Your Inner Fish is a look at evolution as a result of natural selection in a anthropocentric manner, showing how human anatomy is well and truly deriv...moreYour Inner Fish is a look at evolution as a result of natural selection in a anthropocentric manner, showing how human anatomy is well and truly derived from so called "lesser beings." Neil Shubin is the palaeontologist who first discovered the Tiktaalik, an intermediary species of lobe-finned fish which demonstrates the very event where life left the shallow, swampy waters and crawled up on land, giving rise to the first tetrapods. The Tiktaalik displays shoulder, wrist, and primitive finger skeletal structures which mirror both the structure and functionality of those belonging to quadrupedal creatures, in addition to a moveable neck and primitive lungs as well as gills... thus perhaps providing us with the transitional stage from life in the water to walking on land.
The discovery of the Tiktaalik is where the book begins, in the Canadian Arctic on a palaeontological fossil hunting expedition. The discovery of the Tiktaalik, and the observation of it's important discovery, quickly launches into a broader historical, anatomical, palaeontological, and phylogenetic look at what similarities we humans share with other species, and why. From the comparison of fish jaws to human inner ear structure, to what virtually every living creature's embryonic form shares, Your Inner Fish is a fascinating look at the finer points of evolution, from field work right on through to laboratory study. The combination of the variety of biology-based disciplines (and a few geological ones!) helps piece together a complete picture of the evidence to hand for why the human body looks and functions the way it does, and how that relates to the rest of the living world.
Shubin is witty and enthusiastic about the subject matter, explaining very complex science in easy-to-digest sections, neatly divided into chapters. Being a biology student, I did not encounter a great deal I've not covered in my studies, but I found the approach fascinating and engaging nonetheless. If you're not a science major (or enthusiast) no need to pass this title up: it's very well written, giving you enough of the background science to grasp the concepts at hand without being too technical. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it strengthened my love for my degree program, possibly even steering my interests back to evolution and palaeontology as a post-grad path. And I would recommend it to virtually anyone, it's a small book packed to the brim with interesting material, a real page turner amongst science literature!(less)
Chances are you've either read the book, seen the movie, or had an over-enthusiastic friend tell you all about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins by...more
Chances are you've either read the book, seen the movie, or had an over-enthusiastic friend tell you all about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins by now. A new nation has risen in what used to be North America, called Panem. Panem is comprised of the Capitol and twelve surrounding districts, each of which must send two "tributes," a boy and a girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen, to take part in a battle royale known as The Hunger Games. These games are an annual blood bath, where these teens must fight to be the last one standing, the "winner" of the games. The story is told from a first person perspective of the main character, a girl of the age of sixteen named Katniss. Katniss finds herself in the games after her twelve year old sister's name is drawn to be the female tribute of District 12, and Katniss volunteers to go in her stead. The Hunger Games are held for two reasons: One, to remind the districts they are powerless against the Capitol and two, as entertainment for the people.
I continued to overlook this book, partially because of the hype cloud surrounding it, mostly because of it's classification as Young Adult, despite being a fan of dystopian literature. And yet once I did pick it up, I couldn't put it back down again, not until I finished it (being sick has its advantages, read it in a day). I loved this book, and nearly everything about it: the original story, the strong female lead, the pace and suspense... the one and only thing I didn't like was, when it comes to the love aspect for the main character, it IS very much Young Adult. I felt that the one weakness of the book is its Young Adult "feel," if that makes sense. I would've loved to have seen something more along the lines of a Never Let Me Go: the descriptive writing, the underpinning sorrow of the plot, the maturation of the characters over time. Other than that one gripe, I feel The Hunger Games is a well-balanced story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What I enjoyed more than the book, however, was the realization that dawned on me after reading it: as a reader, you ARE the people of the Capitol: eagerly standing by, waiting to see which tribute dies next, rooting for the one you hope to win, engaged in the blood bath with the rest of the fictional characters. I'm not saying you would support this notion, or that I would, and a book is a very different scenario from reality.... but it's something to think about nonetheless.(less)
Were my love for science a religion, Cosmos would be the holy book. Stunning, eloquent, and almost painfully inspiring, Carl Sagan paints a picture of...moreWere my love for science a religion, Cosmos would be the holy book. Stunning, eloquent, and almost painfully inspiring, Carl Sagan paints a picture of the fifteen billion year journey from the Big Bang to the formation of our solar system, to the evolution of the human race. In unparalleled prose Sagan weaves together a rich overview of human knowledge and experience, from the Library of Alexandria all the way into the possibilities of a future as a space-faring species, all the while explaining the most important discoveries in cosmology in a way that's not only easy to read, but a pleasure to.
Cosmos is more than just a book, it's a journey: a journey in the farthest reaches of the known universe, a tutorial in space-time, a tourist look at our closest neighbors in the vast emptiness of space. Sagan is unabashedly free with his imaginings of what other worlds must be like, starting with what kind of life could possibly thrive on Jupiter, a planet comprised only of gas, to speculating on technology gaps between us and another intelligent species in the universe, were we to make contact. And further on the journey still: atoms, relativity, SETI, the voyager missions, evolution, genes, history, culture, civilization... this is the story of us. From the very atoms that comprise our bodies, forged in the hearts of stars billions of years ago, to present day and beyond.
Cosmos closes with Sagan's views on the world at large: the forming of nuclear weaponry, the hostility of nations, the costs of war versus the costs of knowledge, civility, and space programs. He speculates how much farther we could go as a species if we could grow beyond the idea of nations, religions, and war. In the last chapter, Sagan writes:
There are many important and entirely feasible missions that have not been attempted because of lack of funds - including roving vehicles to wander across the surface of Mars...
And how utterly appropriate I should finish this book on the day humanity successfully lands Curiosity on the surface of the red planet. It's just such a shame Sagan didn't live to see it.
I do not exaggerate when I say this is one of the best and most thought-provoking books I have ever read.(less)
Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is a book about the universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and intellect...moreDeath by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is a book about the universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and intellectual badass. In this series of essays, Tyson combines his passion for astrophysics with an easy-to-read style that enables virtually anyone reading to understand the key concepts presented without burdening the non-astrophysics major with too much technical information. THIS book was what I was looking for one dark night when I took a wrong turn and ended up with particle physics in Greene’s The Elegant Universe. Death by Black Hole is about the MACRO universe: planets and dying stars and radiation and well… scary but mindblowing space stuff.
The great thing about this book is it combines everything you’ve ever wanted to know about SPACE with answers. It’s organized mostly on topic, and each topic typically covers a brief history of knowledge in the field, HOW scientists have come to know this knowledge and the tools they used, and what it tells us about the universe as a whole. Topics range from how scientists calculate the size of bodies in space, how we know when planets are orbiting a star by its “wobble,” black holes, radiation, elements found on earth and elsewhere, the possibility of life elsewhere, what asteroids and comets are made of, dark matter, star fusion…. the list goes on and on. Not once did the material extend beyond the layman’s readability and thus provides a great starting point for anyone interested in the cosmos to pinpoint topics they are most interested in for further reading.
I loved this book because I finished it smarter than when I started. I love how the information is presented so eloquently and accessibly that I will remember enough of what I read to relay to someone else. And I loved this book for the journey I got to go on, into space, into that void of ignorance I had on many of the topics covered, and I got to experience a small but satisfying portion of the sheer wonder that comes when you consider just how small we are in comparison to everything else. I’d recommend this title to anyone, and I know I will be picking up more of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s books in the near future.(less)