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Science

Science

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Scientists Answer the Most Provocative Questions

Science today is more a process of collaboration than moments of individual “eurekas.” This book recreates that kind of synergy by offering a series of interconnected dialogues with leading scientists who are asked to reflect on key questions and concepts about the physical world, technology, and the mind. These thinkers offer both specific observations and broader comments about the intellectual traditions that inform these questions; doing so, they reveal a rich seam of interacting ideas.

Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has endured in the popular imagination for two hundred years. Begun as a ghost story by an intellectually and socially precocious eighteen-year-old author during a cold and rainy summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, the dramatic tale of Victor Frankenstein and his stitched-together creature can been read as the ultimate parable of scientific hubris. Victor, “the modern Prometheus,” tried to do what he perhaps should have left to Nature: create life.

A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable

Humans are awesome. Our brains are gigantic, seven times larger than they should be for the size of our bodies. The human brain uses 25% of all the energy the body requires each day. And it became enormous in a very short amount of time in evolution, allowing us to leave our cousins, the great apes, behind. So the human brain is special, right? Wrong, according to Suzana Herculano-Houzel. Humans have developed cognitive abilities that outstrip those of all other animals, but not because we are evolutionary outliers.

Language and Evolution

“A loosely connected collection of four essays that will fascinate anyone interested in the extraordinary phenomenon of language.”
New York Review of Books

How Science Is Redefining Humanity

What do computers, cells, and brains have in common? Computers are electronic devices designed by humans; cells are biological entities crafted by evolution; brains are the containers and creators of our minds. But all are, in one way or another, information-processing devices. The power of the human brain is, so far, unequaled by any existing machine or known living being. Over eons of evolution, the brain has enabled us to develop tools and technology to make our lives easier. Our brains have even allowed us to develop computers that are almost as powerful as the human brain itself.

Patents, HIV/AIDS, and Race

In The Genealogy of a Gene, Myles Jackson uses the story of the CCR5 gene to investigate the interrelationships among science, technology, and society. Mapping the varied “genealogy” of CCR5—intellectual property, natural selection, Big and Small Pharma, human diversity studies, personalized medicine, ancestry studies, and race and genomics—Jackson links a myriad of diverse topics.

What can artificial intelligence teach us about the mind? If AI’s underlying concept is that thinking is a computational process, then how can computation illuminate thinking? It’s a timely question. AI is all the rage, and the buzziest AI buzz surrounds adaptive machine learning: computer systems that learn intelligent behavior from massive amounts of data. This is what powers a driverless car, for example.

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 Detection of Gravitational Waves

Scientists have been trying to confirm the existence of gravitational waves for fifty years. Then, in September 2015, came a “very interesting event” (as the cautious subject line in a physicist’s email read) that proved to be the first detection of gravitational waves.

Transport

Cellular Biophysics is a quantitatively oriented basic physiology text for senior undergraduate and graduate students in bioengineering, biophysics, physiology, and neuroscience programs. It will also serve as a major reference work for biophysicists.

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