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181. The Borderlands of Science: Where
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181. The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense
by Michael Shermer
list price: $43.95
our price: $43.95
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Asin: 0195143264
Catlog: Book (2001-03-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 110903
Average Customer Review: 3.59 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

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

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

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

Reviews (17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


182. The Mathematical Universe : An Alphabetical Journey Through the Great Proofs, Problems, and Personalities
by WilliamDunham
list price: $19.95
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Asin: 0471176613
Catlog: Book (1997-02)
Publisher: Wiley
Sales Rank: 28722
Average Customer Review: 4.61 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

The Mathematical Universe is a solid collection of short essays, with each addressing a particular mathematical topic. Titles range from "Isoperimetric Problem" to "Where Are the Women?" Author Dunham is unafraid to refer to diagrams, equations, and rigorous arguments throughout the book, yet he manages to maintain a conversational tone. ... Read more

Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Journey
As the book's subtitle suggests, it is a journey through some of the world's greatest mathematical achievements. It is a collection of quasi-independent essays, loosely patterned after children's ABC picture books.

For me there were two things that made this book a joy to read. One was that, as the preface states, "each chapter provides a strong dose of history." This way each topic was considered in some human context that revealed just how remarkable its development was. The other trait I liked was that while each chapter followed the same basic formula, i.e., some history and then some math, no two chapters were presented in the same way. Thus, Dr. Dunham was able to avoid predictability.

Though the mathematics in this book was not terribly challenging, the reader should be fairly mathematically inclined. The historical periods covered were weighted in favor of the classical Greeks and the 17th century Europeans, and the corresponding developments paralleled current curricula through lower division college math courses.

On the minus side, I would like to have seen a bibliography in addition to the notes at the back of the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not too technical, but not to elementary.
Absolutely wonderful. This book should be titled "Obscure Math For Dummies," as it is always written so that a reader with basic mathematical background can understand it. I have read quite a bit of similar titles, but this is the ONLY one I would reccommend! The Mathematical Universe patches up holes of concepts that you never quite understood as well as introduces plenty of new math and its history. Loved the coverage of number theory.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent book that gives us a synopsis of the history of maths from early days. The only criticism I found (and no doubt other readers and the author) is that by virtue of the title, we are limited to one piece as per each letter of the alphabet. I personally would have liked to see the Z chapter written on Zero.

That apart, quite an entertaining read and highly recommended. Dunham should write some more.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining and informative
This book is perhaps the most entertaining popularization I ever came across.The book uses a minimum of mathematical technics to explain a lot of interesting problems and the genius of the men who first solved them.
Although the mathematical required is minimun , this is not a book for the complete mathematical illiterated reader

4-0 out of 5 stars A fun way to do ABCs
After reading this book, one wishes that the cardinality of the English alphabet was much larger. That way, there would have been more letters and hence more chapters. Each of the twenty-five chapters deals with a theme that begins with a letter of the alphabet (X- Y plane is one chapter). Some poetic license is taken here. For example, the K chapter has the title Knighted Newton, but that is just part of the fun.
The author takes an approach that differs from most popular expositions in that there is a good deal of emphasis on the personalities (sometimes cantankerous) of the characters. Mathematicians are often portrayed as brilliant air heads ignorant of the ways of humanity, but here they have all of the human foibles. It is sadly true that intellectual battles are among the most viscous of all. The cross-channel dispute over the origins of calculus lasted for decades and was extremely acrimonious. It took less time for nations to kiss and make up after wars that killed millions of people than it did for the mathematical communities of Britain and France to "resolve" the priority dispute between Newton and Liebniz.
Familial rivalry reached extreme heights (lows) in the Bernoulli family, as at times solving was placed in second position behind squabbling. However, many of the personalities were quite ordinary . Pierre Fermat was in many ways an ordinary member of the French bureaucracy whose life outside mathematics seems to have been quite dull. The most prolific mathematician of all time, Leonhard Euler, was a quite likable father of many children who managed to perform superb mathematics even after going blind.
There is a slithering humorous vein coursing throughout the book, occasionally good but most often a member of the groaner set. The author avoids using the title, "Here's Looking at Eu-Clid," but cannot resist mentioning it later. There is even speculation as to why 50 percent of male mathematicians have beards. Since this reviewer has one, he will offer his own solution. Shaving is boring!
A fascinating collection of essays that touch every facet of the history of mathematics, this is sure to be one of the largest of the crown jewels of popular mathematics.

Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission. ... Read more


183. The Principia : Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
by Isaac Newton, I. Bernard Cohen, Anne Whitman
list price: $39.95
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Asin: 0520088174
Catlog: Book (1999-07-01)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 25301
Average Customer Review: 4.77 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his monumental 1687 work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, known familiarly as the Principia, Isaac Newton laid out in mathematical terms the principles of time, force, and motion that have guided the development of modern physical science. Even after more than three centuries and the revolutions of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, Newtonian physics continues to account for many of the phenomena of the observed world, and Newtonian celestial dynamics is used to determine the orbits of our space vehicles.

This completely new translation, the first in 270 years, is based on the third (1726) edition, the final revised version approved by Newton; it includes extracts from the earlier editions, corrects errors found in earlier versions, and replaces archaic English with contemporary prose and up-to-date mathematical forms.

Newton's principles describe acceleration, deceleration, and inertial movement; fluid dynamics; and the motions of the earth, moon, planets, and comets. A great work in itself, the Principia also revolutionized the methods of scientific investigation. It set forth the fundamental three laws of motion and the law of universal gravity, the physical principles that account for the Copernican system of the world as emended by Kepler, thus effectively ending controversy concerning the Copernican planetary system.

The illuminating Guide to the Principia by I. Bernard Cohen, along with his and Anne Whitman's translation, will make this preeminent work truly accessible for today's scientists, scholars, and students.

"This new, vastly better translation of the Principia is the perfect work for illustrating how science, at its best, succeeds in turning data into decisive evidence."--George E. Smith, Tufts University

"This translation is deeply impressive and will be the definitive version for a century to come. Cohen's guide is up-to-date on matters of Newton scholarship and free from discarded conjectures of the past."--Curtis Wilson, St. John's College ... Read more

Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars now there is a good english edition!
[...]
It was very difficult to grasp in Latin (I've had a try on it),
not that much easy in the Motte facsimile translation (I can assure it), and the Cajori-Motte edition was only half modernized and otherwise flawed.

This edition, sponsored by I.B. Cohen (the Latin editor) gives us a fresh, modern English translation of the text, and -almost as thick- a guide to using and reading this all-important book, which is not -as everybody is aware- an easy reader. One word of caution: Newton was, of course, (pace Leibnitz) the discoverer of calculus, but he doesn't use it here, but "more geometrico"
rigorous proofs, much in the style of that other genius of all ages, Archimedes. If you need help grasping the contents and impact of this work, then you must get some book like DENSMORE, D., Newton's Principia: The Central Argument (other auxiliary books are commented in the Guide potion of the book I'm reviewing).

5-0 out of 5 stars A humbling and awe inspiring experience...
This is the third time I have read the PRINCIPIA. Every time I come back with even greater awe and respect for this masterpiece.

Friends, this is a classic work. Reading this book and digesting the material is an experience you will never forget. Just imagine. Three hundred and some years ago Newton came up with the theory of fluxions (Calculus), the theory of light, the theory of gravitation, and much more. Then reading about it in his own words (here translated from the original Latin); is very humbling and awe inspiring.

A word of caution. The writing is turgid in keeping with the times and because it is a translation. Also, if you are not familiar with calculus or basic classical mechanics the material will require an extra effort on your part. This is NOT a easy read. Therefore, take your time reading this book. Maybe even a chapter a week. After the initial inconveniences believe me you will not regret it. You will be inspired and plain surprised that this jewel of knowledge is so affordable to us today.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Translation
When not using this book as a reference, I often use it to exercise. Seriously, the translation from the original Latin has finally paid off. This book is an important part of science and history. One can get into the thought processes of Newton with this book. Having read other translations, I must say that this one is by far the best.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great
Among a very select few others including the Bible and the Code of Hammurabi, this is one of the most important books ever written. This is where Isaac Newton first publicly put forth the calculus and the scientific method. A tremendous intellectual rupture that we are still dealing with, this book was indirectly responsible for historical shifts such as the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. No mean feat.

The Principa is not an introductory calculus for the modern reader. It is written in Newton's own notational style. This style is different from the modern one, used in calculus today. The modern calculus notation system was devised by Leibniz. Newton's system of notation proved less useful than Leibniz's, and the better one has won out. Leibniz had independently discovered the calculus prior to the publication of Principia. Thus, Leibniz was not influenced by Newton's notational style. Leibniz's discovery of the calculus was made in secret on the continent several years after Newton had made his own secret discovery of it in Britain. Leibniz's work was published only after Newton's Principia was published. This led Newton to wrongly believe that his work had been stolen. An epic debate between the British and continental academies ensued with each side championing their man.

This book has enormous historical interest. For a person who is already educated in calculus, this book will take you to the source of the subject matter, the mouth of the Nile, so to speak. As for the scientific method, this is where it was conceived.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well-done translation; not in a thoroughly modern in style
There's no point in me critiquing the Principia itself--it's been done hundreds of times--so I'll focus on the translation.

The translation follows the original Latin work rather closely; about as closely as the older Motte-Cajoli translation, in fact. However, the translators have modernized the terminology, fixed many errors, and put many awkward Latin formulations into a modern mathematical notation.

But, generally speaking, the text still feels 1670's-ish. I, unfortunately, was looking for a much looser translation, into a thorougly modern mathematical style. I was more interested in understanding Newton's mathematical thought process than his writing style (which in Latin wasn't quite as pleasant as it was in English).

So, to readers looking for a throroughly modern mathematical style, this isn't it. However, I believe this is still the most modern English translation there is.

Apart from my particular wants, however, I found this translation to be very well done. The translators included a detailed description of their rationale.

As a mechanical engineer, where this work is the ultimate foundation of everything I do, I am very happy to own it. ... Read more


184. Sensitive Chaos: The Creation of Flowing Forms in Water and Air
by Theodor Schwenk
list price: $29.95
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Asin: 1855840553
Catlog: Book (1990-01-01)
Publisher: Anthroposophic Press
Sales Rank: 174527
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Creation of Flowing Forms in Water and Air

Theodor Schwenk

Translated by Olive Whicher & Johanna Weigley

More than ever before, today we need "water consciousness" and we can begin with this essential and classic book on water as the universal bearer of living, formative processes.

Beginning with simple flowing phenomena of water and air, Schwenk gradually builds up, with the help of marvelous photographs and drawings, the "letters" of an alphabet that will allow us to "read" the living meaning of water.

The spiritual, formative processes are gradually brought to light, and we come to recognize the Creative Word in the universe.

Fully illustrated. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Water, Water, Everywhere
It's out-of-print. No one you know has ever heard of this book. No matter: the trouble you may have in finding a copy of Sensitive Chaos will be worth it. The images will remain with you. The text will teach the old dog (you) new tricks. And years and years from now you will still recognize the spiral of water in the things you see, and you'll even feel a little more connected to the world. Beautiful book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and poetic view of science
This beautiful book remains scientifically accurate while describing in poetic and spiritual style the flowing of fluids in nature. A beautiful collection of pictures illustrates how even living things follow the rules of fluid flow as new cells flow forth in the growth process. ... Read more


185. Strange Angel : The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons
by George Pendle
list price: $25.00
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Asin: 015100997X
Catlog: Book (2005-01-18)
Publisher: Harcourt
Sales Rank: 398778
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Book Description

Brilliant Rocket Scientist Killed in Explosion screamed the front-page headline of the Los Angeles Times on June 18, 1952. John Parsons, a maverick rocketeer whose work had helped transform the rocket from a derided sci-fi plotline into a reality, was at first mourned as a tragically young victim of mishandled chemicals. But as reporters dug deeper a shocking story emerged-Parsons had been performing occult rites and summoning spirits as a follower of Aleister Crowley-and he was promptly written off as an embarrassment to science.

George Pendle tells Parsons's extraordinary life story for the first time. Fueled from childhood by dreams of space flight, Parsons was a crucial innovator during rocketry's birth. But his visionary imagination also led him into the occult community thriving in 1930s Los Angeles, and when fantasy's pull became stronger than reality, he lost both his work and his wife. Parsons was just emerging from his personal underworld when he died at age thirty-seven. In Strange Angel, Pendle recovers a fascinating life and explores the unruly consequences of genius.
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186. On Guerrilla Warfare
by Zedong Mao, Tse-Tung Mao
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
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Asin: 0252068920
Catlog: Book (2000-10-01)
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Sales Rank: 9285
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Learn from the master
It might not be a bad idea to make this book compulsory reading at all military academies...and then ban it in Iraq while America still has the authority to do so.

I think Mao intended this essay to be another one of his theoretical Marxist works (Mao thought of himself as a first-class Marxist theoretician). But without question it also served as an instruction manual for his ragtag Red Army while fighting among the tortuous terrain in northwestern China, in part against Japan, in part against Chiang. Considering his success as a practitioner of guerrilla warfare, one would have to be insane to ignore this work.

I'm struck how short that chapter is on guerrilla wars in history. Mao was widely read in Chinese and world history and it would have been his style to display this knowledge in a work like this had he chosen to do so.

Americans should not think of themselves as only at the receiving end of guerrillas. Washington learned this kind of fighting during the French and Indian Wars, and he put some of this experience to good use against a British army better armed, better trained, and greater in numbers than the Continentals. He exploited geography, made surprise raids, used mobility and patience to wear out the red coats - all hallmarks of guerrillas. The all-important Battle of Trenton was such kind of unconventional warfare: an Indian raid, essentially. But it sure got results. Regular or conventional battles like Yorktown only came later, when British impatience was at the breaking point.

Mao really could have done better than just cite Russian resistance to Napoleon as an example. (Never mind his other Chinese examples. for the moment.) Apart from Washington, the Spaniards also tore the Grand Armee to pieces with guerrillas - in fact, Spain's where the word came from. Of course, another great example of guerrilla warfare was Stalingrad. But always, to my mind, the Teutoberg forest was where guerrillas first made their greatest name in Western history. (I know little Greek history to comment further.) Octavian lost three Roman legions thanks to the German barbarians, and Rome hadn't suffered a panic quite like this since Spartacus.

Believe it or not, Mao got his inspiration not from Lenin (though he paid much lip service to him), not even from Sun Tsu (whom he read only when his military career was over), but from the classic historical novels of ancient China, especially The Water Margins and Three Kingdoms. That he didn't cite these is understandable enough: he always insisted on learning truths from facts, and novels don't provide facts though they do generate interest in the motivated reader. And Mao was nothing if not motivated.

Griffith's extraordinary credentials are not worth repeating here. His intro is excellent. He is dead right that guerrillas thrive anywhere: from the dense jungle of Vietnam to the flat deserts of Iraq. Where there are men willing to fight, and a will to win, and patience, all it takes is a little hard thinking to make them great guerrillas. Let us learn from the master, not by regurgitating his rules, which he would never have done himself, but by thinking critically and philosophically through his logic.

5-0 out of 5 stars Nothing secret
I read this in high school in the late 1980s and asked myself, "Why wasn't this mandatory reading at West Point in the late 1950s and 1960s?"
This book, in conjunction with Ho Chi Min's writings on the use of guerrilla warfare, is the absolute basic understanding of the Viet Nam War from back BEFORE the French Foreign Legion were fighting for their colony. EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING, in this book is used in the fight against the French right up to Dien Bien Phue, and continued up until the fall of Saigon in 1975. EVERYTHING. Why did America lose the Viet Nam War? Read this. How could America have been so wrong to back Ho Chi Min, Chaing Chi Chek, and Kim Il Song, in the Second World War? Read this.
You will say, "Wow" many times throughout the book, and in the end you will ask, "When was this first printed? How the bleep could we have been so wrong?"

5-0 out of 5 stars The Treatise on Guerrilla Warfare
Stanley B. Griffiths work is timeless, relevant, and is a must read for those seriously exploring the Western use of joint, interagency, and multinational force to counter guerrilla activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Colombia, etc.. Griffith's 1961 introduction alone is worth the price of the book. His recommendation to study guerrilla warfare in 1940 and again in 1961 was on the mark. He cites examples of successful guerrilla operations (Frances Marion; the Spanish against Napoleon; the Russians against Napoleon; the Russians against Hitler; the Vietnamese against the French, Castro in Cuba) and the value of these historical examples to further study. He cites ten key factors worth comparing to determine which side has the advantage in a guerrilla war. His discussion of the three phases of guerrilla war, and the warning to stop them before they they advance beyond phase one is sage advice. His recommendation to locate, isolate, and eradicate is a simple pattern for developing an effective counterguerrilla strategy. He does warn that countering guerrilla operations is not solely a military activity--the political arm is the key. Perhaps it is his conclusion that historically, there has not been a counter to revolutionary guerrilla warfare which gives one pause when addressing world events in 2003. Griffith comes to these conclusions by laying out Mao's thought in simple, clear writing. Essentially, Mao recognized the fundamental disparity between agrarian and urban societies, he advocated unorthodox strategies that converted deficits into advantages: using intelligence provided by the sympathetic peasant population; substituting deception, mobility, and surprise for superior firepower; using retreat as an offensive move; and educating the inhabitants as an offensive move; and educating the inhabitants on the ideological basis of the struggle. This radical approach to warfare, waged in the mountains by mobile guerrilla bands closely supported by local inhabitants, has been adopted by other revolutionary leaders throughout the world. The challenge for those studying guerrilla warfare is still on the table: what do you do about it? A start, is reading Mao's writings which provide the first documented, systematic study of the subject.

3-0 out of 5 stars Surprising
Before reading this book, I thought guerilla warfare consisted of a farmer firing off his shotgun at passing helicopters. Mao's text reveals a great deal more planning, thought and organization must go into conducting a successful insurgency. Short and to the point, this book is a surprising modern account of employing guerilla warfare against a more powerful enemy. Some, though not all, of these strategies can be seen in America's intervention in Iraq.

One thing worth noting: this text is by and large theoretical. This was Mao's intention it seems, so those who expect to see indepth analysis of real battles might be disappointed. Through the text, Mao does reference several campaigns that buttress his arguments, but chances are they will be unfamiliar to a non-military history buff. It will require your own effort and thinking to observe these guerilla tactics in battles familiar to Americans, such as in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

5-0 out of 5 stars See the Roadmap for the Terrorists Right Here
I first read this book in Nam as a young Marine Sniper. I served two tours there and have written about it in my book. When Sept 11 happened and I heard all this stuff about the new tactics and new war and how we've never faced this stuff I pulled this book off my shelves and read some pieces to my wife without telling her what it was from and she thought I was reading what they were saying on tv. (...) Worth reading folks. ... Read more


187. The Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Volume 7, 1858-1859 (The Correspondence of Charles Darwin)
by Charles Darwin
list price: $100.00
our price: $100.00
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Asin: 0521385644
Catlog: Book (1992-01-30)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Sales Rank: 701082
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Book Description

The seventh volume of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin covers two of the most momentous years in Darwin's life and in the history of science. Begun in 1856, Darwin's big book on species, later published as Natural Selection (Cambridge University Press, 1974) was a little more than half finished when Darwin unexpectedly received a letter and a manuscript from Alfred Russel Wallace indicating that he too had independently formulated a theory of natural selection. In a letter to his friend, Charles Lyell, Darwin wrote, "So all my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed." On the Origin of Species was an abstract of the larger manuscript and was published in 1859.All the extant correspondence surrounding Darwin's receipt of Wallace's letter and the eventual publication of the abstract of Darwin's theory a year later is gathered in this volume. The letters detail the stages in the preparation of what was to become one of the world's most famous works, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. They reveal the first impressions of Darwin's book given by his confidants; including Joseph Dalton Hooker, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Asa Gray.Finally, the letters relate Darwin's anxious response to the early reception of this theory by friends, family members, and prominent naturalists. This volume provides the key to understanding Darwin's remarkable efforts for more than two decades to solve one of nature's greatest riddles--the origin of species.This volume also contains a supplement (1821-1857) of letters which have been located or redated since publication of Volumes One to Six of the Correspondence.Many of these letters appear in print for the first time and provide an interesting and important complement to the correspondence published to date. ... Read more


188. Mapping Human History : Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins
by Steve Olson
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
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Asin: 0618352104
Catlog: Book (2003-04-01)
Publisher: Mariner Books
Sales Rank: 19227
Average Customer Review: 3.74 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In a journey across four continents, acclaimed science writer Steve Olson traces the origins of modern humans and the migrations of our ancestors throughout the world over the past 150,000 years. Like Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, Mapping Human History is a groundbreaking synthesis of science and history. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including the latest genetic research, linguistic evidence, and archaeological findings, Olson reveals the surprising unity among modern humans and "demonstrates just how naive some of our ideas about our human ancestry have been" (Discover).Olson offers a genealogy of all humanity, explaining, for instance, why everyone can claim Julius Caesar and Confucius as forebears. Olson also provides startling new perspectives on the invention of agriculture, the peopling of the Americas, the origins of language, the history of the Jews, and more. An engaging and lucid account, Mapping Human History will forever change how we think about ourselves and our relations with others. ... Read more

Reviews (31)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Rebuttal Against Racism
Olson's "Mapping Human History" is written in a clear, easy to understand style that makes mitochondira, haplotypes and other archana of modern genetics fairly understandable to the lay reader.

Olson explains why most geneticists believe that modern humans, no matter how different they may seem, are biologically very similar. There is no room in this book for theories about how one "race" is somehow better than another--or even for the idea that the term "race" has any meaning at all. Our cultures may have divided us, but our DNA betrays the fact that we are all descended from a small group of modern humans who lived in eastern Africa about 100,000 years ago. There simply hasn't been enough time to make us dramatically different from each other, despite what racists would have us believe.

The theory that modern humans originated in Africa fairly recently and then spread throughout the world is still, of course, hotly debated. A number of reputable scientists favor the multiregional hypothesis, which claims that modern humans evolved in various places around the world from archaic populations already living in those regions. The mutliregional hypothesis implies that the differences between modern groups are deeply rooted in the very distant past. Olson clearly disagrees with that view, and he does a good job of presenting the genetic evidence that points to a more recent African origin (sometimes called the "Out of Africa II" hypothesis).

In the course of doing so, Olson touches on many interesting points. A few of the more striking were these:

First, Olson describes recent DNA research indicating that Neanderthals were in fact a different species from our own. This is another hotly debated proprosition, and I suspect that experts could criticize the DNA analysis that Olson describes on the grounds that it's pretty hard to make sense of 35,000 year old DNA. Still, Olson makes a good case that the new results are compelling and consistent with other evidence.

Second, Olson describes the Jewish tradition that the male descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses, will be the high priests of the Israelites. Genetic research among the kohanim (priests), who often have a surname like Cohen, Cohn, or Kahn, suggests that many of these persons are in fact descended from a common male ancestor, who may indeed have been Aaron.

Finally, Olson explains why everyone on the planet at this point probably has some genetic material contributed by Julius Caesar and Confucius, among others. It's a small world after all, at least as far as our DNA is concerned.

The only part of the book that I didn't enjoy were the last couple of chapters, which shift from the topic at hand (i.e., "mapping human history") to questions of ethics. While these issues are important, they are too complex to be explored well in the fifty or so pages that Olson alots to them, and the discussion tends to detract from the fascinating "deep history" that is the focus of the rest of the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Highly Readable
Steve Olson's Mapping Human History is a wonderful account of the journeys of modern man. The author explains all of the science involved in a very understandable and readable way so that all readers can follow this fascinating story. The narrative concerns the migration of man out of Africa and then all around the globe. Language and archeology play a part but this book focuses on the genetic clues to piece together this history which everyone alive today shares. Along the way, he debunks theories of race and any idea of biology as destiny. The author shows that we, modern humans, are all genetically related wherever we have recently hailed from. He does not shy away from the various controversies that swirl around these ideas but tackles them with great skill, particularly in the chapters focusing on the Americas. This is a very informative and entertaining book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ FOR THE LAYMAN
FOUND THIS BOOK THE BEST ON THE SUBJECT THAT I HAVE EVER READ! HIGHLY READABLE (NON-TECHNICAL) FOR US "LAYMAN" - WOULD NOT PART WITH MY EDITION AS I WILL BE RE-READING IT FOR SOME TIME TO COME! IF YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST IN THIS SUBJECT I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS THOUGHTFUL, INFORMATIVE, AND OBJECTIVE HISTORY OF THE ORIGINS AND DISTRIBUTION OF "MODERN MANKIND".

5-0 out of 5 stars The story of our race, the human race
It is a fortunate fact of history that wrongful prejudice can scare bear the light of truthful inquiry. Olson provides this truthful inquiry in his search for the origins and migrations of the human race from the African continent of 150,000 years ago to today. For those who have or would claim a "superior race" they find quick and strong rebuke in the fact of a common racial human origin. Today, there are some seven billion people on the planet. Two thousand years ago, that figure was around 200 million. One hundred thousand years ago, that figure was around 10,000. Ten thousand humans lived in Africa 100,000 years ago. We are therefore all litterally extended brothers and sisters. This book is the story of our race told through the unbiased perspective of our mitochondrial DNA. For those straining to recall high school science, our mitochondria are power plants of our cells. In evolutionary prehistory, they merged with regular cells before humans even existed. Because of the nature in how they are passed on, their DNA can be uniquely examined with an eye toward reviewing our maternal history. In this way, the story of our mothers becomes the story of us, taking us all back to same stooped endangered group of humans living in prehistoric Africa. This book is an excellent book to be read in conjunction with other historical studies, anthropological studies or studies on human development. Olson's accessible writing style makes his points easy to grasp and his obvious enthusiasm contagiously makes you want to read on and better understand.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book!
Steve Olson's Mapping Human History is an excellent introduction to historical genetics, and indeed it has been called by the New Scientist as "the most balanced, accessible and up-to-date survey of the field currently available." It is written by a renowned science journalist, not a scientist, who quotes and discusses the leaders in the field in a quite readable and entertaining fashion. The book has apparently offended some people by discounting ancestry (and racist offshoots) in light of the overwhelming evidence against the concept. However its scientific credentials are impeccable. ... Read more


189. Putting Auction Theory to Work (Churchill Lectures in Economics)
by Paul Milgrom
list price: $34.99
our price: $28.34
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0521536723
Catlog: Book (2004-01-12)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Sales Rank: 106668
Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Providing a comprehensive introduction to modern auction theory and its important new applications, this book is written by a leading economic theorist whose suggestions guided the creation of the new spectrum auction designs. Aimed at graduate students and professionals in economics, the volume provides the most up-to-date analysis of traditional theories of "optimal auctions" as well as newer theories of multi-unit auctions and package auctions, and shows by example how these theories are used.It explores the limitations of prominent older designs, such as the Vickrey auction design, and evaluates the practical responses to those limitations. Paul Milgrom is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Economics, Stanford University. He is the author of more than sixty articles and co-author of the influential textbook, Economics, Organization and Management (Prentice Hall, 1992). Professor Milgrom is a pioneer in the economic theory of auctions and co-designer of the simultaneous, multiple round auction that the FCC adopted for selling radio spectrum licenses. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars Very dry
Paul Milgrom is a great guy and a good teacher, and clearly, his knowledge of auction theory is unparalleled. But, as such, his proofs are very slick, sometimes leaving little room for intuition, and overall, the book is extremely dry. For an advanced reader in auctions, this may be the right book, but if you're simply a game theorist/economist eager to learn the basics and foundations, I would recommend Krishna's book instead. ... Read more


190. How We Believe : Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God (second edition)
by Michael Shermer
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
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Asin: 0805074791
Catlog: Book (2003-10-01)
Publisher: Owl Books
Sales Rank: 17984
Average Customer Review: 3.52 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A new edition covering the latest scientific research on how the brain makes us believers or skeptics

Recent polls report that 96 percent of Americans believe in God, and 73 percent believe that angels regularly visit Earth. Why is this? Why, despite the rise of science, technology, and secular education, are people turning to religion in greater numbers than ever before? Why do people believe in God at all?

These provocative questions lie at the heart of How We Believe , an illuminating study of God, faith, and religion. Bestselling author Michael Shermer offers fresh and often startling insights into age-old questions, including how and why humans put their faith in a higher power, even in the face of scientific skepticism. Shermer has updated the book to explore the latest research and theories of psychiatrists, neuroscientists, epidemiologists, and philosophers, as well as the role of faith in our increasingly diverse modern world.

Whether believers or nonbelievers, we are all driven by the need to understand the universe and our place in it. How We Believe is a brilliant scientific tour of this ancient and mysterious desire.
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Reviews (44)

4-0 out of 5 stars Does This Book Really Answer The Question
To me the title of this book suggested a treatise essentially on the psychology of belief systems. Indeed we are presented with quite interesting material in this regard. Mr. Schermer uses the fields of psychology, evolutionary biology, sociology, philosophy, and anthropology, amongst others, to help explain belief systems.

While I found that almost all the book held my interest, it seemed somewhat disjointed. Some of the material is also quite controversial. While such matters only serve to entertain me, others may get offended - Christians may take umbrage at having their beliefs repeatedly referred to as "myths".

The book presents intriguing survey results on why people believe in God. What is most fascinating is that respondents felt that other people believe in God for reasons that differ considerably from their own. Shermer moves on into a discussion of evolutionary biology and a "belief module" (more controversy). Then, surprisingly, we move into a section concerned with traditional philosophical arguments (primarily those of Thomas Aquinas) for belief in God. When you get right down to it, no one embraces religious belief purely on the basis of philosophical arguments. Creationists will be offended by a section on their beliefs. A chunk of the book is given to the Indian Ghost Dance of the 1890s, and we read a discussion on a mathematical refutation of the recent best seller The Bible Code. Good stuff, but its like reading a collection of essays that are not often obviously related to each other.

The final chapter had me scratching my head the most. It's a section discussing the controversy surrounding Stephen Jay Gould's theories of evolution regarding necessity/contingency/chance. While poring through this I kept wondering what it had to do with religion. My question was never answered satisfactorily. Shermer forces this subject into a paean to the wonders of living in a contingent universe. He states that his abandonment of religion allows him to bask in the beauty of our magnificent universe. I get annoyed with concept that if you are religious you can't appreciate science and nature. Not every religious believer is constrained by fundamentalist young earth/intelligent design theories. I am an agnostic who was brought up a Catholic. My intense curiosity and admiration of nature was as strong when I was a believer as it is as a non-believer today.

5-0 out of 5 stars Kudos for Shermer
I have just been introduced to Shermer's work. I think he is a beaon for clear and critical thinking. We need more like him in this world ruled by religious bigotry and irrationalism.

5-0 out of 5 stars Two books in one...and both them very thought provoking
This is one of those excellent examples of getting something extra in the bargain.
For, when one buys this book, not only do they get a very thorough treatment of the psychological, social and historical factors which incline humans toward religion but they also get Mr. Shermer's own unique take on the matter in the form of his chapter 10 which suggests that we accept the miracle of humanity's chance existence and our own by trying to make the best of it.
If you expect by skepticism, either a cynical distance or dispassion, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised with Mr. Shermer's genuine command of the multiple disciplines he must - of needs - rely upon in building his thesis that religion is the simple byproduct of human behavior and history.
The most notable characteristic about these books is usually the invariable Rorshach quality in which the author reveals himself in his views on religion and the almighty. To the careful observer sometimes one can even see the seeds of childhood disfunction in the author's projected worldview.
Again fortunately, such is not the case here where Shermer not shows an appreciation for the outside view of religion but rather also its own subtle capacity to beauty and inspiration. Indeed, this subtle beauty informs Mr. Shermer's world view.
Don't get me wrong, if you begin this book from the vantage point of one religious world view, I would offer that that's where you'll end up. That being said, you'll arrive there a little better informed.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent analysis of a puzzling topic
Why people believe in the things they believe has always interested me. Shermer, who is the head of the Skeptics Society, takes a deep look into questions of "faith" and reason, and discovers answers that may surprise you.

Personally, I found this book both lucid and elegantly written... almost reminded me of Sagan. (And that is a huge complement coming from me.)

While Shermer treads lightly on religion, his message remains clear.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who either has an open mind, or wants one.

2-0 out of 5 stars Really disappointing.
I'm a great fan of Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things," so it's disheartening to have to review this book negatively. Sometimes the tone is . . . genuflectional? He does address truly novel ideas, citing Tooby & Cosmides and others, for evolutionary hypotheses for the universality of religious belief, but no unified view emerges in the book. Also, there is a completely superfluous chapter defending Stephen Gould, whom he declares as his "friend" at the beginning of the book, which reveals a probable bias: Gould hates adaptive/evolutionary points of view on social matters. No wonder Shermer drops the issue like a hot potato in this book. ... Read more


191. Politics of Nature : How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy
by Bruno Latour
list price: $24.95
our price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0674013476
Catlog: Book (2004-04-30)
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Sales Rank: 43978
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Book Description

A major work by one of the more innovative thinkers of our time, Politics of Nature does nothing less than establish the conceptual context for political ecology--transplanting the terms of ecology into more fertile philosophical soil than its proponents have thus far envisioned. Bruno Latour announces his project dramatically: "Political ecology has nothing whatsoever to do with nature, this jumble of Greek philosophy, French Cartesianism and American parks." Nature, he asserts, far from being an obvious domain of reality, is a way of assembling political order without due process. Thus, his book proposes an end to the old dichotomy between nature and society--and the constitution, in its place, of a collective, a community incorporating humans and nonhumans and building on the experiences of the sciences as they are actually practiced.

In a critique of the distinction between fact and value, Latour suggests a redescription of the type of political philosophy implicated in such a "commonsense" division--which here reveals itself as distinctly uncommonsensical and in fact fatal to democracy and to a healthy development of the sciences. Moving beyond the modernist institutions of "mononaturalism" and "multiculturalism," Latour develops the idea of "multinaturalism," a complex collectivity determined not by outside experts claiming absolute reason but by "diplomats" who are flexible and open to experimentation.

... Read more

192. Sat II: Mathematics: Levels Ic and IIC (Sat II. Mathematics (Kaplan))
by Inc. Staff of Kaplan
list price: $18.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743205340
Catlog: Book (2001-03-01)
Publisher: Kaplan
Sales Rank: 467197
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

You will get a higher score. We guarantee it.

SAT II: Mathematics, Levels IC and IIC, Sixth Edition comes complete with a targeted review of all the material on both levels of the exam, plus Kaplan's score-increasing strategies and a helpful stress management section. This powerful combination makes SAT II: Mathematics a highly effective way for you to score higher on these intensive subject tests, enabling you to approach them with confidence.

* 4 Full-Length Practice Tests with Complete Explanations

* The Most Up-to-Date Information on the Test

* An Intensive Review of All the Tested Subjects:

* Algebra
* Plane Geometry
* Coordinate Geometry
* Functions
* Solid Geometry
* Trigonometry

* Effective Strategies to Succeed on Every Type of Question ... Read more

Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent book for prepping the SAT II maths.
This book is a really good guide to do well in the SAT II Maths section. It is concise and doesn't overboard you with information which is useless and you won't find on the real test. The book balances out the explaning with a good set of questions at the beginning to tell you what you need to improve on and end to see how you improved. The structure and content of this book is so much better than the Barron's one because the content they give you for the IC level is enough to actually do most of the IIC tesT (which means that the questions they give ya are a lot harder). Kaplan's tests mirror the actual SAT test so whatever you get in the book is going to be most likely ur score for the real thing (not including pressure and stuff). Also the explanations it gives you for each answer is crystal clear and should leave no confusion as they explain it thoroughly so that if you are given a similar question on the test again you should be able to get it correct.
The scaling of their scores is pretty correct. My score started off (currently in grade 9 now) with a score of 480 but it went up to a score of 660 which is a huge increase.
The book gives you the key/main points and formulas you need to know but in the end they twist the questions from the diagnostic from the beginnning of the chpater MAKING SURE u know how to apply the maths that they have just taught you which is good as you aren't going to see the same exact questions on the real thing.
One flaw which the kaplan book does have is that it should offer more examples/questions to give more practice before you actually take the test so that people will no what other questions are expected with that certain formula/method etc.
Overall i would recommend this too anyone hu needs help for the SAT II math (and definitely dont buy Barron's unless if you have LOTS of time to read their explanations, and not do that many questions).

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book for studying for the SAT II's
I was totally freaked out when I had to take the SAT II Math CI last year because I was only in tenth grade. I bought three practice books: Kaplan, REA, and Spark Notes. Kaplan was by far the best. It prepares you well and helps you figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone else in my math class used only the REA book to prepare for the test, and as a result, they all scored lower than I did. Though it would be best to prepare for this test with multiple books (but DON'T use REA - the questions are very unrealistic and there are many, many errors), this book does a good job at teaching the basics. With its help I only got two questions wrong and received a 770.

5-0 out of 5 stars Accurate representation of the real test
For some odd reason, I found it hard to find a book that accurately depicts the contents of the actual SAT II:Math IIC test. However, my search ended when I bought this book from amazon.com. This book focuses completely on the questions one can expect on the real exam and doesn't bother you with unnecessary or outdated material (like what you'd find in Barron's). The two practice tests were some of the best I've found. However, I would accredit my 800 to working with a number of books and working over a good period of time. I would recommend that anyone who is buying this book also pick up The Princeton Review's book and do their practice drill questions. If you have the time and feel you could use more practice, you can give the REA's book a shot. It isn't as realistic as this book, but it makes good practice.

In short, Kaplan is absolutely amazing: make sure its in your shopping cart!

4-0 out of 5 stars Pretty decent book
I had the baron's one and found the questions in it very hard, even though i was pretty good at math. Got this book and found that it showed the basic essence needed and gave a more realistic
picture (simpler questions) for the SAT 2.

However, if you are rather good at math, this book would slightly
disappoint you. But still, it was worth the purchase.

5-0 out of 5 stars This is my favorite for tests and review
The four full-length tests are probably the best feature of the book (2 Ic and 2 IIc). The review is excellent too; the study plans for Ic and IIc are well laid out. The chapters clearly tell you what to study depending on what level you're going for, and the key notes in the margins give a lot of helpful hints. In addition to the tests, each chapter has quizzes, so that there are a lot of really good practice questions. I wasted a lot of money on another book; this one is clear and sensible. Wish I'd bought it first! ... Read more


193. Celestial Treasury : From the Music of the Spheres to the Conquest of Space
by Marc Lachieze-Rey, Jean-Pierre Luminet
list price: $60.00
our price: $42.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0521800404
Catlog: Book (2001-07-16)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Sales Rank: 87422
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Throughout history, the mysterious dark skies have inspired our imaginations in countless ways, influencing our endeavors in science and philosophy, religion, literature, and art. Filled with 380 full-color illustrations, Celestial Treasury shows the influence of astronomical theories and the richness of illustrations in Western civilization through the ages. The authors explore the evolution of our understanding of astronomy and weave together ancient and modern theories in a fascinating narrative. They incorporate a wealth of detail from Greek verse, medieval manuscripts and Victorian poetry with contemporary spacecraft photographs and computer-generated star charts. Celestial Treasury is more than a beautiful book: it answers a variety of questions that have intrigued scientists and laymen for centuries.

  • How did philosophers and scientists try to explain the order that governs celestial motion?
  • How did geometers and artists measure and map the skies?
  • How many different answers have been proposed for the most fundamental of all questions: When and how did Earth come about?
  • Who inhabits the heavens--gods, angels or extraterrestrials?No other book recounts humankind's fascination with the heavens as compellingly as Celestial Treasury.Marc Lachièze-Rey is a director of research at the Centre National pour la Récherche Scientifique and astrophysicist at the Centre d'Etudes de Saclay.He is the author of The Cosmic Background Radiation (Cambridge, 1999), and and The Quest for Unity, (Oxford, 1999 ), as well as many books in French. Jean-Pierre Luminet is a research director of the Centre National pour la Rechérche Scientifique, based at the Paris-Meudon observatory.He is the author of Black Holes, (Cambridge 1992), as well as science documentaries for television. ... Read more

    Reviews (2)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully enhanced with 380 full-color illustrations
    Celestial Treasury: From The Music Of The Spheres To The Conquest Of Space is an impressive coffee-table book surveying the history of man's exploration of the stars. The informative and engaging text is wonderfully enhanced with 380 full-color illustrations as the reader is treated to a full spectrum history of astronomy from antiquity down to the present day. Along the way such questions are addressed as how philosophers and scientists approach explaining the order that governs celestial motions; how geometers and artists measure and map the skies; when and how the Earth came into being; who inhabits the heaves; and more. Celestial Treasury is especially recommended as a "Memorial Gift" acquisition for both academic and community library astronomy and history of science collections.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Big and beautiful
    This is such a book as would have the most hardened reviewer reaching for the overworked superlatives. Impressive in size and sumptuous in production, for what is actually quite a reasonable price in present-day terms, it contrives to set forth much of the aesthetic attraction of astronomy both ancient and modern.

    The authors have marshalled a stunning array of historical and modem imagery under the general headings of "The harmony of the world", "Uranometry", "Cosmogenesis", and "Creatures of the sky". Not the least of its virtues is that as the original edition was jointly published by the Bibliothèque Nationale, the authors have been able to obtain readier access to the treasures of that institution than many other researchers find possible.

    Many of the illustrations from conventional astronomical rare books are familiar, though the hand-colouring of different copies makes a fascinating comparison, but others are less so - apart from the unique manuscript sources, the authors have made appropriate use of decorative embossed book covers, illustrations from l9th and 2Oth century books, especially early science fiction, early space art and even comic books. It can be a trifle disconcerting to find, for example, a modern map of the cosmic microwave background radiation juxtaposed with a l4th century manuscript, but such comparisons can be quite reasonable as long as they are not taken too literally.
    Although the innumerable illustrations are the most prominent feature of the book, the authors' impeccable credentials as high officials of the CNRS and as successful popularizers of astronomy lend the text authority and style. The authors have carefully described the significance of the thought behind the historic images, and the whole book will make a marvellous crib for captions and exhibitions, as well as being ideal fodder for picture researchers.
    The whole book is a striking demonstration that the most valuable use of historical imagery is to provide an accessible entry point to the subject; such beautiful images, intelligently explained, can engage the interest and commitment of the mathematically challenged in a way that the Schwarzschild Radius or the Chandrasekhar Limit will never do. A book that anybody with the slightest interest in the subject would be delighted to find . ... Read more


  • 194. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain
    by Antonio Damasio
    list price: $15.00
    our price: $10.20
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0156028719
    Catlog: Book (2003-12-01)
    Publisher: Harvest Books
    Sales Rank: 30185
    Average Customer Review: 4.27 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    In the seventeenth century, the philosopher Spinoza examined the role emotion played in human survival and culture. Yet hundreds of years and many significant scientific advances later, the neurobiological roots of joy and sorrow remain a mystery. Today, we spend countless resources doctoring our feelings with alcohol, prescription drugs, health clubs, therapy, vacation retreats, and other sorts of consumption; still, the inner workings of our minds-what feelings are, how they work, and what they mean-are largely an unexplored frontier.
    With scientific expertise and literary facility, bestselling author and world famous neuroscientist Antonio Damasio concludes his groundbreaking trilogy in Looking for Spinoza, exploring the cerebral processes that keep us alive and make life worth living.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (11)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A window on emotions
    Damasio has leapt almost to the top of the philosophical pyramid with his books on feelings and consciousness. Unbound by consensus thinking, he shows how the brain and body collaborate in forming what we call the "mind". In this book he reaches back in time to the works of Baruch Spinoza, perhaps the first philosopher with insights on emotions and will. Spinoza roundly refuted the separation of mind and body postulated by Descartes - a thesis with amazing tenacity. Damasio wants to revive the teachings of Spinoza in light of modern research's recent findings verifying and enlarging the Dutch philosopher's ideas. He possesses a unique style in supporting his campaign, with an ability to mix conversational and clinical presentations with fluid ease. This is his finest effort.

    Damasio blithely overturns traditional philosophy by giving the body a primary role in developing emotions. What the mind feels, the body has already expressed. Because the body and brain are so deeply integrated in their functions, the combined signals are manifested as "emotion". Our feelings of joy, sorrow and the host of other classifications we use in defining ourselves are the expressions of the interactions. What we say about feelings may be applied to the entire realm of what we call "awareness". In short, the mind represents the body - we react to its actions. Spinoza, without realizing it, was far in advance of his contemporaries.

    Damasio uses the wealth of research he and others have obtained over many years to support his contentions. In line with those in the forefront of "neurophilosophy", Damasio attributes evolutionary roots for his proposal. Other animals, he reminds us, react in similar ways to similar stimuli. They haven't the ability to express their reactions in language, but the body language says it sufficiently. Human evolution merely took these root causes a step further. Language, however, and the urge to detach us from the rest of the animal kingdom led us to also separate mind and body. Damasio, following both Spinoza and the finds of cognitive science, seeks to restore the integration.

    With an intelligible prose style, enhanced by diagrams and line drawings, this book is a treasure of information. The questions he raises, while jarring to anyone steeped in traditional philosophy, need answering. He's never above noting where more work is required and posits topics to be investigated. The extensive bibliography is valuable in understanding what we know and what remains to be revealed. These revelations, Damasio reminds us, apply further afield than academic disputes over philosophical issues. The view of mind and body underlies most of our concepts of justice, government, public education and social behaviour generally. What gives this book its ultimate value is what basis we apply in addressing these issues. If traditional philosophy's foundation is a false bulwark, we must replace it with a more rational basis. Spinoza had not patience with arguments from ignorance, Damasio states. Nor should you. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

    5-0 out of 5 stars Damasio selects Spinoza...A great book!
    Damasio's Looking for Spinoza is another great book with lots of great stuff to ponder; I highly recommend it. Here's one area (of many) I found interesting:

    In confronting our suffering and our need for salvation, in addition to Spinoza's requirement that we live "a virtuous life assisted by a political system whose laws help the individual with the task of being fair and charitable to others," Damasio writes (pg 275):

    "The Spinoza solution also asks the individual to attempt a break between the emotionally competent stimuli that trigger negative emotions--passions such as fear, anger, jealousy, sadness--and the very mechanisms that enact emotion. Instead, the individual should substitute emotionally competent stimuli capable of triggering positive, nourishing emotions. To facilitate this goal, Spinoza recommends the mental rehearsing of negative emotional stimuli as a way to build a tolerance for negative emotions and gradually acquire a knack for generating positive ones. [Wow!--Exposure/CBT, circa 1670, but without the cognitive distortions.] This is, in effect, Spinoza as mental immunologist developing a vaccine capable of creating antipassion antibodies."

    Additionally, Damasio writes: "The individual must be aware of the fundamental separation between emotionally competent stimuli and the trigger mechanism [which, as current neuroscience now shows, includes amgdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, cinguate] of emotion so that he can substitute 'reasoned' emotionally competent stimuli capable of producing the most positive feeling states."

    In an earlier part of the book (pg 58) Damasio discusses triggering and executing emotion and writes that after the presentation of an emotionally competent object, regardless of how fleeting the presentation:

    "...signals related to the presence of that stimulus are made available to the emotion-triggering sites....You can conceive of those sites as locks that open only if appropriate keys fit. The emotionally competent stimuli are the keys, of course. Note that they select a preexisting lock, rather than instruct the brain on how to create one. The emotion-triggering sites subsequently activate a number of emotion-execution sites...[which are] the immediate cause of the emotional state that occurs in the body and the brain regions that [then] support the emotion-feeling process."

    "...[he goes on to say that these] descriptions sound a lot like that of an antigen entering the blood stream and leading to an immune response....And well they should because the processes are formally similar. In the case of emotion, the 'antigen' is presented through the sensory system and the 'antibody' is the emotional response. The 'selection' is made at one of the several brain sites equipped to trigger an emotion. The conditions in which the process occurs are comparable, the contour of the process is the same, and the results are just as beneficial. Nature is not that inventive when it comes to successful solutions. Once it works, it tries it again and again." Fred Hussey, 8/8/2003

    5-0 out of 5 stars The clarity of truth
    As his 2 other previous books, this book has the clarity and consistency of truth. The insight it gives on our personal mental world is simply beautiful. This is just one of those books that everyone should read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars darn good book.
    Basicially, Damasio's book provides a solid, testable, specific, plausible and elegant hypothesis about emotion and feeling. I found the book to be fascinating and enlightening.

    While I do not agree with everything he says -
    (specifically his evidence regarding the difference between 'feeling' and 'emotion' seems to me to point toward 'feeling' occuring earlier, at least in some form)
    the science is there to be tried and tested.

    The other thing I didn't like about it was the writing style was too much in the philosophical vein for my personal tastes... but then science is philosophy, and the style is conciously chosen for that reason.

    Overall a great read, though. The ideas presented far, far *far* outweigh the minor complaints I have about the book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A survey of the impact of feelings on daily lives
    Joy, sorrow and the feeling brain are considered in Antonio Damasio's Looking For Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, And The Feeling Brain, a survey of the impact of feelings on daily lives. Such feelings have often been considered too private for science to explain and have been largely ignored: neuroscientist Damasio draws on his own research and experience with neurological patients to consider how emotions support survival itself. ... Read more


    195. They Made America: Two Centuries of Innovators from the Steam Engine to the Search Engine
    by Harold Evans
    list price: $40.00
    our price: $24.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0316277665
    Catlog: Book (2004-10-12)
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    Sales Rank: 58
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    Book Description

    An illustrated history of American innovators--some well known, some unknown, and all fascinating-- by the author of the bestselling The American Century. ... Read more


    196. Randomized Algorithms (Cambridge International Series on Parallel Computation)
    by Rajeev Motwani, Prabhakar Raghavan
    list price: $60.00
    our price: $46.80
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0521474655
    Catlog: Book (1995-08-25)
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Sales Rank: 134392
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    For many applications, a randomized algorithm is either the simplest or the fastest algorithm available, and sometimes both. This book introduces the basic concepts in the design and analysis of randomized algorithms. The first part of the text presents basic tools such as probability theory and probabilistic analysis that are frequently used in algorithmic applications. Algorithmic examples are also given to illustrate the use of each tool in a concrete setting. In the second part of the book, each chapter focuses on an important area to which randomized algorithms can be applied, providing a comprehensive and representative selection of the algorithms that might be used in each of these areas. Although written primarily as a text for advanced undergraduates and graduate students, this book should also prove invaluable as a reference for professionals and researchers. ... Read more

    Reviews (4)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A subtle introduction to probablistic algoritms
    This book is a jewel. It demonstrates how clever and beautifully simple probabilistic ideas can lead to the design of very efficient algorithms. I like its very verbal intuitive style,
    with proof strategies being always transparently explained.
    For computer scientists, this is *the* reference work in randomized algorithms, by now a major paradigm of algorithms design. For classical probabilists, this
    could serve as an eye-opener on unsuspected applications of their field to important areas of computer science.

    4-0 out of 5 stars An enciclopedia for randomized algorithms.
    The book has an exoustive amount of algorithms. Not everything is proved. Sometimes the proof contains to few steps to be understood. There are many algorithms explained well. After reading this book it is easy to create your own randomized algorithms.

    4-0 out of 5 stars extremely informative but obscure
    I've taken two CS classes that use this book and I always felt like this book was very informative. The algorithms and concepts that Motwani brings forth are extremely insightful and interesting. However, the presentation of the proofs has a lot of room for improvement. Notation is carried over from previous chapters and is sometimes unexplained, which makes it very difficult for someone who does not have a lot of familiarity with the material presented. The book presents very interesting topics and leaves a lot of open (unresolved) questions to the reader's curiosity and challenge.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A very good high-level survey of Randomized Algorithms
    I have just completed a graduate course using this book. At times the book is a bit terse (not necessarily a negative!) and overall I can highly recommend it.

    Wolf Bein, UNLV ... Read more


    197. The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery
    by William Gurstelle
    list price: $14.95
    our price: $10.47
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1556525265
    Catlog: Book (2004-07-01)
    Publisher: Chicago Review Press
    Sales Rank: 1035
    Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Whether playing at defending their own castle or simply chucking pumpkins over a fence, wannabe marauders and tinkerers will become fast acquainted with Ludgar, the War Wolf, Ill Neighbor, Cabulus, and the Wild Donkey-ancient artillery devices known commonly as catapults. Re-creating these simple yet sophisticated machines introduces fundamentals of math and physics using levers, force, torsion, tension, and traction. Instructions and diagrams illustrate how to build seven authentic working model catapults, including an early Greek ballista, a Roman onager, and the apex of catapult technology, the English trebuchet. Additional projects include learning how to lash and make rope and how to construct and use a hand sling and a staff sling. The colorful history of siege warfare is explored through the stories of Alexander the Great and his battle of Tyre; Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, and the Third Crusade; pirate-turned-soldier John Crabbe and his ship-mounted catapults; and Edward I of England and his battle against the Scots at Stirling Castle. ... Read more

    Reviews (2)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book for those with a Backyard
    I was really impressed with this book while sitting sipping a cup of coffee. Wondering to myself, how could I use this to have fun with my family if we lived in a space with, of all things, space.

    This book not only shows how to make catapults of various types. It goes into the history of how the catapult was made or as it transformed throughout history. There are short vignettes about various historical subjects surrounding seizes throughout time and what types of catapults were used, what they looked like and how to build something like it using easy to but materials.

    This is a fun book for the hobbyist who likes to tinker with things and how has a flair for fun projects (or projectiles for that matter.) I will buy this book when I get a place and I hope it sells for those who want to work with their kids on a fun project.

    The Art of the Catapult is a fun romp....if you liked Lord of The Rings, you will like this book, putting catapults in perspective.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A note from the Author
    Here is some additional information for prospective readers and buyers of Art of the Catapult, from the book's author.

    This book has been written for readers aged 9 to adult, although younger readers will enjoy many of the projects if they have adult assistance.

    Note: Adults will enjoy this book as well. As of the time this note is written, Amazon describes this book as written for readers aged 9 to 12. This is not correct, as adult readers will find it written for them as well.

    The largest catapult project is a traction powered (human powered) catapult that can throw a water balloon or similar item a very long way! Most of the projects are somewhat smaller. Buy this book and enjoy throwing your weight around! ... Read more


    198. Gamma : Exploring Euler's Constant
    by Julian Havil
    list price: $29.95
    our price: $19.77
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0691099839
    Catlog: Book (2003-03-17)
    Publisher: Princeton University Press
    Sales Rank: 13803
    Average Customer Review: 4.87 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Among the myriad of constants that appear in mathematics, p, e, and i are the most familiar.Following closely behind is g, or gamma, a constant that arises in many mathematical areas yet maintains a profound sense of mystery.

    In a tantalizing blend of history and mathematics, Julian Havil takes the reader on a journey through logarithms and the harmonic series, the two defining elements of gamma, toward the first account of gamma's place in mathematics.

    Introduced by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), who figures prominently in this book, gamma is defined as the limit of the sum of 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + . . . up to 1/n, minus the natural logarithm of n--the numerical value being 0.5772156. . .. But unlike its more celebrated colleagues p and e, the exact nature of gamma remains a mystery--we don't even know if gamma can be expressed as a fraction.

    Among the numerous topics that arise during this historical odyssey into fundamental mathematical ideas are the Prime Number Theorem and the most important open problem in mathematics today--the Riemann Hypothesis (though no proof of either is offered!).

    Sure to be popular with not only students and instructors but all math aficionados, Gamma takes us through countries, centuries, lives, and works, unfolding along the way the stories of some remarkable mathematics from some remarkable mathematicians. ... Read more

    Reviews (15)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Winner
    There is more mathematics in this book, more interestingly explained than any other of its type that I have read. What is its type? Well, I guess it comes under the category of 'Popular math' or in the jargon 'trade books' but don't be fooled by that; to get something out of it you need some math knowledge-and more than that, some math ability. There are symbols everywhere. The constant Gamma just had to be the next single number to appear as the subject of a book and with the books on e and i under their belt I guess that Princeton would be the obvious publisher. Havil, a first-time author, could easily have made the grave mistake of writing a gritty book on analysis with gamma as its focus but he didn't do that. He decided on a historical approach and to divide his attention between the harmonic series, logarithms and gamma itself. As a result the book really is a mathematical odyssey (publisher's blurb)which embraces a huge number of ideas, each of which has a natural place in the development. For the first time I really understand Napier's approach to logarithms and how it relates to what we now define them to be. For the first time I understand that wakky Benford's Law. For the first time I understand the Riemann Hypothesis. There is stacks more stuff too. The Continued Fraction chapter has really got me into that cool idea, which I had only vaguely heard about. Euler was for me the man who solved the 7 bridges of Konigsberg problem-I had no idea just how fantastic he was.

    They tell us that Havil is a math teacher at Freeman Dyson's old high school. What a school that must be-I wish I had gone there and I would like to have been taught by a teacher who is so clearly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject! Dyson wouldn't put his name to the book just becaause he is an alumni. He rates it and its real easy to see why.

    Every so often you come across a winner...for me this is the first this year.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Brave and Successful
    I agree with the previous reviewers, Havil has used Gamma as a means to introduce a wealth of fascinating mathematics. His chosen historical approach succeeds in adding interest whilst at the same time tempering some quite difficult subject matter. The cleverest thing for me is his ability to introduce a wide variety of material in such a natural way; it all flows very smoothly and he explains the ideas with crystaline clarity. There needed to be a book on Gamma and this, for me, is exactly the right book to write on the topic; it fits well into the PUP stable having e and i already in it. Its good to learn about new mathematics and to learn about it in context; now I am starting to read more about Continued Fractions, about which I knew very little. The Riemann Hypothesis is much in vogue at the present, with two new books about it but written for the lay reader; Havil approaches it as a mathematician and takes the bull by the horns with great success. He needed Analytic Continuation and sensibly did not side-step that need. This is a book which will last-and be on the shelves of many a mathematics student. Good for him and I too look forward to his next book.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Far-reaching, but not "popular math"
    I debated for a while whether this book deserved four stars or five. There's a lot of very interesting material here: if there's one thing this book does--perhaps better than any book I've read in quite some time--is show just how interrelated far-flung mathematical concepts can be (how are the prime numbers related to pi, for example?).

    My one complaint about the book--and the reason for giving it four stars instead of five--is that there are times when the formulae and notation get so dense that it's extremely difficult to follow the author's train of thought: I can think of a number of places where diagrams would have helped immensely. Likewise, since there's no list of symbols or formulae, it's not a book that you can simply browse through, in the sense that you can browse through, say, "A Brief History of Time."

    Finally, let me reiterate that this book assumes that you already know a fair amount of math: if you don't know what a capital pi means, for example, you're probably going to have a hard time understanding this book. But if you *do* know what that symbol means, though, then by all means, give this book a try.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Gamma finally joins the ranks of e, pi, i
    After reading Paul Nahin's lovely book on i, "An Imaginary Tale" (also published by Princeton University Press), I could not believe it when the same publisher produced a book on gamma. Gamma seems to always have been one of the neglected constants in mathematics (by the general public). e, pi, and i seem to capture the imagination more, my guess is because the mathematics required to understand them are more elementary (I use the word "elementary" completely tongue in cheek), and you can quickly see the dazzling results they are associated with.

    Gamma is different. While you can understand the theory presented in Julian Havil's book if you stayed awake during second semester calculus, you definitely have to work at it. The requisite analytic number theory presented may turn away the average reader if they are not prepared to make the commitment to stay on the roller coaster for the full ride.

    You will be rewarded if you can break through the initial 2 or 3 chapters introducing us to the logarithm and the harmonic series. To be fair, as a previous reviewer has noted, the material on Napier and the logarithm has been done in a more satisfactory manner by Eli Maor in his book on e. But this is only a minor drawback. As long as you are comfortable with the natural logarithm, you can omit Chapter 1 with no loss.

    Chapter 4 starts off with the zeta function, arguably the most enticing and mysterious function in all of mathematics, despite approximately 150 years of analysis by the world's best mathematicians. This one function alone could arguably be said to be the genesis of analytic number theory (even though Dirichlet's work on primes in arithmetic progressions has typically been given credit for that role). All the familiar material is presented, including Euler's product formula, the "trivial" divisors of the zeta function, the infinitude of primes, Euler's evaluation of the zeta function for positive even integer powers, etc.

    Of course, the gamma function makes its obligatory appearance. After having read Nahin's book on i, I was initiated into the math connecting the gamma and zeta functions. But Nahin of course could not use Euler-Maclaurin summation or the familiar inequality arguments as this would have taken him too far afield. After having read the traditional fare, such as Hardy-Wright, Apostol, Hua, et al., it was nice to see a more conversational approach to the material. I literally felt like I was sitting in Havil's office while he dissected the material for me, on a level I could comprehend.

    My last comments on this book are the extras. As expected, Riemann's hypothesis and complex analysis make extended appearances. I appreciated the fact the Havil resisted the temptation to take the Riemann Hypothesis beyond the traditional mathematical lore and float off into the ethereal. This happened with John Derbyshire's otherwise excellent book "Prime Obsession", which devoted a little too much time to the psychoanalysis of Riemann, who after all, only scratched the surface of this problem. Derbyshire's book is highly recommended though for more material on the Prime Number Theorem, and some of its uses to formulate modern permutations of the Riemann Hypothesis.

    He presents the usual anecdotes on Riemann and Hardy (who had a major love affair with the Riemann Hypothesis), but these are sidelines only, as they should be. Also, the material on residue integration and analytic continuation in the appendices is enormously helpful to understand the post Riemann attacks on the problem. In addition, well, it's just pretty mathematics.

    The introduction by Freeman Dyson is quite impressive. How many books of popular mathematics get endorsements like that from world-class physicists? The praise is well deserved. This book belongs on every math enthusiast's bookshelf!

    5-0 out of 5 stars This would make an excellent alternative "Calc III"
    I agree wholeheartedly with all the positive comments and enthusiasm that other reviewers have shown. This is a remarkable book, and there should be more like it. I am astounded at how much and what range of mathematics there is in a book of this length and level of accessbility. Which raises a very good point: This would be a superb book for "Calc III". It's unfortunate that many students end their study of mathematics slugging through integration by parts, partial fractions, sequences and series, the logarithm as integral, etc., the traditional hodge-podge of topics called Calculus II. And the ones who progress end up going straight into multivariable calculus with its div, grad, curl, and all that. There is never really any reward for all the work in hacking through Calc II. This book, however, would tie so much of it together, it would all suddenly seem so mysteriously connected and beautiful, and the reader (I hope) would want to go on to Complex Analysis. Thank you, Prof. Havil! I hope you find the proof to the Riemann Hypothesis. ... Read more


    199. Flu : The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic
    by Gina Kolata
    list price: $14.00
    our price: $10.50
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0743203984
    Catlog: Book (2001-01-09)
    Publisher: Touchstone
    Sales Rank: 30051
    Average Customer Review: 3.26 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    When we think of plagues, we think of AIDS, Ebola, anthrax spores, and, of course, the Black Death. But in 1918 the Great Flu Epidemic killed an estimated 40 million people virtually overnight. If such a plague returned today, taking a comparable percentage of the U.S. population with it, 1.5 million Americans would die.

    In Flu, Gina Kolata, an acclaimed reporter for The New York Times, unravels the mystery of this lethal virus with the high drama of a great adventure story. From Alaska to Norway, from the streets of Hong Kong to the corridors of the White House, Kolata tracks the race to recover the live pathogen and probes the fear that has impelled government policy.

    A gripping work of science writing, Flu addresses the prospects for a great epidemic's recurrence and considers what can be done to prevent it. ... Read more

    Reviews (102)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Riveting Cautionary Story About The Flu of 1918
    I happened upon this intriguing well-written book after finishing Laurie Garrett's wonderful exploration of the emerging microbiological threat in "The Coming Plague", and was fascinated by what I discovered in this book regarding the specifics of the most famous flu outbreak in modern times, the great world-wide flu epidemic of 1918. Nothing in recent experience, not even the AIDS epidemic, has prepared the American people for the awe-inspiring possibilities that such a rapid and devastatingly virulent flu outbreak could present to us in the new millennium, and the author details the terrifying consequences of the outbreak of influenza in the months after the end of World War One that left over forty million people and traumatized the nation.

    Indeed, according to author Gina Bari Kolata, the flu of 1918 was the single most dangerous flu epidemic of the 20th century, a plague so virulent it literally boggles the imagination of anyone more familiar with the yearly onset of Asian influenzas, which we may consider to be annoying, off-putting, and sometimes reason for hospitalization, but hardly the stuff of widespread death and disability. Yet in a single year it struck down more people world-wide than any known before it or since, and scientists now believe it had an usually provocative combination of natural properties in terms of its DNA that made it uniquely dangerous in terms of its threat to human beings.

    Yet, in spite of its historical dimensions, relatively little is known about it, and it is a little discussed and curiously mysterious area of modern history. It is only within the recent past that a dedicated team of biological scientists have been able to attempt to unlock the secrets associated with this influenza breakout by researching the influenza's DNA sequences and associated biological properties using tissue samples recovered from victims and preserved over the decades since. The author describes this attempt to uncover the truth about the 1918 flu epidemic in terms of a riveting detective story, at the same time masterfully weaving the details of the pathology of the disease itself and the devastating impact of the killer epidemic into the narrative.

    Included here is an absorbing and personalizing discussion of the social, economic and cultural effects of the epidemic, told in a compassionate and quite humane fashion, and it composes a disheartening look at the facts surrounding the way the influenza struck otherwise healthy twenty to forty year old citizens with such devastating results. People getting on the New York City subway at one end feeling slightly under the weather actually transpired on board before being able to reach their chosen destinations.

    What is truly frightening about this well-told cautionary tale is that both the author as well as public health officials warn that another such appearance of a similarly virulent pandemic flu outbreak is not only possible but is in fact probable. Such an outbreak could appear, literally without warning, in any given year. Moreover, the resources needed to successfully combat another such influenza outbreak are not immediately available. Indeed, without a massive change in public policy and a quite rapid public health effort to develop the capability to isolate initial victims as well as to innoculate the population at large with a hastily conjured vaccine, the disastrous history of the 1918 epidemic could well be repeated with horrific results in our lifetime.

    2-0 out of 5 stars I WANT MY MONEY BACK
    I was extremely disappointed in this book. For 2 years I have been gathering data from primary sources here in my county on the 1918 Epidemic and it's effects on our local history. I'm usually thrilled to find anything written on this subject. Ms. Kolata gets barely a passing grade for the first 4 1/2 chapters. Then she departs into a long rambling tale of the swine flu vaccine fiasco of the middle 1970's. None of which has anything to do with the mystery and mayhem of the 1918 pandemic. Several pages are consumed with biographical info on Dr.Hultin, while interesting it belongs elsewhere. Of the dozens of gifted men and women who have tackled this subject why focus on one or two for personal biographies? The author never seriously explores one of the burning questions, how did the virus travel around the world and arise everywhere at almost the same exact time? For the layperson (that would be me!)I believe it is more important to explore that question rather than to know exactly how to slice a tissue sample. If you read this book for the information on "the search for the virus that caused it", you will probably be satisfied. If you are looking to it for a history of what the pandemic was like and how it meshed with the world of 1918, you will no doubt be disappointed. In short, if you have never heard of the 1918 flu epidemic then you may be satisfied with this book. However if you have even a cursory knowledge of the subject you will probably wish like I do that you had spent your money on something else.

    2-0 out of 5 stars mediocre extended newspaper article, now dated
    This is not a book about 1918. This is an over-hyped and overlong newspaper story about digging up bodies and trying to recover the 1918 virus from them. It's now (June 2004) much dated, which is what happens to newspaper stories.
    If you want to read an actual book about the epidemic-- and about much more, including contemporary science, the virus, the interplay between politics and the disease-- then read The Great Influenza by Barry. Now THAT is worth picking up. I gave that 5 stars, and if I could give it more I would.

    4-0 out of 5 stars about right for the armchair crowd
    If you're looking for a highly detailed and relatively technical discussion you might find this book a little light. However, if you, like me, have just the general exposure to the subject of epidemics, their causes and consequences, you are likely to have a good read here.

    A couple times Ms. Kolata's prose and approach get a little dramatic but it doesn't get in her way as far as telling the story and a little honest feeling for the subject is hardly a bad thing.

    Comparisons to 'The Hot Zone' are inevitable but not quite accurate. 'The Hot Zone' deals with diseases still very much a threat and almost supernaturally spooky in their virulence and mystery. 'Flu' is more a forensic look at a disease that is familiar and whose flirtation with serious mortality has, so far, been a one-time thing.

    Say 'Ebola' to someone and they react: where is it? how bad is it? is this the time it will get loose? Say 'flu' and most people shrug. We've all been there, done that. Influenza is a familiar, if unwelcome, guest every year. Reading Ms. Kolata's book won't exactly have you hiding under your bed come next flu season, but you might not be quite so inclined to cavalierly skip the innoculation campaign either.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Great historical overview, rather weak storytelling
    First, whoever designed the cover and spine of this book should be fired. While sitting on your bookshelf the neon green spine jumps out and the lettering makes it look like some cheesy sci-fi tripe. Which is unfortunate, because it's a very informative book and full of excellent research. It's odd that the great flu epidemic got relegated to an historical footnote, because it's scale was devastating and frightening. It's also likely that sometime in the future a similar outbreak will jump from animal to man in south China or somewhere similar. And the results today would dwarf the original flu epidemic and make SARS seem like a mild fever. This book makes for fascinating reading on these counts and it's very interesting to follow how the scientists went back to uncover the flu's origins.
    Like many psuedo-historical books of this nature, however, the author is much less skilled as a writer than she is as a researcher. She tries too hard to inject the book with drama when the subject matter itself is sufficiently dramatic. Thus reading it becomes irritating at times because the prose and bad melodrama gets to you, but you nonetheless don't want to stop reading and not get all of the information. ... Read more


    200. Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics
    by John Derbyshire
    list price: $27.95
    our price: $18.45
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0309085497
    Catlog: Book (2003-04-23)
    Publisher: Joseph Henry Press
    Sales Rank: 8375
    Average Customer Review: 4.61 out of 5 stars
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    Bernhard Riemann was an underdog of sorts, a malnourished son of aparson who grew up to be the author of one of mathematics' greatestproblems. In Prime Obsession, John Derbyshire deals brilliantlywith both Riemann's life and that problem:proof of the conjecture,"All non-trivial zeros of the zeta function have real part one-half."Though the statement itself passes as nonsense to anyone but amathematician, Derbyshire walks readers through the decades of reasoningthat led to the Riemann Hypothesis in such a way as to clear it upperfectly. Riemann himself never proved the statement, and it remainsunsolved to this day. Prime Obsession offers alternating chaptersof step-by-step math and a history of 19th-century European intellectuallife, letting readers take a breather between chunks of well-writteninformation. Derbyshire's style is accessible but not dumbed-down,thorough but not heavy-handed. This is among the best popular treatmentsof an obscure mathematical idea, inviting readers to explore the theorywithout insisting on page after page of formulae.

    In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute offered a one-million-dollarprize to anyone who could prove the Riemann Hypothesis, but luminarieslike David Hilbert, G.H. Hardy, Alan Turing, André Weil, and FreemanDyson have all tried before. Will the Riemann Hypothesis ever be proved?"One day we shall know," writes Derbyshire, and he makes the effort seemvery worthwhile. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

    Reviews (38)

    5-0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, Highly Recommended
    Prime Obsession is an excellent popularization of the Riemann Hypothesis. I found John Derbyshire's presentation of the math to be very approachable by non-mathematicians like myself. It's taken slow, one basic step at a time, and spread across a well written and fascinating history of Bernhard Riemann and other key players. Simply put, you do not need an advance degree in mathematics to enjoy this book.

    My math bakground is limited to 2 semesters of calculus 20 years ago and I haven't used it since. For me, John Derbyshire's approach was both refreshing and entertaining. If you've got even the faintest interest in math, you will find this book rewarding.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Read this one for the pure entertainment value of it all.
    I found this to be a rather delightful book with its arrangement of chapters alternating between historical point of view back to mathematical progress and then back to historical.

    I found it very entertaining to read about the lives of the great mathematicians involved in developing the prime number theory and furthering the study of the Riemann Hypothesis. Mathematics is littered with such interesting characters that even a liberal arts major can enjoy these expository stories of their lives.

    The only downside to this whole book is that he takes too much time for the non-math inclined readers to get 'caught up' with their basic skills before he jumps to anything interesting. If you have a background that is strong through calculus, then you could probably avoid reading all the math-based chapters up through the end of the prime number theory section of the book, and you most likely woud not have missed a thing.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Complex Math Made Very Understandable and Interesting
    Although this book deals with a subject that no-one would sensibly place in a category below "Very Advanced," John Derbyshire treats his subject as well as any math author I've ever read, and I've read a lot of math books over the past 40-some years.

    My formal math education ended after a standard introductory calculus course as an undergrad. However, I have always been, and remain, extremely interested in math -- a math aficianado if you will. As such, I've self-taught myself a lot of math -- including a lot of very advanced math -- over the past 40 years; ergo, my reading of a great many math books. And without doubt, Derbyshire's book is the finest math book I've yet to read.

    I suspect Derbyshire started with the hypothesis that his readers are not familiar (or only familiar in a passing sense) with high-level, advanced math, and perhaps might even suffer from math anxiety. Any such readers, however, should have absolutely no fears. Derbyshire's exposition is superb. He clearly defines everything the reader needs to know to grasp AND understand fully the more advanced parts of the book. The book is clearly well designed to convey the information he wants or needs of convey and masterfully explains what would otherwise be quite difficult to understand.

    Without any doubt this is by far the best book on any advanced and complicated subject -- the best book on ANY math subject (including a book on something as simple as how to add one and one) -- I have ever read.

    Without sacrificing the complexity of the subject, Derbyshire has written his book in a very readable and interesting manner. And he does all this while making the subject so interesting you can hardly wait for someone to finally prove Riemann's Hypothesis and Riemann's zeta function so we can read Derbyshire's account of that landmark event in the history of mathematics.

    5-0 out of 5 stars splendid (though heavy math)
    This book should be the first one to appear in Amazon's listings for the Riemann Hypothesis, yet doesn't even appear in the top ten. It gives fascinating historical background to a very real Riemann and his friends, traces developments to the present day in a conversational tone, and somehow manages to take the reader through the details of what the RH says so that you actually understand it. Recommended with one reservation; to understand the chapters (every other one) which bring one to understand the RH, you will need to make a considerable investment in reading and rereading to make it. That is not for the faint of heart. However, the other half of the book can be enjoyed by anyone who likes general science history books.

    5-0 out of 5 stars What a piece of work a man is!
    "Prime Obsession" is a fascinating book for several reasons: the author explains a difficult topic with such clarity that it's simply amazing. For those who are more skilled in math, this book would also be very enjoyable to read, except that they might find some of his explanations redundant because he really assumes that the we don't know anything (and I mean anything!).
    Mr. Derbyshire obviously understands the topic quite well himself. He has written an amazing book for everyone to enjoy.
    200 years since Riemann first presented the problem, we are still desperately trying to solve it, and one day, you never know... what a piece of work a man is! ... Read more


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