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Full title A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Mariner Books
Categories Anthology, biology, essay and science
Publication year 2004
Original publication year 2003
ISBN 978-0-618-48539-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 263
Images Back of A Devil's Chaplain.Spine of A Devil's Chaplain.Front of A Devil's Chaplain.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction to the American Edition
  1. Science and Sensibility
    • 1.1 A Devil's Chaplain
    • 1.2 What is True?
    • 1.3 Gaps in the Mind
    • 1.4 Science, Genetics and Ethics: Memo for Tony Blair
    • 1.5 Trial By Jury
    • 1.6 Crystalline Truth and Crystal Balls
    • 1.7 Postmodernism Disrobed
    • 1.8 The Joy of Living Dangerously: Sanderson of Oundle
  2. Light Will Be Thrown
    • 2.1 Light Will Be Thrown
    • 2.2 Darwin Triumphant
    • 2.3 The 'Information Challenge'
    • 2.4 Genes Aren't Us
    • 2.5 Son of Moore's Law
  3. The Infected Mind
    • 3.1 Chinese Junk and Chinese Whispers
    • 3.2 Viruses of the Mind
    • 3.3 The Great Convergence
    • 3.4 Dolly and the Cloth Heads
    • 3.5 Time to Stand Up
  4. They Told Me, Heraclitus
    • 4.1 Lament for Douglas
    • 4.2 Eulogy for Douglas Adams
    • 4.3 Eulogy for W. D. Hamilton
    • 4.4 Snake Oil
  5. Even the Ranks of Tuscany
    • 5.1 Rejoicing in Multifarious Nature
    • 5.2 The Art of the Developable
    • 5.3 Hallucigenia, Wiwaxia and Friends
    • 5.4 Human Chauvinism and Evolutionary Progress
    • 5.5 Unfinished Correspondence with a Darwinian Heavyweight
  6. There is All Africa and her Prodigies in Us
    • 6.1 Ecology of Genes
    • 6.2 Out of the Soul of Africa
    • 6.3 I Speak of Africa and Golden Joys
    • 6.4 Heroes and Ancestors
  7. A Prayer for My Daughter
    • 7.1 Good and Bad Reasons for Believing
  • Endnotes
  • Index
Full title The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Mariner Books
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2004
ISBN 978-0-618-61916-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 623
Synopsis

A history book about life, in reverse chronology.

Review

This 600+ pages book could easily be called Dawkins' magnum opus. It's a history of life, written in reverse chronology, starting with humans and working backwards to the common ancestor to all life. The book is divided into chapters, called Rendezvous, and each rendezvous would be where two twigs on the tree of life meet. If you picture the tree of life, then the book starts at one tip of the tree, humanity, and moves progressively backwards (inwards) to the root of the tree. (Actually, this is slightly misleading. The entire tree of life is an unrooted phylogenetic tree, not a rooted one.) At each rendezvous, a joining pilgrim (sometimes several) gets a chance to tell its Tale, and the tale usually illustrates a point about biology. This is what makes this book such a joy to read. While you're reading you can (and are in fact encouraged to) imagine that you're on a pilgrimage (see subtitle), à la Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. But unlike The Canterbury Tales, this isn't a work of fiction, and you'll inevitably learn a lot of biology while you're at it.

In the book, like with most of Dawkins' books, he doesn't shy away from using technical words, but he's very meticulous about explaining ones that may be unfamiliar to the reader. Being a hobby etymologist, this is the kind of writing that I love. (The word 'Neanderthal', for instance, comes from Neander, the valley in Germany in which the original fossil was found, and 'thal', which is German for 'valley'.) And besides, it's a fun challenge for the reader to go look up the words she doesn't understand.

This is a thoroughly excellent and riveting book, but be warned that it's also a long and difficult book. Set aside a good chunk of uninterrupted time for it. I read about one-fifth of it (straight) in bed, and the rest during a thirteen-hour bus trip, and I was in a daze for a week. (Maybe partly because I read it on a bus, but mostly because the book itself is so eye-opening.)

Images Back of The Ancestor's Tale.Spine of The Ancestor's Tale.Front of The Ancestor's Tale.
Full title The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? [permalink]
Language English
Authors Leon Lederman (author) and Dick Teresi (co-author)
Publisher Mariner Books
Categories Physics and science
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 1993
ISBN 978-0-618-71168-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 434
Synopsis

Details the history of physics from Thales in antiquity up to the present.

Review

The title of the book refers to the Higgs boson, a particle now (at the time of writing, September 2009) being sought by the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) particle accelerator in Geneva. The book does a good job of explaining particle physics, and it's funny, too. The book is a little out-dated in that it refers to the now-cancelled SSC (Superconducting Super Collider) accelerator. There are some very entertaining passages in the book where Leon talks physics with an imaginary Democritus (Democritus of Abdera was the first Greek to suggest that the world was made of atoms), which I immensely enjoyed.

I heartily recommend this book if you want to learn a little bit of particle physics.

Images Back of The God Particle.Spine of The God Particle.Front of The God Particle.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Dramatis Personae
  • 1 The Invisible Soccer Ball
  • 2 The First Particle Physicist
  • Interlude A: A Tale of Two Cities
  • 3 Looking for the Atom: The Mechanics
  • 4 Still Looking for the Atom: Chemists and Electricians
  • 5 The Naked Atom
  • Interlude B: The Dancing Moo-Shu Masters
  • 6 Accelerators: They Smash Atoms, Don't They?
  • Interlude C: How We Violated Parity in a Weekend ... and Discovered God
  • 7 A-tom!
  • 8 The God Particle at Last
  • 9 Inner Space, Outer Space, and the Time Before Time
  • Acknowledgments
  • A Note on History and Sources
  • Index

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