Books by (and for) women in STEM

Books by (and for) women in STEM

A significant gender gap has long plagued all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines across our global community. While progress has been made in increasing women’s participation in these areas of research and higher education, they remain under-represented in STEM fields. The United Nations has declared February 11 International Day of Women and Girls in Science to draw attention to important contributions by women and to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers. Marking the occasion, PUP is excited to pay tribute to the work and stories of women who champion science, from a physicist’s quest for the true nature of gravity, to a neuroscientist’s fascinating tour of the developments that are revolutionizing conceptions of mental health.

Claudia de Rham has been playing with gravity her entire life. As a diver, experimenting with her body’s buoyancy in the Indian Ocean. As a pilot, soaring over Canadian waterfalls on dark mornings before beginning her daily scientific research. As an astronaut candidate, dreaming of the experience of flying free from Earth’s pull. And as a physicist, discovering new sides to gravity’s irresistible personality by exploring the limits of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In The Beauty of Falling, de Rham shares captivating stories about her quest to gain intimacy with gravity, to understand both its feeling and fundamental nature. Her life’s pursuit led her from a twist of fate that snatched away her dream of becoming an astronaut to an exhilarating breakthrough at the very frontiers of gravitational physics.

The Sky Is for Everyone is an internationally diverse collection of autobiographical essays by women who broke down barriers and changed the face of modern astronomy. Virginia Trimble and David Weintraub vividly describe how, before 1900, a woman who wanted to study the stars had to have a father, brother, or husband to provide entry, and how the considerable intellectual skills of women astronomers were still not enough to enable them to pry open doors of opportunity for much of the twentieth century. After decades of difficult struggles, women are closer to equality in astronomy than ever before. Trimble and Weintraub bring together the stories of the tough and determined women who flung the doors wide open. Taking readers from 1960 to today, this triumphant anthology serves as an inspiration to current and future generations of women scientists while giving voice to the history of a transformative era in astronomy.

There are many routes to mental well-being. In this groundbreaking book, neuroscientist Camilla Nord offers a fascinating tour of the scientific developments that are revolutionising the way we think about mental health, showing why and how events—and treatments—can affect people in such different ways.

Menstruation is something half the world does for a week at a time, for months and years on end, yet it remains largely misunderstood. Scientists once thought of an individual’s period as useless, and some doctors still believe it’s unsafe for a menstruating person to swim in the ocean wearing a tampon. Period counters the false theories that have long defined the study of the uterus, exposing the eugenic history of gynecology while providing an intersectional feminist perspective on menstruation science.

It has long seemed self-evident that women care for babies and men do other things. Hasn’t it always been so? When evolutionary science came along, it rubber-stamped this venerable division of labor: mammalian males evolved to compete for status and mates, while females were purpose-built to gestate, suckle, and otherwise nurture the victors’ offspring. But come the twenty-first century, increasing numbers of men are tending babies, sometimes right from birth. How can this be happening? Puzzled and dazzled by the tender expertise of new fathers around the world—several in her own family—celebrated evolutionary anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy set out to trace the deep history of male nurturing and explain a surprising departure from everything she had assumed to be “normal.”

At once meditative and scientific, The Sounds of Life shares fascinating and surprising stories of nonhuman sound, interweaving insights from technological innovation and traditional knowledge. We meet scientists using sound to protect and regenerate endangered species from the Great Barrier Reef to the Arctic and the Amazon. We discover the shocking impacts of noise pollution on both animals and plants. We learn how artificial intelligence can decode nonhuman sounds, and meet the researchers building dictionaries in East African Elephant and Sperm Whalish. At the frontiers of innovation, we explore digitally mediated dialogues with bats and honeybees. Technology often distracts us from nature, but what if it could reconnect us instead?

All of us would like to live longer, or to slow the debilitating effects of age. In How We Age, Coleen Murphy shows how recent research on longevity and aging may be bringing us closer to this goal. Murphy, a leading scholar of aging, explains that the study of model systems, particularly simple invertebrate animals, combined with breakthroughs in genomic methods, have allowed scientists to probe the molecular mechanisms of longevity and aging. Understanding the fundamental biological rules that govern aging in model systems provides clues about how we might slow human aging, which could lead in turn to new therapeutics and treatments for age-related disease.

AI Needs You gives us hope that we, the people, can imbue AI with a deep intentionality that reflects our best values, ideals, and interests, and that serves the public good. AI will permeate our lives in unforeseeable ways, but it is clear that the shape of AI’s future—and of our own—cannot be left only to those building it. It is up to us to guide this technology away from our worst fears and toward a future that we can trust and believe in.