Chelsea Green Publishing

Mind, Life and Universe

eBook: 9781603580373
Pub. Date August 15, 2007

Mind, Life and Universe

Conversations with Great Scientists of Our Time

Edited by Lynn Margulis and Eduardo Punset
Foreword by David Suzuki

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
August 15, 2007

$24.95 $19.96

Nearly forty of the world's most esteemed scientists discuss the big questions that drive their illustrious careers. Co-editor Eduardo Punset—one of Spain's most loved personages for his popularization of the sciences—interviews an impressive collection of characters drawing out the seldom seen personalities of the world's most important men and woman of science. In Mind, Life and Universe they describe in their own words the most important and fascinating aspects of their research. Frank and often irreverent, these interviews will keep even the most casual reader of science books rapt for hours.

Can brain science explain feelings of happiness and despair? Is it true that chimpanzees are just like us when it comes to sexual innuendo? Is there any hard evidence that life exists anywhere other than on the Earth? Through Punset's skillful questioning, readers will meet one scientist who is passionate about the genetic control of everything and another who spends her every waking hour making sure African ecosystems stay intact. The men and women assembled here by Lynn Margulis and Eduardo Punset will provide a source of endless interest.

In captivating conversations with such science luminaries as Jane Goodall, James E. Lovelock, Oliver Sachs, and E. O. Wilson, Punset reveals a hidden world of intellectual interests, verve, and humor. Science enthusiasts and general readers alike will devour Mind, Life and Universe, breathless and enchanted by its truths.


"Science and technology affect every facet of our lives, yet the content of science often seems remote and arcane. In first-hand, candid interviews, Mind, Life, and Universe not only explores the cutting-edge content of science, but it also reminds us, as beautifully as any book I know, that the pursuit of science is an intensely human endeavor."--Robert Hazen, Carnegie Institution and George Mason University

"A marvelous collection of fascinating interviews with 37 renowned scientists—from physicists Sheldon Glashow and Lisa Randall to ethologist Jane Goodall to evolutionary biologists Richard Dawkins, Stephen J. Gould, and Edward O. Wilson. Wide-ranging topics include extra dimensions, time travel, the nature of psychopaths, the evolutionary basis for the concept of human beauty, and evolution and purpose. Mind, Life, and Universe is a splendid introduction to the thoughts of some of the greatest and most interesting scientific minds in the world today."--Professor James W. Walker, Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

"This book gives a fascinating overview of current research on life and its origins, man, and the cosmos from many different levels of perspective—the 'cosmic zoom' or 'powers of ten' shifting of perspective made famous by Philip Morrison. I learned much that was new to me about cells, about aging, about the human brain and language, and about the Earth as a whole system. Just as important, I unlearned much that is widely believed but not true about all those areas of research, not least about entropy and thermodynamics, yet in very readable, conversational prose. A stimulating read!"--Dr. James Strick, Dept. of Earth and Environment, and Chair, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Franklin and Marshall College

"In this smorgasbord of science, Eduardo Punset (the Bill Moyers of Spanish TV) lets us sample the central ideas of dozens of prominent scientists he has interviewed over the years. The payoff from such a buffet is being introduced to new fascinating minds . . . dishes that make me want to taste more."--Charles Lineweaver, Planetary Science Institute, Australian National University

"It is wonderful to hear these scientists respond in their own voice to such interesting questions. A book full of nuggets of wisdom."--David Baltimore, Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine (1975) and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

"What a delight it is to eavesdrop on conversations with so many agile, inventive, piquantly-original minds. That the interviewers are farsighted and wide-ranging themselves enriches the dialogues. A profound and timely book."--Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife

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!

0000-00-00 Bryce Christensen


Strangers Devour the Land

Strangers Devour the Land

By Boyce Richardson

First published in 1974, Strangers Devour the Land is recognized as the magnum opus among the numerous books, articles, and films produced by Boyce Richardson over two decades on the subject of indigenous people. Its subject, the long struggle of the Crees of James Bay in northern Quebec—a hunting and trapping people—to defend the territories they have occupied since time immemorial, came to international attention in 1972 when they tried by legal action to stop the immense hydro-electric project the provincial government was proposing to build around them.

The Crees argued that the integrity of their vast wilderness was essential to their way of life, but the authorities dismissed such claims out of hand. Richardson, who sat through many months of the trial, mingles the scientific and Cree testimony given in court with his own interviews of Cree hunters, and experiences in gathering information and shooting films, to produce a classic tale of cultures in collision.

In a new preface, he reveals that the Crees—now receiving immense sums of money as compensation for the loss of their lands—appear to be doing well, and to be in the process of joining modern, technological culture, while retaining the spiritual base of their traditional lives. Meanwhile, Hydro-Quebec continues to eye additional rivers on the Cree’s lands for new dams.

Available in: Paperback

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Strangers Devour the Land

Boyce Richardson, Winona LaDuke

Paperback $25.00

Luminous Fish

Luminous Fish

By Lynn Margulis

This collection of linked stories by internationally renowned evolutionist Lynn Margulis reveals science from the inside--its thrills, disappointments, and triumphs. A largely fictional account, it draws on her decades of experience to portray the poor judgment, exhaustion, and life-threatening dedication of real scientists--their emotional preoccupations, sexual distractions, and passions for research. The esoteric, demanding, sometimes exhilarating world of science emerges from the shadows of its passive narrative into the sunlight of the personal voice of those who attempt to wrench secrets directly from nature. All of us who struggle to balance family, professional, and social commitments with intellectual quest will be intrigued by the humanity of these tales.

Available in: Hardcover, eBook

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Luminous Fish

Lynn Margulis

Hardcover $21.95

Cows Save the Planet

Cows Save the Planet

By Judith Schwartz

In Cows Save the Planet, journalist Judith D. Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz reveals that for many of these problems—climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss, droughts, floods, wildfires, rural poverty, malnutrition, and obesity—there are positive, alternative scenarios to the degradation and devastation we face. In each case, our ability to turn these crises into opportunities depends on how we treat the soil.

Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. For example, land can suffer from undergrazing as well as overgrazing, since certain landscapes, such as grasslands, require the disturbance from livestock to thrive. Regarding climate, when we focus on carbon dioxide, we neglect the central role of water in soil—"green water"—in temperature regulation. And much of the carbon dioxide that burdens the atmosphere is not the result of fuel emissions, but from agriculture; returning carbon to the soil not only reduces carbon dioxide levels but also enhances soil fertility.

Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil's pivotal role in our ecology and economy, a call to action, and an antidote to the despair that environmental news so often leaves us with.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Cows Save the Planet

Judith Schwartz, Gretel Ehrlich

Paperback $17.95

The Carbon Farming Solution

The Carbon Farming Solution

By Eric Toensmeier

Agriculture is rightly blamed as a major culprit of our climate crisis. But in this groundbreaking new book, Eric Toensmeier argues that agriculture—specifically, the subset of practices known as “carbon farming”—can, and should be, a linchpin of a global climate solutions platform.

Carbon farming is a suite of agricultural practices and crops that sequester carbon in the soil and in aboveground biomass. Combined with a massive reduction in fossil fuel emissions—and in concert with adaptation strategies to our changing environment— carbon farming has the potential to bring us back from the brink of disaster and return our atmosphere to the “magic number” of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Toensmeier’s book is the first to bring together these powerful strategies in one place, including in-depth analysis of the available research and, where research is lacking, a discussion of what it will take to get us there.

Carbon farming can take many forms. The simplest practices involve modifications to annual crop production. Although many of these modifications have relatively low sequestration potential, they are widely applicable and easily adopted, and thus have excellent potential to mitigate climate change if practiced on a global scale. Likewise, grazing systems such as silvopasture are easily replicable, don’t require significant changes to human diet, and—given the amount of agricultural land worldwide that is devoted to pasture—can be important strategies in the carbon farming arsenal. But by far, agroforestry practices and perennial crops present the best opportunities for sequestration. While many of these systems are challenging to establish and manage, and would require us to change our diets to new and largely unfamiliar perennial crops, they also offer huge potential that has been almost entirely ignored by climate crusaders.

Many of these carbon farming practices are already implemented globally on a scale of millions of hectares. These are not minor or marginal efforts, but win-win solutions that provide food, fodder, and feedstocks while fostering community self-reliance, creating jobs, protecting biodiversity, and repairing degraded land—all while sequestering carbon, reducing emissions, and ultimately contributing to a climate that will remain amenable to human civilization. Just as importantly to a livable future, these crops and practices can contribute to broader social goals such as women’s empowerment, food sovereignty, and climate justice.

The Carbon Farming Solution does not present a prescription for how cropland should be used and is not, first and foremost, a how-to manual, although following up on references in a given section will frequently provide such information. Instead, The Carbon Farming Solution is—at its root—a toolkit. It is the most complete collection of climate-friendly crops and practices currently available. With this toolkit, farmers, communities, and governments large and small, can successfully launch carbon farming projects with the most appropriate crops and practices to their climate, locale, and socioeconomic needs.

Toensmeier’s ultimate goal is to place carbon farming firmly in the center of the climate solutions platform, alongside clean solar and wind energy. With The Carbon Farming Solution, Toensmeier wants to change the discussion, impact policy decisions, and steer mitigation funds to the research, projects, and people around the world who envision a future where agriculture becomes the protagonist in this fraught, urgent, and unprecedented drama of our time. Citizens, farmers, and funders will be inspired to use the tools presented in this important new book to transform degraded lands around the world into productive carbon-storing landscapes.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Carbon Farming Solution

Eric Toensmeier

Hardcover $75.00