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Reef sightings

I was pleased to see my book Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral written up in a couple of venues recently. Over at The Primate Diaries, Eric Michael Johnson, who does on history and philosophy of science, looks at the “terrific argument” that the book follows — an argument simultaneously…

What’s been distracting me lately from the big story I really really need to finish writing … A splendid, rich fracas over Chris Anderson’s Free, set off particularly by a pan from Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. The net fairly exploded — search, and ye shall find — with many noting that a pot…

Emotional Cartography

Leave it to Vaughn Bell to find this stuff: emotional maps of different cities. Got to get a hold of this — and as Vaughn explains, you and I can, with free download. (But leave the author some $. It’s the right thing to do.) Nold came up with the idea of fusing a GSR…

Two hacks at self-castration

In Predicting the determined self-castrator Vaughn Bell links and looks at a surprising study looking at psychological attributes that predict which castration enthusiasts who will actually go on to remove their own testicles, in contrast to those who just fantasise about it. That’s as far as I got; I couldn’t summon the strength to read…

On my reading table

The 10,000-year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Evolution, of which I’ve so far read about 1000 words — but I just got it. Appears to be The Beak of the Finch (faster than expected evolutionary changes) in humans, but with this delicious addtion: the idea that culture can drive evolution, so that the line between “nature”…

I’ve had mixed reactions to Gladwell’s writing over the years: I always enjoy reading it, but in Blink, especially, when he was writing about an area I knew more about than in his other books, I was troubled not just by what seemed an avoidance of neuroscientific explanations of attention and decision-making, but by an…

Despite the rain on my window, it’s a fine day indeed, with many wonderful celebrations of Darwin’s 200th ringing throughout the blogoshere. Most of these, naturally, focus on Darwin’s theory of evolution and its many implications and reverberations. I much admire that theory. But what I find most fascinating about Darwin is not his theory…

A coral atoll, from Darwin’s The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, 1842. For those teeming millions near Hanover, N.H., here’s notice that I’ll be giving a talk at Dartmouth at 4pm today — Thu, Feb 5 — about Darwin’s first, favorite, and (to me) most interesting theory, which was his theory about how coral…

John Updike, 1955 Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images, via NYMag The ‘net is fairly bursting with Updike appreciations, but I especially like this one from Sam Anderson at New York, which notes that amid what can seem an intimidating body of work, Updike’s essays offer an easy and richly satisfying introduction or revisit. I always go…

Updike down

‘Tis a smaller world now. John Updike is dead of lung cancer. The end of Rabbit at Rest: “Well, Nelson,” he says, “all I can tell you is, it isn’t so bad.” Rabbit thinks he should maybe say more, the kids looks wildly expectant, but enough. Maybe. Enough. Fifty books, countless essays, some of the…