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1. A Short History of Nearly Everything
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2. As the Future Catches You: How
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3. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous
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4. The Privileged Planet: How Our
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5. Mind into Matter: A New Alchemy
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6. Rebuilt : How Becoming Part Computer
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7. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
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8. Dr. Quantum Presents: A User's
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9. The Visionary Window: A Quantum
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10. The Quantum Brain: The Search
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11. More Than Human : Embracing the
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12. March Of Unreason: Science, Democracy,
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13. The Borderlands of Science: Where
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14. Institutional Review Board: Management
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17. The Geneticist Who Played Hoops
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18. The Next Fifty Years : Science
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19. The Tao of Physics
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20. Why People Believe Weird Things:

1. A Short History of Nearly Everything
by BILL BRYSON
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 076790818X
Catlog: Book (2004-09-14)
Publisher: Broadway
Sales Rank: 141
Average Customer Review: 4.47 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Bill Bryson is one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers.In A Short History of Nearly Everything, he takes his ultimate journey–into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer.It’s a dazzling quest, the intellectual odyssey of a lifetime, as this insatiably curious writer attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization.Or, as the author puts it, “…how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since.”This is, in short, a tall order.

To that end, Bill Bryson apprenticed himself to a host of the world’s most profound scientific minds, living and dead.His challenge is to take subjects like geology, chemisty, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics and see if there isn’t some way to render them comprehensible to people, like himself, made bored (or scared) stiff of science by school.His interest is not simply to discover what we know but to find out how we know it.How do we know what is in the center of the earth, thousands of miles beneath the surface?How can we know the extent and the composition of the universe, or what a black hole is?How can we know where the continents were 600 million years ago?How did anyone ever figure these things out?

On his travels through space and time, Bill Bryson encounters a splendid gallery of the most fascinating, eccentric, competitive, and foolish personalities ever to ask a hard question.In their company, he undertakes a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only this superb writer can render it.Science has never been more involving, and the world we inhabit has never been fuller of wonder and delight.
... Read more

Reviews (236)

4-0 out of 5 stars Just like on PBS
I like Bill Bryson's writing style. This is a book one wishes they read as a teenager. It really brings science alive. One feels like they are witnessing events as they occur in the first person. I like how Bryson takes scientific topics and makes them simple too understand. Bryson puts numbers in perspective and helps the reader understand the spatial enormity or complexity of the elements, atom, planets, and stars. Its easy to retell a Bryson story because they have good imagination well connect ideas that flow into an interesting story without sounding too intellectual. Like, "What is it like to be inside of an Cell? How do cells work? Who discovered DNA and why?" Question like these.

I think reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is a great introduction to science, astronomy, biology, and geology. Bryson keeps the narrative down to earth, terminology to a minimum, and brings out interesting viewpoints on the birth of the cosmos, the self-repairing DNA, life on planet earth, and the composition of the earth.

Bryson did a job not boring the reader with the mysteries of science. Its entertaining reading and not difficult material to understand. Bryson presents thought provoking material that makes one want to read many other published books by Bryson.

5-0 out of 5 stars He Really Does Cover Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson is one of those rare non-fiction writers who can combine anecdote, humor and actual information, all in one book. Here he covers the history of the earth, starting with the big bang and covering all sorts of ground since then, including why you should be really afraid of meteors (by the time we spot the big one it'll be too late) and why you should think twice about that next visit to Yellowstone (the big one is about due).

As with most of his books it's clear he's done a lot of research, and the book is larded with the kind of stories about Famous Scientists that you've probably never heard...but also full of the sort of survey scientific information that will leave you thinking you've learned something really interesting.

Definitely worth picking up.

Who will like it: lovers of pop science, lovers of Bill Bryson, people willing to read a thick book from start to finish.

Who won't like it: people bored by pop science or any science at all.

5-0 out of 5 stars Rediscover what you learned in school and forgot
This book is aimed at people who either know very little about science, or who studied it in school and then forgot it all (my case). I read some of the reviews here and was shocked at how people criticize Bryson, especially saying he got scientific terms mixed up or had errors in his book. He is not a scientist and in my opinion that makes this book that much more impressive! Bryson devoted years of his life to learn this material, and to think we can take it all in by reading a book.. well it just doesn't seem fair! I was sad when I reached the end of the book, I wanted it to continue. I learned so much from this book, and it's interesting how many times the subject material in this book comes up in every day conversations.

Bryson approaches history from two angles: Astronomy and what we know about the universe, and Evolution and what we know about life on Earth. I learned so many things I didn't know. Fascinating facts such as that meteorites are used to date the earth with carbon dating (they're the same age). Meteorites contain proteins needed to build life. Human like species have been on Earth for 1 million years. After finishing this book, I find myself thinking about topics like these during my free time. That's how impressive this book is. If you love science, this won't be a book you just read and forget. It's a book that will teach you things you'll be thinking about for a long time.

Honestly I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you're interested in science, it is a must read.

Michael

5-0 out of 5 stars Tabloid history of science
The book's title is very gripping but somewhat misleading - it is in fact a book of science tabloids - in a good way. It covers basic findings and histories of almost all major areas of natural sciences in a shallow but easy to follow manner. It is not intended to be introductory to science and science history (find a textbook instead), it is a fun-fact book of science and science history.

This book is full of interesting anecdotes of science and scientists behind scene, which makes the reading stimulating and gives the readers a joyful sense of "discovery". Here are just a few examples top of my mind:

- Components of your daily household cleaning powders like Comet and Ajax are made from the huge ash deposit in eastern Nebraska - they are leftover volcanic ashes from the ancient monstrous eruption of Yellowstone.

- Marie Curie, the only person to win Nobel prize in both chemistry and physics, was never elected to the French academy of sciences largely because she had an affair with a married fellow physicist after Pierre Curie died in a traffic accident. Madame Curie eventually died of leukemia and her papers and lab books (even her cookbooks) are so dangerously contaminated by radiation that those who wish to see them must wear protective clothing.

- Clair Patterson (a University of Chicago alumnus), who in 1953 gave the definitive measurement of the age of the Earth (4,550 million years - plus or minus 70 millions) by analyzing lead/uranium ratios in old rocks and meteorites, was also the leading expert in atmospheric lead poisoning and the early advocate of cleaning lead additives from manmade product. To his credit, Clean Air Act 1970 eventually led to the ban of leaded gasoline in United States in 1986. Almost immediately the blood lead level in Americans dropped 80%.

Informative tabloids like these are all over the book. Bryson did a perfect job of bringing dull facts in history of science into fun everyday life experience. He compiled a huge amount of anecdotes from otherwise hard to find sources and weaved them together seamlessly in fluid and humorous writing. It makes the reading of science fun.

5-0 out of 5 stars The best book you would be able to read in your lifetime!
By reading this book you realize how lucky you are to be here right now. To be reading this in front of your computer is an acomplishment that you may not realize. It shows how much we know about ourselves and the enviroment around us. "A Short History of Nearly Everything" explains in full detail how we became who we are, how we survived, and how impossible it is to do so. If you are interested in science and are looking for something to read, this well-written story is a great page-turner. ... Read more


2. As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth
by JUAN ENRIQUEZ CABOT
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
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Asin: 0609609033
Catlog: Book (2001-10-16)
Publisher: Crown Business
Sales Rank: 8795
Average Customer Review: 4.27 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com's Best of 2001

In As the Future Catches You, Juan Enriquez of the Harvard Business School attempts to capture the trajectory of technological progress and understand the forces shaping our social and economic futures. Enriquez argues that February 2, 2001--the date that anyone with Internet access could contemplate the entire human genome--is akin to 1492 and Columbus's discovery of America. Instead of a new continent however, Enriquez sees the alphabet of DNA (A, adenine; T, thymine; C, cytosine; and G, guanine) and predicts that it will be the "dominant language and economic driver of this century." While none of the ideas presented here are entirely new, As the Future Catches You stands out because of Enriquez's ability to view and connect trends--genomics in particular--in a way that just about anyone can understand. Eye-popping typography and graphics coupled with a compact and almost poetic writing style make this thought-provoking book one to savor. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards ... Read more

Reviews (26)

5-0 out of 5 stars Easy to Read and VERY INSIGHTFUL
If you want to understand some of the "big picture" issues in our society I strongly encourage you to read this book. Peter Drucker's Management Challenges for the 21st Century and Daniel Pink's Free Agent Nation are two other good reads on a knowledge-based economy.

While Mr. Enriquez spends most of the book talking about genomics (his area of expertise and knowledge) and the implications arising from developments in the area, he also tries to illustrate the impact such discoveries might have on the world economy in a very basic, easy-to-understand manner. Mr. Enriquez does an excellent job in talking about the importance of education and how the large differences among certain geographic regions may lead to a larger divergence of wealth in the next century.

In talking about genomics, Mr. Enriquez is quick to talk about cloning and the moral and ethical issues that will arise from such technology and how it will be EXTREMELY TOUGH to policy this technology due to its rapid evolution and ability to move into other countries borders. In the past the evolution of public policy was adjusted with the technologies but genomics is different in that we are talking about the potential to create human life via cloning, which stirs up all kinds of moral and social issues which affects politicians and their voting constituencies.

The one thing I know is that genomics is revolutionizing modern medicine as we breathe today. The new drugs, cures and foods that will be created and these WILL have VERY PROFOUND impacts on our standard of living in the next century and will cause tons of social implications. This book is your entrance into learning about geonomics in a very easy to read book. I highly recommend purchase of the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended!
If you read only one book about the looming genetics revolution, As the Future Catches You would be a pretty good pick. After laying a foundation with a basic introduction to DNA and the genetic sciences, Juan Enriquez takes the reader on a tour of the mystifying advances that are putting humans in greater control of their own evolutionary destiny. This book is designed as much to inspire questions as to answer them, and uses a variety of font styles and sizes and almost poetic prose to provoke the thoughtful involvement of the reader. We from getAbstract recommend this book to any reader who doesn't want to let the future catch him off guard.

4-0 out of 5 stars Why reviews of this book vary from * to *****
This book reads like an engaging lecture. If you're looking for an extensive and scholarly work . . . you'll give it a single *. If you're looking for a well written, extended and readable Powerpoint presentation (and I mean that in all seriousness) you'll rate this book much more highly. I was surprised by how light the book was on words/$ but was pleasantly surprised that after I'd adjusted my expectations the book was readable and engaging. And it's significantly less expensive than the thousands Enriquez probably charges to deliver this presentation in person . . .

1-0 out of 5 stars Huh?
I am a librarian. We have this book in our collection only because it was given to us for free. I'm not sure what all of the praise is for. It is puzzling to me.

1-0 out of 5 stars Good, if you like PowerPoint
The most telling phrase was in the afterword: "I apologize for simplifying so many debates and concepts." At least he knew what he was doing.

I found this to be a turbulent stream of factoids, hero worship, and incomplete ideas. The author seems not to distinguish between opening a discussion and failing to finish a thought. The quantitative statements are sometimes incorrect - his decimal points seem to wander as much as the rest of the presentation.

Visually, the text is a mess. Maybe he wanted it to look lively and creative, instead of putting the life into the text itself. His typographic "creativity" tops out around the Crayola level, though. It's what I'd expect of someone who just discovered all those cool controls over fonts, sizes, layout, etc., but has not yet discovered they don't all need to be used on any one page. In fact, this typography interferes with a good reader's perceptual habits. I actually like aggressive use of type, like some of David Carson's - but Carson brings visual competence to the page.

The one graph (p.147) is uninformative even by USA Today standards. It would probably have Tufte spinning in his grave. (As far as I know, Tufte is alive as of this writing - that graph might well kill him.)

Toffler's 'Future Shock' needs continuous replacement, because the future keeps getting here and keeps being something we didn't expect. I'm glad to see people writing about the ever-changing future. I welcome thoughtful, communicative visual presentations. This book just doesn't give me either. ... Read more


3. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
by Charles Seife, Matt Zimet
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140296476
Catlog: Book (2000-09-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 10850
Average Customer Review: 3.68 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Charles Seife traces the origins and colorful history of the number zero from Aristotle to superstring theory by way of Pythagoras, the Kabbalists, and Einstein. Weaving together ancient dramas and state-of-the-art science, Zero is a concise tour of a universe of ideas bound up in the simple notion of nothingness. ... Read more

Reviews (82)

3-0 out of 5 stars A good summary
Despite the abstract nature of it's subject matter, this book is a surprisingly breezy and informative read about the history of zero and it's value in the mathematics (and scientific) revolutions of the 1600s and still today. It's part history, part math primer, and part practical guide, with the later chapters focussing on how the zero is used in physics and astronomy.

Seiff has an engaging style and he doesn't talk down or talk above the reader. Although Seiff obviously is an expert in difficult math, he doesn't overwhelm you with equations or get too abstract. Even sections on trig and calculus are written in everyday language that you can easily follow. The book does begin to trail off at Chapter 7-8, from here much of the book seems like filler. I preferred "The Nothing That Is" (also about the zero number) a little because I was more interested in the history and that book covers it more, but Seiff still does a fine job here with history of zero, and his book is probably more useful for students trying to know how to use the zero and it's concepts for their math classes, especially figuring out the limit and other calculations.

5-0 out of 5 stars A very engaging, interesting, and enlightening read
The title of this book is "Zero: the Biography of a Dangerous Idea." Certainly, what Charles Seife wrote does not disappoint: it IS a biography of zero. It starts from its conception in early history, and progresses to outline its development in history through the branches of mathematics, physics, art, and even philosophy. A previous reader was disappointed that the book took time to focus on physics and philosophy, but keep in mind that zero is not limited only to the mathematical realm. Indeed, it is pervasive in society, and it has affected the way we view the world. So to talk about zero yet disregard its important contributions to fields other than mathematics would be a travesty.

Seife's book is a very engaging and enlightening read. Seife looks at how zero has become: the foundation for calculus (taking limits to zero), a revolutionary idea in art (3d drawings have a point of infinity to give depth perception...and infinity and zero are just different sides of the same coin), an important concept of the numberline, and many other places. Indeed, I have read this book many times, sometimes for a quick browse and sometimes for an indepth read, and it has always been a pleasure to read.

Moreover, Seife is very knowledgeable in what he writes, and he brings a sense of humor as well--if you have ever read his article about the debate on cold fusion in 'Science' or 'Scientific American' (it was one or the other, its been a while since that article was published in the early 90s I believe) you'll see his sense of humor in his concluding paragraph (cold fusion or confusion anyone?).

And in response to another review earlier, the reader said that in the appendix there was a proof where a=1 and b=1, and from the equation a^2 - b^2 = a^2 - ab it can be found that 1=0 by factoring the difference of squares and dividing by (a-b). The reader commented that this is dividing by 0, that such an operation violates a fundamental law of algebra (cannot divide by zero), and that an editor should have caught it.

The point is that Seife is showing WHY you cannot divide by 0, that the result is 1=0 and that logic and mathematics would be invalid. He is showing why zero may be a 'dangerous idea'!

In conclusion, this book is superb in its writing and content. It lives up to what it was meant to do, to show the development of zero through history. It is clear, concise, and witty. You will not be disappointed.

4-0 out of 5 stars Zero is fundamental
Entertaining book for students of philosophy, historians, and math neophytes, but Seife's simple-minded application of the principle of the conservation of energy to the quantum electrodynamic sea of spacetimemassenergy, i.e. the "zero point field," among other things, reveals him to be among the least imaginitive of physicists. His dismissive proposition that "nothing can come from nothing," overlooks the very simple fact that the QED sea of energy is hardly "nothing," otherwise there would be no such thing as Brownian motion or the Casimir Effect, not to mention the space, time, mass, and energy of our universe. Hal Puthoff claims that a cupful of this so called "vacuum energy" could boil away the oceans of our planet. (The most intriguing concept of "zero" is that promulageted by today's heretics such as Tom Bearden.) Presumably, however, Seife's math and philosophical history of zero is accurate. Before reading this book, this reader had known very little of it, and it was this part that he found quite enjoyable.

1-0 out of 5 stars Jumbled mess of ideas
This is a mildly interesting and entertaining book about history of zero that unfortunately tries to be too cute with its style and to pull in so many unrelated ideas, it loses focus as you turn the pages. When "Zero" stays on topic it's OK. Seife has a pretty good grounding in most of the history, and it was facsinating to read about how the number was used for such simple purpose for Babylonians but became so important for abstract number systems later.

Middle section of the book deals with zero in calculus, useful for any student toughing it out thru intro calc. But Seife gets too drawn in to all the goofy philosophical wanderings you can make about zero, he goes off on way too many tangents that don't make sense. Yes, you can't divide 1 by 0 and the number has a special role in most operations, but how do these properties threaten to bring down the whole framework of math (to paraphrase)? There's all kinds of talk about how zero and infinity are just two sides of the same coin-- why? The author tries to sound like a sage but doesn't make much sense with the claims on these pages.

Whole thing comes apart in the last couple of chapters on physics, cosmology, and applied math which are slim on facts and chock-full of flowery language about how important zero is but where the author really doesn't back his claims. In fact, as the book goes on it seems to make less sense, as though it doesn't quite know what it's supposed to be saying as it moves farther afield from history and calculus. Why are these later chapters even here? They don't add anything and detract from the book's overall value.

4-0 out of 5 stars Zero is not just a number, its a way of life
A very interesting book. The Author shows how mindsets, philosophies and cultures had to change to enable the Zero to be accepted. The West overlooked then resisted the idea of zero.
When the zero idea took hold and was finally accepted it affected everything from Aristoteloism, to commerce, to Art. Even the biblical creation stories took on a different light.
Art in the West during the Renaissance gained a major improvement
as the sense of perspective was developed. This vanishing point within a painting is the equivalnt of the introduction of Zero into the art world .
I would read other books by this author, interesting history, The book moves right along, I like the Author's style, plenty of background, but always stayed the coure. I believe an audio book
is probably not the correct format for this information. I would have liked to have seen the test portraying some of the
equtions. ... Read more


4. The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery
by Guillermo Gonzalez, Jay Wesley Richards
list price: $27.95
our price: $27.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0895260654
Catlog: Book (2004-03)
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Sales Rank: 28278
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Real Privilege to Read! Get it!
This book is larger than life. It is one of those rare books on which, I suspect, fundamental issues turn, like Newton's Principia or Darwin's Origin of Species. Gonzalez and Richards combine a breadth of scientific detail with philosophical sophistication and nuance. But the book still manages to be a pleasure to read!

I first heard about this book during a presentation I attended in which one of the co-authors discussed its main thesis and arguments. Everything I heard souned fresh and was well-supported, and thus I have been eagerly awaiting its publication. Needless to say, this book has even exceeded my expectations!

The Privileged Planet is a seminal contribution to the growing debate over purpose and intelligent design in the universe. Most of the action in the last few years has taken place in biology, with the inevitably rancorous debates over neo-Darwinian evolution. It's very refreshing to read a book on design that doesn't having anything to do with that debate.

The list of endorsers for this book is truly impressive, so one need not take my word for it. The Privileged Planet will give many of our elite scientists a lot to discuss over the coming years. This is not to say that non-scientists won't be talking about it, either, since it is well-written and can be understood by a general audience.

5-0 out of 5 stars Are We Alone in the Universe?
This books works on the eternal question: Are we alone in the Universe.

It's clear that a tremendous number of things had to happen just exactly right for life to develop as it has. Just the right temperature, the amazing characteristics of water at this temperature range, exactly the correct amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other elements and compounds necessary for life.

There was a school of thought centered around the late Carl Sagen that there must be a lot of life in the Universe. He estimated that there were as many as a million civilizations in the Milky Way alone. Since then a revisionist school has come about. The authors of this book have collected a massive amount of knowledge about the nature of life on our planet, much of it just developed in recent years. Their conclusion is that the circumstances surrounding life on earth make it more rare than previous studies might have believed.

Does it prove that we are alone in the universe, absolutely not, it is theoretically impossible to prove a negative. You can only prove a positive, and this question will remain until we receive a signal from outer space or perhaps when a UFO joins the flight pattern at the airport in Washington, London or where ever.

5-0 out of 5 stars Honesty Shines Through
After reading a number of writings by scientists who lean towards an intelligent designer and also a number by those who support blind chance as a maker, I find that there seems to be a certain ring of "sincere honesty" to be found among the former, whereas the sheer speculation and real lack of suporting evidence for evolution leaves the latter in a position that almost makes forces them to seem dishonest in there theories. The Privileged Planet reflects this honesty to which I refer.

Some have dismissed the Anthropic principle, reversing the reasoning to support evolution, yet, if the chances are that because of the sheer number of possible planets in the universe, life had to arise on one of them that was perfect for life (Earth) in an unguided way, then would it not also be reasonable to think that in a biologists perfect laboratory (out of all the labs worldwide) that a living cell could be developed from scratch (even with a highly intelligent designer and his technology). This has not happened in recent decades and doesn't seem likely it will happen in the anywere near future. A human being in full bloom with his conciousness and mental ability is a completely different matter. Honesty will have to lead us to accept the absolute neesessity of a designer

5-0 out of 5 stars It turns out mediocrity isn't so wonderful.
The book is a logical and quantitatively supported advancement of the implications of the so-called anthropic cosmological principle. Not only must a precise array of specific values be implemented if a universe that is stable on a large scale and materially complex is to exist, these same "fine tuned" values are necessary for life, for technological (intelligent) life, and for a viable "platform" for scientific discovery. Such a platform is our home, the planet Earth and its calculably favored location in space-time. "Our argument is subtle," say Gonzales and Richards, "Earth's conditions allow for a stunning diversity of measurements, from cosmology and galactic astronomy to stellar astrophysics and geophysics; they allow for this rich diversity of measurement much more so than if Earth were ideally suited for, say, just one of these sorts of measurement." If, as Fred Hoyle famously said, a super-intellect has "monkeyed" with the physics (and chemistry and biology) of our material world, then it likewise appears that this super-intellect has also presented us with unique opportunities for discovering this same precise array of specific values. The particular values that support intelligent life also provide the opportunity for knowledge of these particular values. Thus another in the growing number of "cosmic coincidences". The theological implications are, in a general sense, obvious to anyone who isn't pre-committed to excluding them. (Gonzalez is an astrophysicist, Richards a theologian and philosopher).
The first section broadly quantifies the remarkable "habitability" of our host planet, treating such issues as the role of Earth's plate tectonics in maintaining the carbon cycle; the highly specific advantages of a rotating iron core (meteorological, magnetic, etc); the type and age of our star, the unique advantages of having a "twin" body with the parameters of Earth's moon; the protective function of the neighboring gas giants like Jupiter, and so forth. Also treated are Earth's surprising array of "data recorders" and their importance to scientific discovery. If intelligent beings are to ask questions about the nature of nature, Earth is a strangely ideal place for these questions to be asked.
The second section considers the larger cosmos, quantifying the privileges of being between the spiral arms of a large (Andromeda and ours are the largest of the Local Group) and old galaxy, and well removed from the perils of a galactic center. Here also we consider the stunningly precise values required for stellar nucleosynthesis, the necessary advantages afforded to our location in time, the necessity of the fundamental force values being very narrowly "tuned", and so forth.
Building on the quantification considered to this point, the third section examines "anthropic" and design implications, thoroughly debunks the Mediocrity Principle popularized by Drake and Sagan, and presents some general and specific predictions arising from a 'design' interpretation of the measurements and discoveries of the past century (and especially of the past three decades). The authors go on to anticipate and answer contradicting arguments, and in making their predictions they clearly challenge those who won't like their hypothesis. To be sure, some won't like it (the 'purposelessness' and 'mediocrity' faithful). But the inevitable detraction (and outright whining) will arise from personal psychological commitments and not from science.
A fascinating book, highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars Complex, provocative, interesting and useful
I looked at the posted reviews before writing my own. The vast majority (more than half) rate the book at five stars. Does this prove that this is the greatest book ever written? Of course not. It is simply a result of the adage that "you will like this book, if this is the kind of book that you like." The next largest category is a rating of one star. And what does that prove? It proves that "you will not like this book, if this is the kind of book that you do not like." Apparently this book is not as simple, or as obvious as either group would tell you. In fact, I found this book to be quite complex, if one read it (or should one say, "studied") the book carefully. I would say that one has here three, or possibly four or more, "books" combined in one.

First we have a book of "scientific information or facts." I found no criticism of these facts in the one star ratings. The facts are clear, complete, well reasearched and well referenced for those who wish to look further. Clearly this "book" deserves a five+ star rating.

Another book is based on the "choice of facts to present." Some people may be unhappy that facts they would include, are excluded. Is this a problem? Only if you disadgee with the clear intent/agenda of the authors. There is nothing hidden here. The authors make it clear where they stand respecting the origin, and purpose, of life. One can disagree that life has a creator or designer. But that is a different premise that the one chosen by the authors. Given their premise. I would argue that the authors chose just the right science to present and to exclude.

A third book involves "conclusions" derived from the presented facts. The idea that our planet is privileged to both our kind of life and also to scientific discovery, and the corolary that the requirements for both are intertwined, is intriguing. Nevertheless, I must say that I am not completely convinced respecting privilege in scientific discovery but the supporting material is 100% convincing respecting our kind of life.

A fourth book, if one will, involves various conclusions respecting what one might call orthodox intelligent design. Here is where prior biases and ideas will make a big difference, ranging from a perfect five to an insignificant one. I happen to believe in a "designer" but am not a full supporter of orthodox ID, especially with respect to evolution theory. So what? Does one have to agree with the ultimate conclusions of a book to find it interesting, intriguing and even fascinating? Indeed, the readers who gave the book a one star rating, primarily because they do not believe in a "designer," still found a wealth of ideas and facts to consider - if only to reject.

I would say that this is a must read whether you support or reject the ultimate conclusions because this book will make you think. And thinking is always a good thing. ... Read more


5. Mind into Matter: A New Alchemy of Science and Spirit
by Fred Alan Wolf
list price: $14.95
our price: $12.71
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Asin: 0966132769
Catlog: Book (2000-11-01)
Publisher: Moment Point Press
Sales Rank: 5597
Average Customer Review: 4.56 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (9)

3-0 out of 5 stars Might appreciate it more later
I found the book to be rather difficult to follow through the first few chapters. The middle and end of the book were easier to understand; however, there could have been more examples to clarify some of the rather complex concepts. I have recently purchased another book along the same subject line and it presents the material a little more clearly. I may reread this book later or at least compare Wolf's explanations of quantum physics to those in the other book for clarification. I don't have a physics background (except in high school), so that may have been the problem too.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great work of linking science and spirituality
Only thing that lacked in the book was the non-explanasion of death as an inbuilt thing the endless fertilization. Other wise a great read. Highly recommended...

4-0 out of 5 stars Stimulating Topics on Mind, Consciousness & Quantum Physics
A little tough to understand the first few chapters, but the later half of the book was well worth the wait. Dr. Wolf has a unique way of decribing complex quantum physics concepts, such as the nature of mind, including "scripts" that represent the movement of the conscious observer through parallel worlds. A good book to take on a retreat when you want to get away and think about the deep questions of consciousness in relation to "mind".

5-0 out of 5 stars This is a clear, concise, yet humble and poetic book.
Fred Alan Wolf has removed another brick in the wall separating us from the realization of our true, divine nature. Even skeptical readers will grasp the line of reasoning that always accompanies Fred Alan Wolf's joyous speculative leaps. As our scientific community continues to advance our understanding of the underlying nature of things, we are also realizing the wisdom in the mystical traditions. Fred Alan Wolf is one of the best writers alive today in the area where advanced physics and mysticism converge. The Unity of all things is a fact, and we are all indeed One. Every time I read a book of this caliber, I am bolstered in my ability to sustain this quiet awareness for a little bit longer in the course of my life, when the noise and competition of mundane awareness distracts me and misleads me into believing otherwise. Those of us who cannot accept faith as a means of navigating through the mystery that is everywhere can take heart in the primacy of experience...the experience that comes from genuine open-minded inquiry, the experience that comes from many meditative states, from intuition, sudden glimpses of clarity that we occasionally stumble into, and the experience that comes from following the mind of someone who knows more than we do.

5-0 out of 5 stars Exploring the Frontier between the Imaginal and the Real
Fred Alan Wolf's done it again! His latest book, MIND INTO MATTER, is a masterpiece of insight into the hidden workings of our magical, mysterious universe. As I read this book, I felt exhilarated to join Wolf on his journey "to find our mind" on the frontier of the imaginal and the real.

MIND INTO MATTER is structured around Wolf's explanation of the significance and meaning behind the first nine letter-symbols in the Hebrew alphabet, with a separate chapter devoted to each Hebrew letter. The book begins with the concept of Spirit within the Void, and continues onward to Creation, Animation, Resistance, Vitality, Replication, Chance, Unification, and Structure. We witness the new alchemy at work in the process of Animation, where we notice how we Think, Feel, Sense, and Intuit the world around us.

I love Wolf's playful way of describing thought experiments throughout his book, alongside fascinating research material from physicists and neurophysiological researchers that suggest how our conscious minds form memories of events. On a deep level, we are aware of all possibilities available to us, and the one we remember as being real is the one we choose to observe. Since information flows from the future to our present time, we have what we need to select the path we most desire.

To everyone who wishes to more fully grasp the breadth, depth, and height of who we truly are and how we interact with the universe, I give this book my highest recommendation. ... Read more


6. Rebuilt : How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human
by Michael Chorost
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 0618378294
Catlog: Book (2005-06-02)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 52378
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Michael Chorost became a cyborg on October 1, 2001, the day his new ear was booted up. Born hard of hearing in 1964, he went completely deaf in his thirties. Rather than live in silence, he chose to have a computer surgically embedded in his skull to artificially restore his hearing.

This is the story of Chorost's journey -- from deafness to hearing, from human to cyborg -- and how it transformed him. The melding of silicon and flesh has long been the stuff of science fiction. But as Chorost reveals in this witty, poignant, and illuminating memoir, fantasy is now giving way to reality.

Chorost found his new body mystifyingly mechanical: kitchen magnets stuck to his head, and he could plug himself directly into a CD player. His hearing was routinely upgraded with new software. All this forced him to confront complex questions about humans in the machine age: When the senses become programmable, can we trust what they tell us about the world? Will cochlear implants destroy the signing deaf community? And above all, are cyborgs still human?

A brilliant dispatch from the technological frontier, Rebuilt is also an ode to sound. Whether Chorost is adjusting his software in a desperate attempt to make the world sound "right" again, exploring the neurobiology of the ear, or reflecting on the simple pleasure of his mother's voice, he invites us to think about what we hear -- and how we experience the world -- in an altogether new way.

Brimming with insight and written with dry, self-deprecating humor, this quirky coming-of-age story unveils, in a way no other book has, the magnificent possibilities of a new technological era.
... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars what it means to be human
I got home at 7:30pm frantic because my flight to Singapore was to
depart at 6am, and found my preordered copy of "Rebuilt" from Amazon
on the stoop.I hadn't packed and still had tons of email to go, on
top of a couple of administrative emergencies.I was hoping to get
to bed by 10pm.But instead, I stayed up until 1:30am reading
Rebuilt, left in the morning with god-knows-what-all in my luggage,
and finished it on the plane having not slept in transit at all.
This book is seriously good.It's the first book that's ever made
anything related to postmodern literary theory interesting to me.I
laughed out loud at least a half dozen times.

Yes, the book is by someone who's literally experienced one of the
first mindmelds with a computer. Yes, the book has to do with
deafness. Yes, the book looks at literature, and philosophy. But it's
really one man's story and something that touches every one of us,
which is what it means to be human--alone, together, and with
our technologies. What a masterpiece.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Amazingly Personal Look At Health and Technology
I was skeptical at first when I was given this book but once I started the book I was amazed. I went in thinking what's the big deal about getting a cochlear implant and left trying to figure out "what is reality". Chorost does a great job infusing the book with his wit. He does seem to be uniquely qualified to write about this topic (with his background in technology). The book shines when he writes about his personal experiences. Two Thumbs Up.

5-0 out of 5 stars Everybody should read this book
This book isn't perfect.If I was Chorost's editor, I'd have told him to cut a few things & beef up other parts (and particularly told him "Less about the girls, more about the code"!Chorost seems to have underrated the interesting-ness of his insights as a guy who knows about software and overrated the interest of online dating; cf. "Genes, Girls and Gamow," a similar exercise...).But that said, this is one of the most striking and memorable books I've read for ages.Chorost is the perfect person to write this book, and his insights into the wonders & difficulties of the cochlear implant should be required reading for EVERYBODY who has an interest in biotechnology, language, education, neurology, etc.A real must-read. ... Read more


7. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
by Thomas S. Kuhn
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0226458083
Catlog: Book (1996-12-15)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 3091
Average Customer Review: 4.05 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

There's a "Frank & Ernest" comic strip showing a chick breaking out of its shell, looking around, and saying, "Oh, wow! Paradigm shift!" Blame the late Thomas Kuhn. Few indeed are the philosophers or historians influential enough to make it into the funny papers, but Kuhn is one.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is indeed a paradigmatic work in the history of science. Kuhn's use of terms such as "paradigm shift" and "normal science," his ideas of how scientists move from disdain through doubt to acceptance of a new theory, his stress on social and psychological factors in science--all have had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus, and even the cartoonist in the street.

Some scientists (such as Steven Weinberg and Ernst Mayr) are profoundly irritated by Kuhn, especially by the doubts he casts--or the wayhis work has been used to cast doubt--on the idea of scientific progress. Yet it has been said that the acceptance of plate tectonics in the 1960s, for instance, was sped by geologists' reluctance to be on the downside of a paradigm shift. Even Weinberg has said that "Structure has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science." As one of Kuhn's obituaries noted, "We all live in a post-Kuhnian age." --Mary Ellen Curtin ... Read more

Reviews (74)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of the End of Modernism
Thomas Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1922. He taught physics at Harvard, the history of science at Berkeley, and the philosophy and history of science at Princeton and MIT. His best-known book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, introduced the term "paradigm shift" into the modern vocabulary when it was first published in 1962. Kuhn's study of paradigm shifts in science makes it hard to view science as an objective discipline that steadily advances towards the truth. Instead, Kuhn shows science to be a very human enterprise where truth is as likely to be resisted as it is to be embraced.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn defines a "paradigm" as a set of assumptions, rules, or model problems that define what the important questions are and how to go about answering them. Without a paradigm, would-be researchers are overwhelmed by the sheer mass of data. A "paradigm shift" occurs when a group of scientists reject all or part of their existing paradigm to adopt a new one. This process not only means changing assumptions: it also means reevaluating previous conclusions to see if the old facts still fit within the new paradigm.

Kuhn uses the term "normal science" to describe the work that scientists do as they work within a given paradigm. Their shared set of assumptions, rules, and model problems fairly makes it easy to see what research remains to be done. Occasionally, anomalies will appear. These are events that cannot be explained within the existing paradigm. Normal science tends to ignore anomalies. Instead, by concentrating attention on a small range very specific questions, "the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable."

As more and more research is done within a given paradigm, anomalies tend to crop up. This is because the existing paradigm makes very exact predictions about the expected results, and normal science tests those predictions in ever-finer detail. At first, when the results do not match the predictions, those results are discounted. Some researchers assume the equipment was faulty and so they don't publish results that would only seem to embarrass them. Others try to account for the results by some refinement of the existing paradigm. (The classic case of this involved the medieval astronomers, who kept adding more and more "epicycles" to their Earth-centered model of the universe to explain the results they observed.) Finally, researchers are human, and have been known to simply "fudge" the data to match what the paradigm predicts. Thus, even if every experiment produced exactly the same results, the published research in that field might show a range of results.

Eventually, as the anomalies accumulate, scientists begin to acknowledge a crisis. The results no longer fit the paradigm. According to Kuhn, however, simply abandoning the paradigm is not an option. A scientist can get so frustrated with the paradigm that he abandons it to become a priest or open a bicycle shop, but in doing so, he quits being a scientist. A scientist is not a scientist without a paradigm. The only way a scientist can abandon a paradigm and still be a scientist is to adopt a new one. Kuhn calls this a "scientific revolution."
Kuhn blamed textbooks for creating a false impression of the nature of science and of the role of discovery and invention in its advance. When Kuhn first published his book, science was generally presented as an objective advance towards truth.

According to Kuhn, textbook publishers downplayed the "revolutionary" changes that had taken place in their fields. In 1962, if a textbook covered the history of science at all, it tended to make the advances look inevitable. Kuhn argued that science textbooks present an inaccurate view of the nature of science: they make it look as if science had reached its present state by a steady process, like adding bricks to a building.

The revolution is over when one paradigm displaces another, after a period of paradigm testing. According to Kuhn, however, this is not the result proving one paradigm true and another false, however. To some degree, each paradigm is able to account for all the observations that fit within its set of assumptions and rules. The great German physicist Max Planck used to say that old scientists never change their minds: they just die. Kuhn claims this goes a little too far: instead, scientists slowly convert to the new paradigm, for a number of different reasons. Eventually, if a new paradigm is successful, only a handful of hold-outs support the earlier worldview.

Kuhn's book set off a scientific revolution in its own right. People routinely speak of "paradigm shifts" now, and historians of science (and textbook writers) are much more likely to report on the kinds of controversies that were invisible before The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published.

Kuhn concludes with a startling claim. He argues that scientific revolutions take place in a blind evolutionary process. Paradigms compete for survival, not for truth. This contradicts the "modern" assumption that mankind is steadily advancing towards the truth through science. Given Kuhn's revolutionary impact on our view of science, this book may mark the beginning of the end of the "modernism."

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended for a Reason
This book frequently pops up on a "Top 100" or "Best Science Book" or some other list for a reason: Mr. Kuhn was the first person to step back and look at the complex way in which science and scientific study have advanced over the course of humanity and try to put those observations forth in a logical manner. He succeeded brilliantly.

Mr. Kuhn's main point is that there are two phases of scientific discovery, "normal science" which is built on established principals, rounding out gaps in existing theories until the theories begin to unravel, at which point we have entered a period which will require a "paradigm shift". Mr. Kuhn takes the reader through multiple historical examples, the shifts in scientific thought brought about by Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier and Einstein. His references are relevant and his thoughts are clearly put forth. The historical anecdotes are very entertaining and educational and do a solid job of reinforcing his point.

I must admit I was a bit concerned during the first chapter, it was a bit tough to make it through, but did a very good job of laying the groundwork and allowing a glimpse of the author's thought process. The second chapter, in which the author begins to define "normal science", immediately put me to rest as the author dove straight into making his point and proving his argument. The final three chapters pertaining to the Invisibility, Resolution and Progress of revolutions should be required reading for anyone who works in the sciences, and is immensely valuable to anyone working in any field. I have been surprised that there haven't been more straight on business interpretations of Kuhn's work (although there has obviously been much unreferenced piracy), as the spread of scientific thought is a very apt metaphor for the spread of business theory and product adoption.

This is a very good book and I highly recommend it, regardless of what field you work in, be it science, business or otherwise.

5-0 out of 5 stars Philosophic common sense applied to Science Evolution of Tho
The complete title of this review is "Philosophic common sense applied to Science Evolution of Thought". Basically the central thesis of Kuhn was that science evolves through paradigm shifts, and of course he conceives science as a compound of theories and laws based on the most agreeable paradigms of the epoch. I found this book refreshing and interesting from at least two perspectives, filosofically and historically. Also this book is read as a compendium of consecutive works that altogether make a coherent thesis, so it's easy reading it. Finally, Kuhn's style is very friendly and personal, so you really feel he is urging you to follow him in all his arguments. Reading this book was a great experience for me, and I highly recommend it.

4-0 out of 5 stars How and Why Organizations/Communities Resist Change
This relatively easy read while, focusing on the history of changes in scientific paradigms, really is applicable to a much wider audience. It is a recommended "must read" for anyone in the organizational facilitation or organizational development field who needs to understand how difficult it is for organizations to embrace change.
Kuhn well explains how community paradigms are formed and perpetuated, and just how difficult it is for people to accept changes to their paradigm, and why organiations facing necessary changes to their paradigm are prone to label the changes as "anomalies" so they can be discounted and avoided.

5-0 out of 5 stars should be mandatory reading for grad students in all fields
This book, more than any other, has changed the way that I think about scholarship. I am not even a student of the "hard" sciences (I study linguistic anthropology) and yet still found most of the concepts trenchant. By showing how the game is played, Kuhn raises important issues on how knowledge is produced, and the implications that follow. Real revolutions that propel fields forward are rarely achieved by discoveries of new data, but instead by viewing pre-existing data from novel perspectives. The implication is that while we should not abandon previous learning, part of genius is identifying and UNlearning implicit assumptions. The only criticism that I have is that Kuhn is not always clear as to whether he is writing descriptively or normatively. Nonetheless, this book is great. ... Read more


8. Dr. Quantum Presents: A User's Guide To Your Universe
by Fred Alan, Ph.D. Wolf
list price: $69.95
our price: $44.07
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1591793483
Catlog: Book (2005-06-30)
Publisher: Sounds True
Sales Rank: 24078
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Book Description

In this Audio Learning Set, Dr. Fred Alan Wolf takes the listener on a stirring intellectual ride through the realms of human consciousness and its relationship to quantum physics. He espouses his theories on the universe, relativity, quantum mechanics, and much more. ... Read more


9. The Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicist's Guide to Enlightenment
by Amit Goswami, Deepak Chopra
list price: $34.95
our price: $34.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0835607933
Catlog: Book (2000-11-01)
Publisher: Quest Books
Sales Rank: 61641
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars THE AHAH! BOOK
I was about four years old when I discovered that things die, and the outrage that I felt at this news has fueled a fifty year search to understand what we're doing here. This is not my only literary quest, but it is a big one, and it has taken me all over the map. When I studied relativity and quantum physics in college, I saw - 'through a glass darkly' - that this was an important piece of the puzzle, but real understanding eluded me. I just bought the The Visionary Window, and I knew almost immediately, that this, for me, was the Ahah! book - the one that brought all the pieces together. I recommend it highly.

4-0 out of 5 stars Hold a Webster with you for this
Although the book seems to be sincere effort in terms of the treatment of subject, but the language is too tricky with very very esoteric terminology used. Also the use of word 'quantum' seems to be too casual and thus the terms such as 'quantum monad' seem too ambiguous. Perhaps when Mr Goswami has finally reached some perspective about 'truth', he will realize that any truth that can be expressed, ceases to be 'the truth'.

5-0 out of 5 stars Finally, Unification of Eastern and Western thought.
Many students of philosophy understand and appreciate both
Western materialist philosophies and Eastern philosophies
more centered on consciousness. Like looking at an atom,
and looking at a galaxy, these two philosophies needed a
middleground to connect them
In this book, Goswami is the first person ever to unify
the two seemingly disparate ideologies. He provides the
middleground in a way that books like "The Tao of Physics"
fail to do. (They only "hint" at the connection).

I am very happy that I bought this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very highly recommended reading for students of physics
With his insightful and occasionally inspiring observations and commentaries integrating the spiritual with the scientific, Amit Goswami's The Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicist's Guide To Enlightenment to present a new scientific paradigm placing human values as paramount. He shows how the principles embedded and revealed through the new science of quantum physics can help the reader tap into an inner creativity, deepen spirituality, and life a life of liberation and fulfillment. The Visionary Window is very highly recommended reading for students of physics, metaphysics, and spirituality.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Visionary Window
Unlike Dr. Goswami's other books, which often meander and seem too technical for a layperson, this book is extremely well-written and easy for anyone interested in the new physics and spirituality to understand. This is a fascinating account of exactly how quantum physics might be used to explain such complex spiritual phenomenon as reincarnation, karma, shaktipat, the chakras and physical death. Dr. Goswami's father was a Hindu guru in India. However,as a small boy hiding in an English library during the Indian War of Independence, his son read all of Einstein's works and began a lifelong journey to find explanations in the laws of physics for the most mysterious spiritual tenets of the ancient Upanishads. Today, Dr. Goswami teaches quantum physics at the University of Oregon, and is a scholar in residence at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Consequently, he seems the most qualified of the "new physicists" to integrate Eastern spirituality with Western science. This books offers people in the West nothing less than a real opportunity to understand God, and, as such, is probably the most spectacular book you'll ever read. ... Read more


10. The Quantum Brain: The Search for Freedom and the Next Generation of Man
by JeffreySatinover, Jeffrey Satinover
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0471441538
Catlog: Book (2002-03-01)
Publisher: Wiley
Sales Rank: 12027
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"The Quantum Brain is an adventure in the science of ideas. It is the first book on the brain that combines a grasp of the physics of the microcosm and the technologies of artificial intelligence, neural networks, and self-organizing systems, with a recognition of the transcendant properties that define the mind and differentiate it from matter. Although the subject is inherently difficult and novel, Jeffrey Satinover is an inspired guide through the fertile areas of convergence among the pivotal sciences of the age. From such insights will emerge both new technologies and new philosophies and theologies for the twenty-first century."
–George Gilder, Editor, Gilder Technology Report

"Many authors have written about one or two of the topics covered in The Quantum Brain. Jeffrey Satinover’s book is unique in trying to tie everything together."
–Michael E. Kellman, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, University of Oregon

"Thoroughly researched . . . and told as a gripping tale, thanks to Dr. Satinover’s . . . gift for the narrative. A marvelous introduction to the most fascinating question the human brain can address: its own working."
–R. Shankar, Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Yale University

"A thrilling journey through the world of brain research. The author has set new standards for popular science writing by making arcane topics . . . easy to follow. A tapestry of insights."
–Jack Tuszynski, Professor of Physics, University of Alberta

"I wish I had written this visionary book."
–Professor Hugo de Garis, Head, Starbrain Project, Starlab’s Artificial Brain Project ... Read more

Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
Jeffrey Satinover has written a wonderful book here. What I find so impressive is the book's scope and accessibility. Satinover covers a wide variety of complex topics and explains them in ways that the lay-reader can easily understand. Essentially, the book serves as a wonderful introduction to problems in quantum physics, neural nets, computing, cellular automata, genetic algorithms, artificial intelligence, and some of the basic philosophy of mind problems.

If these kinds of topics have always interested you but you didn't know where to begin, Satinover provides a fun to read and easy to understand introduction. Readers who are already well-versed in these areas may find Satinover's approach to be a little "light-weight", but I think they could perhaps appreciate the manner in which he explains these things.

In the end, I was left somehow feeling a little skeptical of the author's contention of the brain serving to amplify quantum phenemonon to produce free will. But Satinover is weaving a complex argument and attempting to connect a lot of dots. Each of these dots is well-explained and I'm inclined to think that the failure to connect is most likely my limitation and failure and not Satinover's.

So to summarize I'd say this is a wonderful introduction to the discoveries in a broad array of fields such as mathematics, cognition, physics, and biology from the last 100 years. It's a pleasure to read and highly acessible. The index and bibliography are both extensive, giving the reader ample opportunity to further investigate these topics.

5-0 out of 5 stars Sweeping synthesis
It takes a psychiatrist trained in physics and well versed in modern
technology to understand the impact of quantum mechanics
and neural networks first on computation and then on the human condition.
Dr. Satinover reviews the history of perceptrons, the rise and
tribulations of symbolic artificial intelligence and
related subdisciplines of psychology and biology.
This is a sweeping book, broad in scope and
provocative in its thesis: quantum phenomena are not just a
curiosity for physicists, they underlie our very thought.
It's the kind of book that will, after
a period of gestatation, lead to new research directions
and new speculations in the philosophy of mind.

5-0 out of 5 stars Profound synthesis of quantum physics to neurobiology
One of the best books I have ever read. For those of us who have not followed the cutting edge research in quantum physics, neurobiology and artificial intelligence, this book provides an elegant and well-written overview and synthesis of these topics. Although the author may have a bias towards seeing God behind the cloak of quantum randomness, he does lay out the possibilties in a balanced way that can only leave the thoughtful reader further in awe of the miracle of sentience and wondering if free will and God do indeed express themselves through "quantum wierdness". This scientific treatise is a novel path to the BIG questions. Absolutely wonderful. Beware; you'll want to read it again once you've finished.

5-0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book
I have found this book very interesting. It is written in a readable and attractive style. A fascinating description of artificial neural network research, weird quantum phenomena, chaos theory and unexpected connection between those 3 fields... Although the relation between quantum computing and brain physiology is far from proven, the book comes with new and inspiring ideas that go beyond Penrose's suggestions. I consider this book as a prophetic one. There is much inspiration in the book also for philosophy and theology. Reading this book was for me one of my greatest intellectual experiences of the year.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
What if a butterfly flapped its wings and started a chain of events that caused a tornado in kansas? This is the main idea behind this book. Except that the butterfly is the strange completely random behavior of subatomic particles and the tornado is what you and I are thinking right now. The first half of the book makes the argument that everything is deterministic in nature. For example: if I throw a ball and know how fast its going, what direction, its spin etc., then I can determine where it will end up. If this is true, why isn't the human brain any different? The second half of the book argues that this is not true. Satinover explains a wide variety of scientific discoveries that all link together to explain how our thoughts can harness the complete randomness of quantum phenomenons. Even the lay person can pick this book up and read it. He explains step by step all of the ideas. Anyone who likes learning how new things work should pick up this book. I've learned a great deal from it. ... Read more


11. More Than Human : Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement
by Ramez Naam
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0767918436
Catlog: Book (2005-03-08)
Publisher: Broadway
Sales Rank: 12069
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Realistic and optimistic
In the last few years there have been a number of books that have served as excellent apologies for the ongoing and very rapid technological developments. The authors of these books have their own beliefs as to the actual rate of technological progress, but they are uniform in their unrelenting optimism about this progress. This is indeed refreshing, considering that most authors that discuss scientific and technological development seem to have one singular goal: to instill anxiety and foreboding in their readers. The author of this book will have none of that, and has written a book that projects a future that is both believable and scientifically realistic. In addition, the author does not hesitate to speculate, but is always careful to note when his speculations begin and end. He also points out the risks that are involved in human modification, and exhibits caution when it is appropriate.

One particular topic that the author addresses early on is gene therapy, and considering the hit that gene therapy has taken in the press recently, this is an appropriate choice of topics. It would be unwise to dismiss the viability of gene therapy so early in the game, and the biotech industry needs to be more aggressive in its development. The author discusses some of the applications of gene therapy, including that of the isolation of the growth hormone erythropoietin (EPO) in order to treat anemia. EPO gene therapy could be used by athletes to boost performance, but the author cautions that EPO is probably responsible for the deaths of several athletes in the early 1990's. He also describes alternative strategies using gene promoters, that will allow the control of the EPO levels, and also "hybrid" approaches that involve both the taking of pills and gene therapy. Also discussed are gene therapies for cosmetic enhancement, for curing baldness, and for curing Alzheimer's disease. Gene therapy for the latter involves the modification of neurons in order that they have extra copies of the gene responsible for production of NGF (nerve growth factor).

Some laboratory evidence involving laboratory mice indicates that NGF gene therapy could improve their learning and memory. The author points out one experiment where extra levels of NGF enabled mice to navigate a maze about 60 percent faster than normal mice. He also discusses research where mice were genetically engineered to have extra copies of the NR2B gene, which produces proteins that are needed for the NMDA receptors in the hippocampus. These mice learned things more quickly at any age than normal mice. The downside of this genetic engineering is that the mice also "unlearned" more quickly, and seemed to be more susceptible to pain than ordinary mice.

Another unique feature of this book that sets it apart from other apologies for enhancement technologies is the inclusion of statistical evidence for many of its assertions. The reader will find bar graphs, references to pertinent statistical studies in the literature, and other graphs as appropriate. Particularly interesting is the graph on worldwide life expectancy, since it indicates that life expectancy at later age has not risen much in the last one hundred years. The author then proceeds to give a fascinating account of the research that has been done in life extension in the last few years. Some of this research involved the changing of a single gene, which for the case of the nematode worm resulted in the tripling of its life span. Even though his discussion is fairly short, the author gives enough to motivate the reader to search for more in-depth discussion of the research in this very exciting area. The possibility of increasing human life spans by decades or more will of course raise the interest of the majority of people. The author believes that therapies that can increase human life span will enter into human trials within the next decade. This is a very optimistic projection considering the current perceptions of the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.

Readers who are impatient to get on with the genetic engineering of humans will have to wait a little longer. As the author reminds us, the germline genetic engineering of a human embryo has not been attempted as of yet. The gene therapy for Ashanti DeSilva was `somatic' gene therapy, and could not be passed on to her children. The author though mentions a procedure that would blur the distinction between germline genetic engineering and somatic gene therapy. It involves in utero gene therapy, and is done while the fetus is still in the mother's womb. Such a technique was never carried out, due to regulatory restrictions, but the author gives several reasons why it could be viable. Genetic diseases like Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart problems could be eliminated he says by this technique. The author points out, interestingly, that 59 percent of the American population approves of the use of genetic engineering to eliminate disease from the unborn. It is actually surprising, at least to this reviewer, that this figure is so high, given the anxiety about genetic engineering in general, even in areas as "trivial" ethically as genetically modified crops. In addition, and this is most refreshing to read, the number of Americans who approve of genetic engineering to create desired traits in children went from 10 percent in 1994 to 20 percent in 2002, according to a study quoted in the book. This is a promising trend, and gives one hope that the population as a whole will eventually appreciate the ethical soundness of using genetic engineering.

The author also addresses the controversy on human reproductive cloning, noting correctly that it is not safe to perform today, but supporting its use when safety concerns have been overcome. Reproductive cloning will hopefully become routine in this century, and human clones will enjoy the rights that all humans have. Banning reproductive cloning is not necessary, the author argues. Clones will be ordinary people, like the rest of us.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lucid and wonder inducing, M.T.H. is a must read!
In More Than Human, Naam's writing is a compelling look at our probable future. Through genetic techniques, drugs, computer and robotic technology, we will have many avenues to enhance our minds and bodies.

Naam presents a wonderful and engaging survey of current, cutting-edge scientific research across various fields including medicine, genetics, biology, robotics, and computers. The central theme, of course, is that all of these endeavors involve improving the human body and/or mind.

Unfortunately, many oppose the idea of enhancing our minds and bettering our bodies. They argue that such desires are "unnatural" and go against what it means to be human. They further believe that decisions on the future technologies of bio-enhancement should be made by a select few. Naam convincingly argues that the desire to improve and enhance ourselves is in fact a central trait that defines our humanity. Indeed, nothing could be more "natural" than the interest in improving ones abilities, including the ability to have better, longer, and healthier lives. Naam also demonstrates how the governance of these issues by an elite cadre of political appointees is ultimately more harmful than allowing the billions of inviduals who will make use of these bio-enhancements to choose for themselves.

In sum, Naam writes clearly and with infectious excitementabout topics that could easily be confused as science fiction. The great wonder however, as Naam is able to show us, is that these topics are very much science fact. We can not avoid what bio-enhancement will do to us as individuals and to our society. We should allow our enthusiasm and optimism to fully accept the inevitable changes that are coming, so that with full understanding we can properly integrate them into our lives.

5-0 out of 5 stars A rare voice: rigorous and accessible
Naam describes recent scientific advances with the rigor of an academic researcher, but in terms that you don't need a PhD to understand.He also does an insightful job of relating recent breakthroughs to historic scientific firsts.For example, he makes a credible case that someday choosing the genes of your children will be just as common and non-creepy as in-vitro fertilization is today.He covers a wide range of topics, describing science that could lead to 150 year lifespans or being able to google things just by thinking about them.I was hoping for a bit more about nanotechnology, but maybe it's still a bit early for that.;)

He explains how these technologies can be helpful to society if embraced.The more compelling argument is how frightening they could be if restricted.He draws astute connections to the rise of already common technologies like reading or antibiotics.Even if you don't agree with everything he believes, his position is well argued, and insightful.

Most importantly, from a crowd screaming in panic about a changing world, Naam's perspective stands out as calm, optimistic, logical and caring.

5-0 out of 5 stars Why I Wrote This Book
In 1999, a friend suggested to me that within a few decades we'd have Matrix-esque implants in our brains that would, among other things, allow us to interact in a completely believable virtual reality and beam our thoughts instantly to one another.I pooh-pooh'ed the idea.The brain and body are much too complex to manipulate in that way, or so I thought.

That same year a scientist named Phil Kennedy in Atlanta implanted an electrode into the brain of a paralyzed patient named Johnny Ray - a stroke victim who was completely unable to move, speak, or feed himself.The electrode monitored the activity of just a few neurons inside the patients brain. But through it Johnny was able to learn to control a computer - moving a cursor around on a screen and typing out messages.

Later that year, Joe Tsien at Princeton made the cover of Time Magazine with his Doogie mice - genetically engineered mice that could learn at astounding speeds, up to five times as fast as genetically normal mice.

And that year is also when I learned of the pioneering longevity research of scientists like Tom Johnston at Colorado, who had genetically altered nematode worms to more than double their lifespan and preserve youthful health into old age.

Suddenly, it seemed, science was resembling science fiction.

At the same time, there are a number of voices raised in concern over these technologies.What does it mean to extend our lives, boost our mental abilities, or integrate our minds with computers?Would we still be human?What would happen to society?To equality?To the meaning of life?

I wrote this book to cover these two, interrelated topics:

1)The science of human enhancement - what's actually happening in the labs and what that could lead to in the near future.

2)The ethics, social consequences, and policy challenges of human enhancement.Basically, what we should or shouldn't do with this technology.

More Than Human is an optimistic book, but it's a cautious optimism.Along the way it looks at issues like the effect of longer lives on overpopulation, on socio-economic stratification and whether these technologies would help the rich pull further away from the poor, and at issues like human identity, and whether we could even call ourselves human after changing ourselves in such ways.

It's not a utopian book.There can be no doubt that using biotechnology to alter the human mind, body, and lifespan will lead to problems.But the conclusion I come to in the book is that these technologies will solve more problems than they create.And that the alternative - to prohibit their use - will create many more problems than it will solve.

You can read more at http://www.morethanhuman.org/

I hope you enjoy the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent though too optimistic account of humanity's future
Naam touches on many of the most crucial milestones in the most optimistic visions of humanity's future: genetic medicine, drug therapies, human cloning, and cybernetic enhancement to name a few. He does so in a way that is scientifically rigorous without becoming mired in the details in a way that would make the account difficult to read for those without a scientific background.

Some readers may be put off by the directness with which he approaches issues which are very controversial, but these technologies are already in use and Naam makes a persuasive argument that, like it or not, the rest of them will be in regular use sooner or later.

While I am personally skeptical of the rose colored glasses through which Naam looks at the future, this book is an undeniably excellent introduction to our technological future and is an enjoyable read at that. ... Read more


12. March Of Unreason: Science, Democracy, And The New Fundamentalism
by Dick Taverne
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Asin: 0192804855
Catlog: Book (2005-03-30)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 20043
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Book Description

In The March of Unreason, Dick Taverne expresses his concern that irrationality is on the rise in Western society, and argues that public opinion is increasingly dominated by unreflecting prejudice and an unwillingness to engage with factual evidence. Discussing topics such as genetically modified crops and foods, organic farming, the MMR vaccine, environmentalism, the precautionary principle, and the new anti-capitalist and anti-globalization movements, he argues that the rejection of the evidence-based approach nurtures a culture of suspicion, distrust, and cynicism, and leads to dogmatic assertion and intolerance.Science, with all the benefits it brings, is an essential part of a civilized and democratic society: it offers the most hopeful future for humankind. ... Read more


13. The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense
by Michael Shermer
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Asin: 0195143264
Catlog: Book (2001-03-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 110903
Average Customer Review: 3.59 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

As author of the bestselling Why People Believe Weird Things How We Believe, and Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer has emerged as the nation's number one scourg of superstition and bad science. Now, in The Borderlands of Science, he takes us to the place where real science (such as the big bang theory), borderland science (superstring theory) and just plain nonsense (Big Foot) collide with one another.

Shermer argues that science is the best lens through which to view the world, but he recognizes that it's often difficult for most of us to tell where valid science leaves off and borderland science begins. To help us, Shermer looks at a range of topics that put the boundary line in high relief. For instance, he discusses the many "theories of everything" that try to reduce the complexity of the world to a single principle, and shows how most fall into the category of pseudoscience. He examines the work of Darwin and Freud, explaining why one is among the great scientists in history, while the other has become nothing more than a historical curiosity. He also shows how Carl Sagan's life exemplified the struggle we all face to find a balance between being open-minded enough to recognize radical new ideas but not so open-minded that our brains fall out. And finally, he reveals how scientists themselves can be led astray, as seen in the infamous Piltdown Hoax.

Michael Shermer's enlightening volume will be a valuable a to anyone bewildered by the many scientific theories swirling about. It will help us stay grounded in common sense as we try to evaluate everything from SETI and acupuncture to hypnosis and cloning. ... Read more

Reviews (17)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not the Applied Skepticism book I wanted, but good anyway.
What I'm looking for is a detailed users' manual for a Baloney Detection Kit (as Carl Sagan called it.) I'd hoped to find this in one of Shermer's previous works, Why People Believe Weird Things, and I'd hoped to find it here. In both cases, the first part of the book did exactly this, but somewhere along the way it turned into case studies of debunking, rather than the process of debunking. (That's okay: they're well-written.)

Michael Shermer's background is psychology and ultra-long-distance cycling; he's written a number of books on cycling and analysis of (and refutation of) Holocaust deniers. He's also president (apparently for life) of the American Skeptics society and a reasonably good writer. In this book, Shermer spends a lot of time talking about the scientific method, its strengths and potential flaws -- and, more importantly, its system for dealing with its flaws (which he claims "sets science apart from all other knowledge systems and intellectual disciplines" -- a heady claim I wish he discussed more.)

Since this is supposed to be a review of Borderlands and not Weird Things, I'll just say that if you like this, you'll like the other as well. In The Borderlands Of Science, he analyzes beliefs that are at defensible, beliefs that could (or were once thought to) be scientifically accurate. Among these are, for instance, ramifications of cloning, confirmation bias in explaining racial differences in sports (about which Malcolm Gladwell has also written), and a whole, whole lot of discussion of Alfred Wallace. Wallace and Charles Darwin were both responsible for the theory of evolution. Wallace is not remembered as widely for a number of reasons, which are explored in frightening detail in roughly 3.5 of the 16 chapters of this book. Shermer did his doctoral thesis on Wallace, not coincidentally. The ratio of stuff-about-Wallace-or-Evolution to everything-else, by chapter, is 3:7; Shermer is pretty focussed on this specific discussion.
The book has four sections: a short introduction (which is quite heavy in skeptical theory, exactly what I wanted) and the main body, discussing borderlands theories, people, and history. In theories, he tends to stray a little from 'why people believe weird things' into 'why stupid people believe weird things' (as he did in the book of the same title) and that's fun. He covers a lot of quite current topics (like cloning, Wacky Unified Field Theories, the importance of Punctured Equilibrium in the evolution of evolutionary theory.)

In section two: people, he discusses the Copernican revolution and its effects, then goes off about Alfred Wallace. Here, he does something weird that needs more discussion. In analyzing Wallace, he constructs a psychological profile, which he derived by having a large number of Wallace experts fill out a survey of the "strongly agree, 9, 8,.. 3, 2, strongly disagree" sort, and then uses the results of these surveys to fill in his discussion of why Wallace became a scientific spiritualist, for instance. It's an interesting technique that he also uses with Steven Jay Gould and Carl Sagan. It is tempting to ask how much confirmation bias exists in a survey of this sort, though. Since I've already let the spoiler out of the bag, Shermer discusses Gould and Sagan, spends some time doing a statistical analysis of Sagan's greatness as a scientist (by comparing published papers by topic with a number of other contemporary, canonically great scientists) and pauses briefly to smack Freud upside the head in a somewhat snarky comparison of Freud and Darwin.

Finally, in section three: histories, he does a lovely discussion of the myth of pastoral tranquillity, including a quick summary of four ancient civilizations that probably managed to destroy themselves through environmental stupidity without (as he puts it) any need of Dead White European Males coming in and inflicting devastation from outside. Shermer then analyzes (and debunks) the theory of transcendent genius, the Mozart Myth, as he calls it, and goes back to two more chapters on Wallace and evolution, in a discussion of the Piltdown Man hoax and why that should (but doesn't seem to have) support the idea that science can be self-correcting and learn from its mistakes.

I like what Shermer is doing, and he writes well and readably. If I sound a bit impatient, it's because I want him to be writing about the application of critical thinking rather than case studies, and when he starts out writing just what I want to read, then goes off in a different direction, he leaves me standing at the intersection saying "hey, wait, this isn't the bus I wanted." The book could stand to be either edited down into two books: a Wallace analysis and a case studies in how science inspects itself discussion, or edited up with a clearer discussion of the math involved in his statistical analysis of Sagan or his psychological profiling of people. In the end, I liked it, I learned a fair bit from it, and I would recommend it to people who want to learn more about both critical thinking and science history.

2-0 out of 5 stars A World of Glasshouses
I'm a scientist, an astronomer specifically, and I'm not really the target audience here I suspect (even though in the line of work I have had to respond to a number of "Borderlands" claims). Objectively this is a 3-star book, but the sleight-of-hand marketing biases me against it.

This is a semi-scholarly work written by a science historian. Most of the essays revolve around Darwin, Wallace, and evolution. With these essays, and a handful of others, Shermer takes a historical approach to the "borderlands of science" to look at the process of how scientific theories develop to acceptance. He looks at very few cases of the current borderlands, and of those he does he makes generally weak arguments (and not scientific ones) with correspondingly weak conclusions. An early chapter on remote viewing is the exception.

The wordcount here is limited, but I wanted to point out some specific problem points. In the chapter asking if Sagan was "a great scientist," one questioning his rejection from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Shermer compares his publications to "the creme de le creme" of scientists: Gould, E. O. Wilson, Jared Diamond, and Mayr. The comparisons involve number of honorary degrees, popular articles, advisory groups, books, etc. There is NEVER a comparison of his scientific publication rate or citation rate versus NAS ASTRONOMERS, a primary criterion for the NAS membership who understands that publication practices vary from field to field. Shermer sets up a straw man and knocks it down, the same thing he accuses pseudoscientists of doing. He never comes close to making an argument about whether or not Sagan was a good scientist, merely that he was a well-known one who was highly regarded for his popularization.

I liked the idea of the chapter on the "Amadeus Myth," which is a topic worthy of comment, but not the execution. We like to make myths of our heroes. But here is another straw man, where Shermer's "genius" is equated to practicing math tricks and never very well characterized. Prodigies are not discussed.

Cosmology is noted as suffering from a bias against "historical science." This is far from true, I assure you. Origins programs in astronomy get funding far ABOVE their non-historical competitors.

A whole chapter is spent discussing whether or not punctuated equilibrium represents a "paradigm shift" of evolution. This is the semantic playing field of a science historian, and of little interest to actual scientists.

Shermer indeed would seem to have such a bias against what he calls "nonscience" topics that he gives them almost no mention. While he lumps, for instance, "Big Foot" in with some poor company, he later quotes anthropologist Krantz in another chapter on another subject; Krantz is one of a number of credible scientists who take the topic seriously. The same cannot be said for his other "nonscience" topics, yet all get rated equally at 0.1 with no discussion.

Indeed, despite Shermer's interesting discussion about a spectrum of "science," his spectrum seems to correspond to his idea of the ideas' correctness, NOT their scientific validity. What is validity (to play Shermer's word games)? All topics can be validly studied using the tools of science. Some are routinely, and some are not. He should have used a different term. I found myself losing trust in Shermer.

When Shermer finds that SETI pioneers are primarily first-born rather than later siblings as in most other scientific revolutions, he finds a way to argue it away in terms of their religion. I did not see this sort of multiple parameter analysis in the comparison sample, so should I believe it? Or did he just invoke the same kind of wishful thinking he criticizes in others?

I had many more problem points that kept my "doubt-o-meter" ringing at regular intervals.

What my criticisms mostly boil down to is that Shermer writes and acts as a science historian much better than he does as a scientist. He gives hints all too often that he doesn't think like a scientist, and this made me distrustful while reading.

This is a shame. I used to subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer, but let that lapse since that magazine too often took lazy pot shots at the same easy targets again and again. Shermer, and Shermer's magazine the Skeptic, for the most part shoot at more interesting targets, but I'm afraid not as well as they should.

1-0 out of 5 stars Shermer Ruins the Book by Talking Too Much
I expected more of Mr. Shermer in this outing, given his excellent work in Why People Believe Weird Things. But then, in that book, Shermer took on and successfully skewered the easy targets, such as UFO nuts, believers in astrology and other New Age fantasies, revisionist Holocaust deniers and whatnot. However, his latest effort basically amounts to little more than a barely intelligible rant than thoughtful scholarship. Shermer begins with a bold objective- trying to lay down demarcation lines between generally accepted science (as is generally accepted by scientists themselves), iffy propositions which he calls borderlands science, and a large group of topics that he labels non-science and pseudo science. I must say without hesitation that he fails miserably in his objective, partly due to his poor choice of content, but mostly because of his even poorer writing style.

Although the book starts out well, the writing steadily devolves, and by the fifth chapter, the reader must set his or her shoulders and hunker down for some very painful reading. Like most PhD holders, Shermer has acquired an impressive amount of scholarly trivia over the course of his education, yet somehow did not the master the mechanics of good writing. This actually is not hard to believe, as too many people finishing PhD programs in engineering, science and to the dishonor of all liberal arts traditions, English and history programs can not string together a few decent words of prose. Honestly, many of these programs think that they can make up for a lack of erudite soul with an overdose of abstract quantitation and esoteric facts.

And boy oh boy does this approach show in Mr. Shermer's stilted and constipated text. Moreover, as someone who regards himself as a champion of the hypothesis test and the scientific method, he really should know when to appropriately use such methods, and when not to use them. In reading his text, I got the feeling that in his graduate training he only attended the lectures in his Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences having to do with hypothesis testing, and studiously skipped all the other lectures, particularly those having to do with measurement, validity, operational definition and level of trust in results.

I say this because in his chapter on Psuedoscience and Race, he utterly fails to lay down an operational definition, and merely assumes that everyone shares the same common definition of race and knows what he is referring to. He also fails to consider the history of race and the common knowledge that race is a social construct, not a biological phenomenon. Though he provides a context (U.S. race relations), he does not provide an operational definition. He also seems unaware of considerable population genetic and molecular genetic evidence which would make it impossible for most in America to claim, at least from a genetic standpoint, to be truly 'white' or truly 'black'. Thus, from this one would have to assume, especially when reading Mr. Shermer's screed, that he defines race based on physical appearance pretty much like everybody else. However, scientists would take a different point of view, much as many a bigotted proponent of eugenics have on many occasions.

A second bone of contention that I have with Mr. Shermer's overly scientific and inappropriately quantitative approach to everything is his use in Part II Borderlands People, of quantitative methods to evaluate purely subjective things. Some variables we measure are concrete and have meaning that is fixed, such as weight, temperature and volume, athough we can use metric or English units to evaluate them. However, as I recall from one statistics text (the actual text is Richard M. Jaeger's Statistics A Spectator Sport), things like intelligence or neuroticism are totally subjective because their meaning and their measurement can change depending on who is evaluating and measuring them. For such things, there can be no common agreement as to definition or even measurement.

Which I believe Shermer should have learned, thus invalidating the invocation of Sulloway's work in his exposition. A good educational regimen in statistics (which I believe should begin with Moore's Statistics: Concepts and Controversies) would emphasize the importance of looking behind the numbers, using the appropriate measurement methods, and taking into account information other than that in the test when drawing conclusions. None of this was done within this text.

Still, I did learn a few things, being quite surprised to learn that there was actually a black champion cyclist, and Mr. Shermer did make a number of correct points. I also give him credit for (grudgingly) admitting, in his last chapter, that scientists are people too, and are motivated by the same concerns and issues like everyone else. Yet, this does not make up for the overall bad writing and worse scholarship. I expect, no, I insist on better from a self-respecting skeptic.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Primer on Critical Thinking
Michael Shermer gives an open and honest account about the inner workings of scientific thought as well as exposing ideas that-even today-many take as fact. The above reviews criticize Shermer for presenting science as philosophy, but there is no question that science is a belief system-it is influenced by culture and opinion. It does not exist as some purely isolated set of truths, partitioned from reality. This is Shermer's point about many scientific ideas throughout the book, not a blunder or misstep. Yes, science uses a particular method to understand the world. But Shermer points out that there are culturally driven forces behind the things we chose to study. Anyone versed in scientific method understands this. Throughout the book, Shermer stresses the criteria for labeling something "science".
Using a textbook definition of science will get you nowhere if your intent is to understand how science truly works. If you want to find the true meaning of life, for instance, rarely would you use Webster's to find it.
This is a great book for anyone truly interested in science and scientific thought. Shermer uses interesting stories, facts and ideas to relay his message that science may not always be as cut and dry as we may think, but its the best method we have of interpreting the world around us.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very well arranged
The Borderlands of Science, like all good science books includes philosophy. When you are writing about the importance and big picture of science, writing about philosophy is inevitable and very much necessary to show the meaning. Because Shermer has so much experience in cricism it is only right that he debunk nonsciences such as remote viewing. I will be anxious for new literature. ... Read more


14. Institutional Review Board: Management and Function
by Robert J. Amdur, Elizabeth A. Bankert
list price: $133.95
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Asin: 0763716863
Catlog: Book (2002-01-15)
Publisher: Jones & Bartlett Publishers
Sales Rank: 486454
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Book Description

Biomedical and social science research involving the use of human subjects presents society with a wide range of ethical questions. At the heart of the current system for protecting human research subjects is the Institutional Review Board (IRB).This book is designed as an instructional manual that gives the IRB members and administrators the information they need to run an efficient and effective system of protecting human research subjects, in compliance with federal research regulations. ... Read more


15. Demon-Haunted World
by CARL SAGAN, ANN DRUYAN
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Asin: 0345409469
Catlog: Book (1997-02-25)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sales Rank: 6993
Average Customer Review: 4.39 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought."

 *Los Angeles Times

"POWERFUL . . . A stirring defense of informed rationality. . . Rich in surprising information and beautiful writing."

 *The Washington Post Book World

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don't understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.

Casting a wide net through history and culture, Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks such celebrated fallacies of the past as witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFOs. And yet, disturbingly, in today's so-called information age, pseudoscience is burgeoning with stories of alien abduction, channeling past lives, and communal hallucinations commanding growing attention and respect. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.

"COMPELLING."

 *USA Today

"A clear vision of what good science means and why it makes a difference. . . . A testimonial to the power of science and a warning of the dangers of unrestrained credulity."

 *The Sciences

"PASSIONATE."

 *San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

... Read more

Reviews (302)

5-0 out of 5 stars Sagan's Best Work
I haven't read all of Sagan's books but out of the ones I have read, this is the one I enjoyed the most. As in his other works, Sagan comes off sounding more like a friend telling a story than an intellectual teaching science. In a very concise manner he deals with many of the nonsensical beliefs that permeate our society, such as alien abductions, the so-called face on Mars, demonology, etc. He even spends a whole chapter using the fantastic invisible dragon analogy which basically states that although you may not be able to disprove my claim that there is an invisible dragon in my garage, this does not prove that it does exist. This is a principle that should be taught in every school in America. Not being able to disprove something, whether it be the existence of Superman, Santa Claus or any one of numerous gods, does not prove that they do indeed exist. What comes through most in this book is Sagan's wonder of nature and cosmology, and his desire that the scientific method be applied to all subjects so that truth may come forward and so that ancient myths and fairy tales can be dispelled. As is evidenced by other reviews on this page, this book will cause some people great discomfort as they find their childhood beliefs obliterated with such clear and concise reasoning. Although it's interesting that Sagan's character gets criticized more so than his actual work, it's not unusual to see such knee jerk reactions occur. I'm often baffled to find that those who attack Sagan on a personal level are the same people who hold murderers like Moses, King David, and the prophet Elisha in high regard.

5-0 out of 5 stars Life changing book
Many are turned off by science since they find it to be cold, desenchanting or even a bit nihilistic. With a clever sense of humor and easy-to read writting style, Sagan proves that science can be an awe-inspiring spiritual experience, when we are confronted with the immense complexity of nature and our universe. He reminds us how to be a good skeptic: one who is open minded to new information, but will only believe after receiving proof. (Which consists of much more than anecdotal evidence )As Sagan states "I believe that the extraordinary should be pursued. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." He urges everyone to think skeptically and to express our opinions while being respectfull of others' beliefs. Unfortunately those who would benefit from more skepticism are the ones less likely to pick up this book. It takes courage to abandon the comforts of an "all-loving" ever present god, immortality, and belief in psychic powers in exchange for the truth. However, Sagan shows us how science has greatly improved the quality of life throughout history, and how the systematic search for truth can be more rewarding than blinded-faith. We should be open minded("Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence") without being gullible. And we must remember how "wishfull thinking" does not make something true.

5-0 out of 5 stars Astronomer or Sociologist?
Although Carl Sagan made a prominent name for himself as an Astronomer in the 1970's, his final contribution to the academic world was a piece that was very Sociological in nature. The thesis of the book is that America's obsession with science fiction and popular myth has curtailed the growth of the United States as a scientifically literate society. As such, Sagan's final work is laudable as one of the most poignant and effective commentaries on the Zeitgeist of American society at the turn of the 21st century.

At the beginning of "Demon-haunted", Sagan comes across as a "killjoy", who is bitter about the seemingly innocuous pleasures that many Americans indulge themselves in (Star Trek, Atlantis, Crystal Power, etc.). He points out that at the time of the book's release, "Dumb and Dumber" was the number one movie in the box office. He also spins a wonderful anecdote about his cab driver who, upon finding out that Sagan is an Astronomer, tries to demonstrate upon Sagan his scientific "fluency" through his knowledge of "Atlantis". It all seems quite funny, until Sagan points out that the cab driver got quite frustrated when Sagan challenged his belief systems about the mythical island continent. With this wonderfully concrete example, Sagan renders the reader aware of how dangerous popular myths about science can be.

As the book progresses, Sagan continually points out that a little diversion can be a dangerous thing. He points out that Americans in the 1990's would rather spend a day watching the X-files than studying real stellar constellations; or reading tripe about Atlantis, as opposed to reading scientific books about continnetal plate shift. Eventually, the "candle in the dark" analogy is revealed as an analogy for science in America, where beliefs in the supernatural often publically usurp real scientific fact.

I think the thing that shocked me the most about this book was the fact that it wakes the reader up to the "dumbing down" of the American educational system, which Sagan implies, is a factor of the general American's willingness to believe just about anything that's entertaining.

Of the more forboding points that Sagan makes, there is one that he is rightfully salient about. This is that "pure science" (that is science in its abstract form) is becoming replaced by "profit-oriented" science. To back his argument, he points out that almost none of the technology that we enjoy today would have been discovered if it were not for the pursuit of pure science. For example, he points out that without abstract study of magnetism and electricity, things such as radio and television would not be here.

Like any good social theorist, Sagan ends this book with a series of solutions that could be enacted to further the pursuit of true science. First, he calls for a return to funding initiative for non-profit oriented scientific study. Second, he comments in passing that several opportunities are being missed by the educational system to teach children the priniples of true science by using the world around them as examples. For instance, at one point, he shows the applicability of basketball to physics. In sum, Sagan proves to be a brilliant Social Theorist.

5-0 out of 5 stars Review "Science hmm" from June 14, 2004 is really funny!
Firstly my take is that Carl Sagan was a brilliant man and a great author with an exceptional ability to concisely and clearly present rationality at its best.

The book, as many of the reviews have already stated, does a great job debunking many of the highly notorious fallacies in society whose foundations lie on "myths". Sagan does this by offering a skeptical approach based on pure rational and emphirical thinking. He does an even better job in conveying how society, and government specifically should operate based on informed rationality, and the "deamons" which haunt this world result when governments and people specifically (as civilizations / governments are merely a manifestation of its inhabitants) act in irrational and self-seeking ways.

Obviously this is an extremely complex and controversial subject matter; one whose essence no single book could ever truely cover effectively. That is why I think bringing up religion and faith in general detracts from his focus as I find faith is an alltogether different characteristic than irrational behavior. It may cause one to do irrational things, but it is because that person find solace in knowing what they are doing has higher purpose.

Proponents of the Truth, i.e. wisdom and the pursuit of wisdom, such as Plato and Socrates, have always treated religion and God separately, or stated that it was God's divine purpose for Man to be Just, which is an attribute that can only come from knowing the essence of a situation before acting.

And so if that aspect of Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark annoys you, I recommend Plato's Republic (as an exceptional work for morality and the pursuit of truth and wisdom).

Other than that this is a great book that provides rational explanations for of some the most famed subjects of pseudoscience.

As an aside about skeptism (not about this book):
Some people see skeptisim as form of close-mindedness, and the writer of the review from June 14 "Science hmm" exemplifies that type of person. Obviously anyone can tell that person is speaking without any basis, and its a very funny post, but also the reason why this book needs to be read (I'm sure that person, if he even read Sagan's book at all, did it with ingrained preconceived notions of the "evils of science") This guy claims all of science is narrow minded and fascist (haha) but even many who aren't completely off their rocker, think skepticism is bad. The skeptic mindset is to only take facts at face value, and only believe when sufficient evidence is provided. This is the only way to promote a rational mindset. Those who think skeptics are narrow minded truely don't understand its purpose.

Skepticism is the best way to gain knowledge and wisdom, and prevents from deviating from that cause; which leads to fallacies about our reality such as all the myths Sagan debunks.

Going back to the poster of "Science hmm" who said that all science does is bring up "more and more unanswered questions"; although I agree that "science" that is, the pursuit of knowledge and truth, does bring up more unanswered questions, the only hope for us is in finally being able to answer some of the more fundamental ones.

To end this corny (and probably obvious arguement) with a quote:
"All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike--and yet is the most precious thing we have." Albert Einstein

5-0 out of 5 stars A Candle in the Dark
Demons, UFO's, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, fairies and the like are all investigated in this incredible non-fiction book by the late Carl Sagan. Pseudoscience, and those who perpetuate it, find their place in today's society among those who want to believe in the impossible. In fact, Sagan too admits that he would love to find life on other planets, among other things (he was, after all, an advocate of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). However, science today has not been able to prove that such things exist. As the book states, "the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms."

This book challenges the reader to critically scrutinize information professed by supposed experts, and be more of a skeptic. Sagan states early on in the book that "some 95 percent of Americans are scientifically illiterate." By using the scientific method combined with a little bit of logic and common sense, one should find that it is much more difficult to be mentally taken advantage of by pseudoscience "experts." Intelligent inquiry and analysis of information presented, and those presenting it, proves to be an invaluable tool.

Nonetheless, stories regarding crop circles, area 51, and other such nonsense still abound. Sagan runs through various examples and places them under the hypothetical microscope. Once examined more closely, most of these theories and fallacious postulations crumble quite easily. What some people don't realize, and what Sagan points out, is that things just as mysterious and awe-inspiring can be found all around us, and they are indeed factual and are being investigated by those in science fields. We need not look elsewhere to find mysticism and intrigue. People are still trying to completely understand viruses and the molecular building blocks in gas in space, and if people were equally as drawn to understand real phenomena as they are fallacious theories, then more people would be working to unravel the true mysteries that are much more worthy of our efforts.

I truly feel that this is a book everyone should read. Not only does Sagan do an excellent job of attempting to popularize science, but he also tries to teach people how to think for themselves rather than to be force-fed information from less-than-trustworthy sources. The demons in this demon haunted world are both those who perpetuate such celebrated fallacies, as well as those who believe them without question. Sagan attempts to teach, in this book, how to distinguish "real science from the cheap imitation." Indeed, he does just that. ... Read more


16. Ideas & Opinions
by ALBERT EINSTEIN
list price: $5.99
our price: $5.39
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Asin: 0517003937
Catlog: Book (1988-12-12)
Publisher: Gramercy
Sales Rank: 4460
Average Customer Review: 4.88 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

IDEAS AND OPINIONS contains essays by eminent scientist Albert Einstein on subjects ranging from atomic energy, relativity, and religion to human rights, government, and economics. Previously published articles, speeches, and letters are gathered here to create a fascinating collection of meditations by one of the world's greatest minds. ... Read more

Reviews (17)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Scientific Perspective
Ideas and Opinions expresses a wide range of Einstein's thoughts throughout his life. The subject matter includes comments on freedom, politics, pacifism, education, religion, Germany, friends, and scientific issues. Whereas Einstein had a specific goal in writing each of these addresses, speeches and articles, the editor of this collection by combining Einstein's writings in this manner paints a picture of the man and his time. The most profound impact upon the reader is not the individual message of each writing, but rather how the whole body of work illuminates the dedication and fierce determination of one scientist to make himself a "harmonious personality" (64). One of the features of this collection is that it attempts to present each article in a straightforward manner. Each article is titled by what it attempts to say, for example one article is called "My First Impressions of the U.S.A." (3). This accurately reflects what Einstein says in this article, but so much more than what this title describes is also reflected in the essay. Einstein's political attitudes are best expressed not in his many essays on politics, government and pacifism, but instead in his First Impressions of America. One of his many observations is that "nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced" (6). Understanding this aspect is of immeasurable value when encountering Einstein's essay where he prescribes a program of action against atomic weapons. The greatest fault of this compilation is that it tends to be repetitive. However, this often helps to drive home the point and complete the overall picture of this man and his time. This text should be read by all persons everywhere. No other collection could possibly contain a better view of America, international relations, scientific issues and advances, religion, and humanity. For use in Honors Science, only certain readings would enhance the goal of the course, but including them would be invaluable not only for scientific perspective, but for an enriched experience of life itself.

5-0 out of 5 stars Genius Philosophy Stands the Test of Time
This is a rare treasure of a book that will bring you wonderful insights into one of the greatest minds of the last century. Albert Einstein covers a great deal of topics including love, marriage, religion, God, laws and shares insights whose truth genuinely stands the test of time. This book is a brilliant account of his many lectures, letters, and thoughts throughout his own personal life, as well as his role in society. His suggestions, ideas and opinions serve humanity well, and hopefully many more people will take in the brilliance he so graciously gave us. Highly recommended for its outstanding literary and humanitarian contribution. Deserves 10 Stars.
Barbara Rose, author of 'Individual Power' and 'If God Was Like Man'

5-0 out of 5 stars Penetrates to the heart and soul of an amazing intellect
"Ideas and Opinions" reveals much about the thought processes, culture, and observations that shaped the character of Albert Einstein. In a remarkable series of insightful short prose selections, the reader learns a great deal about Einstein's views on morality and ethics; religion, particularly Judaism; government; the arts, literature, and higher education; philosophy; and government. His personal letters to and observations about other key persons of his time including Shaw, Freud, Gandhi, and Lorentz illustrate what a fully integrated individual Einstein truly was, a view that may counter some of the extreme depictions that render him a genius incapable of focusing beyond his science.

Having some many thoughts from this astounding intellect pulled into one volume makes this book a worthwhile addition to the stack of rainy day books. It's a book to be consumed in fits and starts, with a cup of coffee on the screened porch in the rain, a treat for inquiring minds.

The prose, perhaps a tad stilted by modern standards, is lucid. And seeing Einstein turn his attention on the topic everyone wrangles with forges a new link to him and his work. As he stated, " The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."

5-0 out of 5 stars and you thought he was all physics...
It's undisputed that he was a great man. No scandals are ever going to surface, and say Einstein was really a wife-beater or something stupid that seems to happen in the tabloids to just about everybody famous. :)
Anyway, this book is one good way to get to know him. I think this book works because it takes all sorts of scraps of things he wrote over the course of his life, and not necessarily intending for them to be published in this manner. You can see a very consistent man, with firm principles, and almost sorry that he's all the world had for a hero, even at the same time that he knew it was a role he would have to play. Once he was in the role, he made a point of clearly stating his principles, in the hope that they would effect change. You will see this all, and you will see a kind of melancholy that he must have felt. I think all intelligent people are haunted by the meaning of existence, and he is archetypal for this. At the same time, he seemed to enjoy his life. I wish there were a book that could go deeper, and really tell us what he was like to live with, but those close to him probably respected him too much to want to unveil his private life. I suppose I shall have to respect that as well.
I hate being typical and doing the same thing as everybody, so I have to say, I was surprised that this man who is so respected by the world earned my respect as well. I think he has a message to tell us, and the compilation is well worth reading.
I do feel obligated to inform you of any shortcomings: Albert Einstein has a rather complex writing style, and I don't believe in writing like that. Another issue is that there is much repetition. This might bother you, but realize that this book was never meant to be a book. If he repeats himself, it's simply because he said very similar things to two different audiences, and the editors got ahold of both pieces.

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
Reviewer: bugesh from New York United States
Einstein wasn't just a scientist, but a general genious and philosopher. This book offers wonderful insight into one of the greatest minds of the century, if not all time.
the book is a compilation of letters, essays and writings on all sorts of topics. He speaks about his thoughts on America, the world, life, you name it.

It interested me that Einstein was an anti-prohibitionist; stating that "any law that cannot be enforced only serves to undermine the authority of the government. it is no secret that this is closely linked to the sharp rise in crime in this country." This could easily be applied to the modern-day drub problem and supports the decriminalization movement.

The book is a great companion for anyone who is a fan of Einstein or who considers themselves enlightened (or in need of enlightenment). A big 5 stars!! ... Read more


17. The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA : . . . And Other Masterminds from the Frontiers of Biotech
by David E. Duncan
list price: $25.95
our price: $17.13
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Asin: 0060537388
Catlog: Book (2005-05-10)
Publisher: William Morrow
Sales Rank: 156898
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Book Description

Combining myth, biography,
and wit -- a highly original
depiction of cutting-edge
science -- told through the
scientists who are rewriting
life on earth

While the future of human existence is literally being forged by today's genetic scientists and biotechnology leaders, the media, policymakers, ethicists, and fellow scientists alike have not been adequately communicating the tremendous potential that is contained in these individuals' work. With the public only vaguely aware of what is really happening, a new coterie of geniuses, tinkerers, tycoons, and genetic soothsayers are -- for better or worse -- about to alter life on earth forever.

Now award-winning journalist David Ewing Duncan has written an insightful narrative about science and personality, delving into stem cell research, cloning, bioengineering, extending life span, and genetics by telling the stories of the characters at the fulcrum of the science. Calling to mind age-old stories and myths -- Prometheus, Faustus, Eve, and Frankenstein -- Duncan asks the question: Can we trust these scientists?

Duncan has spent the last three years reporting on and studying these masterminds, from the co-solver of the DNA structure James Watson to a man who is creating synthetic life, Craig Venter. The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA tells their stories, revealing their quirky, fascinating, and sometimes vaguely unsettling personas as a way to understand their science and the implications of their work.

... Read more

18. The Next Fifty Years : Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
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Asin: 0375713425
Catlog: Book (2002-05-14)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 22989
Average Customer Review: 4.25 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Scientists love to speculate about the direction research and technology will take us, and editor John Brockman has given a stellar panel free rein to imagine the future in The Next Fifty Years. From brain-swapping and the hunt for extraterrestrials to the genetic elimination of unhappiness and a new scientific morality, the ideas in this book are wild and thought-provoking. The list of scientists and thinkers who participate is impressive: Lee Smolin and Martin Rees on cosmology; Ian Stewart on mathematics; and Richard Dawkins and Paul Davies on the life sciences, just to name a few. Many of the authors remind readers that science has changed a lot since the blind optimism of the early 20th century, and they are unanimously aware of the potential consequences of the developments they describe. Fifty years is a long time in the information age, and these essays do a credible and entertaining job of guessing where we're going. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Quite an eclectic mix but came good in the end
When I started this book, my first reaction was - who are all these authors? I only recognised 20% of the names. Hardly had I thought this then the Introduction told me exactly who they were - very timely.

However, as I progressed through the book, there was quite a variance in the quality of the writing. Some authors, such as those on Cosmology, communicated well, but then others were far too high-level for a general audience. It was the latter chapters that brought me considerable delight & education when discussing the Mind, Psychology etc (not my favourite subjects I may add).

If all the contributors had tuned their work to the same general audience, then this would have deserved 5 stars; if it wasn't for the redeeming work by the psychologists & neuroscientists I'd have probably rated the book as 3 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thinking about the next fifty years
John Brockman has brought together a group of thinkers to create an online think tank called the EDGE. In an attempt to overcome the great divide between literary intellectuals and scientists that C.P. Snow defined as the "Two Cultures", Brockman created the EDGE to be "The Third Culture".

The Next Fifty Years, is a collection of essays from some of the thinkers from the EDGE. They explore the next fifty years on different topics ranging from Csikszentmihalyi's engineered IQ and Dawkin's thoughts on the genome to colonization on Mars and the importance of Mathematics in the year 2050.

The essays were stimulating and I found this book to be well worth the effort to read. Any book that triggers new thoughts and ideas is one that I will treasure. As many of the scientists point out, trying to predict the future is a futile endeavor, but for me it gives a great insight into the present to see what these minds are pondering today. The ideas that might shape the next fifty years, might not turn out to be accurate, but the ideas and research that are happening today will effect us one way or another in the next 10 years. As humans we over estimate what can be achieved in year, but under estimate what can be achieved in a decade, and in general completely miss the mark when trying to estimate anything that exceeds those time lines. But I think Brockman chose fifty years, to give the thinkers some creative freedom.

If you are interested in science, and you are interested in what some of our best brains are mulling over at present, then you will enjoy this diverse collection of essays on the future.

3-0 out of 5 stars A fairly good overview
The making of predictions is necessary and important, for it can instill both optimism and caution. There is only a modest collection of predictions in this book, but they do give a fairly good representation of the different scientific fields and what to expect in these fields by the end of the fifth decade of the 21st century. Here is a brief summary and commentary of a few of them:

- "The Future of the Nature of the Universe" (Lee Smolin). The author predicts that quantum computing will become a reality in 50 years, as long as quantum mechanics remains true when extrapolated to macroscopic systems. COMMENT: Due to studies in decoherence and more honest interpretations of experiments testing the phenomenon of entanglement, quantum theory will instead be viewed in more "classical" terms in its formalism and foundations. Research into quantum computation, as understood presently, will fade from the scene.

- "Cosmological Challenges: Are We Alone, and Where?" (Martin Rees). The author is optimisitic about the SETI project and other attempts to detect the presence of life external to the Earth. COMMENT: Due to advances in solid state device physics, life on other planets will be detected via the by-products they put into their atmospheres. The information theory behind the SETI searches will become more refined also, increasing the probability of understanding a real message from another civilization.

- "Son of Moore's Law" (Richard Dawkins). The author predicts an exponential increase in DNA sequencing power, which he labels as the "Son of Moore's Law." The author also expresses a fear that there will still be theologians in 2050, this being done in the context of ethical debates on the genetic sequencing of "Lucy" and the possibility of the reintroduction of dinosaurs. COMMENT: The sequencing projects and the number of sequenced organisms will increase hyperexponentially. In addition, tens of thousands of new "transgenic" organisms will appear, all of them optimized to carry out certain biological functions. The field of horticulture will explode, with thousands of new species of ornamental plants appearing before 2050. The university will meet its demise by 2050, but theologians will not disappear. On the contrary, and perhaps unfortunately, the major religions will be with us for many centuries to come, and they will accompany humankind on their voyages to other worlds, for better or worse.


-"The Mathematics of 2050" (Ian Stewart). The author predicts major revolutions in mathematics, due partially to the increasing influence of the computer, bioinformatics, and financial engineering. He also predicts that the current split between "pure" and "applied" mathematics will end, with the result being just "mathematics". He mentions also the "Milennium Problems", one being the Riemann hypothesis, which he predicts will be solved by 2050, its solution being hinted at by considerations in physics. The P/NP problem will be proved undecidable, the Hodge conjecture will be disproved, the Birch/Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture will be proved, the Navier-Stokes equations will turn out not to have solutions in certain circumstances, the Yang-Mills mass gap problem will be settled but will be deemed irrelevant by physicists, and the Poincare conjecture will be "wide-open". Interestingly, the author is one of the few who have mentioned the role of "quantization of mathematics" via quantum algebra, quantum topology, and quantum number theory. COMMENT: The Poincare conjecture will be resolved by 2010 with its resolution being in the context of the "quantization of mathematics" mentioned by the author. In fact, the quantization of mathematics will be the driving force behind whole new areas of mathematics. Pure mathematics will continue to be viewed as disjoint from applied mathematics. In fact, there will be an intense effort, as evident from the last two meetings of the International Congress of Mathematicians, to keep pure and applied mathematics as separate disciplines. Mathematical finance will continue to explode and there will be intense competition between financial firms to develop highly sophisticated algorithms for financial prediction and portfolio manangement. Financial mathematics will also have more overlap with physics and meteorology, as energy and weather derivatives take on even more importance. The next fifty years will see the rise of financial firms, and others, managed, staffed, and run completely by intelligent machines. In addition, due to hardware advances and the development of highly sophisticated algorithms in mathematical biology and bioinformatics, the entire biosphere will be sequenced by 2050. Complete mathematical models of the entire human body will be developed by mathematicians working in the biotechnology industry, and drug discovery will be viewed as essentially mathematical, with the actual physical chemistry and manufacture being essentially automatic. In this same light, combinatorial chemistry will become a branch of mathematics in its own right, attracting the attention of hundreds of mathematicians. Advances in artificial intelligence will bring about, with indications by the year 2040, of intelligent machines able to construct original concepts and theories in pure mathematics. Skepticism as to the possibility of thinking machines will be alleviated because of these developments. "Artificial" mathematicians will begin to become competitive with "natural" ones by the year 2050. Further, cryptography will continue to explode as a field of mathematics, due to the increasing need for online security and individual privacy. Increased computer power will fuel this need, and the competition between encryption and de-encryption algorithms will become very intense. lastly, by 2050 it will be accurate to say that mathematics will enter into every phase of human and machine activity. There will be no process, no business transaction, no entertainment function, no leisurely activity, that will not depend predominantly on mathematical structures or algorithms.

5-0 out of 5 stars An exciting glimpse into the future
As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." However, if anyone can make meaningful predictions, it's the twenty-five leading scientists and authors whose essays grace The Next Fifty Years.

It's an exciting book. Almost every piece is enlightening, stimulating, and remarkably well written. I read a lot of books and articles about science, but still came across dozens of new ideas, convincing arguments and sparkling insights. Here are a few items that got me thinking:

Physicist Lee Smolin points out that subtle changes in light waves as they cross space may provide the first test of quantum theories of gravity--we won't need to build accelerators the size of the solar system to gain this information.

Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller speculates that gene activation chips will soon allow researchers to map the changes in our brains caused by "every state of mind lasting more than a few hours." The result will be a far richer understanding of human consciousness.

Mathematician Steven Strogatz expects that new methods for creating complex, evolving systems on computers will mean that we humans will "end up as bystanders, unable to follow along with the machines we've built, flabbergasted by their startling conclusions."

Richard Dawkins predicts that by 2050 it will cost just a few hundred dollars to sequence one's own personal genome, computers will be able to simulate an organism's entire development from its genetic code, and scientists may even be able to reconstruct extinct animals a la Jurassic Park.

Computer scientist Rodney Brooks thinks wars may be fought over genetic engineering and artificial enhancements that have the potential to turn humans into "manipulable artifacts."

AI researcher Roger Schank foresees the end of schools, classrooms and teachers, to be replaced by an endless supply of virtual experiences and interactions.

In many cases, the bold ideas of one writer are challenged or balanced by another, making the book a kind of high-level dialogue. Cosmologist Martin Rees, for example, takes on Smolin's idea of evolving universes, and neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky is much less optimistic about our ability to conquer depression than is psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

It's not all perfection, however. A few of the essays seemed relatively uninspired. These included psychologist Paul Bloom's pessimistic view of our ability ever to understand consciousness or the nature of thought--"We might be like dogs trying to understand calculus." And I found computer scientist David Gelernter's essay on the grand "information beam" that will transform everyone's lives an unconvincing one-note techno-fix. Also the book really needs an index--that simple addition would have made it much more useful.

However, it's a book that tackles big questions about our future in as thoughtful, insightful and well informed a manner as I've ever encountered. It's worth reading and re-reading.

Robert Adler, author of Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation (Wiley, 2002).

2-0 out of 5 stars Why good scientists rarely make good futurists
A wonderful example across the sciences as to why people working in a field have excellent visibility over the next 5 years, and very poor visibility (or at least very unoriginal) when asked to speculate over longer time periods. For those of you familiar with the research of these people, their vision of the future looks extraordinary like the work they do, only extrapolated in ways that are obvious to those in the field. What I expected was the "creative destruction" by people of their own agendas. All the computer scientists (Brooks, Holland, Gelernter and Schank) disappointed in this regard. Richard Dawkins was the only intriguing one.

Just to calibrate the thought again. If you want to learn the views of some pretty good scientists on the larger backdrop of their research, this is a good book to read. However, other than the fact that they are working on what they are working on, there is no convincing argument as to why the world will turn out the way they envision. Not to mention, good scientists tend to be spectacularly wrong on long term visions (remember Lord Kelvin's claim about the end of chemistry a century ago).

I still look forward enthusiastically to a book with this same title, but a different cast of contributors. ... Read more


19. The Tao of Physics
by FRITJOF CAPRA
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1570625190
Catlog: Book (2000-01-04)
Publisher: Shambhala
Sales Rank: 5662
Average Customer Review: 3.94 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

First published in 1975, The Tao of Physics rode the wave of fascination in exotic East Asian philosophies. Decades later, it still stands up to scrutiny, explicating not only Eastern philosophies but also how modern physics forces us into conceptions that have remarkable parallels. Covering over 3,000 years of widely divergent traditions across Asia, Capra can't help but blur lines in his generalizations. But the big picture is enough to see the value in them of experiential knowledge, the limits of objectivity, the absence of foundational matter, the interrelation of all things and events, and the fact that process is primary, not things. Capra finds the same notions in modern physics. Those approaching Eastern thought from a background of Western science will find reliable introductions here to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism and learn how commonalities among these systems of thought can offer a sort of philosophical underpinning for modern science. And those approaching modern physics from a background in Eastern mysticism will find precise yet comprehensible descriptions of a Western science that may reinvigorate a hope in the positive potential of scientific knowledge. Whatever your background, The Tao of Physics is a brilliant essay on the meeting of East and West, and on the invaluable possibilities that such a union promises. --Brian Bruya ... Read more

Reviews (62)

5-0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and Inspirational Classic
This is one of the most wonderful books relating modern science to Eastern philosophical traditions. I have always combined an interest in physics as well as an interest in eastern philosophies, so it was natural that I get attracted to this book. I have read the second edition nearly 15 years ago, and can certify that this book delivers what it promises. Recently it has become a phenomenon to see "Tao of ..." or "Zen of ..." books that are really deficient in many respects: some books know little about the Eastern philosophies they claim to compare to, others know little about the Western science, and yet others fail to point to more than a flimsy relationship. It appears "Tao of something" has become a major marketing scheme and not much more.

"The Tao of Physics" however is free from those weaknesses. In fact, it is in a class of its own - possibly one of the most thought-provoking and inspirational texts in the modern world. Written by a world-class Indian physicist, this book exhibits the deep understanding of its author into the myriad complexities of modern physics. The beauty of it all is that some of the most complex ideas are explained in very simple language that even a high school student can understand: quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, particle physics, string theory, symmetries, etc.

This strength in physical understanding does not weaken the depth of perception regarding Eastern mysticism. Au contraire, the second part of the book, describing Eastern philosophy, is a tour de force of the various branches of Eastern thought: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, etc. Topics like the I-Ching, the mythology of the Rig Veda, the Upanishads, and the Tao Te Ching are introduced in very clear language aimed at capturing a Western audience.

The third and largest part of the book is devoted to drawing parallels between the two traditions: the Western scientific and the Eastern philosophical. Of course, at this stage of human development one cannot reach certainties about such thing, and the discourse is restricted to pointing out the parallels and illustrating the convergence of thought. More questions are raised than are actually answered, which is perhaps the signature of a really good book. Since reading it I have become fascinated with modern physics and pursued a science education. My interest in Eastern religions has also been enhanced. Currently I am in the process of re-reading this gem. I definitely recommend it to everyone seeking substance in "Tao of ..." books.

5-0 out of 5 stars This book is a classic
From the back cover:

"A brilliant best-seller... Lucidly analyzes the tenets of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism to show their striking parallels with the latest discoveries in cyclotrons."
--New York magazine

"Fritjof Capra, in The Tao of Physics, seeks...an integration of the mathematical world view of modern physics and the mystical visions of Buddha and Krishna. Where others have failed miserably in trying to unite these seemingly different world views, Capra, a high-energy theorist, has succeeded admirably...I strongly recommend the book to both layman and scientist."
--V.N. Mansfield, Physics Today

Truly a worthwhile book. The man who wrote the Foreword to my own book, THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS, John Cantwell Kiley, M.D., Ph.D., attempted a similar feat in his doctoral dissertation, which did not have the popular circulation of Capra's book, of course, and was far more abstruse.

Kiley's book, EINSTEIN AND AQUINAS: A RAPPROCHEMENT, is an attempt to compare Albert Einstein, the theoretical physicist, with Saint Thomas Aquinas, although they would seem to have little in common. Kiley studied at Princeton when Einstein was there, and so had a close up view of him, and he knew Aquinas from his studies of the Saint. He found the rapprochement he sought in their respective epistemologies.

Kiley says he is seeking to bring his book back into print, but it is a harder read than Capra's. I recommend Capra's book.

Joseph Pierre,
author of THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

5-0 out of 5 stars A Profoundly Important Book
A Profoundly Important Book

I am aware of the much resistance of the ideas purported in this book, both from the scientist/skeptic league and mystic/philosopher league for diametrically opposed reasons. I will try to address them (please visit my website for a complete review) and highlight the biases of these people. Before I go further, I would like to comment on one of the reviewers here from Detroit who referred to quantum physics as objective and Eastern mysticism as subjective. This is an extremely, unbelievably inane comment from someone who apparently hasn't read the book thoroughly which in the first place talks about why physics or science can't be considered objective truth anymore. Capra, throughout the book, clearly and repeatedly speaks of cases and solid arguments in which science falls short of being called objective in the classic way. Today, no body can deny that science, with its strict boundaries and fragmented world-view, could merely talk about approximate descriptions instead of reality or truth.

One of the prominent critics of this book form the mystic/philosopher league happens to be Ken Wilber, whose genius is a source of my inspiration. It needs to be taken into account that Wilber's background is science (biochemistry), which he left because of its extreme limitation for an intense, scholarly study of consciousness. Let me quote what he said in Grace and Grit, "I disagreed entirely with books such as "The Tao of Physics" and "The Dancing Wu Li Masters," which had claimed that modern physics supported or even proved Eastern mysticism. This is a colossal error. Physics is a limited, finite, relative, and partial endeavor, dealing with a very limited aspect of reality. It does not, for example, deal with biological, psychological, economic, literary, or historical truths; whereas mysticism deals with all of that, with the Whole. To say physics process mysticism is like saying the tail proved the dog......Simply imagine what would happen if we indeed said that modern physics support mysticism. What happens, for example, if we say that today's physics is in perfect agreement with Buddha's enlightenment? What happens when tomorrow's physics supplants or replaces today's physics (which it most definitely will)? Does poor Buddha then lose his enlightenment? You see the problem. If you hook your God to today's physics, then when that physics slips, that God slips with it."

It's clear that Wilber's objection is based on his adoration of mysticism, especially Buddhism, over science and motivated by his unnecessary "paranoia" that the dynamics of science will adversely affect the "reputation" of the "object of his fixation." Like Wilber, I am a number one fan of the Buddha but I don't see this observable fact -not a mere idea-- of parallelism as a threat to his unblemished integrity; nothing could be as 2500 years of his Dharma have proven its timelessness and sensibility beyond the shadow of a doubt. As Capra pointed out in his answer to this particular criticism, much of his concern is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of scientific research that it could arbitrarily change the results of previous researches (which is not the case at all). Nobody is trying to prove anything with anything else here, what Capra does is simply bringing to a coherent, systematic erudition something that many people could see for themselves the way they couldn't mistake the blaring morning sun. What I naturally object from these instant critics is that after someone has dedicated years of research and carefully transferred the results in over 350 pages, then out of nowhere, these people, with a modest one or two sentences, vehemently rejects his work. Excuse me? You need a whole bloody book in itself, or at least a thesis with a decent amount of pages, to refute it. You need to elaborate which points/parts of his book that are distorted and why and please provide the likely alternative explanation or argument to them.

What is rather perplexing is the fact that in "No Boundary," Wilber basically purports the same parallels between modern physics and eastern mysticism so I wonder why he sort of changed his mind.

I didn't know anything about this book when I was in High School and trying to explain the Buddhist concept Anatta (without "I" or without soul) to a non-Buddhist friend. The interesting part was I, inevitably, always ended up using the analogy of the ever- divisible atom to describe this most profound concept because, even as a 16 year old who knew very little about physics or chemistry, I could see the striking parallel between the atomic principle and Anatta and knew no other more accessible way to describe the latter. In fact in the Buddhist metaphysics book, the Abhidhamma, Buddha talked about the smallest substance of matter that he termed paramanu, which he said didn't exist independently but composed of interdependent elements. And he, in relation to this no-basic-building-block-of-the-self-and everything-else-in-the-universe concept, further postulated that "all compounded things are impermanent, " the same exact conclusion that physicists reached 2500 years later to describe the dynamic nature of quantum phenomena. And are you going to just dismiss it by saying that both are mere coincidence? I don't think so. And for Wilber to have such a fragmented world-view -something that he through his books is very much critical of- that the world that modern physics talks about is entirely different than the world of mystics is most ironic. As Capra wrote and I very much agree with, there is only one world -this awesome and mysterious world. One might deal with the world infinitely small, and the other infinitely vast but both are different aspects of one and the same reality and that's why both speak in the same language. Remember, all parts have an intimate, harmonious and interdependent correlation with the whole. The fact that someone of Wilber's calibre -who is aware that opposites, in both scientific and mystical point of view, are the product of mind construct or abstraction that has little substance- could have missed it is mind-boggling.

1-0 out of 5 stars Do not trust this book
In the 70s it was an original book.
I was amazed to see that today, after the existence of quarks was proven by experiment (at CERN and Fermilab) the so called "new" editions still doubt the existence of quarks because they do not fit the grand scheme of the thesis of the book. Better avoid this book. Its not trustable.
(The author is a Physics Prof at the Weizmann Institute)

3-0 out of 5 stars interesting but somewhat over-reaching
I'm one of those who believe that Eastern philosophies and religions are, in many respects, superior to Western scientific knowledge and values. Although this is a very interesting book, the author appears to have tried too hard to find analogies for modern physical concepts about the universe in Eastern philosophies. ... Read more


20. Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
by Michael Shermer
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805070893
Catlog: Book (2002-09-01)
Publisher: Owl Books
Sales Rank: 7819
Average Customer Review: 3.55 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Revised and Expanded Edition.

In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. A no-holds-barred assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, with more than 80,000 copies in print, Why People Believe Weird Things debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter, "Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things," Michael Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science.

Shermer, science historian and true crusader, also reveals the more dangerous side of such illogical thinking, including Holocaust denial, the recovered-memory movement, the satanic ritual abuse scare, and other modern crazes. Why People Believe Strange Things is an eye-opening resource for the most gullible among us and those who want to protect them.
... Read more

Reviews (97)

4-0 out of 5 stars Could have been better
As other reviewers have mentioned, the main flaw in this book is that Shermer doesn't really tackle the question posed in the title. He spends most of the book debunking nonscientific beliefs, but only one chapter is devoted to the actual question of why people believe "weird things" without proof. Besides that, he includes to many different areas of research, and thus doesn't have time to focus thoroughly one any of them.

Why, then, do I give this book four stars? It is well written and very convincing, and could serve as a good introduction to skeptical thought. As the tide of pseudoscience rises and people attempt to dismiss rational and reasonable thought, we need good thinkers like Shermer to defend science as what it really is - the attempt by humans to understand the world around us. Finally, he connects with the audience by providing many humorous annecdotes about his own experience with pseudoscientific liars and examples of scientific thinking gone astray (very, very astray.)

The final section of the book, and the best one, covers the phenomenon of Holocaust denial. This is the most interesting section because it does delve into the psychology of people who want to rewrite history, even though they know that the things they are saying aren't true. Shermer also points out the urgency of fighting this movement with solid historical fact.

The middle section of the book covers the Creationism vs. Evolution debate. Unfortunately, it is too short to present this topic in great detail. Contrary to what the review below this one claims, Shermer doesn't insist that Evolution is true because Creationism is false. However, his purpose in this section is to show how and why Creationists intentionally misrepresent scientific fact, so that is the main focus of these chapters.

The opening section is the least useful. It covers a variety of topics, including UFOs, near-death experiences, and Ayn Rand's cult. However, the chapters are quite short, so they can't provide in depth analysis of such phenomenon.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good breakdown of the dynamics of "weird things."
I'll concede to comments of some earlier reviewers: the book had a few weaknesses. I give it 5 stars, however, as it's a great analysis of...just what the title states.

Contrary to what some other reviewers thought, I liked the way the book was set up. It started with the priciples of science, of skepticism, etc., then went into countless examples of its opposite. I liked the chapter "How Thinking Goes Wrong," as it offers an examination of HOW we think we're thinking when we're not, and what we may do about that. It's not a dogma, just an honest examination of where are reasoning takes us, and how.

Without using Sagan's oft-quoted maxim," Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," Shermer says essentially the same thing. And he gives scores of examples. Two that come to mind right off are the entertaining claims of the Afro-centrists, and those who perpetuate belief in the Near Death Experience (NDE). Sure Shermer seems adamant and inflexible. But, really, people claiming their beliefs in these things cannot expect us to believe them except in faith. In the former, there are easily confirmable facts which refute the claims of the Afro-centrists. As to the latter, there ARE other, simpler explanations which are almost inevitably the right ones.

Oh, yes. And, sure there are other takes on history. But they're NOT all equally valid!

And I liked the piece on Ayn Rand, which some others criticized. It's a cult so riddled with self-contradiction, and I think it's important we realize that lest we get trapped by Rand's alleged eloquence. The loyalty of her disciples to Rand and her clique is mind-boggling, and it's important we recognize WHY...and why we should challenge that degree of allegiance to anything!

As to the book's weaknesses, at the expense of endorsing the jargon I frequently criticize, I wish Shermer had used some more of the definitions of the logical fallacies in the chapter I mentioned above. He covered some, and some are in Latin. But I think it's important to know not only what they are, but how other people refer to the fallacies. We can retort to them intelligently then, when we know what they're called.

Then, as others have said, there was too much of the book dedicated to the holocaust denial. However, that WAS a major historical event, and there ARE those who, despite mountains of evidence, deny it. So it's a case in point as to erroneous thinking, contrived evidence, etc. So, while I wish that portion of the book hadn't been so long, I will not penalize Dr. Shermer a star or two for it.

Overall I think it's an important book, one that should be used in college freshman courses, assuming colleges wish to foster critical thinking. This, despite its weaknesses.

And I WILL read other Shermer books. He offers an educated--and rational--perspective sadly lacking in too much of today's discourse.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Skeptic, Good Debunker
The overall grade for this book is good, I recommend it, but it could definitely be much better. Shermer is one super skeptic fellow, and one that respects most of the people whose claims he tries to debunk. Through the book he can't deny his psychology background, since he continually makes reference to different psychological concepts (and their application to scientists like Tippler, or to holocaust deniers), this is not bad, but the truth is I wasn't expecting a pseudo-psychoanalisis on his opponents. The book is really entertaining, and has a lot of interesting anecdotes and experiences as well as good bibliographic investigation to support every case. Once again, the book is entertaining and enlightening at times, I surely recommend it.

4-0 out of 5 stars Critical thinking or alien propaganda?
A 1990 Gallup poll revealed that 52% of adult Americans believe in astrology, 42% believe in extrasensory perception, 22% believe aliens have visted the Earth, 41% believe that dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth simultaneously, 42% believe in communication with the dead, 35% believe in ghosts, and 67% have had a psychic experience (p. 26). Still others believe that Paul McCartney died and was replaced by a look-alike, that giant alligators inhabit the sewers of New York, that George Washington had wooden teeth, and that the Air Force kept the bodies of aliens in a secret warehouse following a New Mexico flying saucer crash. Michael Shermer wonders why these people believe such things.

Shermer became a born-again skeptic on August 6, 1983, while bicycling up Loveland Pass, Colorado, following an intense training program of megavitamins, colonics, iridology, Rolfing, and other alternative, New Age therapies (p. 15). For those unfamiliar with his work, Shermer is the editor in chief of Skeptic magazine, a frequent contributor to Scientific American, and author of HOW WE BELIEVE and THE SCIENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL. In his first book, WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS, he takes on subjects including Holocaust denial, psychics, creationism, alien abductions, Satanism, Afrocentrism, near-death experiences, recovered memories, Ayn Rand, and astrology. The result will either be interesting and entertaining for readers who share Shermer's love for critical thinking, or antagonizing for readers who instead identify with creationists, fundamentalists, New Age gurus or paranormal preachers.

Most of the material included here was originally published in Skeptic magazine, and the 2002 revised edition of Shermer's book includes a new Introduction as well as an additional chapter on why smart people believe weird things. Shermer not only writes from personal experience, inasmuch as he previously believed in fundamentalist Christianity, alien encounters, Ayn Rand's philosophy, and megavitamin therapy, but he also examines his subject matter using the tools of scientific reasoning. "Most believers in miracles, monsters, and mysteries are not hoaxers, flimflam artists, or lunatics," he observes; "most are normal people whose normal thinking has gone wrong in some way" (p. 45). People fall into "fuzzy" thinking for reasons of consolation, immediate gratification, simplicity, moral meaning, and wishful thinking. In Chapter Three, "How Thinking Goes Wrong," he carefully examines the kinds of logical fallacies that allow people to believe weird (scientifically unsubstantiated) "nonsense," and concludes that when it comes to recognizing other people's fallacious reasoning, Spinoza said it best: "I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them" (p 61).

G. Merritt

4-0 out of 5 stars good primer on critical thinking
In the public library where I live I found four shelves of floor to ceiling books on astrology, out-of-body experiences, the emotional lives of plants, alien abductions, ESP, Atlantis, and similar nonsense. The same library had only three books on skepticism and critical thinking: Sagan's Demon-Haunted World, this book, and Wendy Kaminer's Sleeping with Extraterrestrials. (That ratio of nonsense to sense is probably a pretty good picture of the mind of the American public. We live in a world where cable networks present haunted houses -- there is not a single instance where it has ever checked out in the real world when actually investigated -- as serious nonfiction.) They each had a somewhat different emphasis, but they all deal with the problem in this society that few people understand what evidence is or what to do with it if you manage to acquire some. Ms Kaminer was better on the social dynamics of New Age folks, and Dr. Sagan was a better writer, but this is a solid introduction to developing mental antibodies to the crap constantly being fed us. Worth handing to a relative paying psychics for advice. ... Read more


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