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The Common but Less Frequent Loon and Other Essays

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The great Piltdown fraud, the mystery of how a shark swims with an asymmetric tail, the debate over dinosaur extinction, the haunting beauty of a loon on a northern lake - these are only a few of the subjects discussed by Keith Stewart Thomson in this wide-ranging book. At once instructive and entertaining, the book celebrates the aesthetic, literary, and intellectual aspects of science and conveys what is involved in being a scientist today - the excitement of discovery and puzzle solving, the debate over what ...
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1993 Hardcover First Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 0300056303. Brand new brodart covered; 8vo 8"-9" tall; 192 pages.

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Overview

The great Piltdown fraud, the mystery of how a shark swims with an asymmetric tail, the debate over dinosaur extinction, the haunting beauty of a loon on a northern lake - these are only a few of the subjects discussed by Keith Stewart Thomson in this wide-ranging book. At once instructive and entertaining, the book celebrates the aesthetic, literary, and intellectual aspects of science and conveys what is involved in being a scientist today - the excitement of discovery and puzzle solving, the debate over what to read and what to write, and the element of promotion that seems to be necessary to stimulate research and funding. Keith Thomson, a well-known biologist who writes a column for the distinguished bimonthly magazine American Scientist, here presents some of his favorite essays from that periodical in a book of three parts, each introduced by a new essay. In the first section, "The Uses of Diversity," he ponders such questions as why we care passionately and expensively about the dusky seaside sparrow and how and why we rescued the flowering tree Franklinia from extinction. The second section, "On Being a Scientist," includes an autobiographical account of Thomson's life and his views on what makes being a scientist special and interesting. The last section, "The Future of Evolution," gives examples of how the study of evolution is entering one of the most dramatic stages in its own development. Thomson presents science as a great intellectual adventure - a search for why things are as they are - most rewarding when it is accompanied by an appreciation of the subtleties and aesthetic qualities of the objects studied. His book will enable nonscientists to experience the pleasures of science and scientists to become more articulate and passionate about what they do.

A well-known biologist who writes a column for the distinguished bimonthly magazine American Scientist presents some of his favorite essays from that periodical in this wide-ranging book. He presents science as a great intellectual adventure--a search of why things are as they are. 20 illus.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The well-known biologist who writes a column for American Scientist here presents some of his favorite essays from that periodical arranged in three sections, each introduced by a new essay. He writes engagingly on various facets of three broad subjects: the uses of diversity, on being a scientist, and the future of evolution. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Whitney Scott
The president of the Academy of Natural Sciences says these essays are "little sermons" or "mystery stories" that represent his views on the nature of science and celebrate "things that are important in a life fully illuminated by science--namely, books, animals, plants, people, and ideas." For the most part, this book, which is divided into three sections on the uses of diversity, being a scientist, and the future of evolution, finds Thomson concerned with a wide range of subjects, including the asymmetry of a shark's tail, the meanings of evolution, the literature of science, and the use of the common loon as an indicator of environmental health. Intended to be both instructive and entertaining, these scholarly pieces may best serve as night-stand reading for the scientifically sophisticated--i.e., those who can easily handle such titles as "Sine Scientia Ars Nihil Est?" and "The Puzzle of Paleospondylus" and who delight in the excitement of scientific discovery and debate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300056303
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/1993
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 The Uses of Diversity 3
2 The Common but Less Frequent Loon 9
3 Benjamin Franklin's Lost Tree 15
4 Derelict toward the Land 22
5 How to Sit on a Horse 29
6 The Shape of a Shark's Tail 35
7 Reflections on the Neural Crest 41
8 Gilbert White: The Breath of Life in Written Words 47
9 Becoming a Scientist 57
10 The Literature of Science 64
11 Sine Scientia Ars Nihil Est? 71
12 Anatomy of the Extinction Debate 77
13 Piltdown Man, the Great English Mystery Story 82
14 Reductionism and Other Isms in Biology 96
15 The Sense of Discovery and Vice Versa 102
16 The Future of Evolution 111
17 The Meanings of Evolution 117
18 Natural Science in the 1830s: The Link between Newton and Darwin 124
19 Fisher's Microscope, or the Gradualist's Dilemma 132
20 Where Did Tetrapods Come From? 138
21 Ontogeny and Phylogeny Recapitulated 143
22 The Puzzle of Palaeospondylus 149
23 Is Paleontology Becoming Extinct? 156
24 A Light in the Attic 163
References 169
Index 183
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