Christmas gift and book ideas for the sci-curious

By Jesse Hawley

19 December 2014

6 minute read

Protozoan coaster

Your coaster can remind you to contemplate the yeasts that gave their lives to make your drink!

This is our final Christmas-themed post of the year. Promise. The first two can be found here and here.

Thought-provoking gifts are tricky to think up. So to help out, we took a wander around the interwebs to gather some ideas for those science-minded giftees in your life. From the social media team to you, here are our suggestions for science-themed presents – including crafts from Etsy, and pop-science books.

Scientific gifts from Etsy

Etsy is a great place to shop for niche gifts for loved ones. Here is a quick list of scientific present ideas from some e-stallholders on Etsy:

1. Serious Goose Designs

The owner of this stall is an ecologist and Ph. D. Candidate who crafts handmade jewellery and science-themed drink coasters. The coasters are marble and have antique-inspired scientific illustrations such as micro-organisms and cellular division:

Thirstphase, pourphase, sipphase, etc. We're very familiar with our biology already - we're scientists, you know.

Thirstphase, pourphase, sipphase, etc. We’re very familiar with our biology already – we’re scientists, you know.

 

2. Scientific shirts by Luddite Made and NonFictionTees

Luddite Made is based in Melbourne, and NonFictionTees in Chicago.

Luddite Made. I may or may not be the walrus. Or maybe I'm the mothman, who knows?

Luddite Made. Are you the walrus? Or are you the Mothman?

NonFictionTees. Circuit boards, minerals, and diatoms - it doesn't get better than that, folks.

NonFictionTees. Circuit boards, minerals, and diatoms – it doesn’t get better than that, folks.

3. iPhone and business card cases by T Rowan Design

This stall prints custom or science-themed images onto cases for Samsung and iPhones (generations 4-6) as well as business card cases.

Ever needed to tell your Drosophila from your Bactrocera? Or compare the homology of bats' and peoples' skeletons? T Rowan Design's on the case.

Ever needed to tell your Drosophila from your Bactrocera, or compare the homology of bats’ and humans’ skeletons? T Rowan Design’s on the case.

4. Scientific Prints from Antique Wall Prints, and vintage posters from Lunartics

Antique Wall Prints has more science-themed prints than there is wall space. They are based in Adelaide, too, so the shipping should be snappy.

Antique Wall Prints. Phrenology has no basis in modern science, but it still looks sciencey. Or maybe that’s our optimism-lobe speaking…

These educational scrolls from Lunartics are vintage, so they are more costly than the above prints. But, they look amazing and are in great condition.

Scrolls depicting the insides of Sir Lancelet, some newts 'n salamanders, and a flowering, devouring Drosera.

Scrolls depicting the insides of (sir) lancelet, some newts ‘n salamanders, and a flowering, devouring Drosera.

 

And of course, we can’t forget our beloved CSIRO shop for all of your microscopy and sticky, tumbling frog needs.

Popular science books of 2014

We at CSIRO love a good read, especially when it’s science material delivered at its most evocative. Here are six of this year’s pop-science books that we highly recommend this Christmas:

1. Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep by Richard Wiseman

Night School

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist, illusionist, and fantastic writer. In this book, Professor Wiseman expounds the latest research on sleep, dreams, nightmares, and other strange night-time phenomena. The book also has interactive elements, including sleep-related surveys, and downloadable, sleep-inducing tracks.

 

2. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

download

This is not strictly a science read, but it is written by a world-class science writer – Steven Pinker. Pinker is also a psychologist who specialises on the evolution and acquisition of language. In this book he advocates a common-sense use of language over the arbitrary rules of some grammarians. And he should know, Professor Pinker also chairs the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. We highly recommend his previous books, too: The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature.

 

3. Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

download (1)

Ever wanted to shrink down and travel through innerspace, all the way through the alimentary canal, from the mouth to the ar…other end? This book by Mary Roach might allow such a journey, albeit a vicarious version. Mary’s books tackle the quirkier and sometimes more vulgar aspects of science, and this book is no exception. The reader is taken on a ride into the mouth, down the oesophagus, into the belly, and then the various tubes that come afterwards, learning all the way how each section contributes to our greater good.

 

4. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield is a retired astronaut and a former commander on the International Space Stationdownload (2). He has gained widespread popularity through his use of social media, connecting the public with the processes and experiences of life in space. Last year Colonel Hadfield produced the first music video clip in space, a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, which can be viewed here. His latest book describes the life of an astronaut (how to be the ultimate renaissance man) and his various trials as an astronaut, in space and on Earth.

 

5. Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye

download (3)

Here, Bill Nye, host of ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’, uses his clear and accessible communication skills to explain one of the greatest ideas in all of science: Evolution by means of natural selection. Inspired by a recent debate on the topic, Nye took to writing a description of evolution for a popular audience. If you’re looking for a breezy brush up on biologists’ favourite subject – try this one.

 

6. The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew by Alan Lightman

download (4)

Alan Lightman is an MIT physicist and popular science writer. This book travels through space and time, to the beginning, to the smallest scale, and through dimensions – all in under 200 pages. In this pithy travel through physics, you also get a little bit of science-inspired philosophy, what a treat. As well as a genius physicist, Lightman is also a humanitarian, starting up foundations to support women in developing countries. This book is sure to get you thinking about sciences tell on reality and our place in it.

That’s it for our Christmas-themed posts this year. We hope you enjoyed them! In the New Year we’ll be compiling a list of staff-recommended scientific attractions for the holidays, as well as some science-themed apps for your smart machines. Wishing you a merry Christmas and happy New Year!