Biology

Review: Richet, A Natural History of Time

August 9, 2007
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Review: Richet, A Natural History of Time

Last Sunday the Los Angeles Times ran an interesting review of Pascal Richet’s new book, A Natural History of Time. Applauding some of the many rich details included in this fascinating story of mankind’s endeavors to construct a chronology, Times review editor Sara Lippincott writes: begins with early myths, stories humans told themselves to make sense of their world. These myths were “outside of time,” he writes, “because nature, above all, is governed by cycles” and “neither beginning nor end can be discerned.” The Egyptians, for example, counted years in cycles, starting with each new reign. Speaking of the Egyptians, one of the entrancing nuggets in this nugget-studded book is the information that their hours “varied in duration according to the length of the day.” We owe the stable, 60-minute hour to the Greeks, via “the sexagesimal notation of the Mesopotamians.” From the ancient Egyptian calendar to modern radiometric dating, Richet’s book delivers an eye-opening exploration of the history of man’s quest for time, giving us a chance to truly appreciate how far our knowledge—and our planet—have come. . . .

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Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

August 8, 2007
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Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

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Press Release: Richet, A Natural History of Time

July 30, 2007
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Press Release: Richet, A Natural History of Time

As creatures of finite lifespan, capable of both learning about the past and imagining the future, humans are naturally fascinated with the concept of time. Questions of the origins of the earth, the universe, and humanity have been perpetual preoccupations, eliciting some of humanity’s most trenchant thought—and most heated debates. With A Natural History of Time, Pascal Richet tells the fascinating story of attempts over centuries to determine the age of the earth. Featuring such luminaries as Hesiod, Leonardo, Descartes, and Newton, A Natural History of Time marries the pleasures of history to the drama of scientific discovery, giving readers a chance to marvel at just how far our knowledge—and our planet—have come. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: McLaren, Impotence

July 18, 2007
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Review: McLaren, Impotence

The July 5 London Review of Books contains a great review of Angus McLaren’s Impotence: A Cultural History penned by celebrity shrink Adam Phillips. Noting the significant cultural implications of McLaren’s historical study of male sexual impotence Phillips writes: Like most of the cures for impotence that Angus McLaren describes in his panoramic study, there was very little ‘evidence’ that they worked. And yet it was, and still is, difficult to staunch the flow of more or less magical solutions for the perennial problem. ‘The market is flooded with various appliances which are guaranteed to be sure cures,’ a progressive physician grumbled in 1912. ‘It goes without saying that most of them are worthless frauds.’ What has also gone without saying, McLaren shows, is that the untold history of impotence is a history of many things, most obviously of gender relations, but less obviously— and this is implicit in his book, rather than spelled out—of our will to believe. Impotence raises the question of what wanting to believe something is a solution to, as well as making us wonder what counts as a solution. Erection on demand is a strange cultural ideal but a persistent one, and it tells us . . .

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Claire Nouvian on the News Hour

July 17, 2007
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Claire Nouvian on the News Hour

The News Hour with Jim Lehrer ran a fascinating piece yesterday featuring author and deep sea explorer Claire Nouvian on her new book, The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss. Nouvian joins Spencer Michels along with a panel of researchers to discuss the many new species scientists are currently discovering in the deep ocean, and the new techniques that make their discoveries possible. On the News Hour website you can listen to a RealAudio podcast of the discussion, archived video of the show, or view a images of some of the fascinating creatures featured in Nouvian’s book. Combining the latest scientific discoveries with astonishing color imagery, The Deep takes readers on a voyage into the darkest realms of the ocean. Revealing nature’s oddest and most mesmerizing creatures in crystalline detail, The Deep features more than two hundred color photographs of terrifying sea monsters, living fossils, and ethereal bioluminescent creatures, some photographed here for the very first time. Accompanying these breathtaking photographs are contributions from some of the world’s most respected researchers that examine the biology of deep-sea organisms, the ecology of deep-sea habitats, and the history of deep-sea exploration. See our special website for The Deep which includes a . . .

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Two “weird and wonderful” books

June 28, 2007
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Two “weird and wonderful” books

Better together: the June 21 edition of Nature magazine features a simultaneous review of two new books exploring the unusual and fascinating life that inhabits the earth’s deep oceans. Reviewer Mark Schrope places Tony Koslow’s The Silent Deep: The Discovery, Ecology, and Conservation of the Deep Sea side by side with Claire Nouvian’s fascinating photo-voyage to the deep sea in The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss to show how these two complimentary volumes offer a profound and unusual look at the inhabitants of one of the darkest and most mysterious environments on earth. Schrope writes: The ‘vampire squid from hell’, the fireworks jellyfishes and the pigbutt worm are just a few of the creatures of the deep sea that have remained unseen by all but a select few. Two new books offer complementary views of this strange expanse and its inhabitants.… No photo collection could replicate a visit to their realm or the breadth of the diversity to be found there, but Claire Nouvian’s The Deep, with more than 200 large-format photos, comes closer than any previous book. The Silent Deep, by deep-sea biologist Tony Koslow, is an excellent companion, with textbook depth on all aspects of deep-sea . . .

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Review: Richet, A Natural History of Time

Review: Richet, A Natural History of Time

Pascal Richet’s new book, A Natural History of Time, explores the various ways that human societies have conceptualized the idea of time. By tracing the various attempts throughout the history of western civilization to pinpoint the age of the earth, Richet’s book tells the story of how human societies have progressively built a chronological scale that has made it possible to reconstruct the history of nature itself. As a recent review in the New York Sun notes, Pascal’s book pays special attention to the rise of the scientific method as the dominant paradigm for the creation of this chronology. Adam Kirsch writes for the New York Sun: How old is the Earth? Mr. Richet sets out to explore humanity’s attempts to answer this most perplexing of questions, which acted as a spur and a baffle to human ingenuity for 2,500 years. Before it could be solved, we needed to invent chemistry and geology, astronomy and physics—to isolate the elements, read the sedimentary record, understand the evolution of species, and chart the movement of the stars.… Not only does A Natural History of Time shed light on key advances in the history of science, from the ancient Greeks to the X-ray, . . .

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Press Release: Stafford, Echo Objects

June 22, 2007
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Press Release: Stafford, Echo Objects

Barbara Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations—particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought. As precise in her discussions of firing neurons as she is about the coordinating dynamics of image making, Stafford locates these major transdisciplinary issues at the intersection of art, science, philosophy, and technology. Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose—for the acknowledgment that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation. Read the press release. . . .

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The poetry of the deep sea

June 21, 2007
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The poetry of the deep sea

We know that the books we publish inspire scholarship. But it is especially gratifying to see that our books can inspire creativity of a different sort. Poetry instructor Cassie Sparkman recently used photographs from Claire Nouvian’s The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss to inspire her writing students at an Evanston summer arts camp. And judging by the output of these amazing young writers, inspire them it did! Sparkman posted her students’ work to the Evanston Arts Camp Poetry! blog. See our website for the book if you want to be inspired yourself. . . .

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Press Release: Epstein, Inclusion

June 15, 2007
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Press Release: Epstein, Inclusion

Equal parts medical drama, political chronicle, and ringing polemic, Inclusion tells the story of the movement for a more inclusive approach to medical research, from the struggles of advocacy groups in the 1980s to force researchers to diversify their subject pools to the current model, under which drug companies make bold assertions that group differences in society are encoded in our biology. While Epstein appreciates the hope that more inclusive practices offer to traditionally underserved groups, he argues forcefully that these practices can overshadow far more important social inequities and will only make a real difference if tied to a broad-based effort to address health disparities. Read the press release. . . .

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