Essays & Commentary

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  • When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish: And Other Speculations About This and That

    Sert Kapak
    Best known as the longtime writer of the Mathematical Games column for Scientific American—which introduced generations of readers to the joys of recreational mathematics—Martin Gardner has for decades pursued a parallel career as a devastatingly effective debunker of what he once famously dubbed “fads and fallacies in the name of science.” It is mainly in this latter role that he is onstage in this collection of choice essays. When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish takes aim at a gallery of amusing targets, ranging from Ann Coulter’s qualifications as an evolutionary biologist to the logical fallacies of precognition and extrasensory perception, from Santa Claus to The Wizard of Oz, from mutilated chessboards to the little-known “one-poem poet” Langdon Smith (the original author of this volume’s title line). The writings assembled here fall naturally into seven broad categories: Science, Bogus Science, Mathematics, Logic, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, and Politics. Under each heading, Gardner displays an awesome level of erudition combined with a wicked sense of humor.
    20,22  TL56,16  TL
  • Life Under the Sun

    Life Under the Sun

    Which fungus is as sensitive to light as the human eye? What are the myths and facts about the ozone hole, tanning, skin cancer, and sunscreens? What is the effect of light on butterfly copulation? This entertaining collection of essays explores how various organisms - including archaebacteria, slime moulds, fungi, plants, insects, and humans - sense and respond to sunlight. The essays in Peter A. Ensminger's book cover vision, photosynthesis, and phototropism, as well as such unusual topics as the reason why light causes beer to develop a "skunky" odour. He introduces us to the kinds of eyes that have evolved in different animals, including those in a species of shrimp that is ostensibly eyeless; gives us a better appreciation of colour vision; explains how ploughing fields at night may be used to control weeds; and tells about variegate porphyria, a metabolic disease that makes people very sensitive to sunlight and may have afflicted King George III of England. These engaging essays present a complicated yet fascinating subject in an accessible way. The book will be treasured by anyone interested in the wonders of biology. There is a website that accompanies this book: http://home
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  • On the Beauty of Science: A Nobel Laureate Reflects on the Universe, God, and the Nature of Discovery

    On the Beauty of Science: A Nobel Laureate Reflects on the Universe, God, and the Nature of Discovery

    Sert Kapak
    In this memoir of a long, distinguished career devoted to scientific research, world-renowned mathematician Herbert A. Hauptman recounts both the joys and the disappointments of his lifelong quest to induce nature to "reveal her secrets."In 1985, Dr. Hauptman received the greatest honor that any scientist can receive, when the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded him and his colleague, Jerome Karle, the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Drs. Hauptman and Karle were recognized "for their outstanding achievements in the development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures." This work has proved to be of the greatest importance because it relates molecular structure to biological activity, thus permitting a better understanding of life processes and making possible the development of many new disease-fighting drugs. Dr. Hauptman vividly describes the difficulties of the mathematical work that led up to his discovery as well as his joy when he finally hit upon a method of unraveling the structure of crystals. In addition, he provides a personal account of his background, family, his formative studies in high school and college, and the experiences that motivated him to pursue a life devoted to scientific research. A strong advocate of the naturalistic worldview and a critic of supernaturalism in any form, he reflects on the alleged compatibility of science and religion and emphasizes the importance of scientific understanding for contemporary civilization.Complete with an appendix containing the original monograph (coauthored with Jerome Karle), which became the basis for their Nobel Prize-winning work, this fascinating and moving memoir offers important insights into the nature of scientific research and the value of the scientific outlook on life.
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  • The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet

    The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet

    Karton Kapak
    The Robot in the Garden initiates a critical theory of telerobotics and introduces telepistemology, the study of knowledge acquired at a distance. Many of our most influential technologies, the telescope, telephone, and television, were developed to provide knowledge at a distance. Telerobots, remotely controlled robots, facilitate action at a distance. Specialists use telerobots to explore actively environments such as Mars, the Titanic, and Chernobyl. Military personnel increasingly employ reconnaissance drones and telerobotic missiles. At home, we have remote controls for the garage door, car alarm, and television (the latter a remote for the remote).The Internet dramatically extends our scope and reach. Thousands of cameras and robots are now accessible online. Although the role of technical mediation has been of interest to philosophers since the seventeenth century, the Internet forces a reconsideration. As the public gains access to telerobotic instruments previously restricted to scientists and soldiers, questions of mediation, knowledge, and trust take on new significance for everyday life.Telerobotics is a mode of representation. But representations can misrepresent. If Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" was the defining moment for radio, what will be the defining moment for the Internet? As artists have always been concerned with how representations provide us with knowledge, the book also looks at telerobotics' potential as an artistic medium.The seventeen essays, by leading figures in philosophy, art, history, and engineering, are organized into three sections: Philosophy; Art, History, and Critical Theory; and Engineering, Interface, and System Design.
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