Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare [EPUB]
04 November 2014, 15:35
2014 | EPUB | 5.32MB
Our breath catches and we jump in fear at the sight of a snake. We pause and marvel at the sublime beauty of a sunrise. These reactions are no accident; in fact, many of our human responses to nature are steeped in our deep evolutionary past—we fear snakes because of the danger of venom or constriction, and we welcome the assurances of the sunrise as the predatory dangers of the dark night disappear. Many of our aesthetic preferences—from the kinds of gardens we build to the foods we enjoy and the entertainment we seek—are the lingering result of natural selection.
In this ambitious and unusual work, evolutionary biologist Gordon H. Orians explores the role of evolution in human responses to the environment, beginning with why we have emotions and ending with evolutionary approaches to aesthetics. Orians reveals how our emotional lives today are shaped by decisions our ancestors made centuries ago on African savannas as they selected places to live, sought food and safety, and socialized in small hunter-gatherer groups. During this time our likes and dislikes became wired in our brains, as the appropriate responses to the environment meant the difference between survival or death. His rich analysis explains why we mimic the tropical savannas of our ancestors in our parks and gardens, why we are simultaneously attracted to danger and approach it cautiously, and how paying close attention to nature’s sounds has resulted in us being an unusually musical species. We also learn why we have developed discriminating palates for wine, and why we have strong reactions to some odors, and why we enjoy classifying almost everything.
By applying biological perspectives ranging from Darwin to current neuroscience to analyses of our aesthetic preferences for landscapes, sounds, smells, plants, and animals, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare transforms how we view our experience of the natural world and how we relate to each other.
Future Science: Essays from the Cutting Edge [EPUB]
04 November 2014, 15:09
2011 | EPUB | 2.2MB
Editor Max Brockman presents the work of some of today’s brightest and most innovative young researchers in this fascinating collection of writings that introduce the very latest theories and discoveries in science.
Future Science features eighteen young scientists, most of whom are presenting their work and ideas to a general audience for the first time. Included in this collection are
- William McEwan, a virologist, discussing his research into the biology of antiviral immunity
- Naomi Eisenberger, a neuroscientist, wondering how social rejection affects us physically
- Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist, showing what massive datasets can teach us about society and ourselves
- Anthony Aguirre, a physicist, who gives readers a tantalizing glimpse of infinity
Mirroring People [EPUB]
04 November 2014, 14:50
2009 | EPUB | 0.2MB
What accounts for the remarkable ability to get inside another person’s head—to know what they’re thinking and feeling? “Mind reading” is the very heart of what it means to be human, creating a bridge between self and others that is fundamental to the development of culture and society. But until recently, scientists didn’t understand what in the brain makes it possible.
This has all changed in the last decade. Marco Iacoboni, a leading neuroscientist whose work has been covered in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal, explains the groundbreaking research into mirror neurons, the “smart cells” in our brain that allow us to understand others. From imitation to morality, from learning to addiction, from political affiliations to consumer choices, mirror neurons seem to have properties that are relevant to all these aspects of social cognition. As The New York Times reports: “The discovery is shaking up numerous scientific disciplines, shifting the understanding of culture, empathy, philosophy, language, imitation, autism and psychotherapy.”
Mirroring People is the first book for the general reader on this revolutionary new science.