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A Novel in Essays

So I didn’t call you: instead I posted a new avatar of myself without my habitual dark glasses. I have learned: an image, any image, is a blind. All avatars give different information, illusions of contact called Telepresence, none of them the real thing. You texted me, 3 am, from some station … As though it made any difference. But it did.
—from Break.up

Hominins began using stone tools at least 2.6 million years ago, perhaps even 3.4 million years ago. Given the nearly ubiquitous use of stone tools by humans and their ancestors, the study of lithic technology offers an important line of inquiry into questions of evolution and behavior. This book examines convergence in stone tool-making, cases in which functional or developmental constraints result in similar forms in independent lineages.

Creating Infrastructures for a Public Right to Hear

In Networked Press Freedom, Mike Ananny offers a new way to think about freedom of the press in a time when media systems are in fundamental flux. Ananny challenges the idea that press freedom comes only from heroic, lone journalists who speak truth to power.

2,600 Years of Discovery From Thales to Higgs

Humans have been trying to understand the physical universe since antiquity. Aristotle had one vision (the realm of the celestial spheres is perfect), and Einstein another (all motion is relativistic). More often than not, these different understandings begin with a simple drawing, a pre-mathematical picture of reality. Such drawings are a humble but effective tool of the physicist’s craft, part of the tradition of thinking, teaching, and learning passed down through the centuries. This book uses drawings to help explain fifty-one key ideas of physics accessibly and engagingly.

The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups

Food banks and food pantries have proliferated in response to an economic emergency. The loss of manufacturing jobs combined with the recession of the early 1980s and Reagan administration cutbacks in federal programs led to an explosion in the growth of food charity. This was meant to be a stopgap measure, but the jobs never came back, and the “emergency food system” became an industry. In Big Hunger, Andrew Fisher takes a critical look at the business of hunger and offers a new vision for the anti-hunger movement.

Public Conversations and Participatory Media

Internet memes—digital snippets that can make a joke, make a point, or make a connection—are now a lingua franca of online life. They are collectively created, circulated, and transformed by countless users across vast networks. Most of us have seen the cat playing the piano, Kanye interrupting, Kanye interrupting the cat playing the piano. In The World Made Meme, Ryan Milner argues that memes, and the memetic process, are shaping public conversation. It’s hard to imagine a major pop cultural or political moment that doesn’t generate a constellation of memetic texts.

The Past in a Volatile World

The monuments—movable, immovable, tangible, and intangible—of the world’s shared cultural heritage are at risk. War, terrorism, natural disaster, vandalism, and neglect make the work of preservation a greater challenge than it has been since World War II. In The Monumental Challenge of Preservation Michèle Cloonan makes the case that, at this critical juncture, we must consider preservation in the broadest possible contexts. Preservation requires the efforts of an increasing number of stakeholders.

A Novel of the Robot Age

Imagine a future in which many human emotions are extinct, and “emotional masseuses” try to help people recover those lost sensations. Individuals rely on personal-assistant robots to navigate daily life. Students are taught not to think but to employ search programs. Companies protect their intellectual property by erasing the memory of their employees. And then imagine what it would feel like to be a sweet, smart thirteen-year-old girl from the twenty-first century who wakes from a cryogenically induced sleep into this strange world.

The goal of data science is to improve decision making through the analysis of data. Today data science determines the ads we see online, the books and movies that are recommended to us online, which emails are filtered into our spam folders, and even how much we pay for health insurance. This volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series offers a concise introduction to the emerging field of data science, explaining its evolution, current uses, data infrastructure issues, and ethical challenges.

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