Joining the ranks of popular science classics like The Botany of Desire and The Selfish Gene, a groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin—a “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a marvelous, radically reconceived picture of life on earth. Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Ed Yong, whose humor is as evident as his erudition, prompts us to look at ourselves and our animal companions in a new light—less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are. The microbes in our bodies are part of our immune systems and protect us from disease. In the deep oceans, mysterious creatures without mouths or guts depend on microbes for all their energy. Bacteria provide squid with invisibility cloaks, help beetles to bring down forests, and allow worms to cause diseases that afflict millions of people. Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial partners, and introduces us to the scientists on the front lines of discovery. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.
Where are we? Who are we? Are our emotions, our beliefs, and our hopes and dreams ultimately meaningless out there in the void? Does human purpose and meaning fit into a scientific worldview?
In short chapters filled with intriguing historical anecdotes, personal asides, and rigorous exposition, readers learn the difference between how the world works at the quantum level, the cosmic level, and the human level--and then how each connects to the other. Carroll's presentation of the principles that have guided the scientific revolution from Darwin and Einstein to the origins of life, consciousness, and the universe is dazzlingly unique.
Carroll shows how an avalanche of discoveries in the past few hundred years has changed our world and what really matters to us. Our lives are dwarfed like never before by the immensity of space and time, but they are redeemed by our capacity to comprehend it and give it meaning.
More than fifty years ago, John Coltrane drew the twelve musical notes in a circle and connected them by straight lines, forming a five-pointed star. Inspired by Einstein, Coltrane had put physics and geometry at the core of his music. Physicist and jazz musician Stephon Alexander returns the favor, using jazz to answer physics’ most vexing questions about the past and future of the universe.
Following the great minds that first drew the links between music and physics—a list including Pythagoras, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and Rakim—The Jazz of Physics revisits the ancient realm where music, physics, and the cosmos were one. This cosmological journey accompanies Alexander’s own tale of struggling to reconcile his passion for music and physics, from taking music lessons as a boy in the Bronx to studying theoretical physics at Imperial College, London’s inner sanctum of string theory. Playing the saxophone and improvising with equations, Alexander uncovered the connection between the fundamental waves that make up sound and the fundamental waves that make up everything else. As he reveals, the ancient poetic idea of the “music of the spheres,” taken seriously, clarifies confounding issues in physics.
Whether you are more familiar with Brian Greene or Brian Eno, John Coltrane or John Wheeler, the Five Percent Nation or why the universe is less than five percent visible, there is a new discovery on every page. Covering the entire history of the universe from its birth to its fate, its structure on the smallest and largest scales, The Jazz of Physics will fascinate and inspire anyone interested in the mysteries of our universe, music, and life itself.
From the power grid to the stock market to the latest iOS, complex systems are plagued by unintended glitches, unpredictable behavior, and unexplainable system failures. Why can’t we make things simpler? Is technological complexity inevitable? And how are we supposed to deal with technology that nobody can understand anymore?
In Overcomplicated, complexity scientist Samuel Arbesman explores the forces that lead us to continue to make systems more complicated and more incomprehensible, despite our desperate desire for them to be more coherent. He offers a new framework for dealing with complex systems. We must abandon the idea that we can understand the rules, and instead become field biologists for technology, relying on description and observation to uncover facts about how a system might work.
Whether you work in business, finance, science, or IT—or you simply own a smart phone—Overcomplicated offers valuable insight on how to adapt to the complex age we are living in.
Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension by Samuel Arbesman
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?
The extraordinary Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.
Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—cuts like a bright, red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In superb prose and with an instinct for the dramatic scene, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome.
As TheNew Yorker said of The Emperor of All Maladies, “It’s hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility, and compassion…An extraordinary achievement.” Riveting, revelatory, and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, and an essential preparation for the moral complexity introduced by our ability to create or “write” the human genome, The Gene is a must-read for everyone concerned about the definition and future of humanity. This is the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master.
A fascinating exploration of how insights from computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives, helping to solve common decision-making problems and illuminate the workings of the human mind
All our lives are constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of new activities and familiar favorites is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not: computers, too, face the same constraints, so computer scientists have been grappling with their version of such issues for decades. And the solutions they've found have much to teach us.
In a dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show how the algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. They explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others. From finding a spouse to finding a parking spot, from organizing one's inbox to understanding the workings of memory, Algorithms to Live By transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.
The technology likely to have the greatest impact on the future of the world economy has arrived, and it’s not self-driving cars, solar energy, or artificial intelligence. It’s called the blockchain.
The first generation of the digital revolution brought us the Internet of information. The second generation—powered by blockchain technology—is bringing us the Internet of value: a new, distributed platform that can help us reshape the world of business and transform the old order of human affairs for the better.
Blockchain is the ingeniously simple, revolutionary protocol that allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure by maintaining a tamperproof public ledger of value. Though it’s the technology that drives bitcoin and other digital currencies, the underlying framework has the potential to go far beyond these and record virtually everything of value to humankind, from birth and death certificates to insurance claims and even votes.
Why should you care? Maybe you’re a music lover who wants artists to make a living off their art. Or a consumer who wants to know where that hamburger meat really came from. Perhaps you’re an immigrant who’s sick of paying big fees to send money home to loved ones. Or an entrepreneur looking for a new platform to build a business.
And those examples are barely the tip of the iceberg. This technology is public, encrypted, and readily available for anyone to use. It’s already seeing widespread adoption in a number of areas. For example, forty-two (and counting) of the world’s biggest financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Credit Suisse, have formed a consortium to investigate the blockchain for speedier and more secure transactions.
A World From Dust describes how a set of chemical rules combined with the principles of evolution in order to create an environment in which life as we know it could unfold. Beginning with simple mathematics, these predictable rules led to the advent of the planet itself, as well as cells, organs and organelles, ecosystems, and increasingly complex life forms. McFarland provides an accessible discussion of a geological history as well, describing how the inorganic matter on Earth underwent chemical reactions with air and water, allowing for life to emerge from the world's first rocks. He traces the history of life all the way to modern neuroscience, and shows how the bioelectric signals that make up the human brain were formed. Most popular science books on the topic present either the physics of how the universe formed, or the biology of how complex life came about; this book's approach would be novel in that it condenses in an engaging way the chemistry that links the two fields. This book is an accessible and multidisciplinary look at how life on our planet came to be, and how it continues to develop and change even today.
Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. In fact, according to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence. Like humans, many birds have enormous brains relative to their size. Although small, bird brains are packed with neurons that allow them to punch well above their weight.
In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds and how it came about. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research— the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia, the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia, the ravaged mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy and the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states—Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are revolutionizing our view of what it means to be intelligent.
Consider, as Ackerman does, the Clark’s nutcracker, a bird that can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember where it put them several months later; the mockingbirds and thrashers, species that can store 200 to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours; the well-known pigeon, which knows where it’s going, even thousands of miles from familiar territory; and the New Caledonian crow, an impressive bird that makes its own tools.
But beyond highlighting how birds use their unique genius in technical ways, Ackerman points out the impressive social smarts of birds. They deceive and manipulate. They eavesdrop. They display a strong sense of fairness. They give gifts. They play keep-away and tug-of-war. They tease. They share. They cultivate social networks. They vie for status. They kiss to console one another. They teach their young. They blackmail their parents. They alert one another to danger. They summon witnesses to the death of a peer. They may even grieve.
In Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, ethologist Frans de Waal celebrates the evolution of intelligence in nature. His is an entertaining account of how octopuses escape from jars by unscrewing the lids and rooks drop pebbles into a tube to access floating rewards. Natural selection, he argues, shapes cognitive abilities in the same way as it shapes traits such as wing length. As animals' challenges and habitats differ, so do their cognitive abilities. This idea, which he calls evolutionary cognition, has gained traction in psychology and biology in the past few decades.
Language is a hallmark of the human species; the flexibility and unbounded expressivity of our linguistic abilities is unique in the biological world. In this book, Morten Christiansen and Nick Chater argue that to understand this astonishing phenomenon, we must consider how language is created: moment by moment, in the generation and understanding of individual utterances; year by year, as new language learners acquire language skills; and generation by generation, as languages change, split, and fuse through the processes of cultural evolution. Christiansen and Chater propose a revolutionary new framework for understanding the evolution, acquisition, and processing of language, offering an integrated theory of how language creation is intertwined across these multiple timescales.
This fascinating, colourful book offers in-depth insights and first-hand working experiences in the production of art works, using simple computational models with rich morphological behaviour, at the edge of mathematics, computer science, physics and biology. It organically combines ground breaking scientific discoveries in the theory of computation and complex systems with artistic representations of the research results. In this appealing book mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists, and engineers brought together marvelous and esoteric patterns generated by cellular automata, which are arrays of simple machines with complex behavior. Configurations produced by cellular automata uncover mechanics of dynamic patterns formation, their propagation and interaction in natural systems: heart pacemaker, bacterial membrane proteins, chemical rectors, water permeation in soil, compressed gas, cell division, population dynamics, reaction-diffusion media and self-organisation. The book inspires artists to take on cellular automata as a tool of creativity and it persuades scientists to convert their research results into the works of art.
The book is lavishly illustrated with visually attractive examples, presented in a lively and easily accessible manner.
Genetic research has moved rapidly since the publication of Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene 40 years ago. In the intervening years, we have come to realize that many of the most interesting and important phenomena in human biology are not caused by any single gene. Citing a wealth of recent research that explores the ways genes work together to produce complex biological processes, Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher argue that it is time to embrace a new, more holistic, metaphor in their book, The Society of Genes.
What separates your mind from an animal’s? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future―all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet’s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long.
People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different forms that are often incomparable to ours? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you’re less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat? De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal―and human―intelligence.
Pinpoint tells the story of GPS, a scientific marvel that enables almost all modern technology―but is changing us in profound ways.
Over the last fifty years, humanity has developed an extraordinary shared utility: the Global Positioning System. Even as it guides us across town, GPS helps land planes, route mobile calls, anticipate earthquakes, predict weather, locate oil deposits, measure neutrinos, grow our food, and regulate global finance. It is as ubiquitous and essential as another Cold War technology, the Internet. In Pinpoint, Greg Milner takes us on a fascinating tour of a hidden system that touches almost every aspect of our modern life.
While GPS has brought us breathtakingly accurate information about our planetary environment and physical space, it has also created new forms of human behavior. We have let it saturate the world’s systems so completely and so quickly that we are just beginning to confront the possible consequences. A single GPS timing flaw, whether accidental or malicious, could bring down the electrical grid, hijack drones, or halt the world financial system. The use, and potential misuse, of GPS data by government and corporations raise disturbing questions about ethics and privacy. GPS may be altering the nature of human cognition―possibly even rearranging the gray matter in our heads.
Pinpoint tells the sweeping story of GPS from its conceptual origins as a bomb guidance system to its presence in almost everything we do. Milner examines the different ways humans have understood physical space, delves into the neuroscience of cognitive maps, and questions GPS’s double-edged effect on our culture. A fascinating and original story of the scientific urge toward precision, Pinpoint offers startling insight into how humans understand their place in the world.
Given the complexity of urban landscapes, legible policy has emerged as an important aim for urban laboratories, suggesting ways to increase citizen participation, heighten impact of policy decisions, allow for greater inclusion in political processes and stimulate citizens' agency.
The newest addition to John Brockman’s Edge.org series explores life itself, bringing together the world’s leading biologists, geneticists, and evolutionary theorists—including Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, J. Craig Venter, and Freeman Dyson.
Scientists’ understanding of life is progressing more rapidly than at any point in human history, from the extraordinary decoding of DNA to the controversial emergence of biotechnology. Featuring pioneering biologists, geneticists, physicists, and science writers, Life explains just how far we’ve come—and takes a brilliantly educated guess at where we’re heading. Richard Dawkins and J. Craig Venter compare genes to digital information, and sketch the frontiers of genomic research.
Edward O. Wilson reveals what ants can teach us about building a superorganism—and, in turn, about how cells build an organism. Elsewhere, David Haig reports new findings on how mothers and fathers individually influence the human genome, while Kary Mullis covers cutting edge treatments for dangerous viruses. And there’s much more in this fascinating volume.
We may never have all the answers. But the thinkers collected in Life are asking questions that will keep us dreaming for generations.
This book brings together 12 chapters on a new stream of research examining complex phenomena in nonlinear systems―including engineering, physics, and social science. Complex Motions and Chaos in Nonlinear Systems provides readers a particular vantage of the nature and nonlinear phenomena in nonlinear dynamics that can develop the corresponding mathematical theory and apply nonlinear design to practical engineering as well as the study of other complex phenomena including those investigated within social science.
The central theme of this book is the extent to which the structure of the free dynamical boundaries of a system controls the evolution of the system as a whole. Applying three orthogonal types of thinking - mathematical, constructivist and morphological, it illustrates these concepts using applications to selected problems from the social and life sciences, as well as economics.
In a broader context, it introduces and reviews some modern mathematical approaches to the science of complex systems. Standard modeling approaches (based on non-linear differential equations, dynamic systems, graph theory, cellular automata, stochastic processes, or information theory) are suitable for studying local problems. However they cannot simultaneously take into account all the different facets and phenomena of a complex system, and new approaches are required to solve the challenging problem of correlations between phenomena at different levels and hierarchies, their self-organization and memory-evolutive aspects, the growth of additional structures and are ultimately required to explain why and how such complex systems can display both robustness and flexibility.
Systems Neuroscience in Depression provides a comprehensive overview of the normal and depressed brain processes as studied from a systems neuroscience perspective. Systems neuroscience uses a wide variety of approaches to study how networks of neurons form the bases of higher brain function. A broad overview is discussed starting with a background from neurodevelopment and neural understanding as well as novel treatment approaches for depression. This book covers basic developmental aspects and depressive psychopathology, as well as the basic scientific background from animal models and experimental research. Current advances in systems neuroscience are highlighted in studies from child and adolescent psychiatry. Integrated approaches are presented with regards to genetics, neuroimaging and neuroinflammation as well as neuroendocrinology. The field of systems and network neuroscience is evolving rapidly and this book provides a greatly needed resource for researchers and practitioners in systems neuroscience and psychiatry.
How is consciousness created? When did it first appear on Earth, and how did it evolve? What constitutes consciousness, and which animals can be said to be sentient? In this book, Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt draw on recent scientific findings to answer these questions -- and to tackle the most fundamental question about the nature of consciousness: how does the material brain create subjective experience?
After assembling a list of the biological and neurobiological features that seem responsible for consciousness, and considering the fossil record of evolution, Feinberg and Mallatt argue that consciousness appeared much earlier in evolutionary history than is commonly assumed. About 520 to 560 million years ago, they explain, the great "Cambrian explosion" of animal diversity produced the first complex brains, which were accompanied by the first appearance of consciousness; simple reflexive behaviors evolved into a unified inner world of subjective experiences. From this they deduce that all vertebrates are and have always been conscious -- not just humans and other mammals, but also every fish, reptile, amphibian, and bird. Considering invertebrates, they find that arthropods (including insects and probably crustaceans) and cephalopods (including the octopus) meet many of the criteria for consciousness. The obvious and conventional wisdom--shattering implication is that consciousness evolved simultaneously but independently in the first vertebrates and possibly arthropods more than half a billion years ago. Combining evolutionary, neurobiological, and philosophical approaches allows Feinberg and Mallatt to offer an original solution to the "hard problem" of consciousness.
When studying a dynamical process, one is concerned with its behavior as a function of time, space, and its parameters. There are numerous studies that examine how many people are infected by a biological contagion and whether it persists from one season to another, whether and to what extent interacting oscillators synchronize, whether a meme on the internet becomes viral or not, and more. These studies all have something in common: the dynamics are occurring on a set of discrete entities (the nodes in a network) that are connected to each other via edges in some nontrivial way. This leads to the natural question of how such underlying nontrivial connectivity affects dynamical processes. This is one of the most important questions in network science, and it is the core question that we consider in our tutorial.
Dynamical Systems on Networks A Tutorial Authors: Mason A. Porter, James P. Gleeson ISBN: 978-3-319-26640-4 (Print) 978-3-319-26641-1
Uniting the conceptual foundations of the physical sciences and biology, this groundbreaking multidisciplinary book explores the origin of life as a planetary process. Combining geology, geochemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, evolution and statistical physics to create an inclusive picture of the living state, the authors develop the argument that the emergence of life was a necessary cascade of non-equilibrium phase transitions that opened new channels for chemical energy flow on Earth. This full colour and logically structured book introduces the main areas of significance and provides a well-ordered and accessible introduction to multiple literatures outside the confines of disciplinary specializations, as well as including an extensive bibliography to provide context and further reading. For researchers, professionals entering the field or specialists looking for a coherent overview, this text brings together diverse perspectives to form a unified picture of the origin of life and the ongoing organization of the biosphere.
Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), the Victorian-era mathematician daughter of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, is famous for her work with Charles Babbage on the Analytic Engine and is widely celebrated as the first computer programmer. Her work has been recognized over the years, and even though the bearing of her contribution has often been questioned, she has always been acknowledged as a pioneering figure by the Computer Science community. Recently she has been chosen as a symbol of the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Ada was worldwide celebrated on December 10th 2015, on the occasion of her 200th birthday, with workshops, meetings, and publications. In particular, ACM contributed with a book: an interdisciplinary collection of papers inspired by Ada's life, work, and legacy. The book covers Ada's collaboration with Babbage, her position in the Victorian and steampunk literature, her representation in contemporary art and comics, and her increasing relevance in promoting women in science and technology. I here review the book, focusing in particular on Ada's visionary ideas of software, on her relation with Alan Turing and the inception of Artificial Intelligence.
Robin Hammerman, Andrew L. Russell (Eds.), Ada's Legacy: Cultures of Computing from the Victorian to the Digital Age, Association for Computing Machinery and Morgan & Claypool, New York, NY, USA, 2015.
The multifaceted impact of Ada Lovelace in the digital age Luigia Carlucci Aiello
Artificial Intelligence Volume 235, June 2016, Pages 58–62
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