Category Archives: science

The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs by Richard Smith

The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral ReefsThe World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs by Richard Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss. It’s short, when you consider that half of it is photographs, but what photographs!! Stunning, jaw-dropping “wow” for some of the tiniest creatures in that world beneath. Dr. Smith is an incredible photographer. And he’s had access to some amazing reefs in his work, which he shares in here. He says,

I am drawn to animals that are easily overlooked or ignored, and I use underwater photography to share their beauty – hopefully imparting a greater sense of appreciation to people who haven’t been able to see these animals firsthand.

And that sharing is wonderful. Continue reading

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Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved by Frans de Waal

Primates and Philosophers: How Morality EvolvedPrimates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved by Frans de Waal

Thought provoker, but then de Waal tends to do that. I finished this a couple of days ago and still don’t know if I can do this review justice, but… The basis of this is his criticism (and dismissal) of the Hobbesian view that morality is a layer (a veneer) overlaying the baser, brutish animal that humans really are. This Veneer Theory, as dubbed by de Waal, has advocates and opponents (de Waal being one) and his leading essay here outlined his positions as to why the veneerists are wrong…in his view. No, humans are not moral “by choice” as Hobbes, Huxley and, it seems, Dawkins would have…rather, morality evolved from social constructs evidenced by some of our primate cousins. Four essays respond to his, and then he responds to them…an interesting format. A civilized debate; a food network throw down for people who actually think. They want to address “why don’t we think it is good to be bad?” And none of the five feel “that there is any reason to suppose that humans are different in their metaphysical essence from other animals, or at least, none base their arguments on the idea that humans uniquely possess a transcendent soul.” See? For people who think. Continue reading

Walk in Space: The Story of Project GeminiWalk in Space: The Story of Project Gemini by Gene Gurney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like to sift and wander through antiques shops and even above the gadgets, gears and brass that attract me are books. I look for treasures. Some vendors know the values, some inflate them, sometimes there are just delightful finds and cost may not matter. This was one from a couple of months ago that I carved out a couple of hours for. It’s not that long…I just savored it. The middle books of trilogies are more often than not fillers – not as good as the first, sometimes better than the last. I’d love to find his Mercury and Apollo books (okay…I just ordered them!) This is still epic stuff.

Detailed while eminently engaging, this is a story well told. Each flight; each crew; each success; each failure – yet the failures were successes on their own in solving the problems that need to be overcome to get to the moon. Gurney wrote well in this telling and I look forward to his other two about the space program.

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Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures by Nick Pyenson

Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome CreaturesSpying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures by Nick Pyenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I grew up very close to Mystic, Connecticut, a historic 19th century whaling port. It’s a sad association, though I was fascinated with its history, and the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan moored at the museum. As I grew more aware in my teen years (do note, long before an internet), the horror of what humans did in decimating whale populations scarred my intellect forever. This book speaks to my heart. And at times, tears it. Especially when Pyenson shared how old whales can live and the age at death of two that were killed (spoiler that I’ll save for the end…) Continue reading