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The Best American Science Writing 2001

The Best American Science Writing 2001

by Timothy Ferris, Jesse Cohen (Editor)

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Gathered from the nation's leading publications by award-winning author Timothy Ferris, The Best American Science Writing 2001 is a dynamic, up-to-date collection of essays and articles by America's most prominent thinkers and writers, addressing the most controversial, socially relevant topics that recent developments in science pose.

Among the


Gathered from the nation's leading publications by award-winning author Timothy Ferris, The Best American Science Writing 2001 is a dynamic, up-to-date collection of essays and articles by America's most prominent thinkers and writers, addressing the most controversial, socially relevant topics that recent developments in science pose.

Among the contributors: Richard Preston examines the contentious business of decoding the human genome. Malcolm Gladwell follows investigators who aim to revolutionize birth control. Tracy Kidder profiles a modern Dr. Schweitzer. Alan Lightman laments what was lost in his transformation from astrophysicist to fiction writer. Natalie Angier makes some surprising discoveries about gender in mandrill society. Stephen Jay Gould investigates the strange contrast between the 1530 poem by a physician that gave us the name for syphilis and the poetry that can be found in the map of the pathogen's genome. Legendary physicist John Archibald Wheeler celebrates the mysteries of quantum mechanics, which still perplex a century after its discovery. And John Updike contributes a witty verse musing on a biological theme.

For anyone who wants to journey to science's frontiers, understand more fully its ever-expanding role in our lives, or simply enjoy the thrill of powerful writing on fascinating topics, The Best American Science Writing 2001 is indispensable.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From a brief survey of the unique, matriarchal society of mandrills to a hard-hitting critique of Africa's AIDS policy, this comprehensive anthology, the second in this series, boasts 23 articles culled from some of the nation's most preeminent periodicals the New Yorker, National Geographic, Harper's, Scientific American and the New York Times. These essays are in their finest form when they challenge the popular mindset and expose the politics that undermine scientific achievement. Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher, for example, aptly summarize the conflict that has been raging since pathologist Michele Carbone suggested that an ordinarily harmless simian virus, introduced into the human gene pool through contaminated polio vaccines, may be the cause of some cancers. Richard Preston's lengthy overview of the race to decode the human genome, on the other hand, pointedly highlights the politics and petty rivalries (most notably between Nobel Prize-recipient James Watson and Celera's senior scientist, Craig Venter) that both impeded and accelerated the decoding process. Several of the remaining entries will alternately amuse and intrigue the reader. Joel Achenbach speculates about extraterrestrial life by examining the conditions that limit the emergence of life; Andrew Sullivan's intimate account surveys the role of testosterone in society; and Stephen Jay Gould reveals the medieval origin and treatment of syphilis (bleeding and purging by spittle). Despite the occasional weak entry such as Freeman J. Dyson's unsubstantiated, rosy predictions about the future of "green technology" (or biotechnology) this anthology of lucid, eloquent essays will satisfy popular science enthusiasts. (Oct.1) |1566633885 CATTLE: An Informal Social History Laurie Winn Carlson. Ivan R. Dee, $27.50 (352p) ISBN 1-56663-388-5 ~ Carlson (A Fever in Salem; Boss of the Plai that Won the West) offers a well-researched explorat ion iotic relationship between humans and cattle. Beginni ng wtoric cave drawings, she traces the history of cattle thrication, agriculture and industrialization, which, sh e ared to current concerns about food safety. In Europe, domettle herds led to the development of clans with socia l hind complex rule systems. She plumbs the link between womae: because women cared for the herd, Carlson argues t hat ies were "largely female-dominated, or at least gende r ne examines the halcyon days of cattle ranching in the Amerexploring early conflicts between ranchers, the feder al gnd moneyed interests. Carlson pays particular attenti on tct American industrialization and science had on cattl e ans the ramifications of such developments as canning an d r rail cars to carry meat across the country to consum ers.es the benefits cows have brought, most notably perha ps tfor smallpox, as well as concerns about mad cow disea se ainfections. Carlson reveals such historical footnotes as tter played in the Protestant reformation and makes s ometcted connections, such as her ruminations on the link bettive breeding and the eugenics program in Nazi Germany. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Best American Science Writing Series
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Transparent Stratagems

(Based on an article in Scientific American,"Transparent Animals," by Sönke Johnsen)

by John Updike

To be unseen: a key to sea survival,
within that boundless and unsolid mass
where up is slightly brighter and down is cobalt
deepening to purple, death everywhere.

Here in still silence evolution has
the scope of volume and the breadth of slaughter
it needs to be inventive. Venus's
girdles, so-called, millimeters thick

but six feet long, pass jellyfish whose maws
are filmy, four-cornered food-traps betrayed
by eight red gonads. Even retinas,
retaining light, are not, therefore, see-through,

and hence Cystoma, a kind of roach of glass,
back-stroking slyly by, has optic discs
both huge and thin, and a needle-slender gut,
since food digesting also is opaque —

some pinlike guts are always vertical,
no matter how the creature's body tilts,
to cast the smallest shadow. Protocols
of great discretion mark the watery feast.

where ambush shares the table with deceit.
Siphonophores have stinging organs shaped
like baby fish, and when a predator
approaches these, an unsuspected bulk

engulfs it, swallowing. Gelatinous
means near-invisible, but delicate;
a passing fin can shred a filmy beast,
and scientists destroy what they would study.

Down here, the very skin can hide — refraction
indices douse reflectivity
with furtive microscopic surface bumps
more minuscule than half of light's wavelength,

while body cells secrete their fat in droplets
scaled to be overlooked. Still, we are seen
and eaten. Death knows who is here, though you
avoid display, stay home, and think clear thoughts.

The Best American Science Writing 2001. Copyright © by Timothy Ferris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Timothy Ferris's works include Seeing in the Dark, The Mind's Sky (both New York Times best books of the year), and The Whole Shebang (listed by American Scientist as one of the one hundred most influential books of the twentieth century). A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Ferris has taught in five disciplines at four universities. He is an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a former editor of Rolling Stone. His articles and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Scientific American, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, TheNew York Times Book Review, and many other publications. A contributor to CNN and National Public Radio, Ferris has made three prime-time PBS television specials: The Creation of the Universe, Life Beyond Earth, and Seeing in the Dark. He lives in San Francisco.

Jesse Cohen is a writer and freelance editor. He lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

San Francisco, California
Date of Birth:
August 29, 1944
Place of Birth:
Miami, Florida
B.S., Northwestern University, 1966

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