Friday, 26 August 2011

The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century

In this long and astonishing narrative, British journalist Watson presents an unconventional history of the 20th century, which, he argues, "has been dominated by a coming to terms with science." Although this massive volume is packed with a multitude of events, ideas, and influential people, Watson's infectious writing carries the reader swiftly along. The mosaic he creates can best be illustrated by this typical sentence: "On 25 October 1900, only days after Max Planck sent his crucial equations on a postcard to Heinrich Rubens, Pablo Picasso stepped off the Barcelona train at the Gare d'Orsay in Paris." In 42 chapters, Watson travels from Freud to the Internet, from pragmatism and relativity to Brave New World and Hiroshima, while considering the impact of the arts, existentialism, feminism, sexuality, genetics, medicine, the Great Society, race, AIDS, and more. Key people and ideas are highlighted. It is hard to spot any major omissions, though post-World War II music seems to get overlooked. While this work is reminiscent of Paul Johnson's Modern Times, Watson's scope goes far beyond politics and history. This book will be read and consulted for many years.

Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives [Audiobook]

A lively, surprising tour of our mental glitches and how they arise.

With its trillions of connections, the human brain is more beautiful and complex than anything we could ever build, but it's far from perfect: our memory is unreliable; we can't multiply large sums in our heads; advertising manipulates our judgment; we tend to distrust people who are different from us; supernatural beliefs and superstitions are hard to shake; we prefer instant gratification to long-term gain; and what we presume to be rational decisions are often anything but. Drawing on striking examples and fascinating studies, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano illuminates the causes and consequences of these ''bugs'' in terms of the brain's innermost workings and their evolutionary purposes. He then goes one step further, examining how our brains function--and malfunction--in the digital, predator-free, information-saturated, special-effects-addled world that we have built for ourselves. Along the way, Brain Bugs gives us the tools to hone our cognitive strengths while recognizing our inherent weaknesses.

Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold [Audiobook]

An entire arm of science—even a British research center called the Common Cold Unit (CCU)—dedicated to studying the common cold? Why not? Certainly an ailment that supports a multibillion-dollar industry of mostly quackery ought to inspire a certain amount of scientific interest. Indeed the common cold is far from being the stuffy subject one might expect. In the hands of gifted science writer Ackerman, the cold is addressed with dry wit while she covers every detail from soup (chicken, of course) to nuts (folk remedies). Only a science writer can find being intentionally inoculated with a cold virus and sequestered for a weekend entertaining. Among the lesser-known facts she reveals: colds are caused by more than 200 different viruses, one of which can even make you fat! What’s more, building up one’s immune system may exacerbate a cold’s symptoms; and as for those trendy antibacterial soaps and lotions, they are worthless against cold viruses. Amid all this “nasal gazing,” there is one folk remedy that may be worth considering. In Domestic Medicine (1772), William Buchan instructs, “Go to bed, hang your hat on the foot of the bed, and continue to drink until you see two hats.”

Life: The Science of Biology, 7th Edition

Journal of Biological Education

'The great strength of this book is that it provides a comprehensive and well written coverage of the entire field of biology, superbly illustrated in full colour and at an affordable price.

Product Description

This is an authoritative introductory text that presents biological concepts through the research that revealed them. "Life" covers the full range of topics with an integrated experimental focus that flows naturally from the narrative. This approach helps to bring the drama of classic and cutting-edge research to the classroom, but always in the context of reinforcing core ideas and the innovative scientific thinking behind them. Students will experience biology not just as a litany of facts or a highlight reel of experiments, but as a rich, coherent discipline. The new edition contains new chapters and essays, an enhanced art programme, and standard setting media and supplements.

Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God

"[Graffin] explains how evolution can be a guide to life."
Scientific American

"Bucking authority and the religious views of his family, Graffin explains how he has developed a personal philosophy that celebrates the power of nature."

"Whether you’re a believer, an atheist, an agnostic, or anything in between, this is a necessary book."

Most people know Greg Graffin as the lead singer of the punk band Bad Religion, but few know that he also received a PhD from Cornell University and teaches evolution at the University of California at Los Angeles. In Anarchy Evolution, Graffin argues that art and science have a deep connection. As an adolescent growing up when "drugs, sex, and trouble could be had on any given night," Graffin discovered that the study of evolution provided a framework through which he could make sense of the world.

In this provocative and personal book, he describes his own coming of age as an artist and the formation of his naturalist worldview on questions involving God, science, and human existence. While the battle between religion and science is often displayed in the starkest of terms, Anarchy Evolution provides fresh and nuanced insights into the long-standing debate about atheism and the human condition. It is a book for anyone who has ever wondered if God really exists. Amazon

The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us

"The faithful won't change their minds, of course (that is what faith means) but Victor Stenger drives a pack of energetic ferrets down the last major bolt hole and God is running out of refuges in which to hide. I learned enormous amount from this splendid book."
Richard Dawkins

In this in-depth, lucid discussion of this fascinating and controversial topic, physicist and author Victor J. Stenger looks at the same evidence and comes to the opposite conclusion. He states at the outset that as a physicist he will go wherever the data takes him, even if it leads him to God. But after many years of research in particle physics and thinking about its implications, he finds that the observations of science and our naked senses not only show no evidence for God, they provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that God does not exist.

Although Stenger has touched on the subject of fine-tuning in other books, this is his most thorough exploration of a topic that continues to intrigue scientists and the lay public alike. Amazon

God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (AUDIOBOOK AND EBOOK)

"People who say that libertarians have no heart or atheists have no soul need to read this book. Because Penn Jillette has a lot of both."
Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park and the award-winning Broadway musical The Book of Mormon

"Penn Jillette is a twenty-first-century Lord of Misrule: big, boisterously anarchic, funny, Rabelaisian, impossible and unique. There isn't—couldn't be—better not be—anybody like him."
Richard Dawkins

From the larger, louder half of the world-famous magic duo Penn & Teller comes a scathingly funny reinterpretation of The Ten Commandments. They are The Penn Commandments, and they reveal one outrageous and opinionated atheist's experience in the world. In this rollicking yet honest account of a godless existence, Penn takes readers on a roller coaster of exploration and flips conventional religious wisdom on its ear to reveal that doubt, skepticism, and wonder -- all signs of a general feeling of disbelief -- are to be celebrated and cherished, rather than suppressed. And he tells some pretty damn funny stories along the way. From performing blockbuster shows on the Vegas Strip to the adventures of fatherhood, from an on-going dialogue with proselytizers of the Christian Right to the joys of sex while scuba diving, Jillette's self-created Decalogue invites his reader on a journey of discovery that is equal parts wise and wisecracking. Amazon