Logo IMG

Brainstorming Babies

Ethan Remmel

A review of The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us about Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, by Alison Gopnik. Gopnik argues that studying the psychology of young children provides insight into issues of consciousness, identity and morality—and that philosophers have failed to appreciate that fact

The Descent of Man

Robert J. Richards

A review of Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore. Did Darwin’s antislavery sentiments lead him to reject racial hierarchy, thereby opening the way for him to believe in the common descent of the human races and then in the common descent of all creatures?

Modernism in Mathematics

Solomon Feferman

A review of Plato's Ghost: The Modernist Transformation of Mathematics, by Jeremy Gray. Modern mathematics took shape between 1890 and 1930, during the same era that modernism became the dominant form in literature and the arts. Is it just a coincidence that the nature of mathematical truth was being put into question at the same time that radical societal, cultural and scientific changes were occurring?

Coming Soon to a Battlefield Near You

Hugh Gusterson

A review of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, by P. W. Singer. Singer first hypes new robotic technologies designed for the battlefield and then explores their ethical and political implications, asking farsighted questions

Agendas on Display

Michael Goodchild

A review of Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty Through Graphical Display, by Howard Wainer. According to Goodchild, this is a book not so much about uncertainty as about the communication of facts and the interplay of information with interpretation, emotion and other subjective dimensions of the human experience

Unique. Sort of.

Melvin Konner

A review of Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique, by Michael S. Gazzaniga. If you want to learn what we know about how human brains and minds transcend those of other species, this is the book for you, says Konner

Missing, and Sorely Missed

Peter A. Bednekoff

A review of Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators, by William Stolzenburg. Stolzenburg documents that predators have important and often enriching effects on ecosystems. The science that he summarizes suggests that we cannot maintain ecological equilibrium without maintaining large predators

Family Album

Brian Hayes

A review of Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World, a book of portraits by Mariana Cook

Overpopulated, but Still Untamed

Fenella Saunders

A review of Wild China: Natural Wonders of the World’s Most Enigmatic Land, by Phil Chapman and the BBC Wild China Team

For Every Bird a Nest

Anna Lena Phillips

A review of photographer Rosamund Purcell's Egg and Nest

An Interview with Eugenie Samuel Reich

Greg Ross

A science journalist investigates the frauds of physicist Jan Hendrik Schön

With a Little Help from My Friends

William McGrew

A review of Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. The emergence of the extended family was the key development in the transformation of apes into early hominins, Hrdy suggests

Europa Emerging from the Sea

Bettina Arnold

A review of Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 B.C.–A.D. 1000, by Barry Cunliffe. Cunliffe’s major point is that the extensive coastline of the European peninsula served to increase mobility and innovation among the peoples who lived there from the end of the Pleistocene until A.D. 1000

Summations and Distillations

Peter Pesic

A review of The Great Equations: Breakthroughs in Science from Pythagoras to Heisenberg, by Robert P. Crease. Crease emphasizes the slow development of ideas and the historic matrix within which the great equations emerged

Off to a Good Start

Douglas Erwin

A review of Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, edited by Michael Ruse and Joseph Travis. Part collection of essays, part encyclopedia, the book is “an interesting jambalaya,” says Erwin, and should prove useful for students and the general public

Strangers in a Strange Land

Edward W. Felten

A review of Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness after the Digital Explosion, by Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen and Harry Lewis. The authors explore a variety of policy and social issues arising from our increasing dependence on digital technologies

Crosshatching in the Crosshairs

Brian Hayes

A review of The Grid Book, by Hannah B. Higgins. Higgins, who examines the cultural significance of devices for organizing space and time, has produced “an informative and sometimes provocative meditation on the place of geometry in human life,” says Hayes

A Radical Thinker Comes to America

Seymour Mauskopf

A review of The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America, by Steven Johnson. The title is a double entendre, says Mauskopf, referring both to Priestley’s work in pneumatic chemistry and to the genesis of the terrestrial atmosphere. One of Johnson’s principal themes is that Priestley was a significant influence on such early American leaders as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Outsourcing the Mind

Dan Lloyd

A review of Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension, by Andy Clark, and Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness, by Alva Noë. Are the mechanisms of mind all in the head? These authors think not

A Creature of the Soil

Richard H. Kessin

A review of The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds, by John Tyler Bonner. Bonner offers an evolutionary and ecological perspective in this book, which focuses on the history of the early discoveries about Dictyostelium

South by Southwest

Neil Safier

A review of The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies, by Nicholas Wey Gómez. Wey Gómez posits Columbus as the precursor of a particularly sinister form of European expansion,” says Safier, “and as a geographical elitist who believed that the torrid zone—and the people who inhabited it—would serve Europe as an abundant and exploitable material mine”

Short takes on three books

David Schoonmaker, Elsa Youngsteadt, Greg Ross

The Model T • American Pests • Flotsametrics and the Floating World

Scientists' Nightstand: Donald Johanson

Greg Ross

The noted paleoanthropologist reviews his recent reading and favorite authors

An Interview with Daniel Sperling

Greg Ross

The UC-Davis transportation expert on the future of cars

An Interview with Harold Varmus

Catherine Clabby

The former NIH director on the future of American science

Superorganism—or Family Business?

Michael T. Ghiselin

A review of The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies, by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson. The idea that a colony of social insects is the equivalent of an organism is at the heart of this book, which addresses some of the most profound and difficult questions that evolutionary biologists have ever faced

The Domestication of the Savage Mind

Cosma Shalizi

A review of What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect, by James R. Flynn. James Flynn discovered two decades ago that IQ scores have been rising across the industrialized world for as far back as the data go. This book, which is his attempt to explain why, is an important take on what we have made and might yet make of ourselves, says Shalizi

The Tragedies and Treasures of Afghanistan

Frank L. Holt

A review of Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, edited by Fredrik Hiebert and Pierre Cambon. This lavishly illustrated catalog for a traveling exhibition with the same title is essential reading for anyone planning to see the exhibit, says Holt. It can also stand alone, inviting reflection on war, suffering and endangered relics

Truth and Consequences

Robert L. Dorit

A review of Why Evolution Is True, by Jerry A. Coyne. Coyne presents stunning examples of evolution at work and does a good job of discussing the philosophical implications of the evolutionary worldview, says Dorit. But will the naysayers listen?

The Politics of Proliferation

John F. Ahearne

A review of The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation, by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman. Reed and Stillman shed new light on some of the history of nuclear proliferation and warn that not enough is being done to restrict access to materials for making nuclear weapons

comments powered by Disqus

Connect With Us:


Sigma Xi/Amazon Smile (SciNight)

Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

RSS Feed Subscription

Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.

Read Past Issues on JSTOR

JSTOR, the online academic archive, contains complete back issues of American Scientist from 1913 (known then as the Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.

The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.

View the full collection here.

Subscribe to American Scientist