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21. The Best American Science and
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22. The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism,
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23. Buckminster Fuller : Anthology
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21. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002 (The Best American (TM))
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0618134786
Catlog: Book (2002-10-15)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 237197
Average Customer Review: 4.8 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 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 2002, edited by Natalie Angier, is another "eclectic, provocative collection" (Entertainment Weekly). Malcolm Gladwell, Joy Williams, Barbara Ehrenreich, Burkhard Bilger, Dennis Overbye, and many more of the best and brightest writers on science and nature explore such topics as the rise and fall of Islamic science, disappearing cancers, and the meaning of mountain lions in the back yard.
... Read more

Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars A real pleasure
This is a truly wonderful anthology. Thought-provoking, humorous, almost every chapter taught me something new and fascinating.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Collection
This series is awesome! An anthology such as this allows the reader to get a taste of some wonderful articles without the possibly harrowing search for the diamond in the rough. All articles are well written and the subject matter is diverse. A true treat!

4-0 out of 5 stars a new year of science
The Best American Science and Nature Writing series is always a great joy to pick up. This is the way to keep up with general science without spending hundreds of dollars on magazines and journals (well, not really, but it is a good series of books to read). This year Natalie Angier, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of _Woman: An Intimate Geography_ is the guest editor. None of the essays stand out as newborn classics, but they are good essays. And they cover the range of fields.

Anthropology - Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's "Mothers and Others"

Biology - Frederick C. Crews' "Saving Us from Darwin" originally published in The New York Review of Books (Crews attacks every form of creationism and the blending of science and religion, including Gould, but offers us no alternative idea or solution-that's what kept this essay from being an instant classic); H. Bruce Franklin's "The Most Important Fish in the Sea" (ecology/conservation science); Gordon Grice's "Is That a Mountain Lion in Your Backyard?"; "The Dirt in the New Machine" by Blaine Harden (which is both an ecology and technology essays); "Life's Rocky Start", an essay on the origin of life on earth and the importance of minerals, by Robert M. Hazen; Anne Matthews' "Wall Street Losses, Wall Street Gains" which is about birdwatching and the World Trade Towers; Chet Raymo "A Little Reminder of Reality's Scale" (a brief piece from the Boston Globe); Peter Stark's embarrassing piece (at least he should be embarrassed by this half poorly written 'fiction' with facts on jellyfish-the most poisonous one there is) titled "The Sting of the Assassin"; Joy Williams' "One Acre" about her little plot in Florida that she tried to keep ecologically safe and sound

Medicine - Barbara Ehrenreich's essay about her fight with breast cancer "Welcome to Cancerland" (a great essay that is also included in the Best American Essays"; Gary Greenberg's touching essay "As Good as Dead" (about a young boy who has a brain tumor in his head and his incredible courage to continue living and dreaming and planning for his future); Judith Newman's"I Have Seen Cancer's Disappear"

Psychology - Roy F. Baumeister's "Violent Pride" (written in a pseudo-highschool-science fair report style. This could have been a great study, but...): Malcolm Gladwell's "Examined Life" (about the SATs and test taking); "Dumb, Dumb, Duh Dumb" by Steve Mirsky (again, about our test scores); Daniel Smith "Shock and Disbelief" which is about ECT of things-yes, the pros of electroconvulsive therapy

Physics - K.C. Cole's "Mind Over Matter" (originally in the L.A. Times); the heavy material of Dark Matter by Karen Wright ("Very Dark Energy" which first appeared in Discover

Computers - Clive Thompson's "The Know-It-All Machine" which goes into artificial intelligence

And the others: Burkhard Bilger's essay on eating odd animals, "Braised Shank of Free-Range Possum"; "In the Realm of Virtual Reality" by Richard Conniff and Harry Marshall, which discusses pseudozoology (creatures like the Yeti and such); Garret Keizer's essay on sound and noise, "Sound and Fury" (from Harper's); Verlyn Klinkenborg's odd newspaper column, "The Pursuit of Innocence in the Golden State", which is about California, but more on a two sentence sociological statement; Robert Kunzig's "Ripe for Controversy" which discusses cheese and health regulations' Dennis Overbye's "How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science" ; Eric Schlosser's "Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good"

and above all, these essays are easy enough for the layperson, but good for the expert as well.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superb collection of Articles
As a longtime science and health writer, when I saw this title, it leaped out at me. What a good way to see the articles that are considered the best-- to see what kinds of articles mainstream magazines are buying, in terms of topic, style, approach, etc.

It's been a delightful surprise to discover that this book is just loaded with brilliantly written, fascinating articles covering an incredible range of topics. If you enjoy the world of science-- if you read Discover, Scientific American, New Scientist, Science News, Nature-- then you'll love this book.
Actually, I could just as easily mention magazines like The New Yorker, Atlantic, Smithsonian.... because the writing is certainly good enough to make into their pages.. and has.

Some of the articles are just fun to read. Some have been wonderfully helpful in filling in some ideas I've been working on. For example, the article on child rearing, which reports an anthropological approach which studied humans and other primates gave me ideas that plug in beautifully with the ideas on the prefrontal lobes, affect regulation and parent child interaction that Allan Schore writes about. It actually ties that together with Thom Hartmann's hunter farmer model of ADHD. But that's just one article. I've been amazed how, as I'd start out each article with the intent to browse, I'd shift gears to reading each and every one in depth.

Turning someone on to this book will be a real gift. it's a gem.

5-0 out of 5 stars Natalie Angier is a genius
I have actively sought out and enjoyed Angier's writing for about 5 years now, after reading her work casually in the New York Times for more than a decade. Part of the reason I enjoy her so much is that our political tendencies are similar -- lefty, feminist, liberal, humanist, scientific.
Her selections of the year reflect this left-leaning temperament, and thus I couldn't help but love them all. Can't wait to read what she does next. ... Read more


22. The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment
by Richard Lewontin
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
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Asin: 0674006771
Catlog: Book (2001-11-01)
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Sales Rank: 100081
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

One of our most brilliant evolutionary biologists, Richard Lewontin has also been a leading critic of those--scientists and non-scientists alike--who would misuse the science to which he has contributed so much. In The Triple Helix, Lewontin the scientist and Lewontin the critic come together to provide a concise, accessible account of what his work has taught him about biology and about its relevance to human affairs. In the process, he exposes some of the common and troubling misconceptions that misdirect and stall our understanding of biology and evolution. The central message of this book is that we will never fully understand living things if we continue to think of genes, organisms, and environments as separate entities, each with its distinct role to play in the history and operation of organic processes. Here Lewontin shows that an organism is a unique consequence of both genes and environment, of both internal and external features. Rejecting the notion that genes determine the organism, which then adapts to the environment, he explains that organisms, influenced in their development by their circumstances, in turn create, modify, and choose the environment in which they live. The Triple Helix is vintage Lewontin: brilliant, eloquent, passionate, and deeply critical. But it is neither a manifesto for a radical new methodology nor a brief for a new theory. It is instead a primer on the complexity of biological processes, a reminder to all of us that living things are never as simple as they may seem. ... Read more

Reviews (7)

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting book: OTHER things than DNA structure our lives
This an interesting book by an author who, pretty much, stopped writing when he completed his message.
His main message is that DNA is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to the structure of life. Other important factors are the conditions within the organism's cell (including what chemicals are present, and how the DNA folds), what the organism's environment is, and how the organism changes that environment.
Lewontin worries that because scientists can now easily analyze and manipulate genetic structure, scientists will overemphasize research on the DNA structure itself, leaving other important and significant biology unstudied.
The author also points out that while dramatic mutations are chosen to study mutations, many mutations aren't so dramatic, and that some of the "dramatic mutations" are in fact the combination of several lesser mutations.
The writing is unnecessarily complex in places, including one passage where the author claims "Causal claims are usually ceteris paribus, but in biology all other things are almost never equal." How many readers recognize the Latin phrase "ceteris paribus" ? The author also buys into the duality so common in discourse: _either_ DNA is the only important thing, _or_ DNA is a minor side-issue. What happened to the middle road?

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent non technical overview
Ok, so my review will be short. I believe this book is excelent since it accomplish to set clear why genetic determinism is wrong. Genes do not act by their own, they do so inside a cell which (at least in multicelular organisms) is just one more in millions (being that a prudent estimate to a small organism) whith whom it comunicates. Now, this is just part of the story, you still have to consider this organism lives in a specific habitat in which it develops (crucial step) and in which it feeds, moves (if it can), etc. So utimately genes are a full orchestra directed by surroundings.

I highly recomend this book to anyone interested in Molecular Biology, Genetics or Developmental Biology, it is basic but esential.

4-0 out of 5 stars A triple knot for 'popular genetics'
Like everything else in life why should the reading of the Human Genome remain free discussion and debate on its merits and its false promises? THE TRIPLE HELIX like another recent book in the same vein - THE CENTURY OF THE GENE, - take it as their duty to throw cold water on all the happy gene talk in recent popular science books.

The Human Genome Project is not the primary target for criticism here; what Mr Lewontin objects to is the simplified approach of popular biology that insists on treating genes, organisms, and environments as distinctly seperate. Instead "taken together, the relations of genes, organisms, and environment are reciprocal relations in which all three elements are both cause and effects. Genes and environment are both causes of organisms, which are, in turn, causes of environments, so that genes become causes of environments as mediated by the organism." Quite plainly he says that organisms alter, modify, or in some cases create, their environments. Therefore in the great either/or debate on nature versus nurture, Mr Lewontin would argue it's neither/nor.

Taking neither side of the debate may lead one to believe that Mr Lewontin is then a supporter of a new theory, or an advocate of a new approach to determining biological truths. Not so. "It is not new principles that we need but a willingness to accept the consequences of the fact that biological systems occupy a different region of the space of physical relations than do simpler physico-chemical systems...that is, organisms are internally heterogeneous open systems."

General readers can manage the book because Mr Lewontin writes well, and in being critical, he takes time to explain his views. He's a leftist so he hits out at the usual targets, but he's also an independent thinker so sacred subjects of the left such as conservationism and protecting the environment also get a bit of stick. He believes that environments exist only with reference to the animals and plants that inhabit them, and furthermore, an environment can not be held in an unchanging state.

I enjoy reading some of the popular biology books that Mr Lewontin criticizes and his views on some of my pet subjects made me sit up. You need thick skin when reading Mr Lewontin but there are few better to learn from.

4-0 out of 5 stars Why the genome project may disappoint
This little book contains three lectures given by Lewontin at the Lezioni Italiani in Milan a few years ago. It is technical and aimed at an educated readership. Since there is not enough space here to discuss the entire book, I will concentrate on a brief discussion of the first, "Gene and Organism."

In this lecture Professor Lewontin outlines the role that genes, environment and chance ("random noise") play in the development of an organism. As he phrases it on page 20: "the organism is not specified by its genes, but is a unique outcome of an ontogenetic process that is contingent on the sequence of environments in which it occurs." This means that you could take the same genetic code and have it unfurl in Hyde Park and get an organism different from one you would get having it unfurl on, say, the Boston commons. Lewontin shows how cuttings from the same plant cultured at different altitudes developed differentially, and in a manner that could not be predicted. The reason they could not be predicted is that there is a significant amount of random variation ("developmental noise") that occurs as the plant grows. Lewontin gives the further example of a multiplying bacterium on page 37. The bacterium divides in 63 minutes. In another 63 minutes the daughter cells should divide again, giving four bacteria, but actually there is some random variation in how long it takes them to divide, so that one daughter divides in say 55 minutes, the other in an hour and five minutes. And this continues so that the bacteria culture does not increase in pulses, but continuously in random increments. This difference in timing in multi-cellar organisms may result in morphological differences since a catalytic enzyme may arrive too late to, say, grow a side bristle on a fruit fly (an example that Lewontin gives). Lewontin applies this understanding to the development of our brains on page 38. First there are random connections set. "Those connections that are reinforced from external inputs during neural development are stabilized, while the others decay and disappear." This process, Lewontin advises us, can lead to differences in cognitive function that are neither strictly genetic nor strictly environmental. They are influenced by random (unpredictable) factors.

This understanding is the reason that Lewontin is less than thrilled with the Human Genome Project. He believes, as he makes clear in another book, It Ain't Necessary So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions (2000), that we will be disappointed by what can be accomplished simply from sequencing the genetic code, his point being that even though we know the code, the environmental and random factors cannot be known in any precise or predictive sense. It is true that the genome for a chimp will always code for a chimp and never for a rabbit, but whether that chimp is good at math or has unusually aggressive tendencies is something we cannot know from an understanding of the genetic code alone. Chance and environmental factors in development can result in a passive chimp even though its parents are aggressive.

Applying this idea to evolution in general, we can see that individual variation is not strictly a result of environmental differences but also of chance differences. Consequently, what we are is not shaped strictly by adaptive pressure (natural selection) but is to some extent the result of purely random processes. At one time in my life I studied chance and random events, and one of the most important things I learned is that the term "random" is not clearly defined, except in the sense that something that is random is unpredictable, which is a "you can't prove a negative" sort of definition. I also learned that there is considerable doubt as to whether a truly randomizing device actually exists. All real world devices, such as roulette wheels and computer random number algorithms can be shown to have some tiny bias, or to break down at the extremes. (Don't trust the random number generator on your computer when you are generating a very large number of trials: it will begin to repeat, and your Monte Carlo simulation will be flawed.) So what Lewontin calls "random events" are actually events that we simply do not know enough about to describe accurately. It may be that with greater ability we will eventually be able to describe or control these events. However, it may also be that at some level such events are the direct result of the probabilistic nature of a quantum event, and therefore in principle unpredictable. I suspect that Lewontin believes something like this.

In the second lecture Lewontin makes the point that to a significant degree organisms create their environment, and it is wrong to think of a place (such as the surface of the moon) without organisms as an environment. His dictum is "...[T]here are no environments without organisms" (p. 67). In the third lecture Lewontin discusses some of the problems associated with genetic causation and its analysis. There is a fourth chapter in which Lewontin attempts to provide some direction for future studies in biology.

I did not understand his assertion on page 81 that "Only a quasi-religious commitment to the belief that everything in the world has a purpose would lead us to provide a functional explanation for fingerprint ridges or eyebrows or the patches of hair on men's chests." The hair, I imagine is the result of sexual selection, but surely the fingerprint ridges allow us a better grip, and our eyebrows shade the sunlight as well as providing some small cushioning for our eye sockets.

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
This little book is a nearly perfect antidote to books like Matt Ridley's Genome which tend to overstate the importance of decoding the human genome. In this wide-ranging discussion, Lewontin argues, among other things, that genes do not 'compute' organisms, and that organisms actively 'construct' their own environments. Lewontin's writing is elegant and concise. He succeeds in communicating (sometimes difficult) concepts in ways that a layman can understand.

P.S. The book information given above, as to page count, is inaccurate: I count 136 pages, not 192. Indeed, my only minor complaint is that the book is rather expensive, considering its length. ... Read more


23. Buckminster Fuller : Anthology for the New Millennium
list price: $32.50
our price: $21.45
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Asin: 0312266391
Catlog: Book (2001-01-20)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 133357
Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars still ahead, still the best
During most of his life in the last century, one of the things most often said about Bucky was that he is a man "ahead of his time". Well it was true then and it is much more true today. Because since he left us (sort of) the world has been steadily regressing, until now we are involved in war without end. Fuller was famous for many things, synergetics, Dymaxion car and house, really famous for geodesic domes. But his enduring message, and what the world needs desperately to hear now, is the idea of "making the world work for 100% of humanity". By which he meant using the worlds resources to serve the basic needs of everyone on the planet. He taught us that there are no shortages, that there is enough to go around, and all we need to do this is the will to do it. In the world game he would explain how much it would cost for everyone to have enough- food, shelter, clean water, health care- even eliminate land mines and soil erosion and deforestation. He calculated the total cost for all this and more as about 30% of the world's military expenditures.
Bucky believes we are all world citizens, all fellow pasengers on spaceship earth. And that we need to learn to be together, to be just one people, and stop having wars and wasting the earths riches on weapons.
Utopian? of course it's utopian. It is also perfectly sensible and reasonable and intelligent . And human. It is, it must be, the way we should be, the world we should make, for all of us.
This beautiful book is full of his teachings and the enthusiastic tributes of his friends and students. Just buy it.
And stop the bombing!

3-0 out of 5 stars Why bother with Bucky now?
On page 242 of this anthology, in an excerpt from Fuller's second book on "Synergetics," Fuller writes,

"The epistemography of synergetics discovers operationally, experientially, and experimentally that the most primitive of the conceptual systems to be divided or isolated from nonunitarily and nonsimultaneously conceptual Scenario Universe most inherently consist of the simplest minimum considerability none of whose components can exist independently of one another."

Passages in Fuller's writings like this, which sound like schizophrenic word-salads, make me wonder why Fuller still has the cult following he does. Although he was capable of writing reasonably clear explanations of his ideas and discoveries, more often than not he managed to sabotage his efforts at communication by cranking out arcane assertions like the one above. How was he able to get books full of such obscure rhetoric commercially published in the first place? At least technical textbooks are usually written in ways that can be assimilated into the existing context of knowledge. Fuller was writing way outside of the conceptual box, and many of his "ideas," if they could be called that, are still essentially homeless.

This anthology doesn't really demonstrate to my satisfaction why we should continue to study Fuller's legacy nearly two decades after his death. The geodesic dome fad has passed; few people these days advocate providing for "100% of humanity" through some conjectural "design science" based on Fuller's ideas, and doing so now sounds hopelessly naive and utopian; and we're just as burdened with having to "make a living" as ever, despite all the propaganda about the "affluence" and "abundance" in our society. (Just look at the proliferation of nonproductive and low-paying "service" jobs in the U.S. economy. For example, refer to Barbara Ehrenreich's book _Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America_.) Fuller's prediction (on page 212) that we'd have "sustainable abundance for all" by 1985 sounds ridiculous now.

The contrasting posthumous reputations of Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright demonstrate how our culture's priorities have changed since Fuller's heyday in the idealistic 1960's. Wright is still considered a living presence in American architecture, mainly because he built innovative structures for wealthy, paying clients. Fuller has fallen into relative obscurity in part because he tried to design cheap, efficient housing for the world's lumpen-people, like the ones in Muslim countries who view America as their enemy. Our choices in architectural heroes reflect the current belief that financially successful people are better than the rest of us. Fuller advocated a social philosophy that is fundamentally at odds with early 21st Century American ideals. I don't see how his thinking can be re-integrated into the current set of allowable social proposals.

5-0 out of 5 stars An opportunity to appreciate Bucky Fuller's contribution.
Anyone who makes Bucky Fuller's wisdom more available to the humankind for which he cared so deeply provides an enormous service. This anthology does that with gleanings of Fuller's writings as well as anecdotes from those whose life he touched. Unfortunately, it does little to explain in easily understood language what Bucky learned and attempted to teach and demonstrate.

The personal stories sandwiched in between excerpts from Bucky's writings do begin to provide insight into Bucky being what he claimed was most important about him - that he was an average healthy human. Throughout his life and work, he proved that the "little individual" can make an enormous difference. Unfortunately, that message often becomes lost in discussions of inventions, science, mathematics and engineering.

Bucky was and is, more than anything, a modern mystic. I feel that the most important writing contained in this book supports this. In her article, Barbara Marx Hubbard recounts that shortly prior to his passing he told her the truth of his famous 1927 mystic experience in which he decided to devote himself to the welfare of all humankind rather than commit suicide.

She writes that he told her that the voice that spoke to him actually said, "Bucky, you are to be a first mini-Christ on Earth. What you attest to is true." And that is how I feel Bucky lived during the next fifty-six years of his life. There is much to learn from the events of those fifty-six years.

I have been studying them and applying them to my life for nearly twenty years, and I find that Bucky did speak and live the truth. His wisdom helped me to write "Buckminster Fuller's Universe" and to recently create (a web site) in order to support others in going beyond his geodesic dome and other inventions and gaining access to Fuller's mystic wisdom.

This book is yet another artifact to help us all in our journey. Do not let Bucky's convoluted language dissuade your pursuit of his wisdom. Use this book and any others you may discover to help claim the legacy that he left us all.

5-0 out of 5 stars Will the 21st Century Be the Century of Buckminster Fuller?
This is an excellent anthology of the writings of Bucky Fuller, some of which are hard to get, with introductions by individuals ranging from Arthur C. Clark to Valerie Harper.
A Renaissance man--Fuller was an inventor, scientist, architect, poet, philosopher--Fuller may be the person whose hope, vision, and genius may propel this new century to ever greater heights!

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential wisdom if we are to prosper in the 21st Century
I urge everyone reading this review to not only buy this book but also to tell their friends to do so as well. In our post-Cold War, interdependent world we need to learn what Bucky had the foresight to be talking about - years and years ago. Namely, that prosperity in the future will depend on humans learning to cooperate with - rather than compete against - their fellow human beings. We are all passengers on the same spaceship. With the Cold War over, we have the technology - and the political opportunity - to create a world of "all winners and no losers." What's needed -as Einstein liked to point out - is "new thinking" to bring this about. Bucky's systems-based thinking is what Einstein was referring to.

Reading this book is like attending a black tie dinner for Buckminster Fuller. On a wide-range of subjects, a wonderfully diverse list of people reflect on how Bucky influenced their lives. Each person is introduced by the editor, who acts like the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. And each person's talk is followed by an excerpt from one of Bucky's writings. I think this is great approach to presenting Bucky, because potential readers should be able to relate to at least one of the speakers and topics mentioned. (Bucky was interested and involved in so many things that the book covers a lot of different subjects.)

I hope it will wet people's appetites to want to read more. And, not just to read, but also to want to talk about these ideas and how to get them into common use. Some support for that is available, in fact, from the Buckminster Fuller Institute ...

So, buy this book and have it be the beginning of your journey (if you're new to Bucky) or have it spark you to renewed levels of action. Adopting a systems-based view of the world is the only way Globalization will ever work! ... Read more


24. Experimenting in Tongues: Studies in Science and Language
list price: $21.95
our price: $21.95
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Asin: 0804744424
Catlog: Book (2002-06-15)
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Sales Rank: 726826
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25. Beyond Reason : Eight Great Problems That Reveal the Limits of Science
by A. K.Dewdney
list price: $27.95
our price: $18.45
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Asin: 0471013986
Catlog: Book (2004-04-09)
Publisher: Wiley
Sales Rank: 76071
Average Customer Review: 1 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

PRAISE FOR A.K. DEWDNEY'S PREVIOUS WORKS

2000f Nothing

"It is impossible to read this timely, important book without enjoyment and eye-opening enlightment."  -Martin Gardner

"In today's world 'innumeracy' is an even greater danger than illiteracy, and is perhaps more common.... I hope that this wise and witty book will provide cures where they are possible, and warnings where they are necessary. It's also a lot of fun. I can guarantee that 100 percent."  -Arthur C. Clarke

Yes, We  Have No Neutrons

"We need more books like this-especially if they're this much fun to read."-Wired

"Written with wit and a touch of pathos-and sure to please science lovers." -Publishers Weekly

The Planiverse

"It's not everyone who gets to design a universe from scratch but A.K. Dewdney has done just that."-The Boston Globe

"Once you have been captivated by the two-dimensional Ardean world, the problems facing its difficult technology haunt you, begging for more solutions. Arde easily becomes a puzzle without end." -The New York Times

A Mathematical Mystery Tour

"Dewdney spins an absorbing narrative...an amenable introduction to a difficult subject." -Publishers Weekly ... Read more

Reviews (2)

1-0 out of 5 stars Too Hard
This book is too hard. I don't like books with big words in them. If I don't understand a book, I think it's the author's fault, not mine. I shouldn't need more than a 3rd Grade education to understand any book about anything, even science stuff. Every author in the world should tailor their writing style to my attention span and vocabulary. If they can't, then they're either a horrible writer or their subject isn't really worth reading about. Otherwise it would be easy to explain. If it's complicated, it must be a waste of my time. I refuse to educate myself just so I can grow as a reader and eventually manage to read more difficult books. Who are these Ivory Tower academics, anyway, to decide who their audience should be?

(...)

1-0 out of 5 stars Very Confusing
The title of this book compelled me to try it as it sounded fascinating. However, I found it to be very difficult to understand for the average reader. Dewdney frequently introduces terms that he assumes the average person will understand. In most cases that is true, however there are a few times when it isn't. Furthermore, rather than relying on simple examples or other illustrations, he uses very difficult and elaborate examples. His writing clearly shows that he is a scientist and writing for an audience who has a significant background in science. I tried reading each of the 8 problems and came to the same conclusion. Writers like Bryson or even Hawking are much better at taking complex science and math and making them understandable to the layperson. ... Read more


26. On The Shoulders Of Giants: Harmonies Of The World (On the Shoulders of Giants)
by Johannes Kepler
list price: $9.95
our price: $8.96
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Asin: 0762420189
Catlog: Book (2005-01-31)
Publisher: Running Press Book Publishers
Sales Rank: 1536328
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Book Description

Book Five of Johannes Kepler's great masterpiece on planetary motion is presented with an introduction by the ultimate authority on this topic, noted physicist and bestselling author Stephen Hawking. Modifying Copernicus's sun-centered model of the universe, Kepler's 1619 work went on to establish laws of planetary motion, forming the basis for Newton's discoveries some 60 years later. As part of our On the Shoulders of Giants series, this translation of the original edition of Kepler's monumental essay includes an insightful biography and a highly accessible summary putting into context the significance of Harmony of the World.

Black-and-white illustrations. ... Read more


27. Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein's Letters to and from Children
by Alice Calaprice, Evelyn Einstein, Robert Schulmann
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.80
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Asin: 1591020158
Catlog: Book (2002-09-01)
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Sales Rank: 218604
Average Customer Review: 3.75 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"What holds the sun and planets in space?" "I want to know what is beyond the sky. My mother said you can tell me." "One question I would like to ask is if you make any mistakes?"

We are often amazed by the wide-eyed innocence and boundless curiosity of children and the questions they ask. And letters to and from children are always appealing, especially so when they are written to someone famous. In DEAR PROFESSOR EINSTEIN, Alice Calaprice has gathered a delightful and charming collection of more than sixty letters, most never published before, from children to perhaps the greatest scientist of all time. Obviously, Einstein could not respond to every letter written to him, but the responses he did find the time to write reveal the intimate human side of the great public persona, a man who, though he spent his days contemplating mathematics and physics, was very fond of children and enjoyed being in their company. Whether the children wrote to Einstein for class projects, out of curiosity, or because of prodding from a parent, their letters are amusing, touching, and sometimes quite precocious.

Enhancing this correspondence are numerous splendid photographs showing Einstein amid children, wearing an Indian headdress, carrying a puppet of himself, and donning fuzzy slippers, among many other wonderful pictures, many published for the first time in this book.

Complete with a foreword by Einstein's granddaughter Evelyn, a biography and chronology of Einstein's life, and an essay by Einstein scholar Robert Schulmann on the great scientist's educational philosophy, this wonderful compilation will be welcomed by teachers, parents, and all the young, budding scientists in their lives. ... Read more

Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Great book ABOUT Einstein, not by him.
This book has very little actually written by Einstein himself. It gives a brief biography and background of Einstein. The letters are from children and show the enormity of his fanbase in the 1940's and 50's. The biography is informative and there are plenty of interesting pictures. The letters are interesting, but toward the end, they seem repetitive. Still, it is a great book worth buying. Barnes and noble has a cheaper edition, which makes it well worth the 6 dollars!

3-0 out of 5 stars Misleading Title
I had been looking forward to this book's release for some time. As yet another self-confessed Einstein fan, the idea of a collection of correspondences between the greatest scientific mind in the history of human endeavour, and curious children from around the world, was irresistable. So, when I finally got my hands on it, I wanted to enjoy it very much. However, in the end, I felt a bit cheated and misled.

First of all, virtually the entire first half of the book (the first 110 pages!) contains no letters whatsoever. Instead it covers a biography of the scientist, discussions on his education, a photo gallery etc... While these were reasonably interesting, you can find similar material elsewhere, and was not the reason why I purchased the book.

And the letters themselves were a bit disappointing. While I enjoyed reading the funny and childish letters written to Einstein, the questions and comments they included whet my appetite for how Einstein might respond (are you going to go insane because all geniuses are said to go insane? Did Houdini discover the 4th dimension, allowing him to walk through walls? etc...). However, there were very few actual replies from Einstein (though the few there were were fascinating to read). Furthermore, many of the letters by Einstein included those to his own relatives or to grown ups - which I felt was not in keeping with the promise of the book.

This book reminded me of those music albums you buy because you hear one or two songs that you really like, only to discover that the remaining eight songs are just fillers to make up the space. Similarly, this book took a few gems and then made a book of it by adding a lot of extra stuff.

This book, titled "Dear Professor Einstein - Albert Einstein's Letters to and From Children" is misleading. I would have felt less cheated if it read something like "Dear Professor - a Biography of Einstein, including letters written to him (mainly from children) and the very few responses we could find that he made". However, that is a bit of a mouthful and probably less appealing from a marketing point of view.

I still gave it a 3 because it's about Einstein... did I mention I was an Einstein fan?

3-0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
A good book, but it was not what I expected. Only half the book is actual letters. There are very few with responses from Einstein. There are more letters from children than to children.

5-0 out of 5 stars Get to know the other side of Einstein!
This is a beautiful and touching book. The letters from children are printed exactly as they are written, spelling errors and all--some letters are even printed in their handwritten form. It is amazing how insightful some of the questions from the children are. Einstein's responses are written on the level of the original letter-writer, and are always well thought-out. I'm a big Einstein fan, and this was a gift that I greatly enjoyed. There were also some very interesting pictures of Einstein included in this book. ... Read more


28. Visualizations: The Nature Book of Art and Science
by Martin Kemp
list price: $34.95
our price: $23.07
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Asin: 0520223527
Catlog: Book (2001-02-05)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 406844
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Book Description

Martin Kemp's provocative essays on the interplay between art and science have been entertaining readers of Nature, the world's leading journal for the announcement of scientific discoveries, since 1997. These short, illustrated, highly regarded essays generally focus on one visual image from art or science and provide an evocative and erudite investigation into shared motifs in the two disciplines. Gathered together here with a delightfully rich introduction by the author, the essays take our understanding to an exciting new level as they transgress the traditional boundaries between art and science.

The images under consideration cover Western art from the Renaissance to the present day, and the science ranges from abstract mathematics to the illustrative modes of natural history and medicine. Kemp skillfully discusses the Mona Lisa as well as horror films, Galileo's moon drawings and diagrams in modern physics, Renaissance pottery and logos on trucks, the invention of perspective, and contemporary masterpieces.

Rather than charting the mutual influence of art and science upon each other, these essays look to the deeper structures that find expression in art and science; they reveal the "structural intuitions" shared by artists and scientists when confronting the world. This volume contains all the pieces published in Nature under the banners of "Art and Science" and "Science and Image," together with some from Kemp's recent "Science and Culture" series. The essays are presented thematically rather than chronologically, arranged to stimulate critical ideas about the nature of the image at the intersection of art and science, now and in the past. ... Read more


29. In the Land of the Blue Poppies : The Collected Plant-Hunting Writings of Frank Kingdon Ward (Modern Library Gardening Series.)
by FRANK KINGDON WARD
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
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Asin: 0812967399
Catlog: Book (2003-04-15)
Publisher: Modern Library
Sales Rank: 115696
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Book Description

A Modern Library Paperback Original

During the first years of the twentieth century, the British plant collector and explorer Frank Kingdon Ward went on twenty-four impossibly daring expeditions throughout Tibet, China, and Southeast Asia, in search of rare and elusive species of plants. He was responsible for the discovery of numerous varieties previously unknown in Europe and America, including the legendary Tibetan blue poppy, and the introduction of their seeds into the world’s gardens. Kingdon Ward’s accounts capture all the romance of his wildly adventurous expeditions, whether he was swinging across a bottomless gorge on a cable of twisted bamboo strands or clambering across a rocky scree in fear of an impending avalanche. Drawn from writings out of print for almost seventy-five years, this new collection, edited and introduced by professional horticulturalist and House & Garden columnist Tom Christopher, returns Kingdon Ward to his deserved place in the literature of discovery and the literature of the garden.
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30. The Best American Science & Nature Writing 2001
by Edward O Wilson, Burkhard Bilger
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0618153594
Catlog: Book (2001-10-10)
Publisher: Mariner Books
Sales Rank: 143345
Average Customer Review: 4.75 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Also an instant bestseller in the Best American series, this second annual Best American Science and Nature Writing volume, edited by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author, scientist, and naturalist Edward O. Wilson, promises to be another "eclectic, provocative collection" (Entertainment Weekly) that is both a science reader"s dream and a nature lover"s sustenance. ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars this is what the best american series is all about
Edward Wilson guest edits the second in the Science and Nature Writing Series, and unlike many of the guest editors in the other Series (like the Best American Short Stories for this year), he does a phenomenal job, and shows us what this series is all about. The essays come from magazines who focus on the general reader rather than the scientist. The essays are informative. They teach the reader quite a bit and point out things that come to a surprise to most of us (such as the state of the earth's water supply). And they do it in an entertaining way. Above all else, the essays collected here are fun to read and not loaded with jargon the layman can't understand. A special note: Bill Joy's essay on technology and our future should be read at least twice and thought on long and hard.

5-0 out of 5 stars Truth in packaging
Ed Wilson has added another brick to the edifice he's been constructing. For years he's struggled to enlighten us on our place in Nature. His building is a market where Nature's bounty and wonders are displayed. If we shop carefully, these goods will continue to be supplied. We must learn to read the labels with care and use what we take wisely. This collection of essays is part of the learning process. Reading them, one is struck by Wilson's expertise in choice. The writing is good, the subjects are worth your attention and you may come away better understanding how to browse in Nature's shop. Although the title of this book is something of a misnomer - it would be better labelled "science and society" - the compilation is enlightening in many respects.

The essays most directly related to society's concerns cover expanded roles for mathematical concepts, the emotional question of abortion, how we impact wild lands and how technology works to change our lives. David Berlinski offers a description of a mathematical artifact, the algorithm and how it affects our lives. A simple, repeatable instruction, the algorithm is now recognized as fundamental in both Nature and human culture.

Humanity's relation with Nature comprises most of the remainder of the essays. Human settlement of wild land is an topic of growing importance. Mark Cherrington's essay on this contentious issue in Israel might be duplicated in many parts of the planet. Bernd Heinrich describes the Endurance Predator, the animal whose unusual gait allowed it to occupy the whole planet. Human walking and running are unique in Nature. We test our abilities in these unusual capacities with games, and Heinrich speculates on how far those tests can take us. As we come to understand how Nature works in better detail, the impact on our cultures will be reflected in law, as well as the scientific world. Gregg Easterbrooke and Malcolm Gladwell describe new understanding of newborns and the unborn. How should the law be changed to reflect what has been learned about embryos and children?

What of adults and the natural world? Jerome Groopman provides a view of an unusual, but widespread human disorder, The Doubting Disease. Do you suffer from it? Our future health in many areas will be impacted by what we learn of our genetic base. Craig Venter, former president of human genome mapping firm, Celera, is portrayed in depth by Richard Preston.

No collection of writings on Nature would be complete without David Quammen. Here, he takes us along on his jaunt with Michael Fay as the scientist surveys the conditions in central Africa. Quammen's' ability to bring the reader into his adventures is unsurpassed. On this trek you share both his enthusiasms and painful experiences through his captivating prose. He adroitly captures the mood of the field scientist.

Regrettably, we can't say as much about the essay on Costa Rican macaws. While Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp had a pleasant, interesting jaunt in the Central American jungles, the inclusion of this account in this collection seems almost far-fetched. It's a well-written story, but only sparsely appropriate here. Far more meaningful is Sandra Postel's account of water management. "Troubled Waters" is the story of just that condition, which is growing increasingly prevalent around our globe. North American water consumption is one of the major shames of our society, and Postel's survey should give every reader a moment's pause.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well-Selected and Compiled
The Best American Series delivers another winner here, with a fascinating and varied collection of articles and essays from a variety of sources. You know you're in good hands when the editor is Edward O. Wilson, who is among the best writers out there to present scientific thought in a way the more educated of the masses can understand (although his intro to this book is rather self-aggrandizing). In addition to writings on many different scientific disciplines, you also get a variety of philosophical viewpoints, most of which are very levelheaded. The best articles in this book include "Abortion and Brain Waves" which provides the most well-rounded, informed, and realistic viewpoint on the abortion issue you will likely ever see (you surely won't get this from politicians or activists on either side of the debate); plus "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" which gives a very insightful outlook on the future of humanity in light of genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology (though this article is too long and loses its focus near the end). Other winners include "Baby Steps" concerning infant knowledge and education, and "The Genome Warrior" which covers the politics of the human genome project. The nature and ecology-related articles here are generally weaker, including Jane Goodall's sappy and sentimental "In the Forests of Gombe," and "Being Prey" which starts with a harrowing account of the author being attacked by a crocodile, but then awkwardly attempts to tie this attack to ruminations on feminism and vegetarianism (I have no problems with those doctrines, mind you). But those are just a couple of missteps in a fascinating and entertaining collection.

4-0 out of 5 stars A non-technical reader's reaview
This is an excellent collection of articles compliled from different magazines (The New yorker, Harper's Magazine, Discover, Outside, Orion, to name a few); this adds to the readability. I feel that there is some article of interest for every reader (no just science geeks like myself).
This would be a great gift for anyone who is interested in science (nature, technology, psychology). ... Read more


31. The New Humanists: Science at the Edge
by John Brockman
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
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Asin: 0760745293
Catlog: Book (2003-09-01)
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Books-Imports
Sales Rank: 156705
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his essay, Brockman noted that the American intellectual had become proudly or defiantly ignorant of major scientific accomplishments.According to Brockman, intellectual thought was becoming trapped in a “swelling spiral of commentary,” and often ignored the real world.Citing C.P. Snow’s theory of two cultures: the literary intellectual and the scientist, Brockman predicted an “emerging third culture” where scientists and other empirical thinkers, through their work and writing, would redefine who and what we are.

In The New Humanists: Science At the Edge, Brockman has assembled some of the top scientists of today: Jared Diamond, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Marvin Minsky, Lee Smolin, and others, and has them discuss the unique contributions each of them is making to the development of modern thought.Some of these thinkers are in sync, others in dissent, but what emerges in The New Humanists is a dialogue that serves as a support to Brockman’s theory and an introduction to some of the best scientific minds of the 21st century.
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Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Science on the cutting edge.
E. O. Wilson said, "the greatest enterprise of the mind has been and always will be the attempted linkage of the sciences and the humanities" (CONSILIENCE, Knopf, p. 8). In the Introduction to this collection of scientific essays, John Brockman (founder of the EDGE intellectual forum) asserts that humanity would be much better off if it were more scientifically literate. A Florentine, he observes, understood that to read Dante but to ignore science was ridiculous. Da Vinci was not only a great artist, but a great scientist and technologist as well. Similarly, Michelangelo both a great artist and and engineer. For Brockman, "the idea of embracing humanism while remaining ignorant of the latest scientific and technological achievements" is "incomprehensible" (p. 2). (For those interested in this topic, Stephen Jay Gould attempted to reconcile science with the humanities in final book, THE HEDGEHOG, THE FOX, AND THE MAGISTER'S POX.)

Brockman has collected essays from the top scientists of our time exploring cutting-edge developments in molecular biology, genetics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, chaos theory, artificial life, the inflationary universe, fractals, complex adaptive systems, linguistics, superstrings, biodiversity, the human genome, cellular automata, fuzzy logic, virtual reality, cyberspace and computer technology. Science geeks (like me) will be pleased to find contributions here from Helena Cronin (evolutionary biologist), Daniel C. Dennett (philosopher), Jared Diamond (biogeographer), Ray Kurzweil (technologist), Richard Wrangham (biological anthropologist), Stephen M. Kosslyn and Steven Pinker (psycholgists), Andy Clark and Marc D. Hauser (cognitivite scientists), Rodney Brooks, David Gelernter, Jaron Lanier (computer scientists), and David Deutsch, Alan Guth, Martin Rees, and Lee Smolin (physicists), among others, each redefining what it means to be human, and each offering a deeper understanding of human life. More than just a collection of scientific essays, this book is a fascinating travel guide through our brave new world of science and technology.

G. Merritt

5-0 out of 5 stars For a good whetting of the appetite!
What we have here is an excellent collection of scientists and philosophers writing articles about the latest research programmes in physics, artificial intellegence, cognitive science, and evolutionary biology. All of these contributers are members of www.edge.org, which is a forum for 'leading minds' to converge and converse on what the latest programmes, excitements, and theories in their field are.

What I thought I'd find is cocksure scientists writing in a clamour about their ultimate victory in the science wars and how this would inevitably lead to a reductionistic view of everyhing and anything. (Call me cynical, but the popular science market has been doing a lot of this lately). I did find a little of that only a little); by in large, though, the focus was simply on what certain fields were really doing, how it MAY affect other fields and the general populace, and overall abstainment when it comes to grand proclomations. No 'theories of everything', 'consciliences' that repeat Wilson's mistakes of wanting to 'scientize' all other disciplines, and no cockiness.

All that having been said, this book is absolutely thrilling. These scientists (the likes of Dennett, Pinker, Minsky, and Smolin) are writing fasinating essays of very promising theories in their fields and their roles in hashing them out. Can universes organize themselves? What are animals really thinking? Is the brain reducible to algorithms and if so, could machines achieve a first person experiencial perspective? How malleable is human nature?

If you are like me and REALLY excited about these questions and hearing scientists - if not answering them - discussing what answers might look like, then this book is a fantastic exploration. The big winners, you ask? In my humble opinion Jaron Lanier's essay on scientism and AI takes the cake; also Dennett's article delineating the intentional stance is good. David Deutch does an excellent job writing on quantum computation as doe Marvin Minsky on why AI might want to rethink how it looks at the mind.

The last 30-or-so pages is a miscelleneous collection of thoughts by leading scientists and philosophers in response to John Brockman's lead off essay discussing the relation of science and humanities. Again, Laneir comes off the most thoughtful and thought-provoking (ironically he is the only contributor WITHOUT a formal degree) but the rest of the responses are insightful and well written.

If you want to explore a variety of fields, points of view, and ideas, this is a tremendous book. Brockman and the contributors certainly did science and society a service in putting this one together.

4-0 out of 5 stars Humanists or humanoids?
It is sad but true that modern scientific culture is incapable of producing a genuine humanism. Between scientific reductionism and the confusions of Darwinism the era of science prospers in physics, but produces idiotic accounts of man, his nature and psychology. What's worse, these issues are very old and systematically studied in the generations after Newton where the limits of his achievement were quickly foreseen. All this has been forgotten in the current paradigm milieu where resurgent positivistic fundamentlism has decided to make all the old mistakes all over again. The educational system reinforces this mindset, and the worst of it is that intelligent technically inclined students are conditioned to a one dimensional view that is blind to the basic fact that science cannot in its current form stand as a foundationalism for the totality of human knowledge.
This otherwise interesting selection of essays rounds up the wannabe candidates for another round of Frankenstein humanism that won't amount to anything. ... Read more


32. Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences
by Victoria E. McMillan
list price: $23.95
our price: $23.95
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Asin: 0312258577
Catlog: Book (2001-02-19)
Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
Sales Rank: 70188
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

1-0 out of 5 stars The confusing world of biological science gets more confusin
Now, granted that I did not experience the world of biological science writing before "the McMillan book", but by all that's ecological, people find this book HELPFUL? The academic world must have been a whole lot more chaotic than I can imagine before McMillan wrote her book, because damn, I can't imagine a more confusing text that is supposed to help students. Sure, McMillan provides examples of how to cite and write (to name a few examples) a research paper, but every time I'm looking for a specific bit of information I can't find what I'm looking for! I'm pretty careful about throwing around the phrase "I hate", but every time I look at this book I can feel the rage and frustration rise inside of me. Helpful. SURE it is.

4-0 out of 5 stars Scientific Papers
Used it for scientific research papers in college. Great reference, easy to understand, plenty of examples.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide to writing as a biologist
Our biology department adopted this book as the writing guide for our biology majors a couple of years ago. It includes information about how to seek for and use biological literature, how to present data (including graphs and figures) in the context of scientific writing, and it has a great section on writing research papers. There are ample examples in the book that students can use as models.

The author presents information on framing the paper, and how to use drafts in order to produce a good product. There is also a section that addresses other kinds of writing skills used by biologists -- oral presentations, poster development, writing research proposals, and letters of application.

We encourage students to use this book in all of their courses. It is a required support text for Principles of Biology I and II, and for our junior level Orientation to Research course.

I appreciate the fact that the book is spiral bound. That makes it possible for you to have the book open by other things you are working on without it flipping shut all the time, like it would if it had a regular binding.

This book with less than 200 pp. works well for us and our students. I think it could work well for you, too.

Alan Holyoak, Coordinator of Biological Research, Manchester College, IN

4-0 out of 5 stars Highly Useful
Both college students and professors will find this book very useful as a beginning guide to preparing written and oral reports. Every biology student should own this informative, easy-to-use book. ... Read more


33. Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?: Discourses on Godel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics
by Martin Gardner
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.47
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Asin: 0393325725
Catlog: Book (2004-07)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 341643
Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"Something about Gardner's prose—straight-ahead, factual, free of literary pretension—is deliciously addictive.—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

Martin Gardner—"one of the most brilliant men and gracious writers I have ever known," wrote Stephen Jay Gould—is the wittiest, most devastating debunker of scientific fraud and chicanery of our time. In this new book Gardner explores startling scientific concepts, such as the possibility of multiple universes and the theory that time can go backwards. Armed with his expert, skeptical eye, he examines the bizarre tangents produced by Freudians and deconstructionists in their critiques of "Little Red Riding Hood," and reveals the fallacies of pseudoscientific cures, from Dr. Bruno Bettelheim's erroneous theory of autism to the cruel farces of Facilitated Communication and Primal Scream Therapy. Ever prolific, and still engaging at the spry age of eighty-eight, Gardner has become an American institution unto himself, a writer to be celebrated. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars seems outdated, no novelty....
When I wanted to mark the book with 3 stars, I was surpised indeed that other readers did the same.
Over the years I used to buy a book by M. Gardner the moment I saw it a bookstore, and by now I have a dozen of them or more, some read and re-read numerous times. I could honestly say these were his book that formed my love of mathemathics, cybernetics etc
But this last book caused me to feel pity. It seems pathetically outfashioned, talks about discoveries, scientists and philosophers of '50-'70. It's nostalgic, yes, but not breath-taking.
The narratives themselves and the factual presentations are neither deep nor intuitive, and, frankly, boring to an extent.
I wouldn't thought the 1st review I write about a book by M. Gardner would be of this kind, I do it because I really appreciate him, his books and firmly believe that this book is an exception.

4-0 out of 5 stars Close, but no cigar
I love the Skeptical Enquirer and its no-nonsense way of getting to the truth of the matter. Martin Gardner, author of many science-for-the-people books is a contributor to that magazine and his articles are always delightful, sometimes controversial, always opinionated and extremely erudite. This book is really a collection of some of these articles, arranged by category.

He is at his best when on the attack against the New Agers, the superstitious, horoscopes, ESP, magic, channelers, charlatans, Pyramid power and the like. He demonstrates, step by step, the fallacy of their thinking and is just, even fair, in presenting the opposing viewpoint.

The first article from the title of the book sets the tone. In it he discusses how a theoretical flight of fancy (there are as many universes as we can imagine) became, for some, scientific fact despite not one scintilla of evidence. But more than a discussion of the Multiple Universe Theory, it is an examination of the trend of mixing Eastern religious thought with science and producing a mishmash of pseudo-scientific lingo that is as trendy as it is illogical. He takes on many icons - Karl Popper, Hemingway, Bettelheim and Gary Wills - and, like Paul Johnson in his great tome, INTELLECTUALS - finds monsters, egos and irrationality just around the bend.

He tackles various cultural movements, traces their history and their tragic results: Cult leaders, Primal Screaming, psychoanalysis, Facilitated Communication and weird and little known individuals who made a mark at the time. The quality of the essays are uneven and there is this infuriating obsession with fundamentalists of the Protestant persuasion. He takes after them as if they were the Great Evil yet, as far as I know, no fundamentalist has murdered millions in religious wars, conquered nations in the name of God, slaughtered people due to their size or tortured millions "for the Faith". For that, one must point to (respectively) European Christians, Islam, African tribes and Catholicism. THis does not include the tens of millions slaughtered by secular regimes in this century.

All in all, a good book, a quick read and another valuable lesson in the phrase "seeing is not believeing."

1-0 out of 5 stars Watered down (spotty on science math and philosophy)
I was really excited to get this book, but like other reviewers I find myself sorely disappointed. The book which is 271 pages of content has 31 subchapters. This means 9 pages are dedicated to each topic (including addendums). As a result, the coverage tends to be more anecdotal than informative. This might be interesting to you if you are very farmilliar with Gardner's work, but he seems to rely on his own reputation in support of his arguments. He often argues by reductio taking conclusions to be absurd without argument. A lot of the stuff in this book comes down to the argument "and that seems really silly now doesn't it."

Not only are his arguments uninteresting and poorly made, but he does a poor job presenting other arguments. He resorts a lot to paraphrases and in instances throughout the book he presents us with incomplete representations of the arguments that he intends to criticize. For example he essentially reduces Many World Interpretaion (MWI) of Quantum Mechanics (QM) to the following paraphrase: those people believe that there is more than one real universe and that means that there is more than one real you and that's totally crazzy.

I urge you to spend money on something else instead of this book. I actually have not read through the entire thing because after reading the first dozen chapters I decided that the rest of the book was probably as much of an utter waste as the first part. You will not see a good argument here and you will not learn anything about the subjects which Gardner argues.

1-0 out of 5 stars do not buy this!
I made the mistake of buying this book, because Martin Gardner writes fantastic math books and because the title and location in he bookstore suggested this was a book on math ad science.Wrong.

Aside from a few philosophical comments on quantum theory and the scientific method, this book is ramblings. The title claims it contains 'Other Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics' but in reality these acount for 2-3 out of five chapters. (One chapter is on the paranormal). The chapter on science contains one barely readable essay out of five.

This is the worst disappointment I have read.

4-0 out of 5 stars A delectable collection
This is the fifth collection of Martin Gardner's essays that I have read, and as usual I found them a pleasure to read. Once again the venerable champion of common sense assumes his role as the sorcerer's apprentice trying to sweep back the tide of pseudoscience. And once again he provides insight into just how overwhelming that task really is.

The thirty-one essays, many of which appeared in The Skeptical Inquirer, are sorted into five parts: Science, Mathematics, Religion, Literature, and Moonshine. As a special treat (!?) some clerihews and other poetic bits by Gardner's "friend" Armand T. Ringer are sprinkled throughout, especially at the beginning of chapters. One notes in passing that "Armand T. Ringer" is an anagram of "Martin Gardner." Also included is a short story by Gardner from The College Mathematics Journal entitled "Against the Odds" (Chapter 6), a pleasant tale about a gifted black boy and a prejudiced schoolmarm notable for a happy ending and a thoroughgoing sense of the politically correct.

The first essay, "Multiverses and Blackberries" is a discussion of the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. I was surprised to learn that this mind-boggling take on QM has been "defended by such eminent physicists as Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen Hawking, and Steven Weinberg." (p. 3) I think they may have defended it at one time or another, but I doubt that they embraced it wholeheartedly! A physicist who has of course is Oxford University's David Deutsch. What Gardner reveals in this interesting piece is that there are two versions of the MWI of QM, one in which the many worlds are "abstractions such as numbers and triangles," and the other in which the many worlds are real. (p. 5)

The second and third essays are on the philosophy of science, a favorite Gardner topic, and a topic that he actually makes readable and interesting, one deflating Karl Popper and the other partly a personal remembrance and appreciation of Rudolf Carnap. And then we have "Some Thoughts About Induction" in which Gardner aligns himself with David Hume, Bertrand Russell and others on the possibility that we can really prove anything by induction. This essay includes this glancing blow at those who would imagine that we might discover the ultimate nature of things: "[Electrons] may be made of superstrings. If so, what are superstrings made of?"

Other essays include "The Strange Case of Garry Wills," and "The Vagueness of Krishnamurti" from Part III on Religion in which Gardner reveals his consummate interest in the intimate details of the lives of the famous, especially the non-flattering details. I was surprised to learn of Krishnamurti's various episodes of hanky-panky. Like Gardner I had always found him unreadable, but herein I learned that the probable sufficient secret of his success was his charismatic personality.

In Part V on Moonshine Gardner has some fun with the idea that Little Red Riding Hood is a symbolic story of emerging womanhood complete with the red hood symbolizing menstrual blood and the wolf's appetite being not entirely gastronomic. I think here revealed is Gardner's limited appreciation of the nature of certain kinds of literature, of which fairy tales and religious works are examples. Such works are necessarily symbolic since what they are about cannot be expressed in a strictly denotative way because to do so would offend or be in conflict with some particulars of whatever the current wisdom might be. Such "evolved" literatures must be accessible regardless of the taboos of the present society. Better than any of the commentary from Gardner or those he quotes on the tale is the amazing print on page 180 by Gustave Doré of Little Read Riding Hood in bed with the wolf. The primeval nature of the tale is exemplified by Little Red Riding Hood's appearance simultaneously as a little girl and as a small woman, and the wolf's large mouth and ready claws. Doré knew that this was one scary tale that penetrated the listener's subconscious.

Perhaps the most valuable essays in the book are "The Brutality of Dr. Bettelheim" and "Facilitated Communication: A Cruel Farce" (chapters 23 and 24). In the first, Gardner reminds us how Dr. Bruno Bettelheim in particular, and psychoanalytic theory in general, mistreated a generation (or two or three) of autistic children and especially their so-called "refrigerator mothers" through a gross misunderstanding of autism and how to treat it. Some of the material comes from Edward Dolnick's Madness on the Couch: Blaming the Victim in the Heyday of Psychoanalysis (1998), a book I reviewed favorably and recommend highly. In the second, Gardner reminds us of the fraudulent Quija board technique employed by some health workers using autistic children that had its heyday in the late eighties and early nineties before being exposed on Frontline and 60 Minutes. The disturbing thing about Gardner's report is that one of the true believers, Professor of Education Douglas Biklen, is still at Syracuse University and is still plying his trade.

One of the best reasons for reading Gardner is to appreciate how clear his expression is, and how readable he makes just about any subject. He has a gift for making the abstract concrete and the obtuse transparent. ... Read more


34. The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human
by Ian Tattersall
list price: $25.00
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Asin: 0151005206
Catlog: Book (2001-11-08)
Publisher: Harcourt
Sales Rank: 605218
Average Customer Review: 3.57 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Nothing fascinates us more than explorations of human origins,
and nobody tells the story better than Ian Tattersall.

What makes us so different? How did we get this way? How do we know? And what exactly are we? These questions are what make human evolution a subject of general fascination. Ian Tattersall, one of those rare scientists who is also a graceful writer, addresses them in this delightful book.

Writing in an informal essay style, Tattersall leads the reader around the world and into the far reaches of the past, showing what the science of human evolution is up against-from the sparsity of evidence to the pressures of religious fundamentalism. Looking with dispassion and humor at our origins, Tattersall offers a wholly new definition of what it is to be human.

Delightful stories, scientific wisdom, fresh insight-the perfect science book.

... Read more

Reviews (7)

3-0 out of 5 stars on a few peak topics in human evolution
I read this and _becoming human_ for an online class in human evolution at barnes and noble dot com. This is an extension and elaboration of the major points in _becoming human_. Actually a little bit better given the looser construction of the essay format, so read this rather than _becoming human_. Either is a simple basic intro to human evolution with a big dose of Neanderthal history, which is tattersall's field. Short, to the point with a minimum extrapolation and speculation, recommended for a light informative afternoon spent with our closest relatives.

5-0 out of 5 stars Evolution? Read Just This One.
This book is a great summary of the past century's debates on Evolution. It is well and clearly presented by a master of the science. There is a small hidden agenda regarding the author's theory of "exaptation" (which BTW should probably be called "abaptation" as the opposite of "adaptation"). Anyway, for those of us not deeply interested in the creationist/evolutionist debates this book begins as a clear statement of the conflict and ends with an interesting and insightful prediction of our future. The book is short. If you only want to read one of these Human Evolution texts. . .read this one.

2-0 out of 5 stars A broadsword for creationists?
A collection of science essays is fraught with pitfalls for the unwary. If the author is well known or is in high position [Tattersall is both], or even simply articulate [Tattersall is] heedless reading may result in blind acceptance. The essay format, as Tattersall confesses in his Preface, lacks discipline. This book reinforces that assertion with a vengeance. The subtitle should be printed in glowing letters. "What Makes Us Human" is a large topic for a book of so few pages. After reading it, it seems to be a bit too ample for the author, as well.

Tattersall begins with an excellent summary of why we study science. Too many people still equate the search for "facts" with a quest for "truth." The author makes a valiant attempt to explain why these ideas must be kept separate. Since he must rely on the reader to understand this division, his success in the endeavour can only be guessed. The quest for "facts," as he ably states, often leads to a new quest for new facts. Science, then, is an ongoing and highly cooperative effort. Many "facts" unveil the need to seek further in an unrelated field of interest. He describes "science" as a "corporate" endeavour by many people to organize and relate the facts revealed.

From science in general, Tattersall moves to the more specific area of the study of evolution. After a brief presentation on Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace in development of the concept of "natural selection," he goes on to deal with "adaptation." How life changes is the core of evolution and he describes the travails of early thinkers after Darwin dealt with the processes. He describes the merging of Darwin's natural selection and the later knowledge of genetics as the "Evolutionary Synthesis," which he then castigates as "hardening into dogma." This rather dark pink herring is his way of easing into a challenge of gradual change typifying evolution. He states that "speciation remains poorly understood." Speciation may be poorly defined, but it's well understood. By claiming speciation is "poorly understood," Tattersall is free to introduce the worn-out concept of Punctuated Equilibrium, variously described as "punk eek" or "evolution by jerks." While he endeavours to build a case for the concept, it falls rather flat under his touch. Adding to the reader's confusion, he offers the Gouldian term "exaptation" to fog the image of adaptation as the mechanism of species change. The logic of substituting Gould's arcane term isn't presented.

Evolution, to most readers, is only important to humans. Tattersall expounds on diversity, environment, cladistics [grouped traits] as his lead-in to human evolution. At this point, however, we seem to leave the whole process of evolution behind. Tattersall is keen to show that behaviour patterns, while deceptively common among ape-like species, branch off into something altogether different in humans. Apes can't talk. Apes can't learn. Apes don't walk upright, or, according to Tattersall, have any reasoning power. He attributes "an unprecedented leap in body structure" to make modern humans ["punk eek", again]. From this, he derives the notion that this structure, powered by the new, improved brain, took us off the evolutionary path.

The key agent, according to Tattersall, is the implementation of "symbolism." Describing early hominid brains as "exaptations" awaiting fulfillment, he informs us that the fulfillment was "culture." He attributes "symbolic processes" in the brain as experience being converted to discrete symbols. We manipulate those symbols in ways other animals cannot, and the manipulation is accomplished through speech. To Tattersall, the innovation of "cultural symbolism" widens the gap between humans and the remainder of the animal kingdom. Animal behaviour has no relation to human behaviour, and any attempt to establish that link underlies what he terms the "arrogant pseudo-science of 'evolutionary psychology' ." His penultimate chapter is a denunciation of relating behaviour to genetics [although his memory gene fails him when he attributes to Shakespeare a quote of Thomas Hobbes'] which is sprinkled with reproachful buzzwords, distortion and use of newspaper headlines instead of serious research results. His sweeping accusations make one wonder if Tattersall has read any scientific publication of the past
generation.

The essay format may be forgiven many sins. It's not an academic treatise nor peer-reviewed scientific collection. Indexing, for example, while useful, would be onerous in so short a book. The lack of any further reading references, however, is inexcusable. Given the number of people and disciplines that he maligns so vigorously, it would have been a decided service to the reader to give us some reference to his targets. Tattersall hauls Steven Mithen up on the Gouldian charge of telling "just-so" stories, but fails to indicate where to read them. You may enjoy reading this type of presentation, but it's doubtful you'll learn anything from it.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent start
The Monkey in the Mirror is a collection of short essays on science and in particular on evolutionary science. Tattersall's discussion is clear and concise, and while I'm not entirely in accordance with all of his statements with regard to evolution, I feel that the work has much to say for itself. The very word "evolution" seems to bring a knee jerk response from many people, an almost "them or us" mentality of the besieged, and their oft made point that evolution is just an unproven "theory" and not law, makes the need for public education apparent. With recent attempts in several states to prevent educators from properly teaching these subjects or the insistence that philosophical or religious concepts be taught as equally valid explanations of natural phenomena, there is without doubt an urgent need to deliver a clearer message of what science is and is not. As Tattersall writes in his first chapter "In science it is no crime to be wrong, unless you are (inappropriately) laying claim to truth. What matters is that science as a whole is a self-correcting mechanism in which both new and old notions are constantly under scrutiny. In other words, the edifice of scientific knowledge consists simply of a body of observations and ideas that have (so far) proven resistant to attack, and that are thus accepted as working hypotheses about nature (p. 9)." Nor can one delete the study of evolution from the scientific curriculum and profitably substitute religious explanations. As the author points out, "The notion of evolution predicts the nested pattern of relationships we find in the living world; supernatural creation, on the other hand, predicts nothing. It is concepts of this latter kind that are truly untestable (p. 15)."

Only when the public is better educated on the subject of science can school boards and education committees more properly design programs to meet the needs of young people. Least the intellectual mistakenly think that science in the schools is only important to those who have decided to dedicate themselves to scientific careers, one might point out that it is the average voter who decides the fate of wetlands, nuclear waste sites, conservation of ocean resources, etc. and who needs at least a basic understanding of how life as we know it came to be and how our decisions can change that life drastically. The average farmer needs to know what the impact of his decisions with respect to land use, plant and animal pest control, cultivation of natural, bioengineered or hybridize plants, etc have on the environment and on his own continued prosperity. The home owner who over fertilizes his lawn or who indiscreetly disposes of toxic substances in his garbage bin also needs to understand the problems these decisions can cause for the community in which he lives. Any fear that such a person might feel over learning the concepts of science and of evolution might be alleviated by one of the more important statements in the book, "Scientific findings do not threaten anyone (except to the extent that Homo sapiens may prove incapable of controlling what science makes possible). But what is critical to understand is that our species (or, for that matter, God) is not in the least diminished by the idea that we emerged thanks to the processes of evolution (p. 55)."

Tattersall's book gives a nice overview of how life got to be as we know it and provides the reader with at least a small toolkit of information for thinking about the subjects of science, biological evolution, and mankind's part in the big picture.

3-0 out of 5 stars interesting and not a good buy either
The main advantage of this book is the fact that it is a collection of essays, which increases the readability and allows one to finish the book real quick. Further, the essays also quickly summarize some of the more common evolutionary theories of Gould and others before him, so as to act as a good 'summarizer'. It also elaborates the concept of exaptation, which seems to be a powerful thought, rich in potential.

The reason for the three stars is that the writer's bias against the 'science of evolutionary psychology' comes out pretty often, and thus makes the open minded reader familiar with the subject feel as if the writer is a little close minded on this. Further, not too many original ideas here, mostly a synthesis of work done already by others - worth the synthesis though

Dont expect too much from this book, but a neat little concise summary with perhaps a maximum of few new ideas coming from it ... Read more


35. The Road since Structure : Philosophical Essays, 1970-1993, with an Autobiographical Interview
by Thomas S. Kuhn
list price: $18.00
our price: $12.24
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0226457990
Catlog: Book (2002-11-01)
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 431754
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

It is possible that no book written in the last 50 years has had an influence as profound and far-reaching as Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn's argument that scientific knowledge does not develop cumulatively, but rather proceeds by a series of "paradigm shifts," captivated not only philosophers of science, but scholars in a wide range of academic disciplines. The Road Since Structure is a follow-up to his landmark work and a look at Kuhn's theory since the book's original publication in 1962.

In keeping with Kuhn's wishes (he died in 1996), editors James Conant and John Haugeland organized The Road Since Structure to include 11 philosophical essays written since 1970. In the first part of the book, Kuhn spells out his theory as it developed in the 1980s and 1990s; in the second part, he replies to a number of criticisms and misreadings. The third section is a fascinating interview with Kuhn conducted less than a year before he died. For general interest readers, the lengthy interview--in which Kuhn candidly and engagingly discusses the trials and tribulations of his life and philosophical career--will probably be the most interesting part of the book. For those attuned to Kuhn's controversial work, The Road Since Structure is an indispensable aid for understanding his theory as it developed and for appreciating the full force of his replies to a host of critical objections. As always, Kuhn's clarity and fluid prose render accessible a field fraught with opaque writing. --Eric de Place ... Read more

Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars Good Collection
Unless you're a research scientist or have found yourself wrapped up in the miniscule debates over Kuhn's writings ( eg. "What exactly IS a paradigm, perfesser?"), this book is delightful! Of particular interest are the two essays "What Are Scientific Revolutions?" and "The Trouble With The Historical Philosophy of Science." Some of this can be found in "The Essential Tension" as he was always repeating himself to different audiences.

3-0 out of 5 stars Did Kuhn ever recover from 'Structure'?
As with (to a lesser extent) Feyerabend, Kuhn wrote his contreversial opus in the mid 60's. I think it's safe to say that anything hinting at anti-authoritarianism, as it seemed to do on the surface, was begging to be misunderstood. Honestly, after 'paradigm shift' became a bastardized slogan for everything from class-struggle to new-age revelations through meditation, I'm not sure Thomas Kuhn ever recovered from this world-wide misunderstanding. What I read in "The Road Since Structure" corroborates that as we find an author that constantly needs to clarify, "This is what I'm saying. This is what I'm not saying. Now that we're clear, let me repeat myself!"

First, as anyone who's read "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" knows, Kuhn has no talent for clear writing. Nothing's changed since. These essays, although more concise and to the point (perhaps that's Kuhn having learned his lesson) are still difficult reads. The first section, I think, is the book's 'payoff'. It is here that he reiterates, clarifies and expands on what is and is not scientific revolution, incommensurability and paradigm. Two essays in particular, "What are Scientific Revolutions?" and "The Road Since Structure" are worth the price of the book alone.

The second section consists of replies to Kuhns many and in an ideological sense, far ranging critics. Most of these papers were written for symposia and are difficult in the sense of listening to only one end of a phone dialogue. As he is generally responding to papers of others, without access to those papers, it is akward reading to say the least. Still, for those of us scientific philosophy nuts, the essays "Reflections on My Critics" (part of a symposium featuring Lakatos, Popper and Feyerabend amongst others) and "The Natural and the Human Sciences" are excellent illucidations of Kuhns thought.

Honestly, the interview, I didn't like. Much of it is Thomas Kuhns history and as for the reviewer below that bemoans a self-absorbed Kuhn talking about himself and his "intellectual project", I'm not sure what else you should expect from an interview of a philosopher. Interviewers like to ask about the interviewee and philosopher's like to talk about what they work on. Honestly though, if you are at all familiar with Kuhns life, this interview offers little that you didn't already know.

3-0 out of 5 stars An interesting look at a self-absorbed life
Having just finished Steve Fuller's decimation of Kuhn's significance, I come away much less impressed with this book. I immediately noticed that Fuller's claim that Kuhn was beholden to Harvard President James Bryant Conant seems to continue after the grave, since the editor of this set of papers and interviews is none other than Conant's grandson! But putting that aside (sheer coincidence perhaps?), the final interview shows just how self-absorbed Kuhn was. Considering what was going on in the larger world around him, he seemed forever preoccupied by a very private intellectual project that never attracted the attention that buzzwords like "paradigm" did. Fuller read this interview in the original obscure Greek philosophy journal where it appeared, and makes some sharp observations about Kuhn's tendency to deny all influences -- including highly publicized ones like Ludwik Fleck.This is not to say that Kuhn's intellectual project wasn't interesting, but it's amazing just how unwilling he remained to deal with the way his work was used. Lucky for him, he was professionally ensconced in the Ivy League and so never really had to bother much with what the sub-Ivy intellectuals thought.

5-0 out of 5 stars What made Kuhn tick, and more
There are three parts to this book:essays Kuhn wrote to respond to the most substantial criticisms of THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS, essays that extend and elaborate on his thinking since STRUCTURE, and, most remarkable, a very long and revealing interview or discussion with three Greek philosophers of science less than a year before his death.

To me, the interview is the most interesting part of the book, mainly because it's autobiographical.I am told by people who knew him that, after the hullabaloo over STRUCTURE, Kuhn became quite reticent, at least in public, and certainly about himself.Well, reticent is the last thing he is in this interview.He speaks quite openly about his parents, his early education, his attraction to physics, his time at Harvard, his decision to move from physics to philosophy and history of science, the issues in history and philosophy of science that moved him most deeply, his opinions of colleagues.In this interview, Thomas Kuhn becomes a person, not merely an icon.It's surprising, moving, and instructive, and anyone who's ever wondered about the man who wrote THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS will find the interview, as well as the essays in this book, well worth the read.Enjoy!And wonder! ... Read more


36. Principia (On the Shoulders of Giants)
by Isaac Newton
list price: $14.95
our price: $5.98
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Asin: 0762420227
Catlog: Book (2005-02-01)
Publisher: Running Press
Sales Rank: 183948
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Establishing the laws of universal gravity and the fundamental laws of motion, Newton's momentous 1687 essay stands as one of the most important works in physics, and it revolutionized the way scientists investigate and prove their theories. In Principia, Newton used mathematical terms to present the principles of time, force, and motion, which have been instrumental in the development of modern physics. In his introduction, the famed physicist and bestselling author Stephen Hawking shows how his work built on that of his predecessors, Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler.

Black-and-white illustrations. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars This is a key masterpiece in the history of Science.
I bought this book not for the purpose of learning Classical Mechanics from it, but for the scientific curiosity of learning how the great Isaac Newton presented his revolutionary scientific ideas to the world. Of course, it is difficult to read. This is an old translation of a book written in Latin more than 300 years ago!

This book is a jewel. Just like the original works of Einstein, Maxwell, Heisenberg, Schroedinger and all those giants. The person buying this book should not expect to find a clear didactic textbook when originally it was not written for the layman, but for the expert scientific community of its time. Buy this book, sit back, scan through it, and enjoy a true piece of history.

3-0 out of 5 stars Difficult.I am not in a position to comment.
I read up to Prop 6 and could not quite carry on. His language is not easy to understand.I hope someone will publish a Dictionary of it. Anyway, his proof of Kepler's 2nd theorem is clever, and he is very rigorousmathematically for his time. ...
... Read more


37. The Lying Stones of Marrakech : Penultimate Reflections in Natural History
by STEPHEN JAY GOULD
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
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Asin: 0609807552
Catlog: Book (2001-04-17)
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Sales Rank: 134985
Average Customer Review: 4.36 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his latest collection of essays, bestselling scientist Stephen Jay Gould once again offers his unmistakable perspective on natural history and the people who have tried to make sense of it. Gould is planning to bring down the curtain on his nearly thirty-year stint as a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine, the longest-running series of scientific essays in history. This, then, is the next-to-last essay collection from one of the most acclaimed and widely read scientists of our time. In this work of twenty-three essays, selected by Booklist as one of the top ten science and technology books of 2000, Gould covers topics as diverse as episodes in the birth of paleontology to lessons from Britain’s four greatest Victorian naturalists. The Lying Stones of Marrakech presents the richness and fascination of the various lives that have fueled the enterprise of science and opened our eyes to a world of unexpected wonders. ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Gould at the top of his writing skills
Stephen Jay Gould certainly doesn't need any introduction as one of the leading and most convincing voices in evolutionary thinking. However, I'm often surprised that many well-read people haven't heard about him. Not that everybody is obliged to read Gould, but if one wants to round up one's culture, paying attention to some of his ideas, even if one doesn't agree with him, won't do any harm. He always provides good food for thought--and that, at least in my books, marks him as a good writer.

'The lying stones of Marrakech' is no exception to Gould's excellent writing--and it should serve as a good introduction to his world to those that still haven't read him. What strikes the most about this new volume of essays is the humanistic and incisive way in which he debunks some of our most cherished myths, especially those about our perception of science and evolutionary thinking in particular. To be sure, he has done that before--but in this volume he does it with more force.

To me, the best essays in this volume are the last three, in the section he calls 'Evolution at all scales'. I was particularly surprised with the one entitled 'Of embryos and ancestors', where he writes about the incredible discovery of fossilized triploblastic embryos that antedate the famous Cambrian explosion of animal morphology and even the so-called Ediacaran fauna that comes before that explosion. That essay, in my estimation, opens up a new world of interpration on the history of life, where the succesion of animal groups seems to follow a more general pattern than previously thought from almost the very inception of life close to 3.5-3.6 billion years ago. Also, the essay 'The paradox of the visibly irrelevant', in the same section, puts the dots on the i's as far as our perception of evolutionary trends is concerned. Certainly, Gould writes in that essay, animals adapt to environments in a few generations visible to our human eyes, but do those adaptations have any ultimate meaning in broad evolutionary trends? I won't spoil it to the readers of this short note by saying what Gould's answer is--but I must say that his anwer is cleverly counterintuitive and very cogent.

There are six short pieces about personalities in the world of sport, music, and science. I found this rather uncommon in Gould's collections of essays, but at the same time I found them thoroughly delightful. I was deeply moved by Gould's piece on the death of Carl Sagan, who did so much in popularizing science but who was so scorned by his colleagues because of that. Certainly the 'immortals' of science can deign to talk to plain people about their enterprise; how else can they hope to garner public support for what they do? Carl Sagan took the job--and he did it excellently. Gould's piece is a tribute to a great, humanistic scientist.

In short, I recommend Gould's penultimate collection of essays (23 in total). And I'm sure that those who haven't read him before and start with this volume would like to read more from this great man of science.

4-0 out of 5 stars Essays with a split personality
The first three sections of this book have essays from the magazine Natural History about the history of "natural history." They are drier and of less general interest, covering people and issues in the development of the science. This certainly would not be the perfect introduction to the late Stephen Jay Gould's writing and research styles. . .

Nonetheless, they are well-researched and written in Gould's loving detail for the accurate story, in contrast to the historical myth. You might find yourself skimming the details of animal classifications to find the gems that remind us of major shifts in scientific thinking.

The second three sections are written to a broader audience and start with obituaries of Carl Sagan, Mel Allen and Joe DiMaggio. These essays are more readable (though Gould continues his love for parenthetical additions at least twice on every page). In this latter half of the book, Gould covers subjects such as social Darwinism; Dolly (the cloned sheep) and the nurture vs. nature argument; ways in which evolution is visible among living species; and competitive equilibrium in nature. Here Gould ensures that his essays are relevant to current social issues.

4-0 out of 5 stars Further Natural History Essays of a Master
Stephan Jay Gould was certainly one of the most prolific and interesting of modern essayists on evolutionary theory. He often goes on delightful side trips (a mark of a skillful writer, as such devices can be dangerous to an essay) and rarely (but occasionally) follows the wrong path. Whether you agree with him or not, he is always thought provoking.

"The Lying Stones of Marrakech" is no exception. Another one of his series of books of essays from his column "This View of Life" in NATURAL HISTORY magazine, the essays deal with a number of fascinating biological subjects from fake fossils (the lying stones mentioned in the title) to measuring evolution in the real world. While some editing might have made this book even better, it is still a very good read and certainly thought inspiring.

Gould is often especially forceful in dealing with biological determinism, as in the (I think) false idea that we are totally what our genes make us. Now to be fair there are few proponents of evolutionary psychology or other biological determinist groups that would make such a statement (just as there are few total blank slate idealists, despite Stephan Pinker's views), but the ideas often expressed by such researchers make one wonder exactly where they are leading. From the "killer ape" mentality to the "naturalness of rape" they often tread close to a position that man is not improvable and so why bother?

There are almost no modern scientists (as Gould points out) who would deny genetic influence on behavior. Certain mental diseases, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, have obvious genetic components. Nor would they deny that we are an evolutionary product of our ancestors Pliocene and Pleistocene environments (and even earlier ones). However, humans exhibit a remarkably plastic behavioral ability, which is also evolutionarily derived. What makes us human is exactly that plasticity. Given the current state of the planet we had better hope that we can rise above the pre-civilized part of our brains and alter our collective behavior- otherwise we are dead as a species!

These and other fascinating (and often obscure) biological issues are grist for Gould's mill. To follow his interest in the national sport he even throws in a few short pieces on baseball. Essays on the difficulties of predicting the future of technology, the contributions of Lamark, the career of the great French naturalist Buffon, and how vulva stones became brachiopods (they always were of course!), are also among those in this collection.

This book is well worth the reading, despite the digressions!

5-0 out of 5 stars Gould is gone, but should not be forgotten
Collections of previously published essays are often disappointing. Not so with Gould's "penultimate reflections in Natural History," published in 2000, just two years before his death. I found them entrancing (despite Gould's trademark parenthetical comments).

Two factors make Gould's essays stand out from most science writing--the depth of his ideas and his unmatched ability to peel back layers of approximate understanding and convenient storytelling to get to what actually happened. Whether he's detailing the founding moments of palentology and geology or excavating Alfred Russel Wallace's forays into predicting the future, you know that you're going to get the real story, impeccably told, straight from the primary sources. As a science writer, I'm awed as much by Gould's impeccable scholarship as by the quality and originality of his thinking. Gould is absolutely clear-eyed about the progress of science. The tales he tells reflect it as a richly human enterprise, groping its way forward despite misconceptions, hoaxes, and the personal quirks of its protagonists.

This book is not a light or easy read, but it is a richly rewarding one.

Robert E. Adler
Science Journalist
Author of Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation

5-0 out of 5 stars The Lying Stones of Marrakech
The Lying Stones of Marrakech by Stephen Jay Gould is an excellent read; written by one of the foremost original thinkers of our time. His humanistic sensibility and passionate arguments are painstakingly historical... you are nerver left in doubt when reading Gould's prose. When reading this book you see in his writings a musing underlining his brilliant intelligence and scholarship with his signature wit becoming evident.

In these twenty-three essays an erudite discussion comes to light from on of the most fertile minds of science today. We are educated... better enlightened to a point of view which only Gould can provide. As with all good things, they must come to an end since this is the penultimate work of essays... which leaves one more to astonish us.

But I'm sure that we will not see the end of writing from him. I highly recommend reading this brilliant collection of essays from a the most revered and eloquent author and educator of our times. ... Read more


38. Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage
by Deborah Cramer
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
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Asin: 039332334X
Catlog: Book (2002-07-01)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 325589
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A remarkable scientific meditation on and spiritual exploration of one of our least appreciated natural resources—the Atlantic Ocean. Not since Rachel Carson has a writer been able to give voice so compellingly to the ocean—its mythic history and its precarious future. In the course of an ocean voyage, Deborah Cramer weaves the details of the history and science of the Atlantic into a brilliant tapestry that documents our many-faceted reliance on the sea, our betrayal of that bond, the changing landscape of the ocean floor, and the threatened life of its inhabitants. Bringing together the scientific research of physical oceanographers, geologists, biologists, and chemists from both sides of the Atlantic, Cramer presents a devastating report of the environmental damage inflicted on these waters. From the decks of her sailing vessel she describes with vivid passion the intricate and fragile web of marine life, the visible disappearance of schools of fish plundered by the competitive fishing industry, and the changing rhythms of the Atlantic from the rough, chilly Gulf of Maine to the calm, weedy currents of the Sargasso Sea. 20 line b/w drawings, maps. ... Read more

Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Elegant Update of the "Sea Around Us" and More
In "Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage" Deborah Cramer not only takes the reader along on an ocean trip from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Barbados, she explains the ecology and history of the Atlantic in the process. In doing so, she brings Rachael Carson's classic "The Sea Around Us" up to date and gives the reader a solid grounding in ocean biology and physical oceanography. After reading "The Empty Ocean" I was delighted to find this book, one that takes a broader look at a smaller area- Atlantic, as Cramer likes to characterize the great ocean.

Unfortunately both recent books give the same, often bleak, picture of what is happening to the oceans as humans over-fish the once huge fisheries and dump more garbage, human and animal waste, toxic chemicals and remains of machines into what is becoming a global "land fill." We have also refused to take serious steps to reduce global warming at the same time evidence for our complicity in carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere is mounting. Unfortunately for us Atlantic and the others oceans of the planet are starting to return the favor both in lower fish catches and altering ocean circulation that may well cost us way beyond the value of the fish we extracted.

Yet there is some glimmer of hope. Humans may yet wake up, if a bit late, to the damage they are doing. There are still nearly pristine beaches and walking alone along a beach with sea birds crying is still possible over much of the planet. I hope it always remains possible. Read this book, if you are not already convinced of our lack of foresight, you will be!

5-0 out of 5 stars Eloquent and provocative
Why should we care about the oceans of the earth? This meticulously researched book poses a convincing argument: the physical and chemical cycles and life webs of the sea are under siege from humans, with consequences to reefs, plankton and whales, as well as to our weather, health and livelihood. The threat goes way beyond global warming. Cramer effectively illuminates the problems and consequences while showing how we are all accountable for protecting the great waters -- whether we live in coastal communities or in cities far inland that dump pollutants into waterways that eventually enter the sea.

5-0 out of 5 stars Poetic Science
Ms. Cramer has achomplished the incredible here--a historic, scientific and poetic tribute to one of our great masses of water.
This book, while inspiring and "novelesque" in scope, also presents
the alarming ecological state of our planet's seas . . . yet not without springs of hope. I love what Cramer has done for all of us.
Good for anyone who gets excited about the sea and/or science!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Ocean Revealed!
This is an incredible book! It manages to take the last 30 years of ocean science and craft it into a compelling, readable, and eloquent story of the Atlantic and our dependence on it. The science is first rate and up to date; there have been few examples of natural history and environment writing so well done....

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Book!!
This is a wonderful book. A great read with incredible facts and a lyrical view. Deborah Cramer brings real journalism to the story of the Atlantic. ... Read more


39. I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier: Essays on Science, Scientists, and Humanity
by Max F. Perutz
list price: $15.00
our price: $15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0879696745
Catlog: Book (2002-12-01)
Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Sales Rank: 72423
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Science is no quiet life. Imagination, creativity, ambition, and conflict are as vital and abundant in science as in artistic endeavors. In this collection of essays, the Nobel Prize–winning protein chemist Max Perutz writes about the pursuit of scientific knowledge, which he sees as an enterprise providing not just new facts but cause for reflection and revelation, as in a poem or painting. Max Perutz's essays explore a remarkable range of scientific topics with the lucidity and precision Perutz brought to his own pioneering work in protein crystallography. He has been hailed as an author who "makes difficult subjects intelligible and writes with the warmth, humanity, and broad culture which has always characterized the great men of science." Of his previous collection of essays, a reviewer said "They turn the world of science and medicine into a marvelous land of adventure which I was thrilled to explore in the company of this wise and human [writer]." Readers of this volume can journey to the same land, with the same delight. Max Perutz (1914–2002) was a brilliant scientist, a visionary of molecular biology, and a writer of elegant essays infused with humanity and wisdom. This expanded paperback edition of his very successful book I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier contains nine additional essays, and a warmly evocative portrait of Max by his friend and professional colleague Sir John Meurig Thomas. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Charming prose, plenty of surprises
Perutz is not only a biochemist and a Nobel Laureate physicist, but a witty and graceful writer to boot, and readers will be in for a treat. But more than the character sketches of great scientific minds like Szilard and Monod, I appreciated two startling stories in particular, one of which is told in more fascinating detail than I'd encountered before, and the other, which is shocking and, if true, deserving of wider publicity. The first story details the work of Nobel prize-winning chemist Fritz Haber, whose synthesis of ammonia enabled Germany to sustain its military effort in WWI. Haber, a gentle man of tremendous culture and erudition, was also ambitious. Perutz describes in more detail than is readily available elsewhere Haber's efforts to sustain chemical warfare experiments after the war under the guise of agricultural research. Tragically, he supervised the development of Zyklon B, a deadly gas that would later be used to exterminate millions of people of Jewish descent, including some of Haber's own relatives. Fortunately for him, Haber died in exile before learning the full extent, and horror, of his folly. More startling to me was the story of Albert Schatz who, Perutz contends, is the real discoverer of streptomycin. Schatz, writes Perutz, "was the son of poor Jewish farmers in Connecticut and had studied soil microbiology to find ways of increasing the yields on his father's unproductive farm. He embarked on the search for antibiotics only because Waksman made it a condition of his meager offer of $40 a month to work in his laboratory; but then Schatz threw himself into the research, testing hundreds of different soil micro-organisms for antibacterial activity." Perutz claims that Schatz displayed all the initiative and effort warranted for a Nobel Prize, and that Waksman did nothing more than sit in his office while the experiments were going on. Later, claims Perutz, Waksman denied Schatz the recognition he so richly deserved. Unless I missed something, I wonder why Perutz is telling us this only now? Wouldn't it have been better for this information to have been revealed when Waksman was alive to defend himself? And can we expect forthcoming reference books to take note and set the record straight? ... Read more


40. It Must Be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science
by Graham Farmelo
list price: $25.00
our price: $16.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1862074798
Catlog: Book (2002-02-01)
Publisher: Granta Books
Sales Rank: 290805
Average Customer Review: 4.57 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The equation has come to embody the mystery and terror of modern science. It Must Be Beautiful is a wide-ranging collection of writings that lift the lid on some of the most influential — and notorious — equations of all time. This book brings together gifted scientists and writers, including Nobel Prize winners, to interpret the scientific work of the 20th century and place it in historical perspective. Each essay presents the essence of an equation, explains why it is fundamental, defines its scope and limitations, and finally states its importance in the wider intellectual and popular culture. ... Read more

Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Well worth the read - some excellent contributors !
At first I was disappointed - the most beautiful equation in the world, e^i.pi = -1, was missing! As I read the book, I looked back at the title : great equations of Modern Science, not of Modern Mathematics. And indeed that is what the book is.
However I do have a few criticisms :
I knew by reputation only 2 of the 12 authors - who were the other people? Long after I had searched out their biographies on the web, I found them at the front of the book - but before the title page rather than after - how strange to put them there, or not at the back of the book ?
I didn't think the Drake equation was that 'great' - and in Oliver Morton's chapter he places the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Costa Rica when in fact its in Puerto Rico.
In the opening chapter, Graham Farmelo briefly alludes to 'British Astronomers announcing their results' without explaining what it was they were looking for and what they found? Only in the later chapters by Peter Galison & Roger Penrose respectively do they take pains to explain that Sir Arthur Eddington measured the bending of starlight during an eclipse.
I was confused in the chapter on Schrodingers Wave Equation - it didn't describe the form I was familiar with. Then in the notes at the end of the book Arthur Miller explained the more general form - and confessed that the 'time' element had been ignored - rather a strange omission in my opinion.
Shannons Equations & the Logistic Map were both new to me - and very interesting they were.

5-0 out of 5 stars It Must Be beautiful
This book had some of the best insight on equatiion form i have read in the rescent past.I could read larger sections of it without haviong to go grab a bottle of asprin. The insight it gave on the personal lives and how the evolution of the equation came to be from raw base form to what we learn now is amazing. The sections on Diracs eqaution I found the most intresting. I would reccommend this book to anyone intrested in math and not just the text book side. It takes almost and artistic veiw on math which i have never seen before. Very intresting .
DIG IN AND ENJOY

5-0 out of 5 stars It is!
The quantities on the two side of each of the equations in the book, are from science, or from life. The equations result from scientific experiments or from pure theory. Planck's equation signaled the start of atomic physics, and Einstein's E=m c^2 , the continuation. Dirac's equation reveals the secrets of the electron. All the equations predict physical reality; and yet they are strikingly simple to state, perhaps not to fully understand.-- They *are* beautiful! . Really! They are also fundamental discoveries that affect us all. Schrodinger's equation [along with the equivalt formulation of Heisenberg] puts quantum theory on a solid footing, and started wave mechanics. Shannon's equations initiated the age of information technology. And there are more: relativity, astronomy, dynamics, chemestry... The book consists of chapters written by authorities in the field, Roger Penrose, Steven Weinberg..., but no [or at least very little] knowledge of science is assumed on the part of the reader. Highly recommended!

4-0 out of 5 stars An exhilarating and highly varied group of essays
This collection of eleven essays, each written by a different author, is a pleasing assortment of articles which I recommend highly. The essays cover an astonishingly wide range of unrelated topics, including the Planck-Einstein Equation for the Energy of a Quantum, the Drake equation that estimates the number of technological civilizations in our galaxy, and Shannon's Equations on information theory.

The only unpleasant aspect of this book is the uneven quality of the writing. Each author has a unique style of expression, so some chapters are exhilarating while others sound stilted and contrived. This is the reason I've limited my opinion to four instead of five stars.

The most technically "beautiful" equation in the book is probably the Dirac equation, but the chapter on logistic mapping and chaos theory ("The Best Possible Time to be Alive", by Robert May) is far and away the most enjoyable and best-written essay. These alone would warrant the price of the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful equations!
The power of equations can seem magical, writes MIT physics professor Frank Wilczek in an essay on the Dirac Equation, which describes the movement of quantum particles. Like the brooms created by the Sorcerer's Apprentice, they can take on a life of their own, giving birth to consequences that their creator did not expect, cannot control, and may even find repugnant. Though it seems like an odd reversal of the scientific method to do the math first and then find the data that fit, it has happened time and again. These 11 essays contributed by various scientists and science writers (e.g., Roger Penrose, Peter Galison, Oliver Morton, and Steven Weinberg) describe scientific advances that derived from mathematical theory such as Einstein's thought experiments on relativity, a game theory equation that predicted animal behavior, or the discovery that the mathematics of chaos describes the real-world phenomenon. A fascinating history of science for educated nonmathematical readers; for larger public and academic libraries. ... Read more


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