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Science Books

August 1, 2009

The World In Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature
Daniel J. Levitin (2009)
ISBN: 0452295483

Ever heard a song that your mind subsequently runs on autoplay for a day? While this can be incredibly annoying, The World In Six Songs shows how this evolutionary quirk helped shape human nature, rather than it simply being something to exploit by advertising executives. Best-selling author Daniel J. Levitin, This Is Your Brain On Music, will blow your mind with his amazing science-meets-art take on cross-cultural human evolution. According to Levitin, there are six identifiable song types that have acted as cultural glue over the course of human societal development: friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge, and love. Like a bard passing on archetypal stories, these six songs dominate the course of human history, and act to preserve and pass on the experiential essence of our species. One among many interesting theories posited by Levitin is that evolution favors those who use non-violent means, like dance and music, to resolve disputes. Using pioneering research methods mixed with the odd personal anecdote involving a host of artists (including Sting and David Byrne) anthropologists and evolutionary biologists, The World In Six Songs makes for both fascinating and whimsical reading.

Why Does E=mc2? (And Why Should We Care?)
Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw (2009)
ISBN: 0306817586

E=mc2 is part of pop culture, but how many of us know what it actually means? There have been many attempts to explain this snippet of a larger equation, but few if any have done so in such a lucid, accessible and entertaining manner as professor of particle physics Brian Cox and professor of theoretical physics Jeff Forshaw. Cox and Forshaw break down the equation into its basic constituents to discover the iconic equation's true meaning, which come down to three fundamental questions: What is mass? What is energy? And what on earth has the speed of light got to do with any of it? As with most of the big physics problems being addressed in the 21st century, Cox and Forshaw's quest to answer these questions takes them to Geneva and the 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Using the LHC and its capacity to recreate conditions similar to those immediately after the Big Bang, Forshaw and Cox provide a contemporary theory of mass. Subsequent investigations involve some truly intriguing and mind-bending discussions on why we can only move forward in time and how three dimensional objects actually move in a four dimensional universe. With two of the world's youngest and brightest physics professors on the case, Why Does E=mc2? is about as thrilling and exhilarating as physics gets.

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