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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

An award for eloquence and intelligence: the 2017 Royal Society science book prize

The winner of the Dh120,000 Royal Society Insight Investment science book prize will be drawn from a 6-book shortlist in September

A selection of covers from the shortlist.
A selection of covers from the shortlist.

It may not be as high-profile as the Man Booker Prizes or the Costa Book Awards, but the Royal Society science book prize celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and consistently proves that when it comes to eloquent writing that addresses the big issues of our time, science is where it is at.

Culled from a long list of 200 entries, the six-strong shortlist of finalists for the 2017 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize not only appeal to the intellect as well as the imagination, but range in scope from the infinitesimally small to the large, from evolution and technology to gender politics and what it is that makes us human.

Designed to reward the best science writing for a non-specialist audience, the £25,000 prize has been won in the past by household names such as Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond and Bill Bryson, and has seen the likes of David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Arthur C Clarke make the shortlist.

A fellowship of many of the world's most eminent scientists, the London-based Royal Society was founded in 1660 and is the world's oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.

The winner of the 2017 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize will be announced in an award ceremony at the Society's headquarters on 19 September.

For more details visit www.royalsociety.org

THE 2017 SHORTLIST

Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of the Mathematical Universe

Eugenia Cheng, Profile Books (2017)

Described as by this year’s judges as “a very engaging introduction to a forbidding subject”, musician, chef, and international maths phenomenon Eugenia Cheng’s book investigates the inner workings of infinity, from the infinitely large to the infinitely small.

Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds

Cordelia Fine, Icon Books Ltd. (2017)

Writing in a way that blends evolutionary science, psychology, neuroscience and social history, psychologist and author Cordelia Fine says that when it comes to understanding gender, it’s time to move beyond age old ‘nature versus nurture’ debates.

Long held to be the determining factor in determining male and female natures, testosterone, Fine argues works in subtle conjunction with hormones, culture and evolution to determine our sexual selves.

Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life

Peter Godfrey-Smith, William Collins (2017)

What if intelligent life on Earth evolved not once, but twice? The octopus, philosopher of science and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith argues, is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien, so what can we learn from such an encounter? Rather than looking to the stars for intelligent life, Godfrey-Smith’s research looks at the life on our own planet in a way that provides startling lessons, not just about life in the oceans, but about human intelligence as well.

In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s

Joseph Jebelli, John Murray (2017)

As populations across the world are ageing an increasing number of researchers are racing to find a cure for what neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli describes as the great global epidemic of our time.

In a quest to understand what happened to his grandfather, Jebelli not only looks at the detailed science behind Alzheimer’s but also charts the history of the disease and the efforts that are being made to bring it under control.

To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death

Mark O'Connell, Granta Books (2017)

In an age of robotics and artificial intelligence, what’s next for humankind? Are we at the dawn of a new moment in evolution when we will see the emergence of a new generation of transhumans, beings that combine the born and the made? For the journalist, essayist, and literary critic Mark O'Connell transhumanism is a future that has already arrived.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

Ed Yong, Bodley Head (2016)

Our bodies teem with tens of trillions of microbes that not only protect us from disease, award-winning science writer Ed Yong argues, but contain the key to understanding life on Earth. I Contain Multitudes takes readers on a microbial journey from the inner workings of our immune systems to the construction of coral reefs, revealing a new perspective on life that views humanity from a very different perspective.

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