In this invigorating collection, American microbiologist Margulis and popular Spanish science TV-show host Punset do an excellent job making high science palatable, understandable and even exciting to lay-readers. The book is divided into four parts, and many of the interviews in Parts I and II concern the basic structure of the human brain and how different researchers study its evolution and development. The candid interviews unveil the origins of the curiosity that drives scientists to study particular questions-William Day's dissatisfaction with the standard models for the origin of life, why Steven Strogatz is intrigued by simultaneity and cyclicity. Part III delves into evolution and human history, but readers may find Part IV the most interesting, as it touches on such varied topics as time travel, other dimensions and "atomic consciousness." Chapters are short, move briskly and make ideal bedtime (or even beach) reading. Readers with even a casual interest in science will want to take a look.
To understand what sets humans apart from other creatures, look at their dreams. So argues evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Humphrey as he probes the distinctive cognitive balance that humans maintain through nightly adventures in dreamland. But other scientists approach the puzzles of human life from different perspectives, now rapidly expanding in genetics, neurophysiology, biochemistry, and quantum physics. What curious nonspecialist, then, could resist a volume bringing together all of these perspectives? Originating in 36 interviews conducted by Spanish television personality Eduardo Punset, the conversations collected here provide a capacious survey of cutting-edge science. Judicious editing helps readers recognize the themes linking these wide-ranging reflections. Again and again it is the paradox of human identity that commands attention. Naturalist Jane Goodall, for instance, ponders the disturbing similarities between aggressive chimpanzees and war-prone humans. Meanwhile, biochemist Sydney Brenner muses on how humans have converted cultural evolution into the new engine driving species change. And physicist Eugene Chudnovsky contemplates a future in which human inventiveness may create half-human, half-computer cyborgs. Rich food for speculation!
Scientific research is not orderly, neat, or clean and, like comedy, isn't always pretty. But when practiced by the 36 scientists interviewed here, it can be challenging, exciting, enlightening, and just plain fun. Editors Margulis (geosciences, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; Acquiring Genomes) and Punset (director/host of the popular Spanish science TV series Redes and author of The Happiness Trip) have assembled a wide array of experts in their fields, including such notables as Jane Goodall, Edward O. Wilson, Robert Sapolsky, Sydney Brenner, and Lisa Randall, and Punset's interviewing skills have teased out of them intimate portraits through fascinating discussions of their work. The interviews are grouped by broad topic (from animal behavior/psychology to biology/evolution to nanotechnology/physics), and each section is preceded by a brief introduction. Readings suggested by the scientists as well as a short biography of each are included. This book is suitable for both public and academic libraries and will appeal to readers with an interest not only in science but in the minds of scientists.
July 28 2007
What makes today's great scientists tick? Eduardo Punset and Lynn Margulis offer insights into the lives, minds, and work of leading scientists in this collection of conversations taken from Punset's Spanish television program Networks. We hear from biologist Richard Dawkins on how the inside of our brains could sound like a battlefield, physicist Lisa Randall on her excitement about the hunt for extra dimensions, and how neurologist Oliver Sacks has a periodic table bedspread. This lively book is perfect for enquiring minds to dip into.