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


Flying Blind

Flying Blind

By Don Mitchell

When Middlebury writing professor Don Mitchell was approached by a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department about tracking endangered Indiana bats on his 150-acre farm in Vermont's picturesque Champlain Valley, Mitchell's relationship with bats—and with government—could be characterized as distrustful, at best.

But the flying rats, as Mitchell initially thinks of them, launched him on a series of "improvements" to his land that would provide a more welcoming habitat for the bats—and a modest tax break for himself and his family. Whether persuading his neighbors to join him on a "silent meditation," pulling invasive garlic mustard out of the ground by hand, navigating the tacit ground rules of buying an ATV off Craigslist, or leaving just enough honeysuckle to give government inspectors "something to find," Mitchell’s tale is as profound as it is funny—a journey that changes Mitchell’s relationship with Chiroptera, the land, and, ultimately, his understanding of his own past.

Ruminating on the nature of authority, the purview of the state, and the value of inhabiting one’s niche—Mitchell reveals much about our inner and outer landscape, in this perfectly paced and skilled story of place.

Available in: Hardcover, eBook

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Flying Blind

Don Mitchell

Hardcover $24.95

Angels by the River

Angels by the River

By James Gustave Speth

Angels by the River follows James Gustave Speth’s unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism.

In this compelling memoir, Speth explores the issues, and realities, that have shaped the nation since the 1950s, and that turned an “ultimate insider” into someone willing to be arrested in front of the White House.

Born and raised in a town where both the best and worst of the South shone through—a town that eventually became the scene of South Carolina’s horrific Orangeburg Massacre—Speth explores how the civil rights movement and the South’s agrarian roots influenced his academic career at Yale and later work in the heyday of the environmental movement, when he helped launch two landmark and influential environmental groups—the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute—advise the White House on climate and other emerging issues, and lead the UN’s development efforts around the globe.

Speth fought to create and uphold the nation’s toughest environmental laws, but now believes a new environmentalism is needed to confront today’s challenges. The advancing climate crisis cannot be addressed, he warns, as long as we remain fixated on endless growth and consumption, corporate profits, increasing the incomes of the well-to-do, neglecting those just getting by, and helping abroad only modestly.

An American tale, in all its complexity, Speth’s memoir is an inspiration—especially for readers contemplating how to make a difference in an increasingly complex world.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

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Angels by the River

James Gustave Speth

Hardcover $25.00

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

Mad Sheep

Mad Sheep

By Linda Faillace

In the mid-1990s Linda and Larry Faillace had a dream: they wanted to breed sheep and make cheese on their Vermont farm. They did the research, worked hard, followed the rules, and, after years of preparation and patience, built a successful, entrepreneurial business.
But just like that, their dream turned into a nightmare. The U.S. Department of Agriculture told them that the sheep they imported from Europe (with the USDA's seal of approval) carried a disease similar to the dreaded BSE or "mad cow disease." After months of surveillance--which included USDA agents spying from nearby mountaintops and comically hiding behind bushes--armed federal agents seized their flock. The animals were destroyed, the Faillace's lives turned upside down, all so that the USDA could show the U.S. meat industries that they were protecting America from mad cow disease--and by extension, easing fears among an increasingly wary population of meat-eaters.

Mad Sheep is the account of one family's struggle against a bullying and corrupt government agency that long ago abandoned the family farmer to serve the needs of corporate agriculture and the industrialization of our food supply. Similar to the national best-selling book, A Civil Action, readers will cheer on this courageous family in its fight for justice in the face of politics as usual and the implacable bureaucracy of the farm industry in Washington, DC.

Available in: eBook

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Mad Sheep

Linda Faillace, Ronnie Cummins

eBook $17.95