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Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind (by Robin Dunbar et al.)

Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind

~ John Gowlett (author) More about this product
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A closer look at genealogy, incorporating how biological, anthropological, and technical factors can influence human lives

We are at a pivotal moment in understanding our remote ancestry and its implications for how we live today. The barriers to what we can know about our distant relatives have been falling as a result of scientific advance, such as decoding the genomes of humans and Neanderthals, and bringing together different perspectives to answer common questions. These collaborations have brought new knowledge and suggested fresh concepts to examine. The results have shaken the old certainties.

The results are profound; not just for the study of the past but for appreciating why we conduct our social lives in ways, and at scales, that are familiar to all of us. But such basic familiarity raises a dilemma. When surrounded by the myriad technical and cultural innovations that support our global, urbanized lifestyles we can lose sight of the small social worlds we actually inhabit and that can be traced deep into our ancestry. So why do we need art, religion, music, kinship, myths, and all the other facets of our over-active imaginations if the reality of our effective social worlds is set by a limit of some one hundred and fifty partners (Dunbar’s number) made of family, friends, and useful acquaintances? How could such a social community lead to a city the size of London or a country as large as China? Do we really carry our hominin past into our human present? It is these small worlds, and the link they allow to the study of the past that forms the central point in this book.

 

 

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Boundaries of a Complex World (by Andrei Ludu)

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.

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Systems Neuroscience in Depression (by Thomas Frodl)

Systems Neuroscience in Depression

~ Thomas Frodl (author) More about this product
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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.

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The Ancient Origins of Consciousness: How the Brain Created Experience (by Todd E. Feinberg & Jon M. Mallatt)

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.

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Dynamical Systems on Networks

Dynamical Systems on Networks | CxBooks | Scoop.it

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

http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-26641-1 

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The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth: The Emergence of the Fourth Geosphere: Eric Smith, Harold J. Morowitz

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.

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The multifaceted impact of Ada Lovelace in the digital age

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

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.artint.2016.02.003

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Rethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists: Laura Otis

Rethinking Thought takes readers into the minds of 30 creative thinkers to show how greatly the experience of thought can vary. It is dedicated to anyone who has ever been told, "You're not thinking!", because his or her way of thinking differs so much from a spouse's, employer's, or teacher's. The book focuses on individual experiences with visual mental images and verbal language that are used in planning, problem-solving, reflecting, remembering, and forging new ideas. It approaches the question of what thinking is by analyzing variations in the way thinking feels.

Written by neuroscientist-turned-literary scholar Laura Otis, Rethinking Thought juxtaposes creative thinkers' insights with recent neuroscientific discoveries about visual mental imagery, verbal language, and thought. Presenting the results of new, interview-based research, it offers verbal portraits of novelist Salman Rushdie, engineer Temple Grandin, American Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, and Nobel prize-winning biologist Elizabeth Blackburn. It also depicts the unique mental worlds of two award-winning painters, a flamenco dancer, a game designer, a cartoonist, a lawyer-novelist, a theoretical physicist, and a creator of multi-agent software. Treating scientists and artists with equal respect, it creates a dialogue in which neuroscientific findings and the introspections of creative thinkers engage each other as equal partners.

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The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom (by Stephen M. Stigler)

The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom

~ Stephen M. Stigler (author) More about this product
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What gives statistics its unity as a science? Stephen Stigler sets forth the seven foundational ideas of statistics―a scientific discipline related to but distinct from mathematics and computer science.

Even the most basic idea - aggregation, exemplified by averaging - is counterintuitive. It allows one to gain information by discarding information, namely, the individuality of the observations. Stigler’s second pillar, information measurement, challenges the importance of “big data” by noting that observations are not all equally important: the amount of information in a data set is often proportional to only the square root of the number of observations, not the absolute number. The third idea is likelihood, the calibration of inferences with the use of probability. Intercomparison is the principle that statistical comparisons do not need to be made with respect to an external standard. The fifth pillar is regression, both a paradox (tall parents on average produce shorter children; tall children on average have shorter parents) and the basis of inference, including Bayesian inference and causal reasoning. The sixth concept captures the importance of experimental design―for example, by recognizing the gains to be had from a combinatorial approach with rigorous randomization. The seventh idea is the residual: the notion that a complicated phenomenon can be simplified by subtracting the effect of known causes, leaving a residual phenomenon that can be explained more easily.

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Simple universal models capture all classical spin physics

Spin models are used in many studies of complex systems because they exhibit rich macroscopic behavior despite their microscopic simplicity. Here, we prove that all the physics of every classical spin model is reproduced in the low-energy sector of certain “universal models,” with at most polynomial overhead. This holds for classical models with discrete or continuous degrees of freedom. We prove necessary and sufficient conditions for a spin model to be universal and show that one of the simplest and most widely studied spin models, the two-dimensional Ising model with fields, is universal. Our results may facilitate physical simulations of Hamiltonians with complex interactions.

 

Simple universal models capture all classical spin physics
Gemma De las Cuevas, Toby S. Cubitt

Science  11 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6278, pp. 1180-1183
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aab3326

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Sherri L. McLendon's curator insight, March 18, 10:06 AM
Reminds me of Goethe's "Elective Affinities,: i.e. results may facilitate physical s(t)imulations... with complex interactives - sometimes a whole new spin has always seemed to be universal. LOL
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Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life (by Edward O. Wilson)

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

~ Edward O. Wilson (author) More about this product
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In order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet, says Edward O. Wilson in his most impassioned book to date. Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature.

If we are to undertake such an ambitious endeavor, we first must understand just what the biosphere is, why it's essential to our survival, and the manifold threats now facing it. In doing so, Wilson describes how our species, in only a mere blink of geological time, became the architects and rulers of this epoch and outlines the consequences of this that will affect all of life, both ours and the natural world, far into the future.

Half-Earth provides an enormously moving and naturalistic portrait of just what is being lost when we clip "twigs and eventually whole braches of life's family tree." In elegiac prose, Wilson documents the many ongoing extinctions that are imminent, paying tribute to creatures great and small, not the least of them the two Sumatran rhinos whom he encounters in captivity. Uniquely, Half-Earth considers not only the large animals and star species of plants but also the millions of invertebrate animals and microorganisms that, despite being overlooked, form the foundations of Earth's ecosystems.

In stinging language, he avers that the biosphere does not belong to us and addresses many fallacious notions such as the idea that ongoing extinctions can be balanced out by the introduction of alien species into new ecosystems or that extinct species might be brought back through cloning. This includes a critique of the "anthropocenists," a fashionable collection of revisionist environmentalists who believe that the human species alone can be saved through engineering and technology.

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The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument over What Makes Living Things Tick (by Jessica Riskin)

The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument over What Makes Living Things Tick

~ Jessica Riskin (author) More about this product
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Today, a scientific explanation is not meant to ascribe agency to natural phenomena: we would not say a rock falls because it seeks the center of the earth. Even for living things, in the natural sciences and often in the social sciences, the same is true. A modern botanist would not say that plants pursue sunlight. This has not always been the case, nor, perhaps, was it inevitable. Since the seventeenth century, many thinkers have made agency, in various forms, central to science.

The Restless Clock examines the history of this principle, banning agency, in the life sciences. It also tells the story of dissenters embracing the opposite idea: that agency is essential to nature. The story begins with the automata of early modern Europe, as models for the new science of living things, and traces questions of science and agency through Descartes, Leibniz, Lamarck, and Darwin, among many others. Mechanist science, Jessica Riskin shows, had an associated theology: the argument from design, which found evidence for a designer in the mechanisms of nature. Rejecting such appeals to a supernatural God, the dissenters sought to naturalize agency rather than outsourcing it to a “divine engineer.” Their model cast living things not as passive but as active, self-making machines.

The conflict between passive- and active-mechanist approaches maintains a subterranean life in current science, shaping debates in fields such as evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. This history promises not only to inform such debates, but also our sense of the possibilities for what it means to engage in science—and even what it means to be alive.

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Interconnected Networks (by Antonios Garas)

This volume provides an introduction to and overview of the emerging field of interconnected networks which include multilayer or multiplex networks, as well as networks of networks. Such networks present structural and dynamical features quite different from those observed in isolated networks. The presence of links between different networks or layers of a network typically alters the way such interconnected networks behave – understanding the role of interconnecting links is therefore a crucial step towards a more accurate description of real-world systems. While examples of such dissimilar properties are becoming more abundant – for example regarding diffusion, robustness and competition – the root of such differences remains to be elucidated.

Each chapter in this topical collection is self-contained and can be read on its own, thus making it also suitable as reference for experienced researchers wishing to focus on a particular topic.

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The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters (by Sean B. Carroll)

The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters

~ Sean B. Carroll (author) More about this product
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How does life work? How does nature produce the right numbers of zebras and lions on the African savanna, or fish in the ocean? How do our bodies produce the right numbers of cells in our organs and bloodstream? In The Serengeti Rules, award-winning biologist and author Sean Carroll tells the stories of the pioneering scientists who sought the answers to such simple yet profoundly important questions, and shows how their discoveries matter for our health and the health of the planet we depend upon.

One of the most important revelations about the natural world is that everything is regulated--there are rules that regulate the amount of every molecule in our bodies and rules that govern the numbers of every animal and plant in the wild. And the most surprising revelation about the rules that regulate life at such different scales is that they are remarkably similar--there is a common underlying logic of life. Carroll recounts how our deep knowledge of the rules and logic of the human body has spurred the advent of revolutionary life-saving medicines, and makes the compelling case that it is now time to use the Serengeti Rules to heal our ailing planet.

A bold and inspiring synthesis by one of our most accomplished biologists and gifted storytellers, The Serengeti Rules is the first book to illuminate how life works at vastly different scales.

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A World From Dust: How the Periodic Table Shaped Life (by Ben McFarland)

A World From Dust: How the Periodic Table Shaped Life

~ Ben McFarland (author) More about this product
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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.

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The Genius of Birds (by Jennifer Ackerman)

The Genius of Birds

~ Jennifer Ackerman (author) More about this product
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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.

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Evolution: Taxonomies of cognition

Evolution: Taxonomies of cognition | CxBooks | Scoop.it

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.

 

Evolution: Taxonomies of cognition
• Joan B. Silk
Nature 532, 176 (14 April 2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/532176a

 

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals are?
Frans de Waal W. W. Norton: 2016.

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Creating Language: Integrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing by Morten H. Christiansen and Nick Chater

Creating Language: Integrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing (MIT Press)

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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.

 

http://amzn.to/1VVASYA 

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Designing Beauty: The Art of Cellular Automata: Andrew Adamatzky, Genaro J. Martínez

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.

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The social gene

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.

 

The social gene
Joseph Swift
Science  25 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6280, pp. 1403
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf5297

 

The Society of Genes Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher Harvard University Press, 2016. 294 pp

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The Value of Systems and Complexity Sciences for Healthcare (by Joachim P. Sturmberg)

This visionary reframing of health and healthcare uses a complexity science approach to building healthcare systems that are accessible, effective, and prepared for change and challenges. Its holistic map for understanding the human organism emphasizes the interconnectedness of the individual’s physical, psychological, cognitive, and sociocultural functioning. Applications of this approach are described in primary, specialist, and emergency care and at the organizational and policy levels, from translating findings to practice, to problem solving and evaluation. In this model, the differences between disease and illness and treating illness and restoring health are not mere wordplay, but instead are robust concepts reflecting real-world issues and their solutions. Topics covered include:


• Coping with complexity and uncertainty: insights from studying epidemiology in family medicine 
• Anticipation in complex systems: potential implications for improving safety and quality in healthcare 
• Monitoring variability and complexity at the bedside 
• Viewing mental health through the lens of complexity science 
• Ethical complexities in systems healthcare: what care and for whom? 
• The value of systems and complexity thinking to enable change in adaptive healthcare organizations supported by informatics 
• If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the theory: implications for health system reform

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Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation (by Timothy J. Jorgensen)

Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

~ Timothy J. Jorgensen (author) More about this product
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More than ever before, radiation is a part of our modern daily lives. We own radiation-emitting phones, regularly get diagnostic x-rays, such as mammograms, and submit to full-body security scans at airports. We worry and debate about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the safety of nuclear power plants. But how much do we really know about radiation? And what are its actual dangers? An accessible blend of narrative history and science, Strange Glow describes mankind's extraordinary, thorny relationship with radiation, including the hard-won lessons of how radiation helps and harms our health. Timothy Jorgensen explores how our knowledge of and experiences with radiation in the last century can lead us to smarter personal decisions about radiation exposures today.

Jorgensen introduces key figures in the story of radiation--from Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of x-rays, and pioneering radioactivity researchers Marie and Pierre Curie, to Thomas Edison and the victims of the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Tracing the most important events in the evolution of radiation, Jorgensen explains exactly what radiation is, how it produces certain health consequences, and how we can protect ourselves from harm. He also considers a range of practical scenarios such as the risks of radon in our basements, radiation levels in the fish we eat, questions about cell-phone use, and radiation's link to cancer. Jorgensen empowers us to make informed choices while offering a clearer understanding of broader societal issues.

Investigating radiation's benefits and risks, Strange Glow takes a remarkable look at how, for better or worse, radiation has transformed our society.

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The preschool paradox

The Little Prince opens with a 6-year-old narrator who proudly drew a boa constrictor that had swallowed an elephant. Disheartened that adults think his masterpiece is a picture of a hat, he quips, “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves.”
In her new book, The Importance of Being Little, Erika Christakis comes to the same conclusion. Her “preschool paradox” suggests a misalignment between what we offer young children and what they really need. If children have “limitless capacity to learn in all environments,” she writes, “why should we settle for unimaginative goals … like being able to identify triangles and squares, or recalling the names of colors and seasons?”

 

The preschool paradox
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkof
The Importance of Being Little What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups Erika Christakis Viking, 2016. 400 pp.

Science  11 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6278, pp. 1158
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf1173

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The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling (by Adam Kucharski)

The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling

~ Adam Kucharski (author) More about this product
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There is one thing about gambling that everyone knows: the house always wins. Lotteries are set up to guarantee profits, to the state. A craps game is a sure thing, but only if you own the table. Sometimes, however, everyone is wrong. After all, the reason that casinos ban card counters is that counting cards works. Indeed, for the past 500 years, gamblers—led by mathematicians and scientists—have been trying to figure out how to turn the tables on the house and pull the rug out from under Lady Luck.

In The Perfect Bet, mathematician and award-winning writer Adam Kucharski tells the astonishing story of how the experts have done it, revolutionizing mathematics and science in the process. From Galileo to Alan Turing, betting has been scientists’ playground for ideas: dice games in sixteenth-century bars gave birth to the theory of probability, and poker to game theory (mathematician John von Neumann wanted to improve his game) and to much of artificial intelligence. Kucharski gives us a collection of rogues, geniuses, and mavericks who are equally at home in a casino in Monte Carlo as investigating how to build an atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project. They include the mathematician who flipped a coin 25,000 times to see if it was fair; the college kids who gamed the Massachusetts lottery to yield millions of dollars in profit; and the horse-betting syndicates of Hong Kong’s Happy Valley, who turned a wager on ponies into a multi-billion-dollar industry.

With mathematical rigor and narrative flair,  Adam Kucharski reveals the tangled history of betting and science. The house can seem unbeatable. In this book, Kucharski shows us just why it isn’t. Even better, he shows us how the search for the perfect bet has been crucial for the scientific pursuit of a better world 

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The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness (by David Gelernter)

The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness

~ David Gelernter (author) More about this product
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The holy grail of psychologists and scientists for nearly a century has been to understand and replicate both human thought and the human mind. In fact, it's what attracted the now-legendary computer scientist and AI authority David Gelernter to the discipline in the first place. As a student and young researcher in the 1980s, Gelernter hoped to build a program with a dial marked "focus." At maximum "focus," the program would "think" rationally, formally, reasonably. As the dial was turned down and "focus" diminished, its "mind" would start to wander, and as you dialed even lower, this artificial mind would start to free-associate, eventually ignoring the user completely as it cruised off into the mental adventures we know as sleep.

While the program was a only a partial success, it laid the foundation for The Tides of Mind, a groundbreaking new exploration of the human psyche that shows us how the very purpose of the mind changes throughout the day. Indeed, as Gelernter explains, when we are at our most alert, when reasoning and creating new memories is our main mental business, the mind is a computer-like machine that keeps emotion on a short leash and attention on our surroundings. As we gradually tire, however, and descend the "mental spectrum," reasoning comes unglued. Memory ranges more freely, the mind wanders, and daydreams grow more insistent. Self-awareness fades, reflection blinks out, and at last we are completely immersed in our own minds.

With far-reaching implications, Gelernter’s landmark "Spectrum of Consciousness" finally helps decode some of the most mysterious wonders of the human mind, such as the numinous light of early childhood, why dreams are so often predictive, and why sadism and masochism underpin some of our greatest artistic achievements. It’s a theory that also challenges the very notion of the mind as a machine―and not through empirical studies or "hard science" but by listening to our great poets and novelists, who have proven themselves as humanity's most trusted guides to the subjective mind and inner self.

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Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond (by Sonia Shah)

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond

~ Sonia Shah (author) More about this product
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Scientists agree that a pathogen is likely to cause a global pandemic in the near future. But which one? And how?

Over the past fifty years, more than three hundred infectious diseases have either newly emerged or reemerged, appearing in territories where they’ve never been seen before. Ninety percent of epidemiologists expect that one of them will cause a deadly pandemic sometime in the next two generations. It could be Ebola, avian flu, a drug-resistant superbug, or something completely new. While we can’t know which pathogen will cause the next pandemic, by unraveling the story of how pathogens have caused pandemics in the past, we can make predictions about the future. In this book Shah interweaves history, original reportage, and personal narrative to explore the origins of contagions, drawing parallels between cholera, one of history’s most deadly and disruptive pandemic-causing pathogens, and the new diseases that stalk humankind today.

To reveal how a new pandemic might develop, Shah tracks each stage of cholera’s dramatic journey, from its emergence in the South Asian hinterlands as a harmless microbe to its rapid dispersal across the nineteenth-century world, all the way to its latest beachhead in Haiti. Along the way she reports on the pathogens now following in cholera’s footsteps, from the MRSA bacterium that besieges her own family to the never-before-seen killers coming out of China’s wet markets, the surgical wards of New Delhi, and the suburban backyards of the East Coast.

By delving into the convoluted science, strange politics, and checkered history of one of the world’s deadliest diseases, Pandemic reveals what the next global contagion might look like― and what we can do to prevent it.

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