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Death on Earth: Adventures in Evolution and Mortality
As you read these words, Planet Earth teems with trillions of life-forms, each going about its own business: eating, reproducing, thriving . . . Yet, the life of almost every single organism draws nearer to certain death. On the other hand, “suicide” inside the mitochondria that live within us results in the death of millions of cells each second for our own good! Why is death such a universal companion to life on Earth? Why haven't animals evolved to break free of its shackles?In this wide-ranging exploration of death, Jules Howard attempts to shed evolutionary light on one of our biggest and most unshakable taboos. He visits a salon that's trying to abolish our queasiness over talking about death. He also looks to the nematode, one of the most basic of life-forms, for clues about why near-starvation actually can prolong life. Encountering some of the world's oldest animals, and meeting the scientists attempting to unravel their mysteries, Howard also comes face to face with evolution's outliers--the animals that may one day avoid death altogether.Written in an engaging style, DEATH ON EARTH's journey ends with the inevitable question: Can we ever become immortal? And if we could, would we really want to?
The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal
This work has become a benchmark of popular anthropology and psychology.Zoologist Desmond Morris considers humans as being simply another animal species in this classic book first published in 1967. Here is the Naked Ape at his most primal in love, at work, at war. Meet man as he really is: relative to the apes, stripped of his veneer as we see him courting, making love, sleeping, socializing, grooming, playing. The Naked Ape takes its place alongside Darwin’s Origin of the Species, presenting man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape, remarkable in his resilience, energy and imagination, yet an animal nonetheless, in danger of forgetting his origins.With its penetrating insights on mans beginnings, sex life, habits and our astonishing bonds to the animal kingdom, The Naked Ape is a landmark, at once provocative, compelling and timeless.
The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis
How an ordinary mammal manipulated nature to become technologically sophisticated city-dwellers--and why our history points to an optimistic future in the face of environmental crisis.Our species long lived on the edge of starvation. Now we produce enough food for all 7 billion of us to eat nearly 3,000 calories every day. This is such an astonishing thing in the history of life as to verge on the miraculous. The Big Ratchet is the story of how it happened, of the ratchets--the technologies and innovations, big and small--that propelled our species from hunters and gatherers on the savannahs of Africa to shoppers in the aisles of the supermarket.The Big Ratchet itself came in the twentieth century, when a range of technologies--from fossil fuels to scientific plant breeding to nitrogen fertilizers--combined to nearly quadruple our population in a century, and to grow our food supply even faster. To some, these technologies are a sign of our greatness; to others, of our hubris. MacArthur fellow and Columbia University professor Ruth DeFries argues that the debate is the wrong one to have. Limits do exist, but every limit that has confronted us, we have surpassed. That cycle of crisis and growth is the story of our history; indeed, it is the essence of The Big Ratchet. Understanding it will reveal not just how we reached this point in our history, but how we might survive it.
Leroi, Armand Marie
In Mutants, Armand Marie Leroi gives a brilliant narrative account of our genetic grammar and the people whose bodies have revealed it, balancing both the science and the stories behind some of history's most captivating figures - including a French convent girl who found herself changing sex upon puberty; children who, echoing Homer's Cyclops, are born with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads; a village of long-lived Croatian dwarfs; a hairy family that was kept at the Burmese royal court for four generations (and from which Darwin took one of his keenest insights into heredity); and the ostrich-footed Wadoma of the Zambezi River Valley.
The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity
As we approach a great turning point in history when technology is poised to redefine what it means to be human, The Fourth Age offers fascinating insight into AI, robotics, and their extraordinary implications for our species.In The Fourth Age, Byron Reese makes the case that technology has reshaped humanity just three times in history:• 100,000 years ago we harnessed fire, which led to language.• 10,000 years ago we developed agriculture, which led to cities and warfare.• 5,000 years ago we invented the wheel and writing, which led to the nation state.We are now on the doorstep of a fourth change brought about by two technologies: AI and robotics. The Fourth Age provides extraordinary background information on how we got to this point and how - rather than what - we should think about the topics we’ll soon all be facing: machine consciousness, automation, employment, creative computers, radical life extension, artificial life, AI ethics, the future of warfare, superintelligence, and the implications of extreme prosperity.By asking questions like “are you a machine?” and “could a computer feel anything?”, Reese leads you through a discussion along the cutting edge in robotics and AI and provides a framework by which we can all understand, discuss, and act on the issues of the Fourth Age and how they’ll transform humanity.
The Oysters of Locmariaquer
On the northwest coast of France, just around the corner from the English Channel, is the little town of Locmariaquer. The inhabitants of this town have a special relationship to the world, for it is their efforts that maintain the supply of the famous Belon oysters, called les plates (the flat ones). A vivid account of the cultivation of Belon oysters and an excursion into the myths, legends, and rich, vibrant history of Brittany and its extraordinary people, The Oysters of Locmariaquer is also an unforgettable journey to the heart of a fascinating culture and the enthralling, accumulating drama of a unique devotion.
The Wisdom of the Bones
A remarkable discovery was made a decade ago on a dig in northern Kenya. When all the bone and skull fragments were painstakingly pieced together, they revealed the nearly complete skeleton of a teenage male (nicknamed Nariokotome boy, after a nearby sand river). Faced with the best-ever specimen of Homo erectus - a species long identified as the proverbial missing link between apes and humans - paleoanthropologist Alan Walker embarked on a long-term investigation of that species's nature. In this book, telling the story of that inquiry, he introduces us to his ever surprising, deeply engrossing world. Walker examines even the tiniest of bones and the subtlest of clues in his analysis. He first recounts the story of the more-than-century-long search for the "missing link," a bizarre and compelling saga made up of brilliant science and speculative nonsense. Then he builds, step-by-step, on some of his predecessors' assumptions, and he challenges others, using state-of-the-art techniques to reveal the truth. In Walker's hands the bones reveal an amazing amount of information about the Nariokotome boy's anatomy and the way he lived. We watch as Walker deduces from the evidence that community and cooperation were already very important at this stage of human evolution; that the boy was modern in climatic adaptation and locomotion yet archaic in growth pattern; and that the boy could not speak. In Walker's final assessment this last insight becomes the most important one.
The Geoghraphy of Nowhere
Kunstler, James Howard
The Geography of Nowhere traces America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular, where the cities are dead zones and the countryside is a wasteland of cartoon architecture and parking lots. In elegant and often hilarious prose, Kunstler depicts our nation's evolution from the Pilgrim settlements to the modern auto suburb in all its ghastliness. The Geography of Nowhere tallies up the huge economic, social, and spiritual costs that America is paying for its car-crazed lifestyle. It is also a wake-up call for citizens to reinvent the places where we live and work, to build communities that are once again worthy of our affection. Kunstler proposes that by reviving civic art and civic life, we will rediscover public virtue and a new vision of the common good. "The future will require us to build better places," Kunstler says, "or the future will belong to other people in other societies."
In this eye-opening exposé, acclaimed health journalist and National Geographic contributor Maryn McKenna documents how antibiotics transformed chicken from local delicacy to industrial commodity - and human health threat - uncovering the ways we can make America's favorite meat safer again.
The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains
Lustig, Robert H.
The New York Times–bestselling author of Fat Chance reveals the corporate scheme to sell pleasure, driving the international epidemic of addiction, depression, and chronic disease.While researching the toxic and addictive properties of sugar for his New York Times bestseller Fat Chance, Robert Lustig made an alarming discovery—our pursuit of happiness is being subverted by a culture of addiction and depression from which we may never recover.Dopamine is the “reward” neurotransmitter that tells our brains we want more; yet every substance or behavior that releases dopamine in the extreme leads to addiction. Serotonin is the “contentment” neurotransmitter that tells our brains we don’t need any more; yet its deficiency leads to depression. Ideally, both are in optimal supply. Yet dopamine evolved to overwhelm serotonin—because our ancestors were more likely to survive if they were constantly motivated—with the result that constant desire can chemically destroy our ability to feel happiness, while sending us down the slippery slope to addiction. In the last forty years, government legislation and subsidies have promoted ever-available temptation (sugar, drugs, social media, porn) combined with constant stress (work, home, money, Internet), with the end result of an unprecedented epidemic of addiction, anxiety, depression, and chronic disease. And with the advent of neuromarketing, corporate America has successfully imprisoned us in an endless loop of desire and consumption from which there is no obvious escape.With his customary wit and incisiveness, Lustig not only reveals the science that drives these states of mind, he points his finger directly at the corporations that helped create this mess, and the government actors who facilitated it, and he offers solutions we can all use in the pursuit of happiness, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Always fearless and provocative, Lustig marshals a call to action, with seminal implications for our health, our well-being, and our culture.
The Happy Atheist
Myers, P. Z.
On his popular science blog, Pharyngula, PZ Myers has entertained millions of readers with his infectious love of evolutionary science and his equally infectious disdain for creationism, biblical literalism, intelligent design theory, and other products of godly illogic. This funny and fearless book collects and expands on some of his most popular writings, giving the religious fanaticism of our times the gleeful disrespect it deserves by skewering the apocalyptic fantasies, magical thinking, hypocrisies, and pseudoscientific theories advanced by religious fundamentalists of all stripes. Forceful and articulate, scathing and funny, The Happy Atheist is a reaffirmation of the revelatory power of humor and the truth-revealing powers of science and reason.
Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature's Mos Paradoxical Creature
Evolutionary theory has long established that humans are animals: Modern Homo sapiens are primates who share an ancestor with monkeys and other great apes. Our genome is 98 percent identical to a chimpanzee’s. And yet we think of ourselves as exceptional. Are we?In this original and entertaining tour of life on Earth, Adam Rutherford explores the profound paradox of the “human animal.” Looking for answers across the animal kingdom, he finds that many things once considered exclusively human are not: In Australia, raptors have been observed starting fires to scatter prey; in Zambia, a chimp named Julie even started a “fashion” of wearing grass in one ear. We aren’t the only species that communicates, makes tools, or has sex for reasons other than procreation. But we have developed a culture far more complex than any other we’ve observed. Why has that happened, and what does it say about us?Humanimal is a new evolutionary history - a synthesis of the latest research on genetics, sex, migration, and much more. It reveals what unequivocally makes us animals - and also why we are truly extraordinary.
Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives--and Our Lives Change Our Genes
Award-winning physician and New York Times bestselling author Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD, reveals how genetic breakthroughs are completely transforming our understanding of both the world and our lives. Conventional wisdom dictates that our genetic destiny is fixed at conception. But Dr. Moalem's groundbreaking book shows us that the human genome is far more fluid and fascinating than your ninth grade biology teacher ever imagined. By bringing us to the bedside of his unique and complex patients, he masterfully demonstrates what rare genetic conditions can teach us all about our own health and well-being. In the brave new world we're rapidly rocketing into, genetic knowledge has become absolutely crucial. INHERITANCE provides an indispensable roadmap for this journey by teaching you: - Why you may have recovered from the psychological trauma caused by childhood bullying - but your genes may remain scarred for life. - How fructose is the sugar that makes fruits sweet - but if you have certain genes, consuming it can buy you a one-way trip to the coroner's office. - Why ingesting common painkillers is like dosing yourself repeatedly with morphine - if you have a certain set of genes. - How insurance companies legally use your genetic data to predict the risk of disability for you and your children - and how that impacts the coverage decisions they make for your family. - How to have the single most important conversation with your doctor - one that can save your life. And finally: -Why people with rare genetic conditions hold the keys to medical problems affecting millions. In this trailblazing book, Dr. Moalem employs his wide-ranging and entertaining interdisciplinary approach to science and medicine - explaining how art, history, superheroes, sex workers, and sports stars all help us understand the impact of our lives on our genes, and our genes on our lives. INHERITANCE will profoundly alter how you view your genes, your health - and your life.
Plucked: Chicken, Antibiotics, and How Big Business Changed the Way the World Eats
In this eye-opening exposé, acclaimed health journalist and National Geographic contributor Maryn McKenna documents how antibiotics transformed chicken from local delicacy to industrial commodity—and human health threat—uncovering the ways we can make America's favorite meat safer again.What you eat matters—for your health, for the environment, and for future generations. In this riveting investigative narrative, McKenna dives deep into the world of modern agriculture by way of chicken: from the farm where it's raised directly to your dinner table. Consumed more than any other meat in the United States, chicken is emblematic of today's mass food-processing practices and their profound influence on our lives and health. Tracing its meteoric rise from scarce treat to ubiquitous global commodity, McKenna reveals the astounding role of antibiotics in industrial farming, documenting how and why "wonder drugs" revolutionized the way the world eats—and not necessarily for the better. Rich with scientific, historical, and cultural insights, this spellbinding cautionary tale shines a light on one of America's favorite foods—and shows us the way to safer, healthier eating for ourselves and our children.
The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America
An exploration, both personal and deeply reported, of how we learn to eat in today’s toxic food culture.Food is supposed to sustain and nourish us. Eating well, any doctor will tell you, is the best way to take care of yourself. Feeding well, any human will tell you, is the most important job a mother has. But for too many of us, food now feels dangerous. We parse every bite we eat as good or bad, and judge our own worth accordingly. When her newborn daughter stopped eating after a medical crisis, Virginia Sole-Smith spent two years teaching her how to feel safe around food again - and in the process, realized just how many of us are struggling to do the same thing.The Eating Instinct visits kitchen tables around America to tell Sole-Smith’s own story, as well as the stories of women recovering from weight loss surgery, of people who eat only nine foods, of families with unlimited grocery budgets and those on food stamps. Every struggle is unique. But Sole-Smith shows how they’re also all products of our modern food culture. And they’re all asking the same questions: How did we learn to eat this way? Why is it so hard to feel good about food? And how can we make it better?
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism--the role it plays in evolution as well as human history--is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party--the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species--including our own.Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.
Skeleton Keys: The Secret Life of Bone
Our bones have many stories to tell, if you know how to listen. Bone is a marvel, an adaptable and resilient building material developed over more than four hundred million years of evolutionary history. It gives your body its shape and the ability to move. It grows and changes with you, an undeniable document of who you are and how you lived. Arguably, no other part of the human anatomy has such rich scientific and cultural significance, both brimming with life and a potent symbol of death. In this delightful natural and cultural history of bone, Brian Switek explains where our skeletons came from, what they do inside us, and what others can learn about us when these artifacts of mineral and protein are all we've left behind. Bone is as embedded in our culture as it is in our bodies. Our species has made instruments and jewelry from bone, treated the dead like collectors' items, put our faith in skull bumps as guides to human behavior, and arranged skeletons into macabre tributes to the afterlife. Switek makes a compelling case for getting better acquainted with our skeletons, in all their surprising roles. Bridging the worlds of paleontology, anthropology, medicine, and forensics, Skeleton Keys illuminates the complex life of bones inside our bodies and out.
Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer
Maternal instinct - the all-consuming, utterly selfless love that mothers lavish on their children - has long been assumed to be an innate element of a woman's nature. But is it? In this groundbreaking book, renowned anthropologist (and mother) Sarah Blaffer Hrdy shares a radical new vision of motherhood and its crucial role in human evolution. Hrdy strips away stereotypes and gender biased myths to demonstrate that traditional views of maternal behavior are essentially wishful thinking. Far from being selfless, successful primate mothers have always combined nurturing with ambition, mother love with sexual love, devotion with ambivalence. In her stunningly original interpretation of the relationships between mothers and fathers, mothers and babies, mothers and their social group, Hrdy offers not only a revolutionary new meaning to motherhood but an important new understanding of human evolution.
The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women
An award-winning physician and scientist makes the game-changing case that genetic females are stronger than males at every stage of lifeHere are some facts: Women live longer than men. They have stronger immune systems. They're better at fighting cancer and surviving famine, and even see the world in a wider variety of colors. They are simply stronger than men at every stage of life. Why is this? And why are we taught the opposite?To find out, Dr. Sharon Moalem drew on his own medical experiences - treating premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit; recruiting the elderly for neurogenetic studies; tending to HIV-positive orphans in Thailand - and tried to understand why in every instance men were consistently less likely to thrive. The answer, he discovered, lies in our genetics: two X chromosomes offer a powerful survival advantage.With clear, captivating prose that weaves together eye-opening research, case studies, diverse examples ranging from the behavior of honeybees to American pioneers, as well as experiences from his personal life and his own patients, Moalem explains why genetic females triumph over males when it comes to resiliency, intellect, stamina, immunity and much more. He also calls for a reconsideration of our male-centric, one-size-fits-all view of medical studies and even how we prescribe medications - a view that still sees women through the lens of men.Revolutionary and yet utterly convincing, The Better Half will make you see humanity and the survival of our species anew.
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism--the role it plays in evolution as well as human history--is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History,zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party--the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species--including our own.Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.
Gender Mosaic: Beyond the Myth of the Male and Female Brain
A provocative look beyond sex differences at what cutting-edge neuroscience tells us about gender, sex, and the brain.
The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy
Von Hippel, William
A groundbreaking and eye-opening exploration that applies evolutionary science to provide a new perspective on human psychology, revealing how major challenges from our past have shaped some of the most fundamental aspects of our being.The most fundamental aspects of our lives—from leadership and innovation to aggression and happiness—were permanently altered by the "social leap" our ancestors made from the rainforest to the savannah. Their struggle to survive on the open grasslands required a shift from individualism to a new form of collectivism, which forever altered the way our mind works. It changed the way we fight and our proclivity to make peace, it changed the way we lead and the way we follow, it made us innovative but not inventive, it created a new kind of social intelligence, and it led to new sources of life satisfaction.In The Social Leap, William von Hippel lays out this revolutionary hypothesis, tracing human development through three critical evolutionary inflection points to explain how events in our distant past shape our lives today. From the mundane, such as why we exaggerate, to the surprising, such as why we believe our own lies and why fame and fortune are as likely to bring misery as happiness, the implications are far reaching and extraordinary.Blending anthropology, biology, history, and psychology with evolutionary science, The Social Leap is a fresh and provocative look at our species that provides new clues about who we are, what makes us happy, and how to use this knowledge to improve our lives.
Who We Are and How We Got Here
A groundbreaking book about how ancient DNA has profoundly changed our understanding of human history.Geneticists like David Reich have made astounding advances in the field of genomics, which is proving to be as important as archeology, linguistics, and written records as a means to understand our ancestry.In Who We Are and How We Got Here, Reich allows readers to discover how the human genome provides not only all the information a human embryo needs to develop but also the hidden story of our species. Reich delves into how the genomic revolution is transforming our understanding of modern humans and how DNA studies reveal deep inequalities among different populations, between the sexes, and among individuals. Provocatively, Reich’s book suggests that there might very well be biological differences among human populations but that these differences are unlikely to conform to common stereotypes.Drawing upon revolutionary findings and unparalleled scientific studies, Who We Are and How We Got Here is a captivating glimpse into humankind - where we came from and what that says about our lives today.
Gender Medicine: The Groundbreaking New Science of Gender- and Sex-Based Diagnosis and Treatment
Over millions of years, male and female bodies developed crucial physiological differences to improve the chances for human survival. These differences have become culturally obsolete with the overturning of traditional gender roles. But they are nevertheless very real, and they go well beyond the obvious sexual and reproductive variances: men and women differ in terms of digestion, which affects the way medications are absorbed. Sensitivity to pain is dependent on gender. Even the symptoms of a heart attack manifest differently in a man than in a woman. And yet the medical establishment largely treats male and female patients as though their needs are identical. In fact, medical research is still done predominately on men, and the results are then applied to the treatment of women. This is clearly problematic and calls for a paradigm change - such a paradigm change is the purpose of Gender Medicine.
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