This year's Aventis prizes for books that contribute most to public understanding of science will be awarded at the Science Museum next week. The junior shortlist (titles aimed at under-14s) was outlined in TES Teacher last week; there are six contenders for the general prize. The winning author in each category gets pound;10,000 and shortlisted authors pound;1,000.

AEONS: the search for the beginning of time. By Martin Gorst. Fourth Estate. pound;14.99.

A science documentary maker recounts attempts through history to prove or disprove the idea that the world could have been made in seven days. The judges said: "A fascinating and well-written account of the quest to discover how old the universe is, which combines a historical sweep with a scientific pursuit.

THE UNIVERSE IN A NUTSHELL. By Stephen Hawking. Bantam Press. pound;20.

The sequel to A Brief History of Time, 13 years and 10 million copies later, takes in breakthroughs in theoretical physics since Hawking's classic appeared. "Authoritative, hugely ambitious and beautifully illustrated," is the verdict.

THE SECRET LIFE OF DUST. By Hannah Holmes. John Wiley. pound;16.99.

Hannah Holmes tracks dust from exploding stars through deserts and glaciers to its hiding places in carpets and under the couch.

The judges said: "Magnified the microscopic into something magnificent. An unusual perspective on the things we don't notice and a clever synthesis of a wide range of science."

THE MADNESS OF ADAM amp; EVE: how schizophrenia shaped humanity. By David Horrobin. Bantam Press. pound;18.99 (hbk) Corgi pound;8.99.

Horrobin, medical adviser to the Schizophrenia Association and editor of the journal Medical Hypothesis, argues that madness may have played a crucial role in the evolution of humans, and suggests a fresh approach to treatment.

"A well-argued piece of scientific and medical advocacy which, although possibly contentious, brings a richness and humanity to a very important area."

A PRIMATE'S MEMOIR: love, death and baboons in east Africa. By Robert M Sapolsky. Jonathan Cape. pound;17.99 (hbk) Vintage pound;7.99.

Stanford University professor Sapolsky's "hugely funny" account of studying a troop of baboons in Kenya, with Masai tribesmen for neighbours.

"An exciting, epic and honest account of a scientist's life and work," said the judges.

RIVALS: conflict as the fuel of science. By Michael White. Secker amp; Warburg pound;17.99.

Newton v Leibniz, Darwin v Wallace and Bill Gates v Larry Ellison are among the battles for supremacy chronicled in this study of "the eternal impulse for scientists not only to be right, but to be first", by the biographer of Newton and Stephen Hawking. "A behind-the-scenes look at the role of competition in driving forward scientific discovery," said the judges. "Filled with human emotion, fury and passion."

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