Archive for the ‘Anthropology’ Category

Rene’ Dubos: Friend of the Good Earth: Microbiologist, Medical Scientist, Environmentalist

June 6, 2007

 From the book jacket:

Rene Dubos, Friend of the Good Earth: Microbiologist, Medical Scientist, Environmentalist is a biography of one of the most influential scientists in recent history. Documenting his life from his birth in 1901 or his death in 1982, this book examines the intriguing career of Dubos and his impact on science, medicine, society and the environment.

Dubos’ science is presented in the context of 20th Century biology, medicine and ecology. The ecological approach that led to his discovery of the first antibiotic was the foundation for his career as a medical scientist and environmentalist. The issues he raised, including antibiotic resistance, the interrelatedness of environmental health to human health, and the potential danger of relying too heavily on vaccines and drugs to eradicate disease, continue to be provocative and increasingly relevant today. A prolific author and a passionate humanist, Dubos served as the conscience of the environmental movement and founded the popular motto “Think globally, act locally.”

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Masks: Faces of Culture

May 30, 2007

From the book’s foreword:

It is rare and exciting for a major art exhibition to be organized around so universal and appealing as masks. In an age when large retrospectives and carefully culled thematic presentations are abundant, we take great pride in presenting Masks: Faces of Culture. The individual masks selected for exhibition, and the themes of human existence they relate to, are as accessible to the youngest visitor as they are to the most sophisticated museum-goer.

That said, it is important to note that the driving forces behind this exhibition have been concerned not only with the expression–indeed facial expressions–of basic human themes, but also with a quality of visual aesthetics that exemplifies the highest culture of individual societies. The masks represented in these pages reveal some of the best craftmanship, artistry, creativity, and design that we could expect in any art form.

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Laughing Gas, Viagra, and Lipitor: The Human Stories Behind the Drugs We Use

May 25, 2007

Book Description

The stories behind drug discovery are fascinating, full of human and scientific interest. This is a book on the history of drug discovery that highlights the intellectual splendor of discoverers as well as the human frailty associated them. History is replete with examples of breakthrough medicines that have saved millions of lives. To offer just a few examples: ether as an anesthetic by Morton; penicillin as an antibiotic by Fleming; and insulin as an anti-diabetic by Banting discovered the use of insulin for treating diabetes.

In this book on the history of drug discovery, author Jie Jack Li highlights both the intellectual splendor of the discoverers as well as their human frailty, and he shows us that the discoverers of these medicines are, beyond a doubt, great benefactors to mankind. For instance, it is probable that without penicillin, 75% of us would not be alive today.

Li is a medicinal chemist and is intimately involved with drug discovery. Through extensive research and interviews with the inventors of drugs, including those of Viagra and Lipitor, he has assembled an astounding number of facts and anecdotes as well as much useful information about important drugs we know and use in our lives today. Figures, diagrams, and illustrations highlight the text throughout.

Both specialists and laymen alike will find Laughing, Gas, Viagra, and Lipitor information and entertaining. Students in chemistry, pharmacy, and medicine, workers in healthcare, and high school science teachers will find this book most useful.

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When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine

May 1, 2007

From the book jacket:

Steve McQueen had cancer and was keeping it secret. Then the media found out, and soon all of America knew. McQueen’s high profile changed forever the way the public perceived a dreaded disease.

In When Illness Goes Public, Barron H. Lerner describes the evolution of celebrities’ illnesses from private matters to stories of great public interest. Famous people who have become symbols of illness include Lou Gehrig, the first “celebrity patient”; Rita Hayworth, whose Alzheimer disease went undiagnosed for years; and Arthur Ashe, who courageously went public with his AIDS diagnosis before the media could reveal his secret. And then there are private citizens like Barney Clark, the first recipient of a permanent artificial heart, and Lorenzo Odone, whose neurological disorder became the subject of a Hollywood film.

While celebrity illnesses have helped to inform patients about treatment options, ethical controversies, and scientific proof, the stories surrounding these illnesses have also assumed mythical characteristics that may be misleading. Marrying great storytelling to an exploration of the intersection of science, journalism, fame, and legend, this book is a groundbreaking contribution to our understanding of health and illness.

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Ethnomathematics: A Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas

April 24, 2007

A ‘snippet’ from the book’s introduction:

Let us take a step toward a global, multicultural view of mathematics. To do this, we will introduce the idea of mathematical ideas of people who have generally been excluded from discussions of mathematics. The people are those who live in traditional or small-scale cultures; that is, they are, by and large, the indigenous people of the places that were “discovered” by Europeans.

The study of the mathematical ideas of traditional peoples is part of a new endeavor called ethnomathematics. Mathematicians and others are usually skeptical of newly coined fields, wondering if they have any substance. To answer this justifiable concern, we begin with quite specific mathematical ideas as they are expressed and embedded in some traditional cultures. Some of the peoples whose ideas are included are the Inuit, Navajo, and Iroquois of North America; the Incas of South America; the Malekula Warlpiri, Maori, and Caroline Islanders of Oceania; and the Tshokwe, Bushoong, and Kpelle of Africa. Only afterward will you find a discussion of the scope and implications of ethnomathematics and how it relates to other areas of inquiry.

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Out of Thin Air: Dinosaurs, Birds, and Earth’s Ancient Atmosphere

April 10, 2007

Book Description
For 65 million years dinosaurs ruled the Earth – until a deadly asteroid forced their extinction. But what accounts for the incredible longevity of dinosaurs? A renowned scientist now provides a startling explanation that is rewriting the history of the Age of Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are pretty amazing creatures. Real life monsters that have the power to fascinate us. And they’re fiery Hollywood ending only serves to make their story that much more dramatic. But fossil evidence demonstrates that dinosaurs survived several mass extinctions, seemingly unaffected by catastrophes that decimated most other life on Earth. What could explain their uncanny ability to endure through the ages? Biologist and earth scientist Peter Ward now accounts for the remarkable indestructibility of dinosaurs by connecting their unusual respiration system with their ability to adapt to Earth’s changing environment – a system that was ultimately bequeathed to their descendants, birds. By tracing the evolutionary path back through time, slowly but deliberately connecting the dots from birds to dinosaurs, Ward describes the unique form of breathing shared by these two distant relatives – and demonstrates how this simple but remarkable characteristic provides the elusive explanation to a question that has
thus far stumped scientists.

Nothing short of revolutionary in its bold presentation of an astonishing theory, this is a story of science at the edge of discovery. Ward is an outstanding guide to the process of scientific detection. Audacious and innovative in his thinking, meticulous and thoroughly detailed in his research, only a scientist of his caliber is capable of telling this surprising story.

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Reflections of our Past: How Human History is Revealed in our Genes

April 9, 2007

Book Description
An accessible and absorbing examination of how the genes of living people reveal the history of humankind, from the origins of humans 6 million years ago to the present. Where did modern humans come from and how important are the biological differences among us? Are we descended from Neanderthals? How many races of people are there? Were Native Americans the first settlers of the New World? How can we tell if Thomas Jefferson had a child with Sally Hemings? Can we see even in the Irish of today evidence of Viking rampages of a millennium ago? Through engaging examination of issues such as these, and using non-technical language, Reflections of Our Past shows how anthropologists use genetic information of many kinds to test theories and define possible answers to fundamental questions in human history. By looking at genetic variation in the world today, we can reconstruct the recent and remote events and processes that have created the variation we see, providing a fascinating reflection of our genetic past.

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The Future of Marriage

April 2, 2007

The future of marriage


From the book jacket:

With precision and passion, David Blankenhorn offers a bold new argument in the debate over same-sex marriage: that it would essentially deny all children, not just the children of same-sex couples, their birthright to their own mother and father. If we change marriage, we change parenthood–for all families. Altering marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would mean weakening in culture and eliminating in law the idea that children need both their mother and their father.

The Future of Marriage analyzes recent survey data from 35 countries, offering the first scientific evidence that support for marriage is weakest in those nations where support for gay marriage is strongest. Blankenhorn explains how same-sex marriage would transform our most pro-child social institution into a purely private relationship (“an expression of love”) between adults, defined by each couple as they wish. Changing marriage laws to include same-sex couples, he argues, would require us to “deinstitutionalize” marriage, “amputating from the institution one after another of its core ideas, until the institution itself is like a room with all the furniture removed and everything stripped from the walls.”

For Blankenhorn, the main question concerning the future of marriage in the United States is not whether we will adopt gay marriage. The main question is whether the social institution of marriage will become stronger or weaker. If we wish to strengthen marriage on behalf of children, there is no shortage of ideas for doing so. What matters is whether we as a society regard this as a worthy and urgent goal.

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Darkness in El Dorado

April 2, 2007

From the book jacket:

Hidden in the impenetrable jungles and highlands of Venezula and Brazil, the Yanomami were first encountered in the 1960s by anthropologists who described them as the most savage and warlike of any tribe alive. Their brutal wars and sexual competition spawned countless films and books, including a million-copy bestseller, Napoleon Chagnon’s The Fierce People. Now, in a landmark account based on a decade of research, Patrick Tierney reveals the grim consequences of ambition and exploitation.

Drawing on new evidence that confronts the anthropological and scientific establishment, Darkness in El Dorado has set off a furious debate in the academic world, prompted an investigation into its charges, and changed forever the discipline of anthropology.

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The Dawn of Human Culture

March 30, 2007

From the book jacket:

“The premier anthropologist in the country today.” -Evolutionary Anthropology on Richard Klein

High above the western shore of Lake Naivasha, a blue pool on the parched floor of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, sits a small rockshelter carved into the Mau Escarpment. Maasai pastoralists who once occupied this region in central Kenya called the place Enkapune Ya Muto, or ‘Twilight Cave.’ People have long sought shelter there. The cave’s sediments record important cultural changes during the past few thousand years, including the first local experiments with agriculture and with sheep and goat domestication. Buried more than three meters deep in the sand, silt, and loam at Enkapune Ya Muto, however, lie the traces of an earlier and even more significant event in human prehistory. Tens of thousands of pieces of obsidian, a jet-black volcanic glass, were long ago fashioned into finger-length knives with scalpel-sharp edges, thumbnail-sized scrapers, and other stone tools, made on the spot at an ancient workshop. But what most impressed archeologist Stanley Ambrose were nearly six hundred fragments of ostrich eggshell, including thirteen that had been fashioned into disk-shaped beads about a quarter-inch in diameter. Forty thousand years ago, a person or persons crouched near the mouth of Enkapune Ya Muto to drill holes through angular fragments of ostrich eggshell and to grind the edges of each piece until only a delicate ring remained. Many shell fragments snapped in half under pressure from the stone drill or from the edge-grinding that followed. The craftspeople discarded each broken piece and began again with a fresh fragment of shell. “Ambrose believes that these ancient beads played a key role in the survival strategy of the craftspeople and their families. In the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, !Kung San hunter-gatherers still practice a system of gift exchange known as hxaro. Certain items, such as food, are readily shared among the !Kung but never exchanged as gifts. The most appropriate gifts for all occasions just happen to be strands of ostrich eggshell beads. The generic word for gift is synonymous with the !Kung word for sewn beadwork. Although the nomadic !Kung carry the barest minimum of personal possessions, they invest considerable time and energy in creating eggshell beads. “No one knows whether the toolmakers at Enkapune Ya Muto or the other ancient African sites intended their ostrich eggshell beads to be social gifts. But if these beads were invested with symbolic meaning similar to that of beads among the !Kung, then Twilight Cave may record the dawning of modern human behavior.”

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