Chelsea Green Publishing

Notes from the Holocene

Pages:224 pages
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781933392325
Pub. Date September 27, 2007

Notes from the Holocene

A Brief History of the Future

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
September 27, 2007

$14.95

In a thought-provoking, humorous, and engaging style, Dorion Sagan combines philosophy, science, and an understanding of illusion to probe the deep questions of existence.

Operating on the precept that the universe is far weirder than we might imagine, Sagan-- son of acclaimed scientists Carl Sagan and Lynn Margulis--uses his knowledge of philosophy, science, sleight-of-hand magic, and the fantastical writings of Philip K. Dick to explore some of the deepest questions we face on Earth. He provides fresh insights as to why we are here, the nature of technology, the prognosis for humanity, the living nature of our planet, and a reasoned explanation to why our universe is probably just one of an infinite number.

Sagan also provides answers to twelve pressing questions:

  • Why does life exist?
  • Why do we drink water?
  • Can we save the Earth from global warming?
  • Are human beings central and special?
  • Is it possible that we've arisen by pure chance?
  • Is the Earth an organism?
  • Are we part of its exo-brain?
  • If it is alive, can it reproduce?
  • Can the universe?
  • What does the future hold in store for us?
  • Does God exist? What is the nature of ultimate reality?

Notes from the Holocene is a prime example of the writing coming from a new generation of scientific writers. It will inspire readers to think for themselves while leaving them chuckling with tongue-in-cheek anecdotes--a rare combination that Sagan delivers with ease. And yes, as geneticist J.B.S. Haldane says, "the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine."

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

"Why does life exist? Is the Earth an organism? Are we part of its exobrain? Can we save it from global warming? In seeking answers to such difficult questions, Dorion Sagan leads his readers down canyons of cosmic time and space by luring them onward with a paper trail of visual metaphors and social references that range from prehistory to pop culture. Sure-footed and encyclopedic in its scientific and cultural scope, this text coaxes the reader to savor the more exotic fruits of molecular, biological, and cosmological research, richly garnished with philosophy both ancient and modern.By canvassing these deeper aspects of cosmological existence in his characteristic stream-of-consciousness style, the author offers an intimate perspective that is spectacularly different from the majestic Cosmos presented by his illustrious father."--Reg Morrison, author of The Spirit in the Gene

"In Notes from the Holocene, Sagan's 'wild speculations' are like stepping before the dressing room mirror. Seen from so many sides, our reality is revealed to be as mysterious as we thought--or perhaps more so. Provocative, sometimes disquieting, and thoroughly exciting, Sagan tackles the Big Questions with wit and wisdom that I'd expect from him, like a magician explaining a parlor trick."--Seth Leary, Exhibits Research and Development Manager, The Museum of Flight (Seattle)



"In Notes from the Holocene Dorion Sagan crosses freely that no man's land between science, religion, and philosophy. The result is a synthesis of ideas linking the peculiar to the universal, sleight-of-hand and the anthropic principle, science fiction and science faction. . . . Think the Symposium with Tallulah Bankhead, Derrida, and Philip K. Dick as dinner guests. This is Sagan's most personal book to date. Appropriately, since the subjective informality of Notes allows him latitude to advance the difficult questions, ones an academic approach would likely sidestep: Is the Earth an organism? What's our place in it all, and is it as central to the universe as we presume? The timeless reach here is matched by its timeliness: arguably no generation has more needed to understand its context in, and impact on, the big picture. Yet the broadest of speculations is still grounded in the science, where even the four elements of classical cosmology -- the frame on which he stretches his canvas -- find a contemporary gloss in his portrayal of thermodynamic systems. Like the master illusionists he details, Sagan conjures up a world whose magic is only augmented by knowing how the trick is done. It's a smart, daring book and I've come out the smarter for having read it."--Steve Shavel, author of How Small Brides Survive in Extreme Cold



"A heterogeneous hymn in the key of Gaia, Notes from the Holocene sets Dorion Sagan, coauthor of an indispensable suite of popular science books, free to compose inspired mind jazz riffing among the best available science, a select database of world literature, and an arsenal of tasty anecdotes."--Bruce Clarke, President, Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, and original bassist for Sha Na Na (1969-1973)

"Notes from the Holocene is a pop culture trek of reality reminiscent of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but rife with scientific, religious, and philosophical neurotrinkets, many original enough for scholarly pursuit."--Jessica Whiteside, Professor of Terrestrial Paleoenvironments, Brown University

"Dorion Sagan's Notes from the Holocene is at once profound and hilarious. Melding science and speculation Sagan puts forth the 'big questions'—who and what are we—in the context of 4,000,000,000 years of life on Earth and the far briefer context of human thought. When you finish reading Notes from the Holocene you will feel both humbled and exhilarated to be a part of the history and presence of Earth's biosphere. You'll not only know you live on a planet, you'll feel it."--Lois Brynes, President, Deep-Time Associates

"Dorion Sagan has vividly expounded what I experienced viscerally while living in the artificial world of Biosphere 2: that we are literally, and not figuratively, all parts of our biosphere. He brilliantly expands this into a unifying, science-based cosmology--and it is thrilling. For anyone trying to make sense of the seeming chaos of our world today, Notes from the Holocene is a must read."--Jane Poynter, author of The Human Experiment

"Looking into the future, Sagan doesn't see the customary technological Eden but a universe far stranger than science fiction. With humor, humility, and sobering scientific knowledge, he describes a purposeful Earth, an evolved God, and a human image so reflective of the cosmos that his unavoidably anthropomorphic argument finds the truth in the lie. Although concepts don't quite exist yet to contain his ideas, Sagan proceeds anyway down the difficult and productive routes of paradox and metaphor. In the end, helping us imagine an unthinkable, thaumaturgical, and sane future, he actually begins to create it."--Victoria N. Alexander, author of Naked Singularity and Smoking Hopes

Publishers Weekly-
This casual and lively book deals with some of the most basic philosophical questions we have: why are we here? How did life arise from nonliving particles? What is the fate of the earth? Sagan (What Is Life?), son of astronomer and science writer Carl Sagan, draws on, among others, science, philosophy and the speculations of science fiction in attempting to answer these questions. He begins with a quick introduction to James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, that the Earth is a living, self-regulating organism, and that life is not just a passenger on Earth but an integral part of the planet's systems. In chapters titled Earth, Water, Air and Fire, Sagan touches on the oceans and atmosphere, the evolution of life on Earth, the laws of thermodynamics and human consciousness, always circling back to Lovelock's theories. Sagan is equally comfortable discussing scientists like Richard Dawkins and Lewis Thomas, and science fiction authors like Philip K. Dick and A.E. van Vogt. The chatty style and ranging mind communicate a broad understanding and should appeal to inquisitive readers who want to know more about Earth and our relationship with it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dorion Sagan

Dorion Sagan is author of numerous articles and twenty-three books translated into eleven languages, including Notes from the Holocene: A Brief History of the Future and Into the Cool, coauthored with Eric D. Schneider. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Wired, The Skeptical Inquirer, Pabular, Smithsonian, The Ecologist, Co-Evolution Quarterly, The Times Higher Education, Omni, Natural History, The Sciences, Cabinet, and Tricycle. He edited Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel, a 2012 collection of writings addressing Margulis's life and work.

CONNECT WITH THIS AUTHOR

Science Writters
Lynn's Wikipedia Page

ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR

Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis

Tireless, controversial, and hugely inspirational to those who knew her or encountered her work, Lynn Margulis was a scientist whose intellectual energy and interests knew no bounds. Best known for her work on the origins of eukaryotic cells, the Gaia hypothesis, and symbiogenesis as a driving force in evolution, her work has forever changed the way we understand life on Earth.

When Margulis passed away in 2011, she left behind a groundbreaking scientific legacy that spanned decades. In this collection, Dorion Sagan, Margulis's son and longtime collaborator, gathers together the voices of friends and colleagues to remark on her life and legacy, in essays that cover her early collaboration with James Lovelock, her fearless face-off with Richard Dawkins during the so-called "Battle of Balliol" at Oxford, the intrepid application of her scientific mind to the insistence that 9/11 was a false-flag operation, her affinity for Emily Dickinson, and more.

Margulis was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983, received the prestigious National Medal of Science in 1999, and her papers are permanently archived at the Library of Congress. Less than a month before her untimely death, Margulis was named one of the twenty most influential scientists alive - one of only two women on this list, which include such scientists as Stephen Hawking, James Watson, and Jane Goodall.

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Dazzle Gradually

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At the crossroads of philosophy and science, the sometimes-dry topics of evolution and ecology come alive in this new collection of essays--many never before anthologized. Learn how technology may be a sort of second nature, how the systemic human fungus Candida albicans can lead to cravings for carrot cake and beer, how the presence of life may be why there's water on Earth, and many other fascinating facts.

The essay "Metametazoa" presents perspectives on biology in a philosophical context, demonstrating how the intellectual librarian, pornographer, and political agitator Georges Bataille was influenced by Russian mineralogist Vladimir Vernadsky and how this led to his notion of the absence of meaning in the face of the sun--which later influenced Jacques Derrida, thereby establishing a causal chain of influence from the hard sciences to topics as abstract as deconstruction and post-modernism.

In "Spirochetes Awake" the bizarre connection between syphilis and genius in the life of Friedrich Nietzsche is traced. The astonishing similarities of the Acquired-Immune-Deficiency-Syndrome symptoms with those of chronic spirochete infection, it is argued, contrast sharply with the lack of evidence that "HIV is the cause of AIDS". Throughout these readings we are dazzled by the intimacy and necessity of relationships between us and our other planetmates. In our ignorance as "civilized" people we dismiss, disdain, and deny our kinship with the only productive life forms that sustain this living planet.

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Death & Sex

Death & Sex

By Tyler Volk and Dorion Sagan

On DEATH . . .
What is shared by spawning Pacific salmon, towering trees, and suicidal bacteria? In his lucid and concise exploration of how and why things die, Tyler Volk explains the intriguing ways creatures-including ourselves-use death to actually enhance life. Death is not simply the end of the living, though even in that aspect the Grim Reaper has long been essential to natural selection. Indeed, the exquisite schemes and styles of death that have emerged from evolution have been essential to the great story from life's beginnings in tiny bacteria nearly four thousand million years ago to ancient human rituals surrounding death and continuing to the existential concerns of human culture and consciousness today. Volk weaves together autobiography, biology, Earth history, and results of fascinating studies that show how thoughts of our own mortality affect our everyday lives, to prove how an understanding of what some have called the ultimate taboo can enrich the celebration of life.

. . . and SEX
In Sex, Dorion Sagan takes a delightful, irreverent, and informative romp through the science, philosophy, and literature of humanity's most obsessive subject. Have you ever wondered what the anatomy and promiscuous behaviors of chimpanzees and the sexual bullying of gorillas tell us about ourselves? Why we lost our hair? What amoebas have to do with desire? Linking evolutionary biology to salacious readings of the lives and thoughts of such notables as the Marquis de Sade and Simone de Beauvoir, and discussing works as varied as The Story of O and Silence of the Lambs, Sex touches on a potpourri of interrelated topics ranging from animal genitalia to sperm competition, the difference between nakedness and nudity, jealousy's status as an aphrodisiac and the origins of language, Casanova and music, ovulation and clothes, mother-in-law jokes and alpha females, love and loneliness. A brief, wonderfully entertaining, highly literate foray into the origins and evolution of sex.

Two books in one cover, Death & Sex unravel and answer some of life's most fundamental questions.



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Dorion Sagan, Tyler Volk

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The Mystery of Metamorphosis

The Mystery of Metamorphosis

By Frank Ryan

Metamorphosis has intrigued human observers for thousands of years. While everyone knows this trick of nature transforms caterpillars into butterflies, fewer are aware that this process of transformation also occurs in many other insect species, as well as in amphibians and-in its greatest diversity-in marine creatures. Still, despite its widespread occurrence, metamorphosis has largely remained a mystery-not just to the people who watch gorgeous orange Monarchs emerge from green caterpillars once ensconced in cocoons, but also to the scientists who have tried to unravel just how the transformation works. In Metamorphosis, Frank Ryan delves into the mystery headfirst, showcasing surprising new ideas that are shaking established science.

Ryan recounts how the intricate physiology of metamorphosis has slowly revealed its secrets. He brings the work of pioneering scientists-such as Jean-Henri Fabre, Vincent Wigglesworth, and Carroll Williams-to life as they explore the inner workings of the insect world. We also meet contemporary scientist Don Williamson, whose work on sea urchins and other ocean-going animals led him to a theory of larval development that challenge some of the longest-held beliefs in evolution-including those that date back to Darwin's time. Williamson, whose revelations have launched huge debates in science, has risked being labeled an iconoclast for encouraging people to think differently about how species evolve-a process, he says, that is not as linear as we've believed, and that involves not just mutation but also hybridizaton.

A character as enchanting as metamorphosis itself, Williams exemplifies the importance of questioning time-honored beliefs. Through his work and those of the other monumental scientists in this book, we come closer to understanding the ancient and miraculous transformation of juvenile life forms into beautiful and complex adult insects and animals.

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AUTHOR VIDEOS

Dorion Sagan discusses his life in Science

Debate at Balliol with Richard Dawkins

Debate at Balliol with Richard Dawkins

Lynn Margulis Discusses September 11, 2011 and the Scientific Method

Lynn Margulis Discusses September 11, 2011 and the Scientific Method

Dorian Sagan in Conversation with Harold Channer

Dorian Sagan in Conversation with Harold Channer

Lynn Margulis Discusses Her Love of Science

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