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Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books Shortlist Announced

27 September 2011

The Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books judges have chosen a shortlist of six books that they describe as having taken them out of their depth and giving them thrilling new experiences of the world of science.  The shortlist is composed of:

Alex’s Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos (Bloomsbury)
The judges said: “This book is a complete revelation.  A rich and diverse story of mathematics, peppered with anecdote and personalities, whirling round the globe and through history from Euclid to the supercomputer, it brings maths bursting to life in a way we never expected.”

Through the Language Glass: How Words Colour Your World by Guy Deutscher (William Heinemann)
The judges said: “A enthralling book that truly broadened our understanding of language, culture and the science of perception, using startling experiments to make us re-think the subtle assumptions with which we all view and describe the material world.

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean (Little, Brown and Company)
The judges said: “This is much more than just a witty guide to the periodic table – it gives a fascinating insight into the history of the elements, how they were discovered, and the extraordinary part they play in our lives.”

The Wavewatcher’s Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (Bloomsbury)
The judges said: “A brilliant almost poetic book that really opened our eyes.  We were amazed to find that we now see waves everywhere we look, making the world around us a more absorbing and enchanting place, thanks to modern science.”

Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science by Ian Sample (Basic Books)
The judges said: “An extraordinary book that tells the real human story behind one of the biggest science adventures of our time, managing to translate the complex concepts of particle physics  into a real page-turner.”

The Rough Guide to The Future by Jon Turney (Rough Guides)
The judges said: “A thought-provoking and refreshingly optimistic view of the future across the whole range of the sciences, with a highly original style of brief and multi-focused presentations, that sets it apart from conventional scientific writing.“

Richard Holmes, Chair of the judges, said: “We judges, both scientists and non-scientists alike, found that we were frequently exploring unfamiliar territory with these books, and we loved every moment of it. We encountered that special thrill of being constantly swept slightly out of our depth.  But we quickly lost our nervousness of subjects that were so eloquently and clearly explained, finding the experience intensely rewarding and eye-opening. We urge all readers to take that one step away from the shore, and dive into the thrilling and extraordinary world of science.”

All of the authors on this year’s shortlist are new to the prize.

The Royal Society is delighted to announce that, commencing this year, the global investment management company Winton Capital Management has agreed a five year sponsorship deal of the prize.

“Empirical scientific research has been at Winton’s core since David Harding founded the company in 1997,” said Robin Eggar, Head of Communications and Public Affairs at Winton.  “As a company that believes in encouraging public understanding and education in science we are delighted to be the new sponsors of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.  This year’s shortlist is a remarkable, broad, erudite and informative selection of popular science writing. Each one of the six books will be a worthy winner.”

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Society on 17th November 2011 and awarded £10,000. The authors of each shortlisted book will receive £1000.

William Hill’s odds for the shortlisted books are as follows:

3/1     Through the language glass
7/2     Alex's Adventures In Numberland
4/1     The Disappearing Spoon
4/1     The Wavewatcher's Companion
5/1     Massive
6/1     The Rough Guide to the Future

The judges on this year’s judging panel are Richard Holmes, biographer and previous winner of the prize; Professor Jenny Clack FRS, Professor and Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology; Robert Llewellyn, writer, actor and TV presenter and Professor Cait MacPhee, Professor of Biological Physics.