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Science Books

August 31, 2006

A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives
Cordelia Fine (2006)
ISBN: 0393062139

I used to think the brain was the most important organ in the body, until I realized who was telling me that. - Emo Phillips

How well do you think you know your brain? Do you control it, or does it control you? Cordelia Fine, research associate in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University, writes to inform you that your brain is a wild and dangerous thing, but adds that with a little work it can be tamed. Exploring its hundreds of billions of cells, scientists continue to be stunned and amazed at what they discover about the human brain. With so much going on in there it should come as no surprise when we are told that we succumb to a little self-deception every now and again. Naturally enough, the brain is only trying to protect the ego from a harsh and indifferent world, according to Fine, as the truth about ourselves is drowned out by a sea of excuses, wishful thinking and idealism. Superbly written, A Mind Of Its Own uses the most up-to-date research on the human brain to show how our brains are a seething hotbed of prejudice, vanity and bigotry that clouds our view of reality. As we continue to permit our personal assessment of the world and those within it to remain unexamined; we stereotype, condemn the actions of others, and hide our own mistakes by laying blame elsewhere. Fine claims that it is possible to break out of the negative cycles that build up over the years, and optimistically argues that this can be achieved through greater self-awareness and experimental psychology. A Mind Of Its Own is a wittily written book on the subconscious world of the human brain, where the discovery that your own brain is possibly your worst enemy is both illuminating and a little disconcerting.

Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction
James E. III McClellan, Harold Dorn (2006)
ISBN: 0801883601

It is with good reason that this popular science history book is now into its second edition. In this seminal work, science history professors James E. McClellan III and Harold Dorn, both from the Stevens Institute of Technology, argue that technology as "applied science" has only ever existed since governments and industry began supporting science's drive into new technologies. Needless to say, this specific process does not have a very lengthy history. But by casting an eye over the distant past, the authors show how the technological powerhouses of Europe and the United States have indeed evolved out of some very old scientific traditions. McClellan and Dorn identify at least two scientific traditions of the past as being important precursors to the present. The first of these is the "useful sciences," which the authors say has been supported by the state from civilization's earliest beginnings. The second is "scientific theorizing," first conceived of by the ancient Greeks, with the new edition presenting an expanded and updated account of Greek science. After a comprehensive tour of these humble but vastly significant beginnings, McClellan and Dorn reveal how scientific traditions emerged in Central and South America, India, China, and the Near Eastern Empires leading up to and including the Middle Ages. The authors show - through historical convergence and analysis - how the US and Europe eventually became hubs of technological innovation. Also new to this edition are new and expanded chapters dedicated to the societal influences of science and technology, in regard to the way that they shape and direct civilization. Science And Technology In World History is ideal for all those interested in the history of science.

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