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Science Books

July 17, 2009

Lucy's Legacy: The Quest For Human Origins
Dr. Donald Johanson & Kate Wong (2009)
ISBN: 0307396401

Soon after her discovery in 1974, Lucy, a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton, became the twentieth century's mascot for evolution. In Lucy's Legacy, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson and science writer Kate Wong look back over thirty years of Lucy-inspired evolutionary research; the most thrilling, fruitful and enlightening research in paleoanthropologic history. It was Johanson himself who found Lucy's partial remains all those years ago, and it was this dramatic experience that formed the basis of his New York Times bestseller, Lucy: The Beginnings Of Humankind. As a member of Australopithecus afarensis, a transitional species linking apes and humans, Lucy's unearthing was immensely significant. Johanson's discovery of Lucy was to explode established thought on how humans evolved, and was to ultimately transform how researchers continued to approach the study of human origins. Casting an eye over today's paleoanthropologic landscape, Johanson claims that Lucy is "the benchmark by which other discoveries of human ancestors are judged." Not one to rest on his laurels, Johanson and his team have uncovered an additional 363 Australopithecus afarensis specimens over the last three decades, the result of which is a human lineage dating back 7-million years. Now that we know more about our origins, researchers are hoping to put some long standing questions to rest, such as: where and when our species originated and the nature of human-Neanderthal interactions.

The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking To Make The World Safe For Quantum Mechanics
Leonard Susskind (2009)
ISBN: 0316016411

Despite the vast amounts of brainpower expended trying to comprehend them, black holes remain one of the biggest mysteries in physics. They are so mysterious that two of the brightest brainboxes on the planet, theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Susskind, even clashed over some theoretical characteristics of black holes. Hawking claimed that what went into a black hole was never to be seen again. Susskind, on the other hand, found Hawking's idea of information totally disappearing a ridiculous notion. Susskind's The Black Hole War is an account of his public declaration of war on Hawking's disturbing idea, a war that lasted three decades and ended with Hawking raising the white flag. Obviously getting a principal black hole theorist to concede defeat is no easy task, and Susskind's solution was stupefyingly brilliant. Susskind based his solution on the Holographic Principle, first posited by Gerard 't Hooft, which states that the world and everything in it is a kind of hologram. Obviously this principle is intuitively inconceivable, but Susskind has done the math, Hawking agrees, and that, apparently, is that! As a kind of mental aid, Susskind asks us to envision the horizon of a black hole as a two-dimensional surface, like a film, which manages to store any information previously sucked into the hole. A bit like backing up all the digital information on your PC. With his easy tone and entertaining explanations, Susskind allows us mere mortals to experience a dose of the wonder that Susskind and Hawking must experience daily.

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