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Volume 94 | Number 3 | May-June 2006

Short takes on six books

Roger Harris, David Schneider, Amos Esty, Brian Hayes, Michael Szpir

Short takes on six books

Mining the Moon

Paul Spudis

A review of Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space, by Harrison H. Schmitt. Schmitt, a former astronaut, outlines a plan for mining the isotope helium-3 on the Moon and using it to generate power through nuclear fusion

What Became of the Megafauna?

Robert Feranec

A review of Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America, by Paul S. Martin. Were the world's megafauna hunted to extinction by humans?

Two Philosophies of Mathematical Weirdness

Jaron Lanier

A review of Meta Math! The Quest for Omega, by Gregory Chaitin, and The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me about Ultimate Reality, the Meaning of Life, and How to Be Happy, by Rudy Rucker. Chaitin, who exhibits an unprecedented level of gushy enthusiasm for numbers, is thrilled by the prospect of an eternally youthful and anarchic intellectual future, says Lanier—whereas Rucker, who aims to synthesize a computation-centric worldview, wants to create a new, comprehensive, multidisciplinary sensibility

Bending Behavior

Sarah Igo

A review of World As Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men, by Rebecca Lemov. This lively account traces the strange history of human engineering—the attempts of social scientists to predict and control people's actions and behavior, and even their thoughts.

Prehistoric Imaginings

Brian Hayden

A review of Inside the Neolithic Mind, by David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce. Lewis-Williams and Pearce argue that neurologic patterns hardwired into the brain help explain the art, religion and society of the people who produced the great prehistoric monuments at Stonehenge and Çatalhöyük

A Plan for Preserving Civilization

Thomas Malone

A review of Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, by Lester R. Brown. Reallocation of only a third of U.S. military expenditures could ensure the survival of civilization, Brown says, paying for such things as world-wide protection of biodiversity and health care

A Visionary and a Scoundrel

Rosalind Reid

A review of The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary, by William Playfair. Edited and introduced by Howard Wainer and Ian Spence. Playfair—the 18th-century inventor of the bar graph, the time-series line graph and the pie chart—was a scoundrel as well as a visionary

Mountains of Evidence

Larry Peterson

A review of Thin Ice: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World's Highest Mountains, by Mark Bowen. An entertaining and illuminating account of Lonnie Thompson's race against time to recover climate records from the world's rapidly disappearing mountain glaciers.

Events of 1905

Peter Galison

A review of Secrets of the Old One: Einstein, 1905, by Jeremy Bernstein, and It's About Time: Understanding Einstein's Relativity, by N. David Mermin. These are outstanding works, written in very different styles. Bernstein's book is brief and accessible, mixing conceptual presentation, telling anecdote and personal reminiscence to convey the basics of the theory of special relativity, Brownian motion and the quantum of light, whereas Mermin's systematic exposition of Einstein's reformation of time is more demanding.

Total Records : 11


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