Press, 2023, $39.95

Countless books aim to explain quantum mechanics to a lay audience, but few authors have attempted to present a popular introduction to quantum field theory, the mathematical framework linking quantum mechanics with special relativity. A. Zee, a well-known author of several textbooks and popular-science works, attempts to fill that gap in this new book. But as he freely admits, it isn’t for the faint of heart: Be prepared to see a fair share of summation symbols, path integrals, and Greek letters. If readers are willing to put in a bit of work, they will be rewarded. Zee’s witty, insightful writing and engaging historical anecdotes make the book a pleasure to read. —rd

Seeing Science: The Art of Making the Invisible Visible, Jack Challoner, MIT Press, 2022, $34.95 (paper)

In this new coffee-table book, the science writer Jack Challoner has collected and annotated more than 200 images—historical and contemporary—of phenomena like neurons, animal locomotion, and the Sun’s photosphere. But Seeing Science isn’t just a collection of beautiful pictures. Challoner also aims to answer a question that many laypeople often wonder about: How do scientists produce images of objects or phenomena they can’t see with the naked eye? To do so, he intersperses the text with explanations of how such technologies as scanning electron microscopes and space telescopes have enabled researchers to image seemingly unseeable things. The result is a compelling collection. —rd

Astrotopia: The Dangerous Religion of the Corporate Space Race, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, U. Chicago Press, 2022, $24.00

In Astrotopia, the philosopher Mary-Jane Rubenstein argues that the 21st-century private space race being carried out by Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and others has become a “mythological project” analogous to the type of “imperial Christianity” that was used by Europeans to colonize more than half the planet. Discussing the era of private competition in space, known as NewSpace, she argues that we need to act now to prevent it from being rapaciously exploited by capitalists. Yet perhaps the most provocative portion of the book looks toward the past: Rubenstein convincingly demonstrates that NASA and US politicians used Christian imperialist language to justify the Apollo missions. In other words, it’s no coincidence that the Apollo 8 crew read from the book of Genesis while orbiting the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968. —rd