Particle physicist Brian Cox stars in shows on the BBC and the Science channel. Named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive,” the passionate advocate of science education has been hailed in some quarters as the next Carl Sagan. “The Wonders of Life: Exploring the Most Extraordinary Phenomenon in the Universe” (Harper), a companion book to his “Wonders” series, stands well on its own. Here’s Cox holding a giant flathead catfish; there he is explaining entropy using a smashed teacup. Co-authored with Andrew Cohen of the BBC’s science unit, the book features striking photography and graphics and accessible (critics say dumbed-down) prose.