Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Birdbooker Report 103

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“How does one distinguish a truly civilized nation from an aggregation of
barbarians? That is easy. A civilized country produces much good bird
literature.”
–Edgar Kincaid

The Birdbooker Report is a special weekly report of a wide variety of science, nature and behavior books that currently are, or soon will be available for purchase. This report is written by one of my Seattle birding pals and book collector, Ian “Birdbooker” Paulsen, and is edited by me and published here for your information and enjoyment. Below the fold is this week’s issue of The Birdbooker Report which lists ecology, environment, natural history and bird books that are (or will soon be) available for purchase.


FEATURED TITLE:

  1. Smith, Charles H. and George Beccaloni (editors). Natural Selection And Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russell Wallace. 2008. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 482 pages. Price: $70.00 U.S. [Amazon: $39.03].
    SUMMARY: Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) is best known as the co-discoverer, independently of Charles Darwin, of evolution by natural selection. In this book the editors and authors detail his scientific career and aspects of his personal life. The book is divided into two main parts: In the World of Nature and In the World of Man, and Worlds Beyond.
    RECOMMMENDATION: This book is a must have for those interested in the life and career of Alfred Russel Wallace.

New and Recent Titles:

  1. Avise, John C. Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design. 2010. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 222 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S. [Amazon: $19.95].
    SUMMARY: This is the first book to examine the philosophical question of why, from the perspectives of biochemistry and molecular genetics, flaws exist in the biological world, including humans. The author also provides a compelling counterargument to the Intelligent Design/creationism anti-evolution arguments.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in human DNA and the evolution vs. creationism debate.
  2. Brasier, Martin. Darwin’s Lost World: The Hidden History of Animal Life. 2009. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 304 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S. [Amazon: $25.51].
    SUMMARY: The author, one of the key players in the study of Precambrian life (which is difficult to do, due to the lack of fossilized material), describes the nature and challenges of the quest, which has taken scientists to the remotest locations on Earth. He argues that the Cambrian “explosion” was real– a genuine and profound change affecting the whole Earth system. And the cause may have been intrinsic to life itself.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Precambrian and Cambrian fossils.
  3. Goulson, Dave. Bumblebees: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation (second edition). 2010. Oxford University Press. Paperback: 317 pages. Price: $55.00 U.S. [Amazon: $51.69].
    SUMMARY: In this updated edition, the latest research in the biology and conservation of bumblebees is made accessible in this well illustrated book.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in bumblebees, especially those species found in the United Kingdom.
  4. Keller, Laurent and Elisabeth Gordon. The Lives Of Ants. 2009. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 252 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S. [Amazon: $20.40].
    SUMMARY: In this book, the author writes about the biology behind ant behavior and how ant activity is inspiring computer programmers and the planners of large corporations.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with a semi-technical interest in ants.
  5. McCarthy, Dennis. Here Be Dragons: How the Study of Animal and Plant Distributions Revolutionized Our Views of Life and Earth. 2009. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 214 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S. [Amazon: $21.56].
    SUMMARY: This is an account of how two scientific theories (evolution and plate tectonics), vast in scope and great in explanatory power, have helped us to understand the distribution of species on the planet.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in biogeography.
  6. Winn, Marie. Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife. 2009. Picador. Paperback: 304 pages. Price: 15.00 U.S. [Amazon: $7.50].
    SUMMARY: In this book, the author explores the world of nocturnal animals in New York City’s Central Park. In a series of essays, the world of birds, bats, insects and other species that inhabit the park’s nocturnal world is revealed with the help of amateur and expert naturalists.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in urban wildlife and/or New York City.
  7. Yalden, D.W. and U. Albarella. The History of British Birds. 2009. Oxford University Press. Paperback: 263 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S. [Amazon: $49.95].
    SUMMARY: This title reviews our knowledge of Britain’s avifaunal history over the past 15,000 years, setting it in its wider historical and European context. The authors, one an ornithologist and the other an archaeologist, intergrate a wealth of archaeological data to illuminate and enliven the story, indicating the extent to which climatic, agricultural, and social changes have affected the avifanua. They discuss its present balance, as well as predicting possible future changes.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in British birds.
  8. Zalasiewicz, Jan. The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? 2009. Oxford University Press. Paperback: 251 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S. [Amazon: $14.49].
    SUMMARY: What would alien visitors of the far future, piecing together the history of Earth, find of our brief reign? What clues will we leave behind? Just as we have gained knowledge of the past, of ancient climates and the activities of species long dead, so too might they decode the rocks. The author uses this imaginary scenario to show how geologists reconstruct past worlds.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the future of planet Earth.

You can read all the Birdbooker Reports in the archives on this site, and Ian now has his own website, The Birdbooker’s Bookcase, where you can read his synopses about newly published science, nature and animal books. But Ian assures me that he still loves us here, so he’ll still share his weekly Birdbooker Reports with us!