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1. The Next Fifty Years : Science
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1. The Next Fifty Years : Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century
list price: $14.00
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(price subject to change: see help)
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


2. The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life
by Joe, Dr Schwarcz
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
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Asin: 1550226215
Catlog: Book (2004-08-30)
Publisher: ECW Press
Sales Rank: 47086
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Book Description

This entertaining examination of everyday science from the fanciful to the factual covers topics ranging from pesticides and environmental estrogens to lipsticks and garlic. Readers are alerted to the shenanigans of quacks and are offered glimpses into the fascinating history of science. The science of aphrodisiacs, DDT, bottled waters, vitamins, barbiturates, plastic wraps, and smoked meat is investigated. Worries about acrylamide, preservatives, and waxed fruits are put into perspective, and the mysteries of bulletproof vests, weight loss diets, green-haired Swedes, laughing gas, and "mad honey" are unraveled. Even those with very little knowledge of science will come away informed and delighted at those humorous and accessible explanations. ... Read more


3. Science Friction : Where the Known Meets the Unknown
by Michael Shermer
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our price: $17.16
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Asin: 0805077081
Catlog: Book (2005-01-05)
Publisher: Times Books
Sales Rank: 211215
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Book Description

Bestselling author Michael Shermer delves into the unknown, from heretical ideas about the boundaries of the universe to Star Trek's lessons about chance and time

A scientist pretends to be a psychic for a day-and fools everyone. An athlete discovers that good-luck rituals and getting into "the zone" may, or may not, improve his performance. A historian decides to analyze the data to see who was truly responsible for the Bounty mutiny. A son explores the possiblities of alternative and experimental medicine for his cancer-ravaged mother. And a skeptic realizes that it is time to turn the skeptical lens onto science itself.

In each of the fourteen essays in Science Friction, psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer explores the very personal barriers and biases that plague and propel science, especially when scientists push against the unknown. What do we know and what do we not know? How does science respond to controversy, attack, and uncertainty? When does theory become accepted fact? As always, Shermer delivers a thought-provoking, fascinating, and entertaining view of life in the scientific age.
... Read more

4. The Best American Science Writing 2004 (Best American Science Writing)
by Dava Sobel
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Asin: 0060726407
Catlog: Book (2004-09-01)
Publisher: Ecco
Sales Rank: 5523
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Book Description

Jennifer Kahn's "Stripped for Parts" was selected as the lead story of this year's Best American Science Writing because, as Dava Sobel, best-selling author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, reveals, "it begins with one of the most arresting openings I have ever read." In "Columbia's Last Flight," William Langewiesche recounts the February 1, 2003, space shuttle tragedy, along with the investigation into the nationwide complacency that brought the ship down. K. C. Cole's "Fun with Physics" is a profile of astrophysicist Janet Conrad that blends her personal life with professional activity. In "Desperate Measures," the doctor and writer Atul Gawande profiles the surgeon Francis Daniels Moore, whose experiments in the 1940s and '50s pushed medicine harder and farther than almost anyone had contemplated. Also included is a poem by the legendary John Updike, "Mars as Bright as Venus." The collection ends with Diane Ackerman's "ebullient" essay "We Are All a Part of Nature."

Together these twenty-three articles on a wide range of today's most current topics in science -- from biology, physics, biotechnology, and astronomy, to anthropology, genetics, evolutionary theory, and cognition‚ represent the full spectrum of scientific writing from America's most prominent science authors, proving once again that "good science writing is evidently plentiful" (Scientific American).

... Read more

5. A Devil's Chaplain : Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love
by Richard Dawkins
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Asin: 0618485392
Catlog: Book (2004-10-27)
Publisher: Mariner Books
Sales Rank: 3094
Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The first collection of essays from renowned scientist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins is an enthusiastic declaration, a testament to the power of rigorous scientific examination to reveal the wonders of the world. In these essays Dawkins revisits the meme, the unit of cultural information that he named and wrote about in his groundbreaking work The Selfish Gene. Here also are moving tributes to friends and colleagues, including a eulogy for novelist Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; correspondence with the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould; and visits with the famed paleoanthropologists Richard and Maeve Leakey at their African wildlife preserve. The collection ends with a vivid note to Dawkins's ten-year-old daughter, reminding her to remain curious, to ask questions, and to live the examined life. ... Read more

Reviews (30)

5-0 out of 5 stars Darwin's Dangerous Disciple strikes again!
To some, Richard Dawkins is threatening. His phrases pry open shut minds. His words bend and flex rigid thinking. His ideas trash dearly held dogmas. And, of course, he idolizes The Devil's Chaplain - Charles Darwin [the title is from a letter of Darwin's]. He performs all these feats with a graceful style - one which anyone writing science should study. This collection is comprised of letters, book reviews and even eulogies - an unusual vehicle for espousing the cause of rational thinking. If much of his writing seems intense, it's because he recognizes his role in waging an uphill battle against "established truths", no matter how false they prove. To show the validity of truth over myth requires a direct approach.

Dawkins recognizes that people abhor being called animals. The continuity of life, one of the major themes in this collection, remains an indisputable fact, he stresses. This series reinforces Dawkins' attempts to make us aware that we are part of Nature. He is always witty, using his sound scientific basis and rationale to keep us informed. Science, in his view, must not be eroded by baseless tradition nor false dogmas. The goal of living, he argues, is the understanding of life itself. Religion and philosophy have failed abysmally, the realm of science should be given its opportunity. It's a broad view, sustained by an ability to grasp it firmly. Better yet, for us, it's presented here with verve and dedication.

Segregated into [lucky!] seven sections, each addressing a general theme. He covers many topics in this anthology - evolution, of course, but medicine, genetically modified foods [many foods are hybrids resulting from genetic manipulation], jury trials, intellectual heresies, and even government policies are included. The arrangement presents no difficulty - in fact, each offering might be chosen at random without losing any impact. Selecting a favourite is an arduous task [although it promotes re-reading] but the review of Sokal and Bricmont's "Fashionable Nonsense" ranks very high. The review demonstrates Dawkins' many talents, from insight to incisiveness. Few essayists provide the imagery he can attain to explain an idea.

There are those, particularly adherents of the idea that science lacks morality, who see scientists as cold and distant. Dawkins shows how false this idea is with his laudatory comments on John Diamond, Douglas Adams and William Hamilton. He even extends an olive branch to his academic opponent, the late Stephen J. Gould. As fellow evolutionists, Dawkins and Gould forged a rapport against the rants and duplicities of the Christian creationists. It requires a broad mind to take such steps, and narrowness isn't among Dawkins' blemishes. He's a feeling human being and a tireless campaigner. We would all do well to heed and emulate him. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

4-0 out of 5 stars A response to middle America
I'd just like to briefly respond to the "reader from middle America" who I feel is over-reacting a little to Dawkins' book.

Dawkins' main target is not what I'd call 'traditional theists', but that group of what's usually labelled "fundamentalists" who are trying to suppress science teaching and replace it with their bogus "creation science".

I know plenty of intelligent people who believe in a God. I don't know any that believe in the literal "created in six days" word of the bible or who think a belief in evolution is absolutely antithetical to religious belief.

The majority of denominations - and thus Christians - don't subscribe to the fundamentalist view (don't take my word for it, do a quick search). In fact most explicitly disavow a literal reading of Genesis. So it's entirely wrong for "middle America" to speak of creationism as a "majority" belief.

Dawkins does take a fairly militant stance. Although I share his views, I initially felt he was being a bit hard on those he disagrees with. However when I read of people seeking to have creationism ranked as "science" in schools at the exclusion of real science I think he's right to get stuck into them.

Dawkin's target isn't "middle America" or the majority of believers for whom belief in God and science can coexist. His target is what we call in Australia "the loudmouth ratbag fringe" who want to foist their view on others. And he's got me on side.

Incidentally, his broadside at postmodernism is just as much fun to read as his views on 'creation science'.

5-0 out of 5 stars Evolution is the art of the developable
This selection of Richard Dawkins' essays is an absolute delight and a clear-cut illustration of the author's strong anti-tradition, anti-authority and anti-revelation opinions.
It deals with very important problems like the real nature of natural selection, its cruelty and blindness to suffering.
The author's life goal is nothing less than a combat with the cosmic progress and its clumsy, blundering waste, and that with one of the products of evolution itself: our brain.
Crucial is his war of words with the late S.J. Gould about the question if evolution is progressive. No, for Gould. Yes, for Dawkins. For the latter, progress cannot be defined in terms of complexity (Gould), but rather by the accumulation of features contributing to adaptation. I believe now that Dawkins is right.
Other very important issues are his battle with the creationists, his lucid pro-opinion on genetically modified food, his brilliant refutation of genetic determinism via the blueprint/recipe distinction or his necessary virulent anti-religious viewpoint (religion is a virus of the mind and the most inflammatory enemy-libelled device in history).
I have only a few remarks.
Richard Dawkins writes that 'Every time we use contraception we demonstrate that brains can thwart Darwinian designs'.
But, ceteris paribus, the outcome here is a certain defeat. The genes of those who use contraception will be overrun by those who don't. Contraception is itself a component of the Darwinian design.
In his essay 'What is true', he misses some important points.
As Tarski said, truth = accordance with the facts or processes.
Popper's importance was mainly the refutation of inductivism and its demand for infinite corroborations. As long as a theory has not been falsified we can continue to work with it. Popper's proposition constitutes a progress and time gain of lightyears for science as a whole. Also testing remains the cornerstone of scientific research.
Presenting Popper as a truth-heckler seems to me a little overdone, when we don't know 90% of the matter in the universe, perhaps 1 % of the existing virusses; when 'I' doesn't exist (V. Ramachandran) or when 'is' is an illusion (L. Smolin). As Popper said, the more we know, the more we see how little we know.
Richard Dawkins' essays are thought-provoking analyses and comments, written by a splendid humanist and a superb free mind.
This book is a must for all those interested in the fate of mankind.

5-0 out of 5 stars A MANUAL TO THE TRUTH REVEALED BY SCIENCE
Dawkins is a well known biologist whose "The Selfish Gene" revolutionized the way we think (or ought to think) about evolution.

In this book, he puts together a collection of essays which, in the essence, is a guidebook to non-scientists to debunking pseudo-science. He does so in a variety of ways:
1. He demonstrates how complex physics concepts are used in literature to seem more scientific.
2. He shows how creationists seek legitimacy in the public eye with scientific sounding ideas like "intelligent design" and others which are nothing more than pseudo-science. He also offers ideas on how to deal with them.
3. He points out, in an open letter to his daughter, how to know what is truth and what isn't, what are good and bad reasons to believe something.
4. He recommends a number of follow up readings in his book reviews. These are mainly on Stephen Jay Gould and Peter Medawar, two other famed biologists who write for the general public.

The essence of the book is reflected, I believe, in the last essay, in which he makes the point that evidence is the only way to truth and knowledge, and the basis of science. He shows that evidence is a better reason to believe something than its three foes: authority, revelation and tradition.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for intelligent arguments and thoughts on a wide variety of subjects, all related to science, its importance and its usage (or lack thereof) in society.

4-0 out of 5 stars In Defense of the Scientific Method
If you only read one book by Professor Richard Dawkins, I recommend The Selfish Gene. That book is a remarkable tour de force covering the latest thinking about how evolution really works by taking into account our understanding of genetic qualities in reinforcing the evolutionary struggle of the survival of the fittest.

By contrast, A Devil's Chaplain is a book that will appeal primarily to people who have read several books by Professor Dawkins and would like to know more about him as a person and his views outside of neo-Darwinism.

If you have not read anything by Professor Dawkins, I recommend you skip this book unless you have a thorough understanding of the latest evolutionary theories. Much of the book won't make sense to you otherwise.

A Devil's Chaplain is a series of essays (some published before and some not), laments, eulogies and a letter to his daughter. From these materials, you can learn more about how Professor Dawkins sees his colleagues, those who oppose evolutionary teachings, postmodernists, and his personal views on religious beliefs and "alternative" medicine. Much of what he says will not surprise you. As a scientist, he favors the scientific method and is rationally skeptical of anything that cannot be proven by this method. He is also annoyed by a society that grants prominent opportunities to share views that are not proven by scientific methods. As a result, he is also an atheist . . . but one who draws great joy from considering the world around him and the methods by which it has been created.

Many people think of atheists as gloomy people, or people without much emotion. Professor Dawkins is neither. His loving descriptions of relations with his colleagues, rivals and mentors show just the opposite. His concern for using scientific methods is obviously also based on a desire to help people live better lives.

Catholics may find the book a little annoying in that Professor Dawkins likes to challenge some of the "faith"-based beliefs that that religion espouses.

As I finished the book, I found that I was most attracted to the advanced speculations that Professor Dawkins used in his book that speak directly to evolutionary studies. I especially recommend the essay, "Son of Moore's Law," where he describes the timing of when individual genomes will be economically affordable and how that will influence health and medical treatments. I was also drawn to the essays that describe his optimistic belief that we can escape our evolutionary heritage and evolve into people who produce the best possible future for all.

There's much food for thought here. I doubt if any religious believers will be undone by his arguments. I also doubt that he will convert any people who believe in the literal creation as described in the Bible to change their views.

Ultimately, I was left wondering how other prominent scientists bridge the gap between their scientific methods and having a rich religious life.

I graded the book down one star because the editor presumes the reader has a little too much familiarity with the leading lines of thought about evolution. The book could have used more footnotes to explain the background of the points Professor Dawkins is making for those of us who are not evolutionary biologists . . . but simply like to read books about the subject. ... Read more


6. The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
by Lewis Thomas
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140047433
Catlog: Book (1995-01-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 11451
Average Customer Review: 4.19 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (31)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Biology Watcher
Lewis Thomas' book is a beautifully written collection of essays. He writes much in the style of the 13th century author Frederick Montaigne, whom he later writes an essay about in another book. The essays, combine to bring a truly penultimate view of biological life. His observations, more than conclusions, bring one very close to a belief that in some way, all life is connected.

In a particularly interesting essay on "organelles" Thomas points out that mitochondria, the engines of the cell in every animal, do not exchange DNA like every other part of the body in sexual procreation, but in fact, are passed directly from the ovum to the zygote in the cytoplasm, and never change or recombine their DNA. This apparently being a protective mechanism developed over 100's of thousands of years because the preservation of the exact mitochondrial DNA sequence is so important, that it could not be left to chance, as are most every other characteristic of the animal.

Throughout the book, Thomas reveals truly extraordinary facts about biology and microbiology that tend to leave the reader in actual awe. For an incredibly interesting and fast education about cellular biology this National Book Award Winning collection is truly a fascinating read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Biology On A Cellular Level: Impressive
Lewis Thomas' book is a beautifully written collection of essays. He writes much in the style of the 13th century author Frederick Montaigne, whom he later writes an essay about in another book. The essays, combine to bring a truly penultimate view of biological life. His observations, more than conclusions, bring one very close to a belief that in some way, all life is connected.

In a particularly interesting essay on "organelles" Thomas points out that mitochondria, the engines of the cell in every animal, do not exchange DNA like every other part of the body in sexual procreation, but in fact, are passed directly from the ovum to the zygote in the cytoplasm, and never change or recombine their DNA.

This apparently being a protective mechanism developed over 100's of thousands of years because the preservation of the exact mitochondrial DNA sequence is so important, that it could not be left to chance, as are most every other characteristic of the animal.

Throughout the book, Thomas reveals truly extraordinary facts about biology and microbiology that tend to leave the reader in actual awe. For an incredibly interesting and fast education about cellular biology this National Book Award Winning collection is truly a fascinating read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Appeals to both the artist and the scientist
I strongly disagreed with the review titled "Fake Science," so I was amused to see that the review's author used the word "applauded" where I believe s/he meant to use "appalled."

This book clearly isn't, and doesn't pretend to be, "scientific," in the sense of data acquired by rigid adherence to the scientific method and presented in dry academic format. It is more a lovely ride along the currents of Lewis'philosophical meanderings upon life, at various levels of complexity, in various contexts. This book instilled in me a sense of wonder at the wonderfulness of it all. P.S. I am a scientist.

5-0 out of 5 stars oh my god... so good...
I like this book... a lot, especially the last few chapters. This book covers a lot of topics. A lot. Each chapter is only a few pages long, which is nice for people who don't chunks of time to read. Everything he says builds up to the last chapter. It's eloquently written and a fun/easy/intellectual read.

5-0 out of 5 stars An intellectual stroll through biology and medical science
This book is a collection of essays written by Thomas covering various subjects. There is no formal structure or scientific process to them. It is more like an intellectual stroll through the park, something you might have a professor mention in passing, elaborated. Being a medical student myself, I found the book extremely interresting, but make no mistake, the vocabulary assumes some sort of degree in biology or biochemistry or medicine.

For those of us used to reading journal articles, this is nothing like one. He doesn't have firm conclusions or hypotheses. He just sort of proposes an idea and lets it float around in our collective consciousness.

The only criticism I have of this book is that Thomas can be repetitive at times. He will reiterate ideas and points and if you are reading the book cover to cover, that fact can be annoying. However, if you read an essay every now and then, stopping to digest the material, I believe you'll find that Thomas has some interesting insights into the world of science. ... Read more


7. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 (Best American Science and Nature Writing)
list price: $14.00
our price: $9.80
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Asin: 0618246983
Catlog: Book (2004-10-14)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 2304
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Book Description

Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundreds of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to the twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected -- and most popular -- of its kind. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004, edited by Steven Pinker, is another "provocative and thoroughly enjoyable [collection] from start to finish" (Publishers Weekly). Here is the best and newest on science and nature: the psychology of suicide terrorism, desperate measures in surgery, the weird world of octopuses, Sex Week at Yale, the linguistics of click languages, the worst news about cloning, and much more. ... Read more


8. The Science of Good and Evil : Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule
by Michael Shermer
list price: $26.00
our price: $16.38
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Asin: 0805075208
Catlog: Book (2004-02-02)
Publisher: Times Books
Sales Rank: 11184
Average Customer Review: 3.64 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his third and final investigation into the science of belief, bestselling author Michael Shermer tackles the evolution of morality and ethics

A century and a half after Darwin first proposed an “evolutionary ethics,” science has begun to tackle the roots of morality. Just as evolutionary biologists study why we are hungry (to motivate us to eat) or why sex is enjoyable (to motivate us to procreate), they are now searching for the roots of humannature.

In The Science of Good and Evil, psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer explores how humans evolved from social primates to moral primates, how and why morality motivates the human animal, and how the foundation of moral principles can be built upon empirical evidence. Along the way he explains the im-plications of statistics for fate and free will; fuzzy logic for the existence of pure good and pure evil; and ecology for the development of early moral sentiments among the first humans. As he closes the divide between science and morality, Shermer draws on stories from the Yanamamö, infamously known as the “fierce people” of the tropical rain forest, to the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, to John Hinckley’s insanity defense. The Science of Good and Evil is ultimately a profound look at the moral animal, belief, and the scientific pursuit of truth.
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Reviews (11)

4-0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary morality.
Of all the differences between man and the lower animals, Charles Darwin believed that "the moral sense or conscience" is the most important. "It is the most noble of all the attributes of man," he wrote in THE DESCENT OF MAN (1871), "leading him without a moment's hesitation to risk his life for that fellow-creature; or after due deliberation, impelled simply by the deep feeling of right or duty, to sacrifice it in some great cause." Drawing from evolutionary ethics, evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, anthropology, and ethology, Michael Shermer (WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS; HOW WE BELIEVE)takes on the difficult subject of the origins of morality and the foundations of ethics from an agnostic and nontheistic position, and contends that moral behavior can be scientifically traced to humanity's evolutionary origins. For those unfamiliar with his work, Shermer is the editor in chief of Skeptic magazine, and a frequent contributor to Scientific American.

THE SCIENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL picks up where HOW WE BELIEVE ended, defining religion as a social institution that "evolved as an integral mechanism of human culture to create and promote myths, to encourage altruism and cooperation, to discourage selfishness and competitiveness, and to reveal the level of commitment to cooperate and reciprocate among members of a community" (p. 7). Shermer divides his book into two parts, first examining how morality evolved as a species-wide mechanism for survival to enforce the rules of human interactions before there were such things as state laws and constitutional rights, and then by disputing the religious position that without God, there can be no morality. In developing his notion of "provisional ethics," Shermer observes that some form of The Golden Rule (i.e., "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you") provides the foundation of morality in all human societies.

Calling himself a "free rider" (p. 22), Shermer argues that humans don't need God to be moral, but that evolution has equipt the human brain with a tendency toward moral behavior. In other words, humans are moral by nature. "I may be free from God," he writes, "but the god of nature holds me to her temple of judgment no less than her other creations. I stand before my maker and judge not in some distant and future ethereal world, but in the reality of this world, a world inhabited not by spiritual and supernatural ephemera, but by real people whose lives are directly affected by my actions, and those actions directly affect my life" (p. 22).

G. Merritt

5-0 out of 5 stars Raises the bar for the all too human.
Shermer's discussion of morality in this book is a continuation of that he started in How We Believe, though that book was less dry and more complete. Still, he bravely tackles morality with an approach not unlike Nietsche's (one must drop the crutch of religion and take responsibility for their own morals) only less angry and more scientific (hence the dryness). Shermer does do a fair job of trying to explain the beauty of individual moral responsibility, but the book concerns mainly the historical or 'evolutionary' explaination of morals, in that they serve a societal function. (A good companion book to this would be Sagan's Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors.)
Shermer's lens seems greatly shaped by Darwin. That may be because one of his books between How We Believe and this on was In Darwin's Shadow (about Alfred Wallace), or perhaps Darwin's science is pretty solid stuff. At any rate, to apply a scientific approach to morality is to try and replace thousands of years of mythology which did the job until recently. Can morality be explained without religious ties? That's the interesting part of it.

I was going to give this book 4 stars because of the slight disappointment I had with Shermer's writing style, but the topic is so vast and this book gives one of the best discussions of it I've seen in a long time. So it's a Fiver!

5-0 out of 5 stars Can there be morality without God?
Can there be morality without God? This is the question tackled by the Skeptic Society's Michael Shermer and while he definately deserves a five for his effort, the resulting book shows a man straining against inherent limits.
The first inherent limit Shermer struggles against his own upbringing wherein he indicated that his mother did not believe in God. It is very fascinating that regardless of what education one goes on to attain they invariably ultimately return to the religous views of their upbringing later in life. This is not a bad thing but it is interesting that whenever writers attempt to assert some grand new theory all they're really talking about is what their parents believed. Perhaps it is for this reason that truly revolutionary religious thought is such a rare thing.
Shermer also struggles against the evidence. In the first part of his book, Shermer is quick to assert that morality is the natural product of human evolution. However, and this is according to Shermer's own cited figures, for 84% of the people on this planet that morality ACCOMPANIES MEMBERSHIP IN AN ESTABLISHED RELIGION. In other words, one cannot fairly gainsay that morality is an evolutionary by product without also conceding that religion as well is an evolutionary by product. To be sure, an absence of religious belief cannot be said to be an absence of morality any more than the presence of religious belief can itself be said to be evidence of morality. Still the same there has been, and remains, an undeniable and as yet unfully explained relationship between religion and morality. In this sense, Shermer's first half of his book serves as a great starting point for further study of this important topic.
However, and again, we are talking about a starting point and definately not the last word.
Finally, Shermer is limited by logic. If one is to believe his earlier referenced studies that humans only appear to have free will, then why should recourse be made to the many philosophers he cites in the second half of his book? For that matter, if human behavior really is a "science" then why resort to philosophy at all? Logically, one would have to concede that that which is possible would have to yield to that which is. Phenomenon, not paradigm, is paramount.
In all, the book had a certain endearing quality. After having read the two predecessor works by Shermer in this series -- Why People Believe Wierd Things and Why We Believe -- it's strangely comforting to see Shermer admit to such a detailed knowledge of the television program Star Trek. (As he was quoting the Kirk monologue, I found myself mentally inserting the appropriate pauses between the words...just as Kirk did in the original TV episode.)
So in the end the question remains: Can there be a morality without God?
I don't know. Maybe this question should be asked when we can really be sure that we even have morality with God.

1-0 out of 5 stars Shermer should be ashamed for minimizing the evils of 9/11!
In his latest book, The Science of Good & Evil, Skeptic Magazine publisher Michael Shermer suggests that President Bush was mistaken in calling the 9/11 terrorist attacks "pure evil." According to Shermer, no such thing exists.

On page 81, Dr. Shermer writes: "September 11, 2001, comes to mind here. United States President George W. Bush described what happened that day as an act of pure evil. Yet millions of people around the world celebrate that day as a triumphant victory over what they perceive to be an evil American culture. What we are witnessing here is not a conceptual difference in understanding the true nature of evil. Nor is it simply a matter of who is in the right. It is, at least on one important level, a difference of perspective. To achieve true understanding and enlightenment it might help to understand what the other side was thinking."

He should issue a public apology for trying to minimize the moral gravity of these actions and ignoring the human pain they caused. He should be ashamed of defending terrorists who killed thousands of innocents in the name of God. None of us will move any closer to "enlightenment" if we join him in dismissing the specific actions that caused the 9/11 mass murders as a "difference of perspective." The degree of evil of the 9/11 murders does not depend on the fluctuating measures America's popularity in foreign public opinion polls. Exploring every delusion held by the 9/11 terrorists won't make their crimes less vicious or bring their victims back to life.

According to Dr. Shermer "pure evil" is nothing but a word. Any morally blameworthy act can be nothing more than what Shermer names "provisional evil." If we accept his limited concept, an ethical and moral gray area must always exist when thousands of innocents are brutally murdered in the name of God.

In truth, the ultimate value of human life transcends space, time, material reality, and Darwinian evolution because we are loved by, and created for, eternal friendship with an eternal God who exists independent of the Big Bang and all material reality. The intentional mass murder of innocent human life is "pure evil" because it rejects the God-given inherent worth of the human person.

In a recent e-mail, Dr. Shermer told me he supports the current war in the Middle East. He also said he doesn't endorse or excuse the 9/11 attacks.

He can't have it both ways, however. The statement he chose to publish in his book gives comfort to all current and future enemies of human life, and he should print a retraction on his website at www.skeptic.com. Shame on you, Dr. Shermer.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Reasonable Effort
This is a good overview of how ethics might have originated, but not a particularly good (pun intended) justification of ethical rule. Shermer is always entertaining, but he lacks philosophical rigor. A much better exposition on both can be found in Michael Berumen's: Do No Evil. ... Read more


9. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out and the Meaning of It All
by Richard P. Feynman
list price: $25.00
our price: $17.50
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Asin: 0738207950
Catlog: Book (2002-10-01)
Publisher: Perseus Books Group
Sales Rank: 24386
Average Customer Review: 4.75 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Further Feynman
Yet another glimpse inside the mind of one of the most brilliant and most peculiar physicists of recent times, this book is perfect for those who enjoy physics or even just a good story. If you enjoyed the other semi-scientific Feynman books, you will not be disappointed by this one.

5-0 out of 5 stars A very different book.
In this series of lectures and interviews, Feynman lays out his, sometimes surprisingly philosophical given his aversion to such things, outlook on science, religion, and life in general. As an added bonus, you get a lecture or two on his "absurd and crazy" ideas, like nanotechnology, that give you a real feel what Feynman was about.

This book held a lot of credibility with me. First, Feynman was a singular individual, unswayed by pomposity and false pretenses, with no hidden agenda, and little desire to have other people like him - a rare thing. Second, the book is poorly written. The editors, on purpose, left it raw and unrefined, just as Feynman spoke it, to let more of Feynman come across. The result is uneven, jarring, and a little hard to read, and this, to me, is a good thing. Whenever I see fresh, sparkling, vibrant prose I don't believe it, because show me a more effective speaker than Hitler or a more electrifying call to action than the "Communist Manifesto". Without the swaying torrent of rhetoric, the message of the book stands on its own merrit.

Read this book. You'll walk away from it a little wiser.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fun Read - More Insight into the Totality of Feynman's Views
I had a lot of fun reading this book. We are exposed to a broader array of Feynman's views in his typical iconoclastic and fiercely independent style.

Although Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and Genius present Feynman as he should be presented, this work is a nice addendum to fill in a few blanks. Good reading.

5-0 out of 5 stars GREAT COLLECTION OFFERS INSIGHT INTO MAN OF SCIENCE
This book is a collection of Feynman's most memorable essays and speeches, in which he talks about the Manhattan project, his childhood, the future of physics, the unscientific nature of society, among other topics. This is a book for the non scientist, as there is very little physics required, and it talks as much about the future of science as it does about the future of society.

Feynman is a remarkable character, which many virtues and flaws which are readily detectable in the book. It is a short, quick read that left me wanting to learn more about him. ... Read more


10. The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
by Stephen Jay Gould
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
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Asin: 0393308197
Catlog: Book (1992-08-01)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 31999
Average Customer Review: 4.36 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars Two Panda's thumbs up.
First published on 1980, The Panda's Thumb is a collection of slightly edited essays from Professor Gould's monthly column at Natural History Magazine.

The thirty one essays are grouped in eight chapters according to their similarities. The Chapters are:

Perfection and imperfection: A trilogy on a panda's thumb - that deals with comparative anatomy;

Darwiniana - that brings the context of Darwin's revolution and the preceding ideas;

Human evolution - that also brings an article on Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse evolution;

Science and politics of Human differences - that shows how science used to foster or justify prejudice and sexism.

The pace of change - in which Gould introduces his and Niles Eldredge's theory of Punctuated Equilibrium;

Early life - a chapter on pre-Cambrian biology or early ideas about pre-Cambrian biology.

They were despised and rejected - on evolutionary dead ends or not quite as in the essay about birds descending from dinosaurs and;

Size and time.

Most essays are very interesting and surprisingly up to date despite the fact that many were written almost thirty years ago. The essays can be read one by one in no particular order since they bring references to each other when necessary. The scope of the book goes way beyond biology including also geology, history of science, gender and race relations, and the ever lasting debate between science and religion. The style is again accessible and witty. After introducing the only exponential equation on the whole book the author almost apologizes.

In my opinion some of the most interesting essays are The Death Before Birth of a Mite; Caring Groups and Selfish Genes; Dr. Down's Syndrome; Nature Odd Couples; Our Allotted Lifetimes; Time's Vastness; and all essays under the chapter The Pace of Change.

The Pace of Change is the most original and still controversial chapter of the book. It introduces Gould and Eldredge's theory of Punctuated Equilibrium that is, in short, a slight correction on Darwin's belief of slow and continuous change throughout the process of evolution.

This is a very interesting and enjoyable book. I doubt anyone interested in science, just by reading a random article of this book, would not feel compelled to read the rest of the book and also other Stephen Gould's books.

Leonardo Alves - January 2001

5-0 out of 5 stars Gould's best
Stephen Jay Gould is probably the finest scientific writer working today. His books, based on the column he has written for Natural History magazine since the 1970s, mix evolutionary biology with references to baseball, Mickey Mouse, and anything else he can use to teach the reader. As head of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, he is an authority on modern evolutionary theory. In what I believe is his finest book, he argues that it is the imperfections in life's design, like the panda's thumb formed out of its wrist instead of as a full digit, that prove evolution by natural selection. In one essay, he teaches about neotony, some animals' tendency to stay younger-looking, by describing the "evolution" of the drawing of Mickey Mouse. A great read for experts and laymen alike.

4-0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary theory meets Mickey Mouse and selfish genes
The second collection of Gould's articles from Natural History continues to explore Darwin's themes and the resultant ideas since. There's several interesting essays here, including my favorite one in which the evolution of Mickey Mouse is discussed.

One of the essays here dealt with Richard Dawkins' controversial stand (in The Selfish Gene) on genes in which he states that a person is just a gene's way to make another gene. (This is different from normal evolutionary thought in that genes there are the subject of random variation which then is subject to the environment and tested.) Gould is not convinced by Dawkins' theory, mainly because, he says, there is no evidence that genes can be linked to specific attributes, i.e., there isn't an "eye" gene. Gould wrote this some years back, so it will be interesting to see if he revisits this subject now that researchers have indeed discovered the "eye" gene (through testing on flies).

Gould also covers Robert Bakker's theories about warm-blooded dinosaurs (later written up in Bakker's The Dinosaur Heresies) and the link to birds, a good essay for people to review prior to the hullabaloo that will follow Jurassic Park 2 (it's always fun to check up on an author's source material).

5-0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but dated
An entertaining and elegantly written collection of discursive essays on natural history and evolution. The nature stories and the anecdotes about eccentric naturalists are interesting.
It has a 1980 original publication date. Perhaps because of this date there is very little about DNA and nothing about HLA and tissue-typing. I shall check his later books to see if he ever got up-to-date on these. (He died a month ago). He was concerned to defend his field as being real science against "haughty and high-riding mathematicians and experimentalists." In fact this sort of biology seems more akin to history and archeology than to hard science, but that adds to its readability rather than detracts from it.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould is classic Gould with a more open and approachable style. This is Gould's second in a series of books gleamed from his essays in "Natural History" and they have a timeless value to them.

As Henry Adams said, "A teacher... can never tell where his influence stops." So it can be said of Stephen Jay Gould as these essays are twenty plus years old they still have inherent and intrinsic value as they are essential in historical character. Gould's writings here are compassionate, well founded, plausible, and spot-on. As Gould explores evolutionary biology, were dinosaurs dumb, a panda's thumb, or why are there as many men as women born, to magneticly seeking food... Gould explores the realm of biological theory and does an excellent in expanding the readers mind .

If found this book to be a wonderful look into how biology, theory and history all interplay with discovery. Gould acts as a tour guide to thought and observation as he writes. This is an excellent book written in a more relaxted style, but his rapier skill is apparent and you cannot help but read on and enjoy his elegantly explored essays.

These essays have a broad range, but are integrated and organized into eight sections of thought-provoking prose. Enjoy Gould's arguments as he takes you on a ride. A ride that compels us to seek the answers within ourselves. ... Read more


11. Economics of Industrial Ecology : Materials, Structural Change, and Spatial Scales
list price: $50.00
our price: $50.00
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Asin: 0262220717
Catlog: Book (2005-01-01)
Publisher: The MIT Press
Sales Rank: 1258355
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Book Description

The use of economic modeling techniques in industrial ecology research provides distinct advantages over the customary approach, which focuses on the physical description of material flows. The thirteen chapters of Economics of Industrial Ecology integrate the natural science and technological dimensions of industrial ecology with a rigorous economic approach and by doing so contribute to the advancement of this emerging field. Using a variety of modeling techniques (including econometric, partial and general equilibrium, and input-output models) and applying them to a wide range of materials, economic sectors, and countries, these studies analyze the driving forces behind material flows and structural changes in order to offer guidance for economically and socially feasible policy solutions.

After a survey of concepts and relevant research that provides a useful background for the chapters that follow, the book presents historical analyses of structural change from statistical and decomposition approaches; a range of models that predict structural change on the national and regional scale under different policy scenarios; two models that can be used to analyze waste management and recycling operations; and, adopting the perspective of local scale, an analysis of the dynamics of eco-industrial parks in Denmark and the Netherlands. The book concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of an economic approach to industrial ecology.
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12. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003 (Best American Science and Nature Writing)
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0618178929
Catlog: Book (2003-10-10)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 66211
Average Customer Review: 4.12 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundred of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to the twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected -- and most popular -- of its kind.
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003, edited by Richard Dawkins, is another "eloquent, accessible, and even illuminating" collection (Publishers Weekly). Here are the best and brightest writers on science and nature, writing on such wide-ranging subjects as astronomy's new stars, archaeology, the Bible, "terminal" ice, and memory faults.

Natalie Angier
Timothy Ferris
Ian Frazier
Elizabeth F. Loftus
Steven Pinker
Oliver Sacks
Steven Weinberg
Edward O. Wilson
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Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag ¿ exactly as it should be
The best thing about a collection of essays like this is that you get to read articles by writers you've never heard of, on topics you never realized could be at least interesting and sometimes even compelling. The writing ranges from dry and technical to almost purely emotional. I can't think of a single dud, which is little surprise, given the editor.

So, read it for elucidation or inspiration. You will come away with a few previously-unfamiliar names firmly lodged in your head for future reference, like Ian Frazier. The end of his (quite literally sensual) ode to icebergs is so beautiful it almost hurts. Here it is in full:

"A lot of what is exciting about being alive can't be felt, because it's beyond the power of the senses. Just being on the planet, we are moving around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour; it would be great if somehow we could climb up to an impossible vantage point and actually feel that speed.

"All this data we've got piling up is interesting, but short on thrills. Time, which we have only so much of, runs out on us, and as we get older we learn that anything and everything will go by. And since it all go by anyway, why doesn't it all go right now, in a flash, and get it over with? For mysterious reasons, it doesn't, and the pace at which it proceeds instead reveals itself in icebergs.

"In the passing of the seconds, in the one-thing-after-another, I take comfort in icebergs. They are time solidified and time erased again. They pass by and vanish, quickly or slowly, regular inhabitants of a world we just happened to end up on. The glow that comes from them is the glow of more truth than we can stand."

3-0 out of 5 stars Hoping for the Best
Early in the forward, renown autthor/scientist Richard Dawkins writes " In a single glimpse of Andromeda, then, your eyes capture light that encompasses a span of 150,000 years, which is roughly equal to the length of time that humans have walked the earth. What holy book, what myth, can match the grandeur of that reality? In the face of such sublimity, why would any of us want to cling ot the old tales...the ones with the answers but not many questions?

That phrase captures what is best and least about this book. The grandeur of science opening up an infinite series of new questions on the one hand, and on the other, being challenged by the mundane world of people who would prefer to read "self-help" and "new age" books, a phenomena that scientists cannot fathom.

In the best sense, there are articles about science and scientists that stretch you mind by light years. "Ice Memory", tells of studies of cores of Greenland ice showing that earth has undergone dramatic changes in temperature in decades which dwarf the current exterpolations of global warming.

But the least of the book are the essays on science fighting entrenched interests or wayward passions. Some writers seem to miss the point or are fighting straw dogs. The problems of "recovered memories" in not really abused childern and lack of historical basis for the Bible are not so new to me. As Dawkins is an important writer on evolution, he probably has to deal with the conflicts between the science and peoples attitudes and beliefs more often than I do.

But I enjoyed almost every essay, learning that a sperm whale's head acts as a punching bag, and that new telescopes have returned the amatuer to an important role in astronomy. I even enjoyed some of the science vs politics stuff such as Gary Taubes exploration of the idea that poorly researched nutritional guidance from the government may have even triggered the fat epidemic.

There is food for thought in this smorgasbord, even if it is not a feast. As another reviewer said, the level of the science is at the more popular end of science reading -- but it is there. A good book to nibble at on many short commutes.

4-0 out of 5 stars solid collection
There's little I can add to the reviews that the other reviewers haven't already said, and said well. I'll just chime in with my opinion: it's a solid collection of essays and I'd recommend it.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not as good as 2002, but still very good
This is a great series. This year the selection seemed to have more of an anti-religious and political tone, but most of the selections are still well-written, educational and thoughtful.

5-0 out of 5 stars Light from Andromeda?
Opening an essay collection is rather like breaking the Christmas pinata - there's bound to be something to please everyone. If you hope to discover whether "royal" blood trickles in your veins, skip right to Steve Olson's account of tracing his ancestors and the surprises he reveals about all of us. For a more practical, if more disturbing, application of gene research, sit in the Sequenom waiting room with David Duncan while he ponders the results of a DNA test. He's not hoping for claimant-to-the-throne status. He wants to know whether some quirk in his genetic makeup might indicate heart problems. If you wish to enjoy the life extended age might grant you, you may wish to peruse one of several articles on the environment and the changes it's undergoing. Residents of coastal cities or islands may consider moving to higher ground after Ian Frazier's revelations about retreating glaciers and their watery residue.

"Science and Nature Writing" allows many subject options. Dawkins has chosen well and in a timely fashion for this anthology. It would be redundant to assess the writing styles - all of these pieces are compelling, informative and presented in a highly readable style. The subjects may have a scientific or technical foundation, but the information offered isn't buried in arcane terminology. For some of the articles, the style is designed to catch your attention over the destination of your tax dollars. Is the response to the 11 September World Trade Centre attacks rational? Is money being diverted to programs that might find better use and offer better security elsewhere? Clark Chapman and Alan Harris address the first part of the question, while Steven Weinberg in one article and Charles Mann in another look at the second part.

With twenty-nine essays to consider, it quickly becomes clear what treasures of information this book contains. Since it isn't indexed [which would likely double the size of both book and cost] browsing its pages is almost mandatory. Alternatively, of course, you may simply start with Natalie Angier's paean to grandmothers and read until Edward O. Wilson's examination of the "economic development for people" versus "protect the environment first" debate. No-one is better able to summarise the points and offer pointers to satisfy both. Between those two fine writers, you will meet astronomers, cosmologists, biblical analysis and enjoy the interesting experience of seeing Oliver Sacks from within and without. Outside those limits is a reminder that light from the Andromeda Galaxy we see tonight started its journey when hominid species were first walking upright. Is there a connection?

No matter what your interests, politics, level of science education, or even eating habits, there will be rewards for you within these pages. This series has been beneficial and informative to anyone wishing to learn something new about the world around them. Wade in from the shallow end or plunge into the deeper challenges here. You will gain rewards. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada] ... Read more


13. The Barmaid's Brain : And Other Strange Tales From Science
by Jay Ingram
list price: $15.00
our price: $15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0716747022
Catlog: Book (2001-11-06)
Publisher: W. H. Freeman
Sales Rank: 759168
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Here are twenty-one unexpected and fascinating tales of science's stranger facts and episodes-from why we laugh, to why moths fly to the light, to how slinging drinks affects both memory and perception in a barmaid's brain (for the better!).

Best-selling author and media personality Jay Ingram offers investigations from the very edges of science that evoke the impressive breadth of the scientific mind and demonstrate how science works. Ingram explores how science adds to a re-examination of history with startling new theories about the Salem witches and a psychiatric profile of Joan of Arc.He describes remarkable battles-from the parasitic nastiness of cowbirds to the microscopic viciousness of bacteriophages.And he lets us in on some of the odder concerns of scientists: Will we be able to build a ladder attaching earth to an orbiting satellite?Is it possible that early humans spent their lives in water instead of on land?

Surprising, witty, and always edifying, The Barmaid's Brain serves up a splendid cocktail of fact, theory, and anecdote guaranteed to entertain and stimulate.
... Read more

Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars A good read
A set of twenty non-fiction essays/stories/investigations about various topics.

eg:

"I Just Had to Laugh"
What causes laughter? What tests have been done to isolate the laughter-center of the brain?

"Seeing Things"
We all know that light travels in a straight line, right? Wrong! Read about real mirages; how the cityscape of one city is projected to the clouds and seen miles away in another town.

"Sane in an Insane World"
1970's experiment where a dozen sane people go to psychiatrists and simply say "I heard a voice in my head". Learn what then happens to these people as they're immediately medicated and institutionalized. Don't try this one at home! ... at least not unless you have a friend who'll come bail you out of the asylum.

"The Barmaid's Brain"
Ever been to a busy restaurant and wondered how the waitress remembers your orders w/o writing it down? How about cocktail waitresses who, on New Year's Eve, are able to remember the orders of 150 patrons and do refills/etc w/o asking them to repeat the order?

"The Invention of Thievery"
All the sudden, in Engand in the 1920's, chickadees began opening and drinking from bottles of milk left on customers' doorsteps. Why? More interestingly, how did the chickadees propagate the "knowledge" across the country when a typical chickadee never travels more than 15 miles from it's birthplace in its entire life?

4-0 out of 5 stars Barmaids, a Saint, and the Antlion King
"The Barmaid's Brain" was both entertaining and mildly disappointing. The cover blurb has it that this book is in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould and Oliver Sacks, which I took to mean a collection of thematically connected essays on science. Gould concentrates on learned, very readable essays on evolution; Sacks specializes in tales of neurological dysfunction, e.g. the famous "Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat."

However, Ingram doesn't attempt to thread his miscellany of essays with an overarching theme, as do Gould and Sacks. He is more in the tradition of magpie science---he writes about whatever catches his eye.

Here are a couple of his essays that caught my eye:

"Consumed by Learning"---I was saddened to learn that the "The Worm Runner's Digest" (a feature of my college years) is no more. Nowadays hardly anyone believes that he can learn to play the piano by taking a pill, and Planaria are no longer forced to dine on their learned brethren. Even more disturbing, James McConnell, the iconoclastic 'Worm Runner General' himself was targeted late in his life by the Unabomber and suffered a permanent hearing impairment from the bomb blast---the unanticipated price of his brief moment of scientific fame.

"The Monks Who Saw the Moon Split Open"--- The mysterious birth of the Lunar Crater Giordano Bruno. As reported by Ingram via the twelfth century "Chronicles of Gervase," a group of five Englishmen saw "fire, hot coals, and sparks" bursting forth from the Moon on the evening of June 18, 1178. Did they witness the cataclysmic birth of Crater Giordano Bruno via asteroid impact? Ingram argues that the location and age of the 22-kilometer (14-mile) lunar crater Giordano Bruno indicates that this was indeed the case.

However, a new study suggests the event was a meteoritic trick of the eye.

Paul Withers of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory argues that an impact large enough to create Giordano Bruno "would have triggered a blizzard-like, week-long meteor storm on Earth -- yet there are no accounts of such a storm in any known historical record." Withers reports his analysis and other tests of the 'crater' hypothesis in the journal of the Meteoritical Society "Meteoritics and Planetary Science."

Read both Ingram's essay and Paul Withers's account (there is a summary at the Science@NASA home page) and decide for yourself whether five medieval Englishmen indeed witnessed the birth of a crater on our Moon.

"The Barmaid's Brain" is a lively collection of essays, well worth savoring one at time. Ingram entertains as he educates.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fun science
Accessible, lively and wide-ranging, Jay Ingram's twenty-one tales from the edges of science delves succinctly into an array of scientific oddities and mysteries from the source of Joan of Arc's voices and the Salem Witch phenomenon to the ingenious construction of the antlion's ambush pit and why sickle cell anemia confers evolutionary advantage.

A science writer ("The Science of Everyday Life," "The Burning House") and Discovery Channel host, Ingram has collected his personal favorites and organized them into five sections: Human Behavior, Curiosities of Life, Science and History, Natural Battles, How Things Work.

Why is that the barmaid routinely performs prodigious feats of memory yet misperceives the level of liquid in a tilted glass far more often than the average Joe (literally - the average Jane's perception is better than the barmaid's but not as good as Joe's)? Why does the moth fly to light? Something to do with navigating by moon, probably but then why is light lure stronger than sex? When is a cowbird egg in a cacique nest a good thing? Answer: when there are no bees and wasps nests around.

Then there's "Consumed by Learning" in which trained flatworms, chopped and fed to untrained flatworms, were able to pass on their knowledge. These results were greeted with such hoots of derision that the research was abandoned - leaving the question.

How about the sedentary British bird that learned to open milk containers and somehow spread this knowledge gradually northwards? In a Canadian experiment twenty-five percent of chickadees figured it out on their own and were able to tutor the less able. Strangely though, when tutor birds were placed in a cage with no milk container, the bird in the next cage figured out how to open its container. Telepathy? (This is not the conclusion the scientists arrived at.)

Ingram revisits the 1960s theory, popularized by Elaine Morgan, that human hairlessness, bipedalism, nose shape, tears, etc., indicate that "Homo Aquaticus" became a creature of the ocean shallows for a few million years. Pooh-poohed but not disproved.

He looks into Archimedes' war machines, the doomed quest for perpetual motion, the anatomy of laughter, a scary viral predator whose aggressive perfection is, thankfully, confined to bacteria. Presenting various theories with their pros and cons, he outlines a range of experiments and counter experiments and doesn't hesitate to digress when it's called for. He touches on the personalities and politics of science and keeps his quirky sense of humor at the fore.

Knowledge of science is not necessary but neither does it get in the way of enjoyment. Ingram's topics have been the subjects of whole books and for those whose curiosity is aroused, he provides a bibliography (no index).

5-0 out of 5 stars Appealing survey of new theories, facts and discoveries.
Over twenty stories from science and nature examine quirks of natural history and will appeal to any who read Stephen Jay Gould and other science writers. The general reader will find quite appealing this survey of new theories, facts, discoveries and anecdotes.

5-0 out of 5 stars Funny, informative and interesting
My day job is news editor for Science Daily, Discovery Channel's science news show. One of the our hosts is noted science writer and broadcaster Jay Ingram, who has a new book, The Barmaid's Brain. As someone who works with Jay every day, I'm sure my reaction to reading the book will be similar to that of anyone who watches the show regularly ... "Jay has a sense of humour????"

Who knew?

Truth be told, this is a delightful book. It's clear, and written in a very accessible style. More importantly, it presents a fascinating range of subjects ... everything from perpetual motion machines to Joan of Arc. It's a good synthesis of contemporary thought on a wide variety of topics. And perhaps most refreshingly, Ingram doesn't hesitate to shrug when he doesn't know the answer. Sometimes, as with his explanation of the aquatic ape hypothesis, he presents the information and says there just isn't enough information to make a reasonable judgement. Other times he'll say which answer seems more likely, but never tries to present it as the only possible answer.

In an age of quick fixes and "instant experts", it's comforting to be reminded that we sometimes don't know. We might think we know. We might be pretty sure we know. But ultimately, even an expert's judgement is often just a best guess. And that's something we could all stand to be reminded of. www.exn.ca/printedmatter ... Read more


14. The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe
by Chet Raymo
list price: $21.00
our price: $14.28
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802714021
Catlog: Book (2003-04-01)
Publisher: Walker & Company
Sales Rank: 170316
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

For almost forty years, Chet Raymo has walked a one-mile path from his house in North Easton, Massachusetts, to Stonehill College where he has taught physics and astronomy. The woods, fields, and stream he passes are as familiar as his own backyard, yet he admits, "There has never been a day I have walked the path without seeing something noteworthy. . . . Every pebble and wildflower has a story to tell."

Raymo chronicles the universe he finds on his path with a scientist's curiosity, a historian's respect for the past, and a child's capacity for wonder. With each step, the landscape he traverses becomes richer and more multidimensional, opening door after door into astronomy, geology, biology, history, and literature, making the path universal in scope.

"The flake of granite in the path was once at the core of towering mountains pushed up across New England when continents collided," he writes. "The purple loosestrife beside the stream emigrated from Europe in the 1800s as a garden ornamental, then went wantonly native in a land of wild frontiers. The light from the star Arcturus I see reflected in the brook beneath the bridge at night has been traveling across space for forty years before entering my eye. I have attended to all of these stories and tried to hear what the landscape has to say. . . . Scratch a name in a landscape and history bubbles up like a spring."

Borrowing the words of the early-twentieth-century naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger, Raymo urges us all to walk "with reverent feet, stopping often, watching closely, listening carefully." His wisdom and insights inspire us to turn our local paths-whether through cities, suburbs, or rural areas-into portals to greater understanding of our interconnectedness with nature and history. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Good Book
I am a 15 year old from North Easton, Massachusetts. My highschool, OLiver Ames, has their cross country course throughout Sheep Pasture, where much of this book takes place. IT was SO interesting finding out the history of the place, because I run there nearly every day. I would definently reccommend you to purchase this book, it is a bit chopppy, but overall you can learn a lot about nature.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Path worth taking
Mr. Raymo takes a very unique perspective on a seemingly mundane topic - his daily commute. He takes the idea of stopping to smell the roses to a whole new level. Every day for over 30 years he has taken the same mile-long walk to his office. This book takes none of that walk for granted as Mr. Raymo examines every step of the way with fascinating detail. He explores the history of the city, the background of the path, and gives insightful, yet easily readable, scientific explanations of the wonders of the world that surrounds him.

At times the book feels disjointed. After all, the only glue that holds this work together is the mile-long path through nature. However, the patchwork writing allows Mr. Raymo to explore his world - a world he happily gives to the reader. I recommend this book; you'll never view your commute the same. ... Read more


15. The Genie in the Bottle: 64 All New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life
by Joe Schwarcz
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0716746018
Catlog: Book (2001-07-01)
Publisher: W.H. Freeman & Company
Sales Rank: 36192
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Think of the word "chemistry."What comes to mind?"Difficult?" "Boring?" "Pollution?"The adjectives "Interesting," "Exciting," "Amazing" almost never roll of the tongue.Until, that is, one picks up The Genie in the Bottle.In 67 delightful essays, popular science writer Joe Schwarcz reminds us that with every breath and feeling we are experiencing chemistry.A sequel to Schwarcz’s best-selling Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs, this collection of essays blends quirky anecdotes about everyday chemistry with engaging tales from the history of science.Inside, readers will . . .

Get a different twist on licorice and travel to the dark side of the sun. Control stinky feet and bend spoons and minds. Learn about the latest on chocolate research, flax, ginkgo biloba, magnesium, and blueberries. Read about the ups of helium and the downs of drain cleaners. Find out why bug juice is used to color ice cream, how spies used secret inks and how acetone changed the course of history. "Dr. Joe" also solves the mystery of the exploding shrimp and, finally, he lets us in on the secret of the genie in the bottle.

Infused with the author’s humor, show-biz savvy, and magic, The Genie in the Bottle celebrates some of the least visited corners of the science universe.
... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Genie in a Bottle by Scwarcz
This book demonstrates how seemingly impractical ideas made it
into implementation in the areas of organic and inorganic
chemistry. At first, silly puddy was deemed an impractical
idea with very little commercial application outside the
laboratory. It turned out to be a multi-million dollar idea.
Baking soda was not seen as a practical idea initially, although
most homes have it today. The concept of drinking urine to
heal arthritis was deemed to be bizarre; however, there is
some scientific validity to the concept according to the author.
Arthritis may be relieved by keeping raisins in gin for 9 days.
GLA, primrose oil and chicken cartilage are all helpful
complementary strategies to controlling arthritis. Vaseline
oil was not seen as a great idea initially. Its inventor,
Robert Chesebrough created an enduring legacy with the product.
Chlorinated drinking water saved millions from bacterial diseases. This work describes many of the most promising inventions and processes in chemistry. It would be a perfect
reference for a student project. The book is a good value for the price charged. Its contents could make great conversation
at any dinner table.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
This is one of the best popular science books I have ever read, and the best chemistry book. Dr Schwarz explains numerous chemistry topics amidst a background of truly interesting stories. I recommend this book to everyone with any interest in science.

5-0 out of 5 stars Chemicals do good to!
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in knowing a little more about chemicals and their place in the world. Through his stories, Schwarcz explains how chemicals are used in our everyday lives and how very often they are given a "negative impact" as not being natural. He shows how media and others have made chemicals appear to always be bad yet at the same time these agencies neglect the overwhelming good of chemistry! This book is not about bashing media but rather to inform the reader of the global story and the truth about many of the so-called "toxins" in our world. It is a truly interesting book that is light hearted in its style so that it will please both the scientist as well as the non-scientist!
Finally, if you ever get to see "The Magic of Chemistry" or take "The World of Chemistry" course at McGill ... they are also highly recommended! ... Read more


16. The Best American Science Writing 2003 (Best American Science Writing)
by Oliver Sacks
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060936517
Catlog: Book (2003-09-01)
Publisher: Ecco
Sales Rank: 50252
Average Customer Review: 3.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his introduction to The Best American Science Writing 2003, Dr. Oliver Sacks, "the poet laureate of medicine" New York Times writes that "the best science writing . . . cannot be completely 'objective' -- how can it be when science itself is so human an activity? -- but it is never self-indulgently subjective either. It is, at best, a wonderful fusion, as factual as a news report, as imaginative as a novel." Following this definition of "good" science writing, Dr. Sacks has selected the twenty-five extraordinary pieces in the latest installment of this acclaimed annual.

This year, Peter Canby travels into the heart of remote Africa to track a remarkable population of elephants; with candor and tenderness, Floyd Skloot observes the toll Alzheimer's disease is taking on his ninety-one-year-old mother, and is fascinated by the memories she retains. Gunjan Sinha explores the mating behavior of the common prairie vole and what it reveals about the human pattern of monogamy. Michael Klesius attempts to solve what Darwin called "an abominable mystery": How did flowers originate? Lawrence Osborne tours a farm where a genetically modified goat produces the silk of spiders in its milk. Joseph D'Agnese visits a home for retired medical research chimps. And in the collection's final piece, Richard C. Lewontin and Richard Levins reflect on how the work of Stephen Jay Gould demonstrated the value of taking a radical approach to science.

As Dr. Sacks writes of Stephen Jay Gould -- to whose memory this year's anthology is dedicated -- an article of his "was never predictable, never dry, could not be imitated or mistaken for anybody else's." The same can be said of all of the good writing contained in this diverse collection.

... Read more

Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not quite blue ribbon
It would have been interesting to follow Oliver Sacks' selection process in assembling this collection. Today's "science writing" covers a multitude of topics and a spectrum of writing styles. This book provides a mixed bag of both, with some vivid winners and less captivating also-rans. While that can only be expected in such a diverse collection, it would have been enlightening to know what was set aside in the selection process.

The twenty-five essays collected here cover most fields of science. With Sacks' background, medicine is given slots, but the articles reflect more personal considerations than either research breakthroughs or even public health issues. It's evident that doctors must train, but reading confessions of ineptness in the apprenticeship don't inspire confidence. One essay, which must have caused an uproar when published, describes the life of two deaf women who decide to bear children - preferably deaf children. It's a vivid description of a sub-culture that must be recognised and understood.

Another essay about relationships centres on the prairie vole. This intriguing little animal provides some interesting insights on the concept of "love". Voles select mates, build a nest and settle down. The relationship, seemingly monogamous, may undergo some interesting twists under various conditions. Those conditions produce severe chemical changes in the voles, changes driving unexpected behaviour. Two chemicals, which are present and active in humans, drive voles to violent confrontation or endearing attraction. While little furry creatures may seem to have little to do with human behaviour, further studies indicated just how similar human chemistry is with the rest of the animal kingdom.

On a more practical note, the ongoing disputes over the condition of American fisheries have brought together the fishers and the government rule-maker. Lobsters, unlike cod and other foods harvested from the sea, appear to withstand the growing demand for their meat. When administrators sought to control the take, lobstermen objected. A new programme of lobster "census-taking" brought surprises. Using the latest technology, researchers wandered the ocean bottom in submarines or remote probes to better understand the lobster life cycle. Their studies may help save the fishery and perhaps point to new studies of other commercial fish resulting in fewer idle fishermen.

As a conclusion, a paean to the late paleontologist and science writer Stephen J. Gould is provided by his colleagues. Whatever one may think of Gould's theories, he made an immense mark in educating the American public to science. The heroes and pariahs alike of science came under his scrutiny and were illuminated by his prose. It is a fitting end to this collection. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fine Overview of American Science Writing for 2003
Guest editor Oliver Sacks does a fine job assembling an intriguing array of essays pertaining to science and medicine in the latest installment of HarperCollins annual series on the best American science writing. His terse introduction pays homage to his friend Stephen Jay Gould. The first two essays, Peter Canby's "The Forest Primeval" and Charles Mann's "1491", are undoubtedly the best. The former is an engrossing look at a tropical ecologist; the latter is a compelling explanation for the rapid decline of Native Americans on both American continents soon after Columbus' "discovery" of the New World. New York Times science writer Natalie Angier offers a whimsical look at interplanetary exploration in her essay "Scientists Reach Out to Distant Worlds". Nobel Prize-winning Cornell University chemist Roald Hoffmann - a talented man of letters too (Incidentally he is also one of Stuyvesant High School's three Nobel Prize laureates) - examines why simplicity may not be the best reason for "Why Buy That Theory?". On a somber, poignant note, this essay collection closes with "Stephen Jay Gould: What Does It Mean to Be a Radical?", an eloquent eulogy summarizing the late paleobiologist's career by his Harvard University colleagues Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins.

3-0 out of 5 stars Okay, but you can do better.
To give you the viewpoint from which I'm coming from, I read Scientiic American, Discover, American Scientist, New Scientist and two journals of mathematics, and still enjoy reading a Springer Verlag book. I am a science junky, and so I am always delighted to see a book like 'The Best American Science Writing'. Every year I read it, and every year I have mixed feelings about it.

Let me get to the bottom line first:

If you read any of the magazines I've listed and you are looking for the same sort of articles in this book you'll be disappointed. If you however, you read these magazines, but like lighter articles on science, a change of pace, or a different perspective, this book is a decent buy. If you are on a tight budget, I recommend skipping this book, and going for the other 'brand': The Best American Science And Nature Writings XXXX' by Houghton Mifflin Publications. If you are literary minded or have but a small interest in science, and want to know a bit more about it. This book is a better value for you.

That is it. But for those wanting a bit more detail, continue reading, at least skip to the section where I list some articles that should have made publication. The general characteristic of most of these articles is not so much science, but how science fits into the larger context of society. So the pattern goes, introduce a small bit of science. Next show how that science impacts a particular individual or group. Then see the economic and social impact that science or the group has. Then talk about relevant worldly demographics. And finally, muse over some vague connections with other parts of science.

You'll notice that any 'factual' science comprises maybe a fifth of any article. This may or may not be a good thing. It's up for you to decide. Most of these articles I gave 3 stars, and the average of the whole lot, I would give 2-3 stars. There are some fives, and there are some articles which I am shocked to have made it into publication of a magazine, and then published twice in a book!

I have a few complaints of every generation of this book. One is there is too many articles from literary magazines. The first few publications contain no articles from American Scientist. There are no pictures or graphs which came with the original publication of the article. Mathematics is not represented at all. Too many headline science articles makes the book 'feel' the same every year: like a literary version of the five minute science segments found on your local 30 minute news.

I've decided to list some articles that haven't made any of these books but should have (I base it on the same criteria they use, fashionable, and accessible):

-Statistics of Deadly Quarrels by Brian Hayes (American Scientist Vol 90, No 1)
-Health and Human Society by Clyde Hertzman (American Scientist Vol 89, No 6)
-Influenza by Robert G. Webster, and Elizabeth Jane Walker (American Scientist Vol 91, No 2)

The first two articles provide much to think about, and are very informative. In addition, they are freely available on the internet. The last article came out this year and is an excellent summary of the flu, where it comes from, and how it mutates.

Because of the amazon word limitation, I could not place my entire review here, but I deem it wise to at least mention that the first two articles. These articles were by far the best in the book, and some of the facts contained in the book -I believe- deserve a much wider and expert audience! Particularly striking to me is how an Arfican tribe can hunt like child's play using their vocal chords. The implications for human evolution and linguistics can be enormous. Also, the mentioning of terra preta which can have profound impact on agriculture across the world, if is indeed true.

The rest of articles after the first two are so-so. And some abysmally bad. ... Read more


17. Life Is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition
by Wendell Berry
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1582431418
Catlog: Book (2001-05)
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Sales Rank: 290193
Average Customer Review: 3.85 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

One of America's most respected and celebrated writers provides a thought-provoking analysis of, and a concise rebuttal of, E. O. Wilson's Consilience

"[A] scathing assessment...Berry shows that Wilson's much-celebrated, controversial pleas in Consilience to unify all branches of knowledge is nothing more than a fatuous subordination of religion, art, and everything else that is good to science...Berry is one of the most perceptive critics of American society writing today."-Lauren F. Winner, Washington Post Book World

"I am tempted to say he understands [Consilience] better than Wilson himself...A new emancipation proclamation in which he speaks again and again about how to defy the tyranny of scientific materialism."-Colin C. Campbell, Christian Science Monitor

"Berry takes a wrecking ball to E. O. Wilson's Consilience, reducing its smug assumptions regarding the fusion of science, art, and religion to so much rubble."-Kirkus Reviews

In Life Is a Miracle, the devotion of science to the quantitative and reductionist world is measured against the mysterious, qualitative suggestions of religion and art. Berry sees life as the collision of these separate forces, but without all three in the mix we are left at sea in the world. ... Read more

Reviews (20)

4-0 out of 5 stars thought provoking - the beginning of a dialogue
My reading of Life Is a Miracle was, admittedly, biased by my reading of David Bohm a short time before. Just as Wendell Berry can point out unspoken assumptions, sloppy logic and dangerous potential application of concepts in Consilience by Edward O. Wilson, so one could critique Berry's book while being "truthful". However, there are several concepts in Berry's work that are worth further thought:

Berry sees science as interested in "knowing" while arts and humanities are interested in "doing, responding". This has interesting consequences in the definition of "knowing" and of "liberal arts education".

Berry sees science as generalizing, simplifying while experience is always specific and complex. With the raise of chaos, complexity and entanglement in scientific theory, science is itself beginning to recognize the dissonance between experience and scientific explanation. As Berry recognizes, literature and poetry normally explore the general human condition through a very specific instance.

Berry sees science as dividing the world into the known and the not yet known. To this Berry wishes to add the category of mystery i.e. unknowable by the limited human capacity.

If any of the points described above interest you, this book is well worth your time whether you agree or disagree with Berry's position.

5-0 out of 5 stars A miracle with a message.
We are living in times of despair, Wendell Berry observes, when "most work is now poorly done; great cultural and natural resources are neglected, wasted, or abused; the land and its creatures are destroyed; and the citizenry is poorly taught, poorly governed, and poorly served" (p. 57). We are withdrawing our trust from politicians, professions, corporations, the educational system, religious institutions, and medicine (p. 94). In this compelling, 153-page essay, Berry offers his critical response to Edward O. Wilson's 1998 "scientific credo" (p. 25), CONSILIENCE (which I have not read). Wilson's book spins the popular superstition "that science is entirely good, that it leads to unlimited progress, and it has (or will have) all the answers" (p. 24).

The title of Berry's essay is taken from KING LEAR: "Thy life's a miracle. Speak yet again" (IV, vi, 55). Whether in his poetry, fiction, or essays, miracles happen when Berry puts his pen to paper, and this book is no exception. He argues that Wilson's attempt to integrate science with religion and art is nothing more than an attempt to subjugate those disciplines to the materialistic objectives of science. "It is bad for scientists to be working without a sense of cultural tradition," he writes. "It is bad for artists and scholars in the humanities to be working without a sense of obligation to the world beyond the artifacts of culture" (p. 93). Moreover, to experience life is not "to figure it out" or to understand it, "but to suffer it and rejoice in it as it is" (p. 9). "To reduce life to the scope of our understanding (whatever 'model' we use)," Berry writes, "is inevitably to enslave it, make property of it, and put it up for sale" (p. 7).

In Berry's view, the priorities of science have become synonymous with the goals of industry and commerce, and he advocates emancipating ourselves from corporations, "whose appetites for 'growth' [seem] now ungovernable" (p. 15). He writes: "It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines" (p. 55). He encourages us to "shift the priority from production to local adaption, from innovation to familiarity, from power to elegance, from costliness to thrift" (p. 12).

The thread of wisdom that runs through these times of despair is that "life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving" (p. 45).

G. Merritt

5-0 out of 5 stars Against modern superstition (against the scientism fallacy).
Motivated by a reading of E.O. Wilson's polemic, 'Consilience' (1998), studied essayist Wendell Berry brings a sledgehammer to scientism's glass menagerie that dazzles and evangelizes our "gee whiz" era. A review that suggests Berry understands Wilson's argument better that Wilson does is essentially right. The target is not strictly Wilson or his book, but clearly Wilson's central premise and arguments furnish all of the springboard that Berry's essay against "modern superstition" might hope for. This is NOT a diatribe against modern science or its methods, as some detractors might suggest. This is abundantly clear in the treatment of Berry's discussions with his friend and associate, geneticist Wes Jackson (A Conversation Out of School). The target here is a vitriolic scientism "captured by the dream" of intellectual imperialism. We might say fascism. Scientism is not merely a logical fallacy (which of course it is) or a harmless deception; given science's cultural influence and corporate malleability, scientism is dangerous in that its adherent sees its practitioners as gods, final diviners of ALL truth. "Enchantment", Wilson dreamily calls it. His view of a deistic and deterministic world-machine is evocative of nineteenth century philosophies of science. There is ample reason for sober and critical examination of a cultural priesthood of "predictably inept masters." Articulate and clear-minded Wendell Berry is a perceptive examiner.
This against not science, but human arrogance: "The only science we have or can have is human science; it has human limits and is involved ever with human ignorance and human error. It is a fact that the solutions invented or discovered by science have tended to lead to new problems or to become problems themselves. Scientists discovered how to use nuclear energy to solve some problems, but any use of it is enormously dangerous to us all, and scientists have not discovered what to do with the waste. (They have not discovered what to do with old tires.) The availability of antibiotics leads to the overuse of antibiotics. And so on. Our daily lives are a daily mockery of our scientific pretensions. . . Science does not seem to be lighting the way; we seem rather to be leapfrogging into the dark along series of scientific solutions, which become problems, which call for further solutions, which science is always eager to supply, and which sometimes it cannot supply. Sometimes it fails us infamously and fearfully." p 32, 33.
Against Berry's obviously correct argument, a defense of Wilson suggests that he is characterized wrongly in that he doesn't assert that science is "good". This is superfluous hair-splitting that does no damage to Berry's argument. Wilson's understands science as "Enchantment" (with a capital 'E'), as "wonderful" and as humanity's final and ultimate "religion". Wilson asserts that science is "the first medium devised able to unite people everywhere." (p269, Consilience, 1999) Sounds exceedingly "good" to me.
Of course science is wonderful, enchanting too. But it can never logically and by its own methods prove that it is the singular watershed of all "knowledge", let alone all truth. To understand what human science is and is not, I recommend a broad reading of physicists including Roger Penrose, Paul Davies and John Polkinghorne, and in particular Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions."

Also read this excellent offering from Wendell Berry -- "O you mighty gods!"

5-0 out of 5 stars And Wonderful!
Berry argues for the primacy of life and the need to understand and accept life's ultimate mysteries. More specifically, he engages in a elocuent polemic with E.O. Wilson's attempt at a "theory of everything" as presented in Wilson's "Consilience". This is the "modern superstition" referred to in Berry's subtitle: that the world is ultimately knowable.
Before entering into debate with "Consilience", Berry sets the context for his essay in a majestual chapter on "Propriety", which he understands as an awareness of our interconnectedness and of the centrality of having consciousness of contexts and environments (biological, social, and cultural). He sums it up this way: "The idea of propriety makes an issue of the fittingness of our conduct to our places or circumstances, evn to our hopes. It acknowledges the always pressing realities of context and of influence; we cannot act speak or act or live out of context." He goes on to point out that when we speak of, for example, "environmental crises" we acknowledge this standard, and thus, we raise, willingly or not, the issue of propriety.
Berry is a fine writer whose prose projects the author's personality wonderfully. I encourage anyone reading this to also read some of Berry's poetry -- outstanding.
I sincerely believe that all HS and college students should read this book as a prologue to their education. It should be read alongside Wilson's "Consilience".

2-0 out of 5 stars E. O. Wilson is misunderstood
Wendell Berry is a true master of prose, and perhaps among the finest fiction writers of this century. But he doesn't seem to understand science, or the pre-eminent scientist/philospher of the current age, E. O. Wilson.

Wilson has never made any claim that science is "good", as many reviewers and Berry seem to insinuate. Wilson simply is philosophizing on the reductionist techniques that humans use to dissect and understand their physical world. Berry becomes incensed that scientists would try to reduce the world down to its component parts. Well sorry to disappoint, Mr. Berry, but they do. It's simply an observation.

Wilson does use some judgemental language when comparing the scientific method to religious superstitions that were rampant prior to the Enlightenment. Berry uncleverly titles his book an "essay against modern superstition", presumably meaning science.

I have become a fan of Dr. Wilson, and I believe that Mr. Berry has much in common with him-- both are inveterate conservationists who value the health of our planet. Wilson's final chapter is a polemic on the dire consequences we face if we do not evolve our thinking away from resource consumption and toward the salvation of our physical environment.

I simply think that Berry has misunderstood Wilson's treatise on Consilience. Berry would rather gaze out his window at all the flora and fauna and regard it all as "miraculous", and not make any attempt at understanding the processes leading to the rapid disintigration of our planet. ... Read more


18. It Ain't Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions
by Richard Lewontin
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
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Asin: 0940322951
Catlog: Book (2001-10)
Publisher: New York Review of Books
Sales Rank: 395352
Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

It Ain't Necessarily So combines sharp criticism of scientific claims with lucid expositions of the state of current scientific knowledge. Among the subjects discussed are heredity, natural selection, and genetic determinism. This edition contains new essays on the Human Genome Project and genetically modified foods. ... Read more

Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Collection of Essays
First a word on the format of this book: This is a collection of Lewontin's articles written for The New York Review of Books of the last decade. In each case Lewontin has chosen a topic of general interest in the general area of the biological sciences and written a survey of the area intended for the general reader. In typical New York Review fashion, this survey is done in the guise of a review of one or more books recently published in the area.

The columns are much more survey than book review and serve as excellent introductions to the disciplines for the non-specialist reader. Lewontin has included wonderful ascerbic responses to his columns and has updated the area with an epologue to each chapter that surveys recent developments.

The topics will interest the general reader: Recent Darwinian thinking, intelligence testing and brain metrics, the genome project, the biology of sexual equality, biology of the mind and cloning. In every case, Lewontin surveys the intellectual terrain and provides insight. In excellant survey of biological developments for the general reader.

3-0 out of 5 stars Which gene generated this book?
A collection of disparate essays is an elusive target for a reviewer. The range of topics here is wide and of varying quality. With essays ranging from IQ testing through the Darwinian revolution to the Human Genome Project and cloning, Lewontin is able to declaim his own expertise in whichever subject he approaches. As with most New York Review of Books authors, he's witty and cleverly subtle when assaulting those authors or ideas he's contesting; passionately assertive in support. When you've finished the review, however, you're often left with little foundation for deciding whether you should buy that particular book for yourself. The usual reaction is wishing to run out and find all the other sources he refers to for confirming information.

The only consistent theme in this compilation is that of the iconoclast. Chipping away at perceived flaws in other people is a Lewontin specialty. He has favoured targets, such as Richard Dawkins and Philip Rushton, are frequently mentioned. A glaring omission, particularly in the updating Epilogue to "Darwin's Revolution", is that of Daniel C. Dennett's DARWIN'S DANGEROUS IDEA. Given Dennett's scathing critique of The Spandrels of San Marco, co-authored by Lewontin and Stephen Gould, the oversight surprises.

The most engaging sections of the book are essays on the Human Genome Project, genetics and cloning. In an effort to undercut scientists like E.O. Wilson or Richard Dawkins, Lewontin attempts to restrict DNA's role to 'the stupid molecule' it was once considered. Using every verbal trick available, he writes a lawyer's brief against the Project and its supporters. Stripping away nearly every function DNA performs and removing it from its environment, he leaves the reader wondering if 'the stupid molecule' is worth the funding. Like many others, Lewontin knows The Human Genome Project isn't a scientific enterprise, but a business one. He's correct in that assessment, but his hidden agenda remains shrouded. Lewontin is terrified that once the genome has been mapped and better understood, this Agassiz Research Professor will discover that human beings aren't the divinely placed species he and many others would like us to be. Because he can think about so many esoteric subjects and salamanders can't [or at least can't express those thoughts], it follows that we're elevated above the other animals instead of simply different. Lewontin is a tenured human and demotion holds no appeal. He's not alone in that, which is why his books sell.

The book needs an index. There are simply too many topics and names running through this collection for either Lewontin nor The New York Review to be excused for this lack. In a time of electronic word processing the omission is unforgivable. A bibliography of recommended readings would also be a benefit. If he took the trouble to update his opinions, he could have helped the reader along with supporting information. Not an approach one would admire in an academic.

4-0 out of 5 stars Words do matter to Lewontin
Words do matter to Lewontin, and his portrayal of scientists as pontificating from a position of "objective truth" is not an indictment of individual scientists, but rather, a charge against the whole scientific enterprise. And the charge will stick. Each scientist exemplifies this, some to greater, and others to a lesser, degree. Speaking from 35 years experience as a scientist, I can say Lewontin is much more right, than wrong in his assertion. For the most part, the modern scientific enterprise is contaminated by scientists believing they are working at the "wholesale" level when it comes to "objective' truth, while the rest of people unknowingly work "retail," making culturally-biased statements which merely pass as "truth." This problem intensified after the Enlightenment, when natural philosophers (scientists) began to seriously confuse an arrogant superficial materialism/a priori rationalism with true science (information painstakingly and imperfectly derived from studying a world which is diffuclt or impossible to fully comprehend). Lewontin has caught on to this.

1-0 out of 5 stars Do words matter?
It may be understandable that authors get at times carried away but they may want to remember that irrational generalizations belong in tabloids and should be banned from serious discurse (especially on issues that are of general concern!). How much credibility has an author who rants on like this:

"Scientists, by their practices, seem to place little importance on the actual composition of their communication. For example they never read their papers aloud when they give talks about their work, but speak ex tempore. For other intellectuals the words are the matter but scientists think of themselves as simply objectively reporting the facts of nature. Like the Delphic Oracle they sit perched on their tripods, with upturned eyeballs, and out of their mouths' issue nature's words (p.189)"

I do not know where Lewontin, a scientist himself, has encountered these caricatures. My own experience after working in the sciences for 9 years suggests that scientists, just like the rest of us, are not paradigm cases but individuals. So if Lewontin has specific complaints about specific scientists he should listen to his own advice that "words are the matter" and phrase his criticism appropriately. Otherwise he may want to remember that above and away from the shrine of Delphi is a grove that is difficult to reach, at the end of an ancient cobblestone trail called the Kalki Skala, or "evil stairway." Nearby are two pinnacles from which those convicted of sacrilege against the gods were thrown to their deaths.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent...
First, the only reason this book gets four stars instead of five is because of the 'book review' format, and as book reviews the essays largely fail. As counteractive theoretical essays, however, they are insightful, scathing, and thorough. A friend of mine wanted to reread "The Selfish Gene" because it's a perennial favorite of humanities snobs, now I'll direct her to this text first.

This book deals much more with the philosophical implications authors imply in their texts than the actual Science, but has enough Science to placate those looking for basic information on genetics, etc. Lewontin's humble and witty approach is welcoming, and his thought process is enjoyable. His 'tell it like it is' approach to issues like Social Darwinism and the Human Genome Project are worth reading, especially for people relegated outside the physical and natural sciences who may be unaware of these perspectives. (Especially those who infrequently read Science texts and are consequently doomed to linger in outdated material).

The key strength of this text lies in its challenging other arguments, which is often stronger than texts with centralized theses. Because of Lewontin's critical authority, he is freer from the ideological rampages that blind many of the authors he addresses. My favorite sections of the text were the 'exchanges,' where authors wrote in to the magazine criticizing Lewontin and he responds. For the reviewer here who rebuked Lewontin for his simple approach to complex problems or his philosophical leaning, note that often those letters he responds to are written by the authors of the books he derides. If he has missed 'the point' that they were forwarding, it is addressed there, and if he has not and you see other discrepancies than you've one upped the authors and should look for more sophisticated arguments anyway. After all, if you can't adequately defend your own work against 'paltry' arguments, how strong is it in the first place?

This text's subject matter is broad and marvelously entertaining. Read up! ... Read more


19. The Best American Science Writing 2002 (Best American Science Writing (Paperback))
by Matt Ridley, Alan Lightman
list price: $13.95
our price: $11.16
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Asin: 0060936509
Catlog: Book (2002-09-01)
Publisher: Ecco
Sales Rank: 122803
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

If, as Matt Ridley suggests, science is simply the search for new forms of ignorance, then perhaps it follows that with science's advances come new questions. Will human genetic engineering become commonplace? Will human cloning ever be safe? Are there many universes? How much will the climate change during the coming century?

The Best American Science Writing 2002 gathers top writers and scientists covering the latest developments in the fastest-changing, farthest-reaching scientific fields, such as medicine, genetics, computer technology, evolutionary psychology, cutting-edge physics, and the environment. Among this year's selections: In "The Made-to-Order Savior," Lisa Belkin spotlights two desperate families seeking an unprecedented cure by a medically and ethically unprecedented means -- creating a genetically matched child. Margaret Talbot's "A Desire to Duplicate" reveals that the first human clone may very likely come from an entirely unexpected source, and sooner than we think. Michael Specter reports on the shock waves rippling through the field of neuroscience following the revolutionary discovery that adult brain cells might in fact regenerate ("Rethinking the Brain"). Christopher Dickey's "I Love My Glow Bunny" recounts with sly humor a peculiar episode in which genetic engineering and artistic culture collide. Natalie Angier draws an insightful contrast between suicide terrorists and rescue workers who risk their lives, and finds that sympathy and altruism have a definite place in the evolution of human nature, David Berlinski's "What Brings a World into Being?" ponders the idea of biology and physics as essentially digital technologies, exploring the mysteries encoded in the universe's smallest units, be they cells or quanta. Nicholas Wade shows how one of the most controversial books of the year, The Skeptical Environmentalist, by former Greenpeace member and self-described leftist Bjorn Lomborg, debunks some of the most cherished tenets of the environmental movement, suggesting that things are perhaps not as bad as we've been led to believe. And as a counterpoint, Darcy Frey's profile of George Divoky reveals a dedicated researcher whose love of birds and mystery leads to some sobering discoveries about global warming and forcefully reminds us of the unsung heroes of science: those who put in long hours, fill in small details, and take great trouble.

In the end, the unanswered questions are what sustain scientific inquiry, open new frontiers of knowledge, and lead to new technologies and medical treatments. The Best American Science Writing 2002 is a series of exciting reports from science's front lines, where what we don't know is every bit as important as what we know.

... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Compelling collection of fascinating reading
These are exactly the type of articles I love to read on airplanes trips or in doctors' offices. Real science written for non-scientists.

5-0 out of 5 stars More! More!
These essays are phenomenal- all intriguing and all lingering in our minds well after reading. Science writing is an art I particularly relish. The math is gone- and that's good- indeed all of the qualifiers for a scientific career or training are reduced to one- fascination- and there's plenty of that in this collection. My favorite author, in this category is Jerome Groopman, M.D. a feature writer for the New Yorker and a practicing oncologist. His topic is cell-speak, the astounding discovery that cells communicate between distances. The scientific term is `signal transduction.' Groopman's prose evokes molecular music receiving and answering and generating movement. Skeleton like structures are woven by these messages and the whole stunning revelation becomes political, economic and religious in its challenges and possibilities. The least of which is nothing less than universal design and grand scale unity of all matter. Microscopic matters, as equally valuable to the private sector laboratories as to the religious nature of being and infinity.
Athol Gwande, another New Yorker writer, writes about the painful ramifications of excessive blushing. The embarrassment is so defeating that people undergo surgery- and not minor surgery- just to control it. Post surgery, people report a quality of life surge that makes the risks and costs well worth it. Perhaps the most allegorical piece is a study of the plastic surgeon who dreams of giving people wings and other improvements as implanting rods and cones to make our vision more spectacular. These dreams are oddly absent when the same physician attends to remodeling a face eaten away by cancer. At odds most dramatically by the callow bedside manner and the narcisistic ego of this Leonardo of the dream. Condemned by colleagues and despised by the residents we try to ascertain if he is a visionary, Icarus or would he create another Frankenstein.
The strange and the miraculous are in turn celebrated and given to dark reservations and caution. All of the entries are nothing less than Magnificent! ... Read more


20. Cosmic Horizons: Astronomy at the Cutting Edge (American Museum of Natural History Books)
by Neil De Grasse Tyson, Steven Soter
list price: $24.95
our price: $24.95
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Asin: 1565846028
Catlog: Book (2001-04-01)
Publisher: New Press
Sales Rank: 511413
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Book Description

Leading experts explain the discoveries of modern astrophysics in an illustrated companion to the American Museum of Natural History's newly renovated Rose Center for Earth and Space. Cosmic Horizons illuminates the most recent discoveries of modern astrophysics with essays by leading astronomers, including NASA scientists. The book also features profiles of astronomers such as Carl Sagan and Georges Lemaître (father of the Big Bang theory), case studies that cover the controversial evidence for the possibility of life on Mars, and stunning four-color photographs throughout. Written for the general reader, Cosmic Horizons makes the complex, abstract areas of astronomy and astrophysics—from the Big Bang to black holes—accessible and comprehensible to the public. Complementing the museum's acclaimed new Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center exhibition, the book investigates how the universe expands to produce galaxies, stars, and planets, and, perhaps, life on other worlds. It also examines some of the emerging technologies that make these discoveries possible. With more than eighty full-color images and a resource section that includes a bibliography and an extensive glossary, Cosmic Horizons offers a new appreciation of the complexities of time and space and a greater understanding of our fragile planet and the universe beyond. Four-color illustrations throughout.

The New Press is pleased to announce the publication of this new title with the American Museum of Natural History, a collaboration that began with the publication of Epidemic! in 2000.

Founded in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is one of the world's preeminent institutions for scientific research and education, visited by more than four million people annually. Three new titles, Earth, The Biodiversity Crisis, and Cosmic Horizons, are companion volumes to three major new permanent exhibitions at the museum: the David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, the Hall of Biodiversity, and the Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space. ... Read more


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