The Where, the Why, and the How, Eds. Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe, 2012

This book is the result of a brilliant idea but suffers from uneven execution.  The idea was to survey dozens of scientists to identify important questions in fields as diverse as physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, medicine, botany, etc and then pair a scientist with an artist to write a brief summary of the issue accompanied by the artist’s conception of the question.  Some of the results are brilliant but some are not very successful.  On the whole, however, the editors have put together a fascinating and entertaining romp through the scientific process and the visual references that occurred to at least one person.  My personal favorites were “Why do pigeons bob their heads when they walk?” (It turns out that they don’t bob if they’re walking on a treadmill timed to their walking speed, i.e. they bob in order to maintain visual cues from the changing environment.), “Where does the earth’s water come from?” (Once thought to arise from comets, water probably comes from adsorption to stellar space dust, but that doesn’t tell me where it originated from, does it?), and “Why do we sleep” (Turns out that nobody knows, but you die if you don’t sleep.”).