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Science

99% Ape: How Evolution Adds Up

99% Ape: How Evolution Adds Up

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In his lifetime, Charles Darwin was roundly mocked for suggesting that humans were descended from apes, and even in our own day, the teaching of evolution remains controversial. But in the century and a half since the publication of On the Origin of Species, our increasingly sophisticated understanding of genetics has borne out Darwin's theory: humans share 99% of their genes with chimps (and many even with grapes!).

99% Ape offers an accessible, straightforward introduction to evolution, beginning with Darwin's discoveries and continuing through the latest genetic discoveries. Edited by Jonathan Silvertown, the volume brings together experts in a variety of fields pertinent to evolution, from paleobiology to planetary science, comparative anatomy to zoology, and even--for a discussion of legal battles surrounding the teaching of evolution--law. Interwoven with these varied accounts of evolution and its impact are vignettes from Darwin's life that illustrate the continuity of thought that links Darwin's work to today's cutting-edge research.

Beautifully illustrated, 99% Ape is a perfect companion to the upcoming celebration of Darwin's bicentennial and a bracing reminder of the important role evolution still has to play in our understanding of our origins--and our possible futures.

A is for Arsenic

A is for Arsenic

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Fourteen novels. Fourteen poisons. Just because it's fiction doesn't mean it's all made-up . . .

Agatha Christie reveled in the use of poison to kill off unfortunate victims in her books; indeed, she employed it more than any other murder method, with the poison itself often being a central part of the novel. Her choice of deadly substances was far from random--the characteristics of each often provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious, but this is not the case with poisons. How is it that some compounds prove so deadly, and in such tiny amounts?

Christie's extensive chemical knowledge provides the backdrop for A is for Arsenic, in which Kathryn Harkup investigates the poisons used by the murderer in fourteen classic Agatha Christie mysteries. It looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, the cases that may have inspired Christie, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons, both at the time the novel was written and today. A is for Arsenic is a celebration of the use of science by the undisputed Queen of Crime.

Abacus: The World's First Computer System

Abacus: The World's First Computer System

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The abacus is as useful and effecient a machine today as it was when it was first created centures ago. Whether you're an expert in the latest computer technology or you're mastering arithmetic and word problems for the first time, it won't take long to learn the basics (and even the not-so-basics) of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing on this ingenious and fun-to-use mathematical tool.

Abe & Fido

Abe & Fido

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In early 1861, as he prepared to move into the White House, Abraham Lincoln dreaded telling his two youngest sons that the family's beloved pet dog, Fido, would not be accompanying them to Washington. Lincoln was afraid the skittish dog wouldn't survive the long rail journey, so he decided to leave the mutt behind with friends in Springfield. Abe & Fido tells the story of two friends, an unlikely tandem who each became famous and died prematurely. It also explores the everyday life of Springfield in the years leading up to the Civil War, as well as Lincoln's sometimes radical views on animal welfare, and how they shaped his life and his presidency. It's the story of a master and his dog, living through historic, tumultuous times.


Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously

Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously

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A Selection of the Scientific American Book Club Want to add more excitement to your life? This daring combination of science, history, and DIY projects will show you how. Written for smart risk takers, it explores why danger is good for you and details the art of living dangerously. Risk takers are more successful, more interesting individuals who lead more fulfilling lives. Unlike watching an action movie or playing a video game, real-life experience changes a person, and Gurstelle will help you discover the true thrill of making black powder along with dozens of other edgy activities. All of the projects--from throwing knives, drinking absinthe, and eating fugu to cracking a bull whip, learning bartitsu, and building a flamethrower--have short learning curves, are hands-on and affordable, and demonstrate true but reasonable risk. With a strong emphasis on safety, each potentially life-altering project includes step-by-step directions, photographs, and illustrations along with troubleshooting tips from experts in the field.
Absolute Beginners Guide to Keeping Backyard Chickens

Absolute Beginners Guide to Keeping Backyard Chickens

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With delightful photographs, Jenna Woginrich chronicles the life journey of three chickens (Amelia, Honey, and Tilda) from fluffy, newly hatched bundles to grown hens laying eggs of their own. Following their progress from day to day and week to week, you'll learn everything you need to know to be successful in raising and keeping a happy, healthy flock. Topics covered include understanding chicken behavior; housing and feeding requirements; hygiene and basic health care. Both entertaining and educational, this highly accessible book provides just the right amount of information to get started and enjoy the pleasures of keeping backyard chickens.
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

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Providing abundance is humanity's grandest challenge--this is a book about how we rise to meet it.

Providing abundance is humanity's grandest challenge--this is a book about how we rise to meet it.

We will soon be able to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp. This bold, contrarian view, backed up by exhaustive research, introduces our near-term future, where exponentially growing technologies and three other powerful forces are conspiring to better the lives of billions. An antidote to pessimism by tech entrepreneur turned philanthropist, Peter H. Diamandis and award-winning science writer Steven Kotler.

Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing--fast. The authors document how four forces--exponential technologies, the DIY innovator, the Technophilanthropist, and the Rising Billion--are conspiring to solve our biggest problems. Abundance establishes hard targets for change and lays out a strategic roadmap for governments, industry and entrepreneurs, giving us plenty of reason for optimism.

Examining human need by category--water, food, energy, healthcare, education, freedom--Diamandis and Kotler introduce dozens of innovators making great strides in each area: Larry Page, Steven Hawking, Dean Kamen, Daniel Kahneman, Elon Musk, Bill Joy, Stewart Brand, Jeff Skoll, Ray Kurzweil, Ratan Tata, Craig Venter, among many, many others.

Accessory to War

Accessory to War

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In this fascinating foray into the centuries-old relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and writer-researcher Avis Lang examine how the methods and tools of astrophysics have been enlisted in the service of war. The overlap is strong, and the knowledge flows in both directions, say the authors, because astrophysicists and military planners care about many of the same things: multi-spectral detection, ranging, tracking, imaging, high ground, nuclear fusion, and access to space. Tyson and Lang call it a curiously complicit alliance. The universe is both the ultimate frontier and the highest of high grounds, they write. Shared by both space scientists and space warriors, it's a laboratory for one and a battlefield for the other. The explorer wants to understand it; the soldier wants to dominate it. But without the right technology--which is more or less the same technology for both parties--nobody can get to it, operate in it, scrutinize it, dominate it, or use it to their advantage and someone else's disadvantage.

Spanning early celestial navigation to satellite-enabled warfare, Accessory to War is a richly researched and provocative examination of the intersection of science, technology, industry, and power that will introduce Tyson's millions of fans to yet another dimension of how the universe has shaped our lives and our world.

Accessory to War

Accessory to War

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In this far-reaching foray into the millennia-long relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-author Avis Lang examine how the methods and tools of astrophysics have been enlisted in the service of war. Spanning early celestial navigation to satellite-enabled warfare, Accessory to War is a richly researched and provocative examination of the intersection of science, technology, industry, and power that will introduce Tyson's millions of fans to yet another dimension of how the universe has shaped our lives and our world.

Accidental Universe

Accidental Universe

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With passion and curiosity, Alan Lightman explores the emotional and philosophical questions raised by recent discoveries in science. He looks at the dialogue between science and religion; the conflict between our human desire for permanence and the impermanence of nature; the possibility that our universe is simply an accident; the manner in which modern technology has separated us from direct experience of the world; and our resistance to the view that our bodies and minds can be explained by scientific logic and laws.

Behind all of these considerations is the suggestion--at once haunting and exhilarating--that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the extraordinary, perhaps unfathomable whole.

Accidental Universe

Accidental Universe

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"Alan Lightman brings a light touch to heavy questions. Here is a book about nesting ospreys, multiple universes, atheism, spiritualism, and the arrow of time. Throughout, Lightman takes us back and forth between ordinary occurrences--old shoes and entropy, sailing far out at sea and the infinite expanse of space.
"In this slight volume, Lightman looks toward the universe and captures aspects of it in a series of beautifully written essays, each offering a glimpse at the whole from a different perspective: here time, there symmetry, not least God. It is a meditation by a remarkable humanist-physicist, a book worth reading by anyone entranced by big ideas grounded in the physical world."
--Peter L. Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University

Adventures Among Ants

Adventures Among Ants

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Intrepid international explorer, biologist, and photographer Mark W. Moffett, "the Indiana Jones of entomology," takes us around the globe on a strange and colorful journey in search of the hidden world of ants. In tales from Nigeria, Indonesia, the Amazon, Australia, California, and elsewhere, Moffett recounts his entomological exploits and provides fascinating details on how ants live and how they dominate their ecosystems through strikingly human behaviors, yet at a different scale and a faster tempo. Moffett's spectacular close-up photographs shrink us down to size, so that we can observe ants in familiar roles; warriors, builders, big-game hunters, and slave owners. We find them creating marketplaces and assembly lines and dealing with issues we think of as uniquely human--including hygiene, recycling, and warfare. Adventures among Ants introduces some of the world's most awe-inspiring species and offers a startling new perspective on the limits of our own perception.

- Ants are world-class road builders, handling traffic problems on thoroughfares that dwarf our highway systems in their complexity

- Ants with the largest societies often deploy complicated military tactics

- Some ants have evolved from hunter-gatherers into farmers, domesticating other insects and growing crops for food
Adventures From the Technology Underground

Adventures From the Technology Underground

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The technology underground is a thriving, humming, and often literally scintillating subculture of amateur inventors and scientific envelope-pushers who dream up, design, and build machines that whoosh, rumble, fly--and occasionally hurl pumpkins across enormous distances. In the process they astonish us with what is possible when human imagination and ingenuity meet nature's forces and materials. William Gurstelle spent two years exploring the most fascinating outposts of this world of wonders: meeting and talking to the men and women who care far more for the laws of physics than they do for mundane matters like government regulations and their own personal safety.
"Adventures from the Technology Underground" is Gurstelle's lively and weirdly compelling report of his travels. In these pages we meet Frank Kosdon and others who draw the scrutiny of the FAA, ATF, and other federal agencies in their pursuit of high-power amateur rocketry, which they demonstrate to impressive--and sometimes explosive--effect at the annual LDRS gathering held in various remote and unpopulated areas (a necessary consideration since that acronym stands for Large Dangerous Rocket Ships). Here also are the underground technologists who turn up at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada high desert, including Lucy Hosking, "the engineer from Hell" and the creator of Satan's Calliope, aka the World's Loudest Thing, a pipe organ made from jet engines. Also at Burning Man is Austin "Dr. MegaVolt" Richard, who braves the arcing, sputtering, six-digit voltages of a giant Tesla coil in his protective metal suit. Add in a trip to see medieval-style catapults, air cannons, and supersized slingshots in action at theWorld Championship Punkin Chunkin competition in Sussex County, Delaware, and forays to the postapocalyptic enclaves of the flamethrower builders and the future-noir pits of the fighting robots, and you have proof positive that the age of invention is still going strong.
In the world of science and engineering, despite its buttoned-down image, there's plenty of fun, humor, and sheer wonder to be found at the fringes. "Adventures from the Technology Underground" takes you there.

- Launch homemade high-power rockets.
- Catapult pumpkins the better part of a mile.
- Watch robot gladiators saw, flip, and pound one another into high-tech junk heaps.
- Dazzle the eye with electrical discharges measured in the hundreds of thousands of volts.
- Play with flamethrowers, potato guns, and other decidedly unsafe toys . . .

If this is your idea of fun, you'll have a major good time on this wild ride through today's Technology Underground.
From the Burning Man festival in Nevada's high desert to the latest gathering of Large Dangerous Rocket Ship builders to Delaware's annual Punkin Chunkin competition (a celebration of "science, radical self-expression, and beer"), you'll meet the inspired, government-unregulated, and corporately unfettered men and women who operate at the furthest fringes of science, engineering, and wild-eyed arc welding, building the catapults, ultra-high-voltage electrical devices, incendiary artworks, fighting robots, and other machines that demonstrate what's possible when physics meets human ingenuity.

Adventures in Human Being

Adventures in Human Being

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Adventures in Human Being, with its deft mix of the clinical and the lyrical, is a triumph of the eloquent brain and the compassionate heart. -- Wall Street Journal

We assume we know our bodies intimately, but for many of us they remain uncharted territory, an enigma of bone and muscle, neurons and synapses. How many of us understand the way seizures affect the brain, how the heart is connected to well-being, or the why the foot holds the key to our humanity? In Adventures in Human Being, award-winning author Gavin Francis leads readers on a journey into the human body, offering a guide to its inner workings and a celebration of its marvels. Drawing on his experiences as a surgeon, ER specialist, and family physician, Francis blends stories from the clinic with episodes from medical history, philosophy, and literature to describe the body in sickness and in health, in living and in dying. At its heart, Adventures in Human Being is a meditation on what it means to be human. Poetic, eloquent, and profoundly perceptive, this book will transform the way you view your body.

Adventures in Memory

Adventures in Memory

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A novelist and a neuroscientist uncover the secrets of human memory.

What makes us remember? Why do we forget? And what, exactly, is a memory?

With playfulness and intelligence, Adventures in Memory answers these questions and more, offering an illuminating look at one of our most fascinating faculties. The authors--two Norwegian sisters, one a neuropsychologist and the other an acclaimed writer--skillfully interweave history, research, and exceptional personal stories, taking readers on a captivating exploration of the evolving understanding of the science of memory from the Renaissance discovery of the hippocampus--named after the seahorse it resembles--up to the present day. Mixing metaphor with meta-analysis, they embark on an incredible journey: "diving for seahorses" for a memory experiment in Oslo fjord, racing taxis through London, and "time-traveling" to the future to reveal thought-provoking insights into remembering and forgetting. Along the way they interview experts of all stripes, from the world's top neuroscientists to famous novelists, to help explain how memory works, why it sometimes fails, and what we can do to improve it.

Filled with cutting-edge research and nimble storytelling, the result is a charming--and memorable--adventure through human memory.

Adventures in the Anthropocene

Adventures in the Anthropocene

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We live in times of great change on Earth. In fact, while previous shifts from one geological epoch to another were caused by events beyond human control, the dramatic results of our emission of carbon to the atmosphere over the past century have moved many scientists to declare the dawn of a new era: the Anthropocene, or Age of Man.

Watching this consensus develop from her seat as an editor at Nature, Gaia Vince couldn't help but wonder if the greatest cause of this dramatic planetary change--humans' singular ability to adapt and innovate--might also hold the key to our survival. And so she left her professional life in London and set out to travel the world in search of ordinary people making extraordinary changes and, in many cases, thriving.

Part science journal, part travelogue, Adventures in the Anthropocene recounts Vince's journey, and introduces an essential new perspective on the future of life on Earth.

Adventures in the Anthropocene

Adventures in the Anthropocene

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We all know our planet is in crisis, and that it is largely our fault. But all too often the full picture of change is obstructed by dense data sets and particular catastrophes. Struggling with this obscurity in her role as an editor at Nature, Gaia Vince decided to travel the world and see for herself what life is really like for people on the frontline of this new reality. What she found was a number people doing the most extraordinary things.

During her journey she finds a man who is making artificial glaciers in Nepal along with an individual who is painting mountains white to attract snowfall; take the electrified reefs of the Maldives; or the man who's making islands out of rubbish in the Caribbean. These are ordinary people who are solving severe crises in crazy, ingenious, effective ways. While Vince does not mince words regarding the challenging position our species is in, these wonderful stories, combined with the new science that underpins Gaia's expertise and research, make for a persuasive, illuminating -- and strangely hopeful -- read on what the Anthropocene means for our future.

Aelian's On the Nature of Animals

Aelian's On the Nature of Animals

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Not much can be said with certainty about the life of Claudius Aelianus, known to us as Aelian. He was born sometime between A.D. 165 and 170 in the hill town of Praeneste, what is now Palestrina, about twenty-five miles from Rome, Italy. He grew up speaking that town's version of Latin, a dialect that other speakers of the language seem to have found curious, but--somewhat unusually for his generation, though not for Romans of earlier times--he preferred to communicate in Greek. Trained by a sophist named Pausanias of Caesarea, Aelian was known in his time for a work called Indictment of the Effeminate, an attack on the recently deceased emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, who was nasty even by the standards of Imperial Rome. He was also fond of making almanac-like collections, only fragments of which survive, devoted to odd topics such as manifestations of the divine and the workings of the supernatural.

His De Natura Animalium (On the Nature of Animals) has a similar patchwork quality, but it was esteemed enough in his time to survive more or less whole, and it is about all that we know of Aelian's work today. A mostly randomly ordered collection of stories that he found interesting enough to relate about animals--whether or not he believed them--Aelian's book constitutes an early encyclopedia of animal behavior, affording unparalleled insight into what ancient Romans knew about and thought about animals--and, of particular interest to modern scholars, about animal minds.

If the science is sometimes sketchy, the facts often fanciful, and the history sometimes suspect, it is clear enough that Aelian had a fine time assembling the material, which can be said, in the most general terms, to support the notion of a kind of intelligence in nature and that extends human qualities, for good and bad, to animals. His stories, which extend across the known world of Aelian's time, tend to be brief and to the point, and many return to a trenchant question: If animals can respect their elders and live honorably within their own tribes, why must humans be so appallingly awful?

Aelian is as brisk, as entertaining, and as scholarly a writer as Pliny, the much better known Roman natural historian. That he is not better known is simply an accident: he has not been widely translated into English, or indeed any European language. This selection from his work will introduce readers to a lively mind and a witty writer who has much to tell us.