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Biology and General Science

Biology and General Science

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Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life

This new edition of the widely read Evolution in Four Dimensions has been revised to reflect the spate of new discoveries in biology since the book was first published in 2005, offering corrections, an updated bibliography, and a substantial new chapter. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb’s pioneering argument proposes that there is more to heredity than genes. They describe four “dimensions” in heredity—four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which natural selection can act.

Jablonka and Lamb present a richer, more complex view of evolution than that offered by the gene-based Modern Synthesis, arguing that induced and acquired changes also play a role. Their lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski’s lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors’ points. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors refine their arguments against the vigorous skepticism of the fictional “I.M.” (for Ipcha Mistabra—Aramaic for “the opposite conjecture”). The extensive new chapter, presented engagingly as a dialogue with I.M., updates the information on each of the four dimensions—with special attention to the epigenetic, where there has been an explosion of new research.

Praise for the first edition

“With courage and verve, and in a style accessible to general readers, Jablonka and Lamb lay out some of the exciting new pathways of Darwinian evolution that have been uncovered by contemporary research.”
—Evelyn Fox Keller, MIT, author of Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines

“In their beautifully written and impressively argued new book, Jablonka and Lamb show that the evidence from more than fifty years of molecular, behavioral and linguistic studies forces us to reevaluate our inherited understanding of evolution.”
—Oren Harman, The New Republic

“It is not only an enjoyable read, replete with ideas and facts of interest but it does the most valuable thing a book can do—it makes you think and reexamine your premises and long-held conclusions.”
—Adam Wilkins, BioEssays

Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature

Synthetic biology manipulates the stuff of life. For synthetic biologists, living matter is programmable material. In search of carbon-neutral fuels, sustainable manufacturing techniques, and innovative drugs, these researchers aim to redesign existing organisms and even construct completely novel biological entities. Some synthetic biologists see themselves as designers, inventing new products and applications. But if biology is viewed as a malleable, engineerable, designable medium, what is the role of design and how will its values apply?

In this book, synthetic biologists, artists, designers, and social scientists investigate synthetic biology and design. After chapters that introduce the science and set the terms of the discussion, the book follows six boundary-crossing collaborations between artists and designers and synthetic biologists from around the world, helping us understand what it might mean to ‘design nature.’ These collaborations have resulted in biological computers that calculate form; speculative packaging that builds its own contents; algae that feeds on circuit boards; and a sampling of human cheeses. They raise intriguing questions about the scientific process, the delegation of creativity, our relationship to designed matter, and, the importance of critical engagement. Should these projects be considered art, design, synthetic biology, or something else altogether?

Synthetic biology is driven by its potential; some of these projects are fictions, beyond the current capabilities of the technology. Yet even as fictions, they help illuminate, question, and even shape the future of the field.

The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program

In July 1969, ninety-four percent of American televisions were tuned to coverage of Apollo 11’s mission to the moon. How did space exploration, once the purview of rocket scientists, reach a larger audience than My Three Sons? Why did a government program whose standard operating procedure had been secrecy turn its greatest achievement into a communal experience? In Marketing the Moon, David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek tell the story of one of the most successful marketing and public relations campaigns in history: the selling of the Apollo program.

Primed by science fiction, magazine articles, and appearances by Wernher von Braun on the “Tomorrowland" segments of the Disneyland prime time television show, Americans were a receptive audience for NASA’s pioneering “brand journalism." Scott and Jurek describe sophisticated efforts by NASA and its many contractors to market the facts about space travel—through press releases, bylined articles, lavishly detailed background materials, and fully produced radio and television features—rather than push an agenda. American astronauts, who signed exclusive agreements with Life magazine, became the heroic and patriotic faces of the program. And there was some judicious product placement: Hasselblad was the “first camera on the moon"; Sony cassette recorders and supplies of Tang were on board the capsule; and astronauts were equipped with the Exer-Genie personal exerciser. Everyone wanted a place on the bandwagon.

Generously illustrated with vintage photographs, artwork, and advertisements, many never published before, Marketing the Moon shows that when Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind, it was a triumph not just for American engineering and rocketry but for American marketing and public relations.

Exploring the Perception of Pain

If you touch something hot, it hurts. You snatch your hand away from the hot thing immediately. Obviously. But what is really happening, biologically—and emotionally? In Understanding Pain, Fernando Cervero explores the mechanisms and the meaning of pain. You touch something hot and your brain triggers a reflex action that causes you to withdraw your hand, protecting you from injury. That kind of pain, Cervero explains, is actually good for us; it acts as an alarm that warns us of danger and keeps us away from harm.

But, Cervero tells us, not all pain is good for you. There is another kind of pain that is more like a curse: chronic pain that is not related to injury. This is the kind of pain that fills pain clinics and makes life miserable. Cervero describes current research into the mysteries of chronic pain and efforts to develop more effective treatments.

Cervero reminds us that pain is the most common reason for people to seek medical attention, but that it remains a biological enigma. It is protective, but not always. Its effects are not only sensory but also emotional. There is no way to measure it objectively, no test that comes back positive for pain; the only way a medical professional can gauge pain is by listening to the patient’s description of it. The idea of pain as a test of character or a punishment to be borne is changing; prevention and treatment of pain are increasingly important to researchers, clinicians, and patients. Cervero's account brings us closer to understanding the meaning of pain.

The Making of Light Modernity

Aluminum shaped the twentieth century. It enabled high-speed travel and gravity-defying flight. It was the material of a streamlined aesthetic that came to represent modernity. And it became an essential ingredient in industrial and domestic products that ranged from airplanes and cars to designer chairs and artificial Christmas trees. It entered modern homes as packaging, foil, pots and pans and even infiltrated our bodies through food, medicine, and cosmetics. In Aluminum Dreams, Mimi Sheller describes how the materiality and meaning of aluminum transformed modern life and continues to shape the world today.

Aluminum, Sheller tells us, changed mobility and mobilized modern life. It enabled air power, the space age and moon landings. Yet, as Sheller makes clear, aluminum was important not only in twentieth-century technology, innovation, architecture, and design but also in underpinning global military power, uneven development, and crucial environmental and health concerns. Sheller describes aluminum’s shiny utopia but also its dark side. The unintended consequences of aluminum’s widespread use include struggles for sovereignty and resource control in Africa, India, and the Caribbean; the unleashing of multinational corporations; and the pollution of the earth through mining and smelting (and the battle to save it). Using a single material as an entry point to understanding a global history of modernization and its implications for the future, Aluminum Dreams forces us to ask: How do we assemble the material culture of modernity and what are its environmental consequences?

Aluminum Dreams includes a generous selection of striking images of iconic aluminum designs, many in color, drawn from advertisements by Alcoa, Bohn, Kaiser, and other major corporations, pamphlets, films, and exhibitions.

Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health

We will not find “exposure to burning coal” listed as the cause of death on a single death certificate, but tens of thousands of deaths from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and other illnesses are clearly linked to coal-derived pollution. As politicians and advertising campaigns extol the virtues of “clean coal,” the dirty secret is that coal kills. In The Silent Epidemic, Alan Lockwood, a physician, describes and documents the adverse health effects of burning coal. Lockwood’s comprehensive treatment examines every aspect of coal, from its complex chemical makeup to details of mining, transporting, burning, and disposal--each of which generates significant health concerns. He describes coal pollution’s effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, and how these problems will only get worse; explains the impact of global warming on coal-related health problems; and discusses possible policy approaches to combat coal pollution.

Coal fueled the industrial revolution and has become a major source of energy in virtually every country. In the United States, almost half of the energy used to generate electricity comes from burning coal. Relatively few people are aware of the health threats posed by coal-derived pollutants, and those who are aware lack the political clout of the coal industry. Lockwood’s straightforward description of coal as a health hazard is especially timely, given the barrage of marketing efforts to promote coal as part of “energy independence.” His message is clear and urgent: “Coal-fired plants make people sick and die, particularly children and those with chronic illnesses, and they cost society huge amounts of money desperately needed for other purposes.”

Native Science, Western Science, and Science Education

The answers to scientific questions depend on who’s asking, because the questions asked and the answers sought reflect the cultural values and orientations of the questioner. These values and orientations are most often those of Western science. In Who’s Asking?, Douglas Medin and Megan Bang argue that despite the widely held view that science is objective, value-neutral, and acultural, scientists do not shed their cultures at the laboratory or classroom door; their practices reflect their values, belief systems, and worldviews. Medin and Bang argue further that scientist diversity—the participation of researchers and educators with different cultural orientations—provides new perspectives and leads to more effective science and better science education.

Medin and Bang compare Native American and European American orientations toward the natural world and apply these findings to science education. The European American model, they find, sees humans as separated from nature; the Native American model sees humans as part of a natural ecosystem. Medin and Bang then report on the development of ecologically oriented and community-based science education programs on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin and at the American Indian Center of Chicago. Medin and Bang’s novel argument for scientist diversity also has important implications for questions of minority underrepresentation in science.

An Intermediate Phenotype Approach

Although there is scientific consensus that genetic factors play a substantial role in an individual's vulnerability to drug or alcohol addiction, specific genetic variables linked to risk or resilience remain elusive. Understanding how genetic factors contribute to addiction may require focusing on intermediary mechanisms, or intermediate phenotypes, that connect genetic variation and risk for addiction. This book offers a comprehensive review of this mechanistic-centered approach and the most promising intermediate phenotypes identified in empirical research.

The contributors first consider the most established findings in the field, including variability in drug metabolism, brain electrophysiological profiles, and subjective reactions to direct drug effects; they go on to review highly promising areas such as expectancies, attentional processing, and behavioral economic variables; and finally, they investigate more exploratory approaches, including the differential susceptibility hypothesis and epigenetic modifications. Taken together, the chapters offer a macro-level testing of the hypothesis that these alternative, mechanistic phenotypes can advance the understanding of genetic influences on addiction. The book will be of interest to researchers and practitioners in a range of disciplines, including behavioral genetics, psychology, pharmacology, neuroscience, and sociology.

Contributors: John Acker, Steven R.H. Beach, Gene H. Brody, Angela D. Bryan, Megan J. Chenoweth, Danielle M. Dick, Eske D. Derks, Mary-Anne Enoch, Meg Gerrard, Frederick X. Gibbons, Thomas E. Gladwin, Mark S. Goldman, Marcus Heilig, Kent E. Hutchison, Hollis C. Karoly, Steven M. Kogan, Man Kit Lei, Susan Luczak, James MacKillop, Renee E. Magnan, Leah M. Mayo, Marcus R. Munafò, Daria Orlowska, Abraham A. Palmer, Danielle Pandika, Clarissa C. Parker, Robert A. Philibert, Lara A. Ray, Richard R. Reich, Ronald L. Simons, Courtney J. Stevens, Rachel E. Thayer, Rachel F. Tyndale, Tamara L. Wall, Reinout W. Wiers, Michael Windle, Harriet de Wit

How Engineering Drives Biology

Engineering has been an essential collaborator in biological research and breakthroughs in biology are often enabled by technological advances. Decoding the double helix structure of DNA, for example, only became possible after significant advances in such technologies as X-ray diffraction and gel electrophoresis. Diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis improved as new technologies—including the stethoscope, the microscope, and the X-ray—developed. These engineering breakthroughs take place away from the biology lab, and many years may elapse before the technology becomes available to biologists. In this book, David Lee argues for concurrent engineering—the convergence of engineering and biological research—as a means to accelerate the pace of biological discovery and its application to diagnosis and treatment. He presents extensive case studies and introduces a metric to measure the time between technological development and biological discovery.

Investigating a series of major biological discoveries that range from pasteurization to electron microscopy, Lee finds that it took an average of forty years for the necessary technology to become available for laboratory use. Lee calls for new approaches to research and funding to encourage a tighter, more collaborative coupling of engineering and biology. Only then, he argues, will we see the rapid advances in the life sciences that are critically needed for life-saving diagnosis and treatment.

"Scaffolding" is a concept that is becoming widely used across disciplines. This book investigates common threads in diverse applications of scaffolding, including theoretical biology, cognitive science, social theory, science and technology studies, and human development. Despite its widespread use, the concept of scaffolding is often given short shrift; the contributors to this volume, from a range of disciplines, offer a more fully developed analysis of scaffolding that highlights the role of temporal and temporary resources in development, broadly conceived, across concepts of culture, cognition, and evolution.

The book emphasizes reproduction, repeated assembly, and entrenchment of heterogeneous relations, parts, and processes as a complement to neo-Darwinism in the developmentalist tradition of conceptualizing evolutionary change. After describing an integration of theoretical perspectives that can accommodate different levels of analysis and connect various methodologies, the book discusses multilevel organization; differences (and reciprocality) between individuals and institutions as units of analysis; and perspectives on development that span brains, careers, corporations, and cultural cycles.

Contributors: Colin Allen, Linnda R. Caporael, James Evans, Elihu M. Gerson, Simona Ginsburg, James R. Griesemer, Christophe Heintz, Eva Jablonka, Sanjay Joshi, Shu-Chen Li, Pamela Lyon, Sergio F. Martinez, Christopher J. May, Johann Peter Murmann, Stuart A. Newman, Jeffrey C. Schank, Iddo Tavory, Georg Theiner, Barbara Hoeberg Wimsatt, William C. Wimsatt

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