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Old 09-26-2013, 07:39 AM   #346
kennyc
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New one from Alan Wiseman (The World Without Us) - Countdown - will the Earth support 11 billion?

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In his bestselling book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman considered how the Earth could heal and even refill empty niches if relieved of humanity's constant pressures. Behind that groundbreaking thought experiment was his hope that we would be inspired to find a way to add humans back to this vision of a restored, healthy planet-only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of nature.

But with a million more of us every 4¿ days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, and with our exhaust overheating the atmosphere and altering the chemistry of the oceans, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth--and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?

Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful.

By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. Weisman again shows that he is one of the most provocative journalists at work today, with a book whose message is so compelling that it will change how we see our lives and our destiny.
http://www.amazon.com/Countdown-Last.../dp/0316097756
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Old 09-26-2013, 10:37 PM   #347
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Kenny,
Thanks for posting that - I read and enjoyed The World Without Us several years ago. By the way, this is eligible for promo codes at Kobobooks.com.
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Old 09-29-2013, 02:34 PM   #348
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Recently finished The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending:

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Resistance to malaria. Blue eyes. Lactose tolerance. What do all of these traits have in common? Every one of them has emerged in the last 10,000 years.

Scientists have long believed that the “great leap forward” that occurred some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago in Europe marked end of significant biological evolution in humans. In this stunningly original account of our evolutionary history, top scholars Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending reject this conventional wisdom and reveal that the human species has undergone a storm of genetic change much more recently. Human evolution in fact accelerated after civilization arose, they contend, and these ongoing changes have played a pivotal role in human history. They argue that biology explains the expansion of the Indo-Europeans, the European conquest of the Americas, and European Jews' rise to intellectual prominence. In each of these cases, the key was recent genetic change: adult milk tolerance in the early Indo-Europeans that allowed for a new way of life, increased disease resistance among the Europeans settling America, and new versions of neurological genes among European Jews.

Ranging across subjects as diverse as human domestication, Neanderthal hybridization, and IQ tests, Cochran and Harpending's analysis demonstrates convincingly that human genetics have changed and can continue to change much more rapidly than scientists have previously believed. A provocative and fascinating new look at human evolution that turns conventional wisdom on its head, The 10,000 Year Explosion reveals the ongoing interplay between culture and biology in the making of the human race.
This is one of those books that changed the way I look at the world.

http://www.amazon.com/000-Year-Explo...year+explosion
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Old 10-11-2013, 12:50 PM   #349
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I just breezed through Lee Smolin's Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe and found it very interesting. I must note that I did not read this word for work and did a lot of skipping over his explanations of things I knew -- the history of physics/cosmology etc. but tried to focus on his new information.

This book in many ways rehashes some of his 'beefs' against leading edge physics - string theory, quantum mechanics, etc. but takes a bit of a new approach by making the bold claim that Time is itself the fundamental component of the structure of reality. As a result of this his claim is that the laws of physics must evolve and change over time. He also makes the claim that this 'setting of time as invariant' is another way of looking at Einstein's relativity (which set the speed of light as invariant - resulting in different experiences of time, time dilation, etc).

I personally have always wondered if what Einstein did was somewhat arbitrary (fixing the speed of light and that it was invariant) and have always wondered if other elements might not be set as invariant with the same results of giving us a completely new view of reality.

I found the book quite interesting. Lee Smolin is a bit of the 'bad boy' of physics but if you are interested in that perspective this is worth the read.
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Old 10-11-2013, 12:52 PM   #350
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I just got the new The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013

I've only read a couple of the entries and will come back with a full review later but I had to share a paragraph from the editor's introduction which sort of summarizes all of modern science and the personalities in one paragraph. He's speaking of Gregor Mendel father of modern genetics:

"How on earth, then, did this man, in this place, unlock the secret of genes? Newton had his cometary intellect; Einstein was born a rebel and bred to defy convention; Feynman was the comic genius of physics, exposing his discipline’s vanities like a jester in a court of fools. But Gregor Mendel? The founder of modern biology seems, in contrast, to have been born without contrast—a man of habits plodding his way among men in habits."

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Old 10-14-2013, 04:13 AM   #351
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Two science books I read during the last month that I think are worthy of attention.

The Mind Within the Brain: How We Make Decisions and How Those Decisions Go Wrong by A. David Redish.

A very detailed description of the neurological and cognitive processes underlying memory, behavior and decision making processes. Although the different processes are well described, the author goes into the great detail needed to really understand the basic science behind them, so the book is not exactly an easy read. I enjoyed it greatly though, and definitely learned a lot from it (and now even understand part of the neurology underlying that learning process ).


The second book I enjoyed is rather science history, The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World by Laura J. Snyder.

From the blurb:

Quote:
The Philosophical Breakfast Club recounts the life and work of four men who met as students at Cambridge University: Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. Recognizing that they shared a love of science (as well as good food and drink) they began to meet on Sunday mornings to talk about the state of science in Britain and the world at large. Inspired by the great 17th century scientific reformer and political figure Francis Bacon—another former student of Cambridge—the Philosophical Breakfast Club plotted to bring about a new scientific revolution. And to a remarkable extent, they succeeded, even in ways they never intended.
The book describes the lives and science of the four protagonists very well, and is definitely entertaining. It also manages to put in the historic, social and economic context, which greatly helps to value the discoveries.
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Old 10-20-2013, 04:19 PM   #352
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Just finished The 10, 000 Year Explosion recommended by Section8 and what an interesting read. I highly recommend this one.
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Old 10-20-2013, 04:27 PM   #353
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Originally Posted by cassidym View Post
Just finished The 10, 000 Year Explosion recommended by Section8 and what an interesting read. I highly recommend this one.
Thanks for the follow-up cassidy!
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Old 10-21-2013, 02:51 AM   #354
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Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
I just got the new The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013

"How on earth, then, did this man, in this place, unlock the secret of genes? Newton had his cometary intellect; Einstein was born a rebel and bred to defy convention; Feynman was the comic genius of physics, exposing his discipline’s vanities like a jester in a court of fools. But Gregor Mendel? The founder of modern biology seems, in contrast, to have been born without contrast—a man of habits plodding his way among men in habits."

Brilliant!

The mention of Feynman led me to notice that "Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman" and the related books don't appear in this thread. Admittedly they're not strictly science books, being more autobiographical in nature, but they're without doubt a must-read for anyone with an interest in science and reason.

/JB
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Old 12-16-2013, 10:43 AM   #355
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"The Phantoms in the brain"

Was scanning the forum. A lovely place to discuss. The book"The Phantoms in the brain" by V.S.Ramchandran is a must read.
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Old 12-16-2013, 11:18 AM   #356
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Yep, that's great stuff. I've not read it but have seen and read shorter stuff by him.

Welcome to MobileRead!
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Old 12-17-2013, 07:56 AM   #357
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Just ran across this: Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/031...g=793775876-20

Quote:
Artificial Intelligence helps choose what books you buy, what movies you see, and even who you date. It puts the “smart” in your smartphone and soon it will drive your car. It makes most of the trades on Wall Street, and controls vital energy, water, and transportation infrastructure. But Artificial Intelligence can also threaten our existence.

In as little as a decade, AI could match and then surpass human intelligence. Corporations and government agencies are pouring billions into achieving AI’s Holy Grail—human-level intelligence. Once AI has attained it, scientists argue, it will have survival drives much like our own. We may be forced to compete with a rival more cunning, more powerful, and more alien than we can imagine.
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Old 12-17-2013, 08:05 AM   #358
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And Science book picks for 2013 from Science Friday:

http://sciencefriday.com/segment/12/...-for-2013.html

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
The Sixteenth Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist, and the Lindbergh Kidnapping by Adam Schrager
Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car and Food on Your Plate by Rose George
Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am? by Gemma Elwin Harris
The Inheritor’s Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science by Sandra Hempel
On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
Cosmic Apprentice: Dispatches from The Edge of Science by Dorion Sagan
Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America by Jon Mooallem
Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson
Einstein and The Quantum: The Quest of the Valian Swabian by A. Douglas Stone
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:40 AM   #359
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Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
Just ran across this: Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/031...g=793775876-20
That looks interesting, and reading the book could very well change my perspective on the subject, but at present I don't feel threatened by A.I. On the one hand, I've been around long enough to see many claims of human level intelligence being just on the horizon come and go, but the main reason I don't feel threatened is that I anticipate that any A.I that does become fully sentient will increasingly engage in an interactive partnership with human beings. I don't believe machines will take over; I believe humans and machines will become increasingly integrated. Human beings will become hybrids. It will be evolution on the fast track. I realize that possibility in itself can seen very frightening, but it also holds out hope for wondrous and unimaginable benefits to come.
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:52 AM   #360
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I'm symbiotic with that.
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