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Full title The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Anthology and science
Publication year 2008
Pages 395
Synopsis

This is an anthology book of post-1900 science writings (essays, anecdotes, poetry) written by working scientists, as opposed to written by non-scientists, and it is supremely excellent. Richard Dawkins has collected them, sorted them, and written introductions to each of them, which put them in context.

Review

I liked this book so much that I transcribed a few of these and put them on my Essays page ("On Being the Right Size", "One Self", an extract from Man in the Universe, "Seven Wonders", and an extract from The Periodic Table); you could read those if you want a short taste of what the book is about. I strongly recommend this book.

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Featured Writers and Extracts
  • Introduction

PART I
What Scientists Study

  • James Jeans from The Mysterious Universe
  • Martin Rees from Just Six Numbers
  • Peter Atkins from Creation Revisited
  • Helena Cronin from The Ant and the Peacock
  • R. A. Fisher from The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection
  • Theodosius Dobzhansky from Mankind Evolving
  • G. C. Williams from Adaptation and Natural Selection
  • Francis Crick from Life Itself
  • Matt Ridley from Genome
  • Sydney Brenner Theoretical Biology in the Third Millennium
  • Steve Jones from The Language of the Genes
  • J. B. S. Haldane from On Being the Right Size
  • Mark Ridley from The Explanation of Organic Diversity
  • John Maynard Smith The Importance of the Nervous System in the Evolution of Animal Flight
  • Fred Hoyle from Man in the Universe
  • D'Arcy Thompson from On Growth and Form
  • G. G. Simpson from The Meaning of Evolution
  • Richard Fortey from Trilobite!
  • Colin Blakemore from The Mind Machine
  • Richard Gregory from Mirrors In Mind
  • Nicholas Humphrey One Self: A Meditation on the Unity of Consciousness
  • Steven Pinker from The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works
  • Jared Diamond from The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee
  • David Lack from The Life of the Robin
  • Niko Tinbergen from Curious Naturalists
  • Robert Trivers from Social Evolution
  • Alister Hardy from The Open Sea
  • Rachel Carson from The Sea Around Us
  • Loren Eiseley from How Flowers Changed the World
  • Edward O. Wilson from The Diversity of Life

PART II
Who Scientists Are

  • Arthur Eddington from The Expanding Universe
  • C. P. Snow from the Foreword to G. H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology
  • Freeman Dyson from Disturbing the Universe
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer from War and the Nations
  • Max F. Perutz A Passion for Crystals
  • Barbara and George Gamow Said Ryle to Hoyle
  • J. B. S. Haldane Cancer's a Funny Thing
  • Jacob Bronowski from The Identity of Man
  • Peter Medawar from Science and Literature, Darwin's Illness, The Phenomenon of Man, the postscript to Lucky Jim, and D'Arcy Thompson and Growth and Form
  • Jonathan Kingdon from Self-Made Man
  • Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin from Origins Reconsidered
  • Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey from Lucy
  • Stephen Jay Gould Worm for a Century, and all Seasons
  • John Tyler Bonner from Life Cycles
  • Oliver Sacks from Uncle Tungsten
  • Lewis Thomas Seven Wonders
  • James Watson from Avoid Boring People
  • Francis Crick from What Mad Pursuit
  • Lewis Wolpert from The Unnatural Nature of Science
  • Julian Huxley from Essays of a Biologist
  • Albert Einstein Religion and Science
  • Carl Sagan from The Demon-Haunted World

PART III
What Scientists Think

  • Richard Feynman from The Character of Physical Law
  • Erwin Schrödinger from What is Life?
  • Daniel Dennett from Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained
  • Ernst Mayr from The Growth of Biological Thought
  • Garrett Hardin from The Tragedy of the Commons
  • W. D. Hamilton from Geometry For the Selfish Herd and Narrow Roads of Geneland
  • Per Bak from How Nature Works
  • Martin Gardner The Fantastic Combinations of John Conway's New Solitaire Game 'Life'
  • Lancelot Hogben from Mathematics for the Million
  • Ian Stewart from The Miraculous Jar
  • Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver from The Mathematical Theory of Communication
  • Alan Turing from Computing Machinery and Intelligence
  • Albert Einstein from What is the Theory of Relativity?
  • George Gamow from Mr. Tompkins
  • Paul Davies from The Goldilocks Enigma
  • Russell Stannard from The Time and Space of Uncle Albert
  • Brian Greene from The Elegant Universe
  • Stephen Hawking from A Brief History of Time

PART IV
What Scientists Delight In

  • S. Chandrasekhar from Truth and Beauty
  • G. H. Hardy from A Mathematician's Apology
  • Steven Weinberg from Dreams of a Final Theory
  • Lee Smolin from The Life of the Cosmos
  • Roger Penrose from The Emperor's New Mind
  • Douglas Hofstadter from Gödel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid
  • John Archibald Wheeler with Kenneth Ford from Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam
  • David Deutsch from The Fabric of Reality
  • Primo Levi from The Periodic Table
  • Richard Fortey from Life: An Unauthorized Biography
  • George Gaylord Simpson from The Meaning of Evolution
  • Loren Eiseley from Little Men and Flying Saucers
  • Carl Sagan from Pale Blue Dot
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index
Full title The Relativity of Wrong: Essays on the Solar System and Beyond [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Anthology, astronomy, physics and science
Publication year 1988
Pages 225
Synopsis

Explains atoms and isotopes, planets and satellites, novas and supernovas. It also contains a title essay, which is available online. In it, he explains that there is a continuum from right to wrong, and that it's possible to be righter and wronger. For instance, if you think the Earth is flat you are wronger than if you think the Earth is a sphere. You're still wrong, because the Earth is more like an oblate spheroid, but even that is wrong. And so on.

Images Back of The Relativity of Wrong.Spine of The Relativity of Wrong.Front of The Relativity of Wrong.
Full title The Selfish Gene [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 1976
ISBN 978-0-19-929115-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 360
Synopsis

A pretty comprehensive guide to evolution, and the second book that introduced the gene-centric view of evolution (namely, that genes use bodies — survival machines — to pass themselves on, rather than organisms using genes to pass their traits on). The main goal of the book is to explain altruistic behavior and to dispel the myth that just because genes are selfish, we must (or should) be selfish, and I think it succeeds. The book also introduced the concept of memes (supposed to rhyme with genes), which are units of culture (like a catchy tune or a piece of trivia or a certain way of walking) that are capable of being copied from mind to mind.

Images Back of The Selfish Gene.Spine of The Selfish Gene.Front of The Selfish Gene.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction to 30th anniversary edition
  • Preface to second edition
  • Foreword to first edition
  • Preface to first edition
  1. Why are people?
  2. The replicators
  3. Immortal coils
  4. The gene machine
  5. Aggression: stability and the selfish machine
  6. Genesmanship
  7. Family planning
  8. Battle of the generations
  9. Battle of the sexes
  10. You scratch my back, I'll ride on yours
  11. Memes: the new replicators
  12. Nice guys finish first
  13. The long reach of the gene
  • Endnotes
  • Updated bibliography
  • Index and key to bibliography
  • Extracts from reviews
Full title Why Evolution is True [permalink]
Language English
Author Jerry Coyne (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 2009
ISBN 978-0-19-923085-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 309
Synopsis

This book lays out in a systematic way the evidence for evolution. The first chapter, What Is Evolution?, lays out the basics tenets of the theory. The second, Written in the Rocks, are about (as you might guess) fossils and how they give good evidence of evolution (which wasn't available in Darwin's time). The third chapter goes into vestigial organs and functions, and the various bad designs we find in nature. The rest of the book lays out evidence from the geobiography of life, sexual selection, and so on.

The book is a response to the (on-going) anti-evolution tendency, and directly answers criticisms from that wing, in a detailed and interesting way.

Review

One of the better books on evolution I've read. If you're looking for an explanation of exactly why scientists believe the theory of evolution best explains the adaptations in life (as opposed to intelligent design), then this book is for you.

Images Back of Why Evolution is True.Spine of Why Evolution is True.Front of Why Evolution is True.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  1. What Is Evolution?
  2. Written in the Rocks
  3. Remnants: Vestiges, Embryos, and Bad Design
  4. The Geography of Life
  5. The Engine of Evolution
  6. How Sex Drives Evolution
  7. The Origin of Species
  8. What About Us?
  9. Evolution Redux
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • References
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index

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