Biology

Review: Dorrik Stow, Oceans

March 28, 2006
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Review: Dorrik Stow, Oceans

The New Scientist has praised Dorrik Stow’s Oceans: An Illustrated Reference. From the review by Adrian Barnett: "From sun-drenched atolls to the ice-capped Arctic, Oceans provides a photo-packed history of the seas, their geology, geochemistry and physics, their cycles and circulations. In elegant prose, Stow examines marine life in all its glorious strangeness and extreme abundance. He covers major areas of oceanographic research, including sociology, anthropology and archaeology, revealing how much we know, and the enormous amount we don’t. Helped by lots of colour photographs and explanatory diagrams, charts and maps, this is a splendid, fact-packed read." . . .

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Guthrie in the New Mexican

March 20, 2006
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Guthrie in the New Mexican

Last week, the New Mexican featured an article about R. Dale Guthrie’s new book, The Nature of Paleolithic Art. Guthrie’s book has been eliciting media attention because of his theory that many Paleolithic era cave paintings were done by "testosterone-laden" young boys. From the Associated Press article by Dan Joling: Most books on Pleistocene art focus on the best of the era, images produced by highly skilled hands. The Mammoth Steppe, the portion of the northern hemisphere that stayed ice-free while much of the Earth was covered by Ice Age glaciation, was rich in deposits of earth pigments, such as red, orange and yellow iron oxides. Paleolithic artists sometimes applied them by brush, sometimes by chewing and spitting in a fine, dry spray, producing a stipple. "Most prehistorians think of adults doing all these things," Guthrie said. Many scholars also contend that most of the art was done by shamans for religious purposes—pictures to please the gods, or bless a hunt or dramatize a shaman’s vision. Overlooked, Guthrie said, are thousands of less sophisticated drawings that he believes have a more mundane origin. More than half the population was teenage or younger. With artists tools available, Guthrie said, it’s highly . . .

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Into the Cool

March 17, 2006
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Into the Cool

Scientists, theologians, and philosophers have all sought to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. Finding this natural basis of life has proved elusive, but in the eloquent and creative Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life, Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan look for answers in a surprising place: the second law of thermodynamics. This second law refers to energy’s inevitable tendency to change from being concentrated in one place to becoming spread out over time. In this scientific tour de force, Schneider and Sagan show how the second law is behind evolution, ecology,economics, and even life’s origin. Authors Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan have created a wonderful Into the Cool Web site. It features an in-depth look of each chapter, illustrations, reviews of the book, and a blog. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

March 2, 2006
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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

In The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Dale Guthrie overturns many of the standard interpretations of the ancient cave paintings of the Paleolithic era. Among other things, Guthrie argues that many of the cave paintings were done by children and have similarities with present-day graffiti. Here is a short excerpt from the book: The Identity of the People Who Made the Handprints: Statistical Results “First, the statistical analyses tell us that the majority of the Paleolithic artists who left these handprint stencils in caves were young people. But they also show a great diversity of ages. As noted by other researchers, some prints were made by very young children (younger even than those in my baseline sample). Two hand images are so small that the toddler/baby had to have been carried back into the cave. These occur in Gargas Cave in southern France, which is unusual in having passageways that are easy to traverse and an easy entrance which remained open during much of the past. That is shown by the protohistoric, Gallo-Roman, and medieval graffiti carved in the cave wall. But this is not typical for Paleolithic caves; there are few deep caves one would try to visit with a . . .

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Paleolithic handprints

February 27, 2006
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Paleolithic handprints

In The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Dale Guthrie overturns many of the standard interpretations of the ancient cave paintings of the Paleolithic era. Among other things, Guthrie argues that many of the cave paintings were done by children and have similarities with present-day graffiti. Here is an illustration and short excerpt from the book: Missing Fingers in Art: Ritual, Disease, Frostbite, or Kids Playing? “Many hand images in the French Gargas-Tibran cave complex and Cosquer and in Maltravieso Cave in Spain appear to have missing fingers or other malformations. These “disfigured” hands have fueled discussions for the last 100 years. Groenen (1987) has provided a review of this debate. The central issue, of course, is that virtually all apparent mutilations are also replicable by simply contorting fingers in the stenciled hand (as one does in shadow art). But many people still insist that these represent real ritual amputations. “More recent speculation on possible causes of these disfigured hands has focused on Raynaud’s disease, in which capillaries fail to respond normally by flushing with warm blood when hands or feet get cold. I find this explanation unconvincing, because Raynaud’s disease is seldom expressed in young men (Larson 1996), and the hands . . .

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