Popularizing science has never been more popular. Since Stephen Hawking struck publishing gold in 1988 with A Brief History of Time, there has been no shortage of scientists and writers willing to try their hand at making the complex universe more comprehensible. Next month, the British public will be reminded again of how accessible science writing can be when the winner of the Aventis Prizes for Science Books claims his or her £10,000 reward and, possibly, a place on the bestseller lists.

Over the years the reward has gone to some of the biggest names in science writing, including Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, and Stephen Jay Gould. This year's short list includes two of Britain's most high-profile science communicators, Richard Dawkins and Robert Winston, whose latest works are up against a field of lesser-known figures.

But one easily accessible book on the world of science, published last month by...

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