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Science Books

January 12, 2006

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson (2006)
ISBN: 0156031442

Puzzled over what's going on inside your pooch's head? Have you ever wondered what that piercing, mocking, unnerving glare from the cat signifies? Well, you're in luck. Along with neuro-psychiatrist Catherine Johnson, animal scientist Temple Grandin, associate professor at Colorado State University and author of the seminal Thinking in Pictures, have combined their talents in an effort to try and understand how to communicate with animals. Unlike many other researchers, Grandin believes that she is in a unique position to be able to crack the language barrier between humans and animals, claiming people with autism often think the way animals do. Philosophers and scientists alike have been trying centuries to get past simple animal indicators of their wants and needs, like a cat sidling up to your leg when it's hungry, or a dog jumping all over you when it wants to go for a walk. Until now such attempts have had limited success, with the biggest triumphs coming from chimpanzees and apes using sign language. While this is great for animals that share human attributes like "hands", and the intelligence to learn one of our languages, what of horses, sheep, cows, dolphins and dogs? As the song goes, imagine: "If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages. Maybe take an animal degree." Apart from the novelty factor, and the ability to really give the cat a piece of your mind, humans could understand when an animal is exhibiting signs of pain, fear, aggression and perhaps even recognize levels of animal intelligence. Grandin's abundant use of animal tales furnishes Animals in Translation with a remarkable animal perspective of the world. More controversially, it seems that getting to grips with our animal natures may be just what the doctor ordered, as Grandin believes that in becoming human we have left behind many of our primal qualities.

Adventures from the Technology Underground: Catapults, Pulsejets, Rail Guns, Flamethrowers, Tesla Coils, Air Cannons, and the Garage Warriors Who Love Them
William Gurstelle (2006)
ISBN: 1400050820

Buckle up and brace yourself for an exhilarating journey into the mysterious subculture of the technology underground. In Adventures from the Technology Underground, William Gurstelle, Backyard Ballistics, Building Bots, and The Art of the Catapult, presents us with a world comprised of amateur inventors whose imagination and devil-may-care attitude towards life and limb are responsible for a fascinating hotbed of technological innovation. This astonishing and revealing book is the result of Gurstelle submerging himself in a world where men and women attempt to accomplish what most of us would think either impossible or insane. For these individuals nothing is more important than witnessing some bizarre machine scream across the sky or to see their newly designed vegetable artillery successfully launch pumpkins at some unseen enemy at the World Championship Punkin' Chunkin' competition in Sussex County, Delaware. Being so obsessed with the success of their latest rocket project has on more than one occasion blinded them to the various government restrictions laid out by the FAA and ATF, which is why these government spoilsports have taken such an… err… enthusiastic interest in activities at events such as the annual Large Dangerous Rocket Ships (LDRS) meeting. Such is nature of this technological underground that when they are not electrocuting themselves with Tesla coils, loading catapults, building flamethrowers or fighting robots (all in the name of science, of course), they might be found sucking down a cold one, as pleased as punch at their latest technological conquest. If you're the type of person who likes your physics hardboiled and served with Tabasco sauce, then this book's for you.

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