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Science Books

April 26, 2007

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour Of The Beautiful Basics Of Science
Natalie Angier (2007)
ISBN: 0618242953

Here's a book that will bring you up to speed on anything from climate change and evolution to genetics and cosmology, without all that impenetrable technical jargon. Drawing upon years of discussions with renowned scientists, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Natalie Angier, science writer for the New York Times, has successfully managed to produce a layman's roadmap to scientific understanding. Her intelligence, sharp wit, and passion for science shine through as she effortlessly tackles the heady disciplines of chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and biology. Why wasn't science this accessible and this entertaining at school? While The Canon is predominately an informative rocket-ride through the hallowed halls of science, Angier does make a few scheduled stops to elaborate on some of the more tricky topics. To accomplish her mission in making science accessible to the scientifically challenged, The Canon is often heavy with metaphor, humor, and detours, so as to ensure that a central concept is suitably understood. But rather than being a distraction, Angier's colorful prose is yet another plus for this enjoyable book. The Canon imbues the reader with knowledge and insight concerning what the universe is comprised of, and how it all manages to hold together. You may even discover what a whirligig is!

Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution Of A Social Mind
Dorothy L. Cheney & Robert M. Seyfarth (2007)
ISBN: 0226102432

"All the world's a stage," wrote Shakespeare in reference to the way we humans play out our lives like actors in a play. Well, this phrase could equally apply to our melodramatic baboon cousins, who get up to plenty of backstabbing, passion, and politics in their own society. It was no doubt for these reasons that in 1838 Charles Darwin wrote in his dog-eared notebook: "He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke." No scientist worth their salt would ever leave such a challenge unanswered, so Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth, professors of biology and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, took it upon themselves to investigate further. After spending some time observing baboons in Botswana's Okavango Delta, Cheney and Seyfarth found that for a baboon to get on in life involves a complicated blend of short-term relationships, friendships, and careful status calculations; all of which must be weighed up against each baboon's personal needs and requirements. Needless to say, the ensuing political machinations and convenient romantic dalliances in the quest to become numero uno rival the bard himself. But Baboon Metaphysics takes these complex social interactions one step beyond most other studies, and tries to establish what level of awareness the baboons themselves have of their social predicament, and the world in which they inhabit. Baboon Metaphysics is a fascinating window on a world seemingly parallel to our own, while examining why science still considers the human brain unique.

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