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  • The Idea of the Brain: The Past and Future of Neuroscience
    Matthew Cobb

    Book

    Analogies abound and inform our quest to understand the nervous system

    Physicists, biologists, psychologists, philosophers, mathematicians, and computer scientists work (sometimes together) to unravel the mysteries of how the brain, and by extension the mind, operates. This makes neuroscience a peculiar community—a wild confluence of different approaches, backgrounds, and specific interests. The Idea of the Brain by Matthew Cobb is a history of this struggle. Spann… Read More
  • Natural: How Faith in Nature's Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science
    Alan Levinovitz

    Book

    Our obsession with “natural” products and practices is a proxy for other values

    When I was pregnant, I remember pondering with my husband the pros and cons of a “natural” versus a “medicalized” birth. Should we opt for a hospital that would offer epidural anesthesia or for a clinic that would allow the birth process to unfold without intervention and without pain relief? Should we choose to breastfeed… Read More
  • Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings
    Valerie Trouet

    Book

    From ancient timbers to mountaintop forests, trees hold important climate clues

    Many of us have counted the rings of a tree to reveal its age. But did you know that evidence of epic fires, volcanoes, hurricanes, floods, drought, famine, and the rise and fall of ancient empires is also embedded in a tree’s circumference? Valerie Trouet’s Tree Story is an informative introduction to the science of… Read More
  • The Future of Brain Repair: A Realist's Guide to Stem Cell Therapy
    Jack Price

    Book

    Stem cell therapies slowly gain traction as viable treatments for brain disorders

    In the late 19th century, the Spanish neuroanatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal documented, in exquisite detail, the fantastical, uncharted landscapes of the human brain. The ornate cellular structures he drew were, according to Cajal, fragile and irreplaceable. Brain cells, he stated, “may die” and cannot “be regenerated.” Cajal then threw down the gauntlet, asserting that… Read More
  • Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace
    Carl Safina

    Book

    Animals have much to teach us about communication, mate preference, and social hierarchy

    Nonhuman culture has been hugely underestimated, to the detriment of both Homo sapiens and the creatures with whom we share Earth, argues Carl Safina in his new book, Becoming Wild. Framing culture as a process of learned behaviors that help shape modes of living, Safina’s bracing and enlightening book focuses on three distinct dimensions of… Read More
  • Life Changing: How Humans are Altering Life on Earth
    Helen Pilcher

    Book

    Through actions big and small, intentional and unintentional, we are reshaping life on Earth

    Hailing from rare wild mutants, the golden gnu, an uncharacteristically fawn-colored wildebeest, was for the past decade at the center of a speculation bubble in the African trophy-hunting business. Owners of wildlife preserves banked on hunters being willing to part with large sums for the privilege of shooting these beasts, and breeding stock changed hands… Read More
  • Spacefarers: How Humans Will Settle the Moon, Mars, and Beyond
    Christopher Wanjek

    Book

    Commercial interest in space is high, and the technology to get us there is nearly ready

    “To go boldly, if prudently” would be a terrible tagline for a Star Trek spin-off, but it is the most sensible way to colonize space. Space settlements, Moon bases, and Mars colonies—no matter how futuristic—all require a business plan, explains science journalist Christopher Wanjek in his new book, Spacefarers. Wanjek’s book is an optimistic treatise… Read More
  • The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another
    Ainissa Ramirez

    Book

    Our cultural values get baked into the materials we create, changing humanity along the way

    Humans spend a lot of time and effort making stuff. At last count, humanity has created more than 100,000 different materials from which we build our cities, our clothing, our smartphones, our world. Without our stuff, we would be naked, vulnerable, and, arguably, not very human. The question of how much of our humanity is… Read More
  • Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism
    Anne Case and Angus Deaton

    Book

    Stronger safety nets and health care reform could help mitigate “deaths of despair”

    Life expectancy in the United States declined for 3 years in a row between 2014 and 2017. This is surprising in a world where we have grown accustomed to rising life expectancy. Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s new book, Deaths of Despair, deals with three questions: Who is dying, why are they dying, and what… Read More
  • Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA
    Neil Shubin

    Book

    Engaging anecdotes add intimacy to tales of Earth’s 4 billion years of evolution

    Each December for decades now, I’ve spent a few days in Pacific Grove, California, attending the Asilomar Chromatin, Chromosomes, and Epigenetics Conference. Before reading Neil Shubin’s Some Assembly Required, however, I never knew that the city’s first female mayor, Julia Platt, was also an accomplished embryologist. Having been shut out of academic positions, which were… Read More
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