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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2010 [Kindle Edition]

Freeman Dyson , Tim Folger
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Freeman Dyson, renowned physicist and public intellectual, edits this year’s volume of the finest science and nature writing.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest addition to this uniformly excellent series, edited by renowned physicist Dyson, does not disappoint. Dyson showcases 28 essays covering astronomy and cosmology, neurology, nature writing, and three sections loosely organized on the environment. Some are more optimistic than others that environmental disaster might be averted. Many standout pieces describe the cutting edges of science, such as a strong piece by Kathleen McGowan in the neurology section on reprogramming memory and efforts to reduce the ruinous impact of PTSD. The nature section includes an essay by Don Stap on the kuaka, an astonishing bird that travels 7,000 miles over the Pacific Ocean in eight days without stopping or eating, and there is an arresting essay by Brian Boyd that ponders the evolutionary value of art and science, concluding that natural selection is evolution toward a purpose-driven life. Each of the authors--many familiar to readers of publications such as the New Yorker (from which Elizabeth Kolbert merits two entries) and the New York Review of Books--writes clearly, on occasion elegantly, and often with a contagious passion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Selected by famed physicist Dyson, the 28 articles in this popular annual represent what journalists have found interesting and important in the worlds of science and nature during the past year. While eclectic, Dyson’s choices are presented in six thematic parts, and his incisive introduction explains why they are worth reading. A rant by Tom Wolfe bemoans the directionless American space program, while an essay by physicist Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize laureate, argues that whatever launching people into space is good for, it’s not good for science. Science-writing up-and-comer Jonah Lehrer (How We Decide, 2009) takes an intriguing dip into research about self-control and delayed gratification in “Don’t.” Besides learning of the workings of the natural world, our yearning to admire it is satisfied with articles about the blue whale and amazing birds. A full three of the book’s parts consider environmental problems, such as the impact of noise on wildlife as examined by Dawn Stover, a veteran freelance science writer. A solid retrospective, good for wherever previous entries in the series performed well. --Gilbert Taylor

Product Details

  • File Size: 577 KB
  • Print Length: 419 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Original edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0042JSMNM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,864 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The State of (Some) Things: Space, The Mind, The Earth November 4, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This collection of "the best" science and nature writing of 2010 (collecting articles published in 2009), is certainly not just for scientists. In fact, scientists may find it frustrating, given that it's really comprised of articles that are geared towards the general public, most of which appeared originally in "general interest" publications: eight of the twenty-eight articles were first published in The New Yorker, seven in National Geographic, leaving thirteen which appeared in a variety of other periodicals such as GQ and The New York Review of Books. Not one of the articles chosen came from Scientific American or Science. There isn't a single article on Public Health or Mathematics, and the only Biology/Medical Science covered at all is Neurology, and all three articles in this section focus on behavioral issues (memory alteration, self-control, neurosis). The collection is more remarkable for what is missing than for what is included.

The articles are, of course, well-written and interesting, and favor "nature" writing over "science" writing, with three sections dedicated to the environment. One such section, "Natural Beauty," gives fifty pages to the singing of the Earth's praises for its stunning diversity and, well, natural beauty. These essays cover the status of Minnesota's goshawk, a "raptor of gentility," as it struggles in the face of logging interests in Gustave Axelson's "The Alpha Accipiter," and the elegantly written celebration of the New Zealand godwit, "Flight of the Kuaka," by Don Stap, as well as a brief piece by famed naturalist Jane Goodall on the mysterious survival of a phasmid thought to be extinct.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets Fluffier Every Year - Still Great October 23, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was predictably good. It should be - after all, it contains a select group (26) out of the 122 articles that passed the scrutiny of the series editor. I look forward to this book every year as well as its competitor "Best American Science Writing 2010." This year the Introduction by Freeman Dyson is perhaps the best in all the years I've been reading this series. He explains why this series and the other are getting fluffier (my word), then says that science journalism in general is getting "briefer, sparser, and more superficial." He conveniently puts the table of contents into broad categories: Cosmology, Neurology replacing Molecular Biology, Natural Beauty, and three categories about the Environment. Then in describing the content in broad strokes and mentioning a few specific articles, he proceeds to write a summary essay with his own opinions about his chosen articles - creating a stand-alone essay of his own. However, his choices ARE light on hard science and for that I considered subtracting a point - upon further thought I did not - but I refuse to believe Dyson could not have found more scientific selections. The first three articles I review were found in both volumes - all three among my own favorites, as I have marked by asterisks:

* "The Missions of Astronomy" by Steven Weinberg - Weinberg is a Nobel Prize winner and particle physics expert (currently at UT Austin) who decided he was not current in the history of science - so he decided to teach a course in it. This article looks to be adapted from one of his lectures. He starts out explaining how the ancients used the gnomon - similar to but not the same as a sundial. A gnomon is a vertical pole on a flat, level patch of ground open to the sun's rays.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The first article in the entire collection, the one that kicks off the best American science and nature writing, is an article from GQ.
GQ.
Seriously.
It is an article devoted entirely to the worship of Elon Musk.

I have no intention of offending anyone with this review, but potential readers of this volume should be aware of what they are getting. If this is the "best American science and nature writing," America is in trouble. However, I know for a fact it isn't the best writing of that type, because I read science articles frequently.

Since so many other reviewers have done an admirable job of providing a blow- by-blow description of every single article, I will just give a summary of my thoughts. Perhaps the best articles in the entire book are the ones pulled from National Geographic, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books, though it is best to be clear on the nature of most of this writing, all of which was written in 2009.

The writing of the various articles, as an art form, really is excellent for the most part. However, the nature of the writing is best viewed as stories, frequently biographical, with science or nature themes. This is not the type of science writing I am accustomed to, perhaps with the exception of a few National Geographic articles, but even the NG articles get on my nerves with all of the useless details given in order to tell a story. The other ones, even the ones from The New Yorker, are much more airy with ethereal details that have nothing to do with the science. I'm sure this appeals to many, but when I select a science article to read, my intention is not to read a novel or a short story -- I can do that at other times.

Allow me to give another example of the light nature of this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A nice collection of writing, and it helps to improve my reading skills.
Published 2 months ago by Linton
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I use this book to teach 8th grade English as I need more Non-fiction than the textbook offers. I am very happy with the engaging articles offered.
Published 12 months ago by TeacherBizLady
4.0 out of 5 stars A condensation of gems
Let someone else sift wheat from chaff and you garnish the benefits. What's fun about this book is that from many articles, the best are compiled for easy access. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Brett Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Science that doesn't make you feel dumb...most of the time
Science was one of my worst subjects in school. I just could not get the hang of it. As I grew older and left school behind (finally! Read more
Published 21 months ago by J. GARRATT
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Compilation of Articles
Great compilation of articles, all well written and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the one about Elon Musk, one of today's more fascinating entrepreneurs and space... Read more
Published 21 months ago by William Matheson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great selection!
I love these selections and have already used two of the essays in one of my composition classes. The students seem more engaged when dealing with reading and writing about "real"... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Dame Droiture
5.0 out of 5 stars Freeman Dyson. What more is there to say?
I got this one because Freeman Dyson (of the Dyson Sphere idea) is the editor. And honestly, he picked a great haul. It's mostly focused on astronomy (surprise! Read more
Published 24 months ago by Marguerite Abaddonais
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately unspectacular
As a general fan of nature and science, I thought this would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, about halfway through it I lost interest and just couldn't summon up the patience... Read more
Published on September 24, 2012 by alltheusernamesaretaken
5.0 out of 5 stars Two thumbs up
They have done it again! The editors have picked great science stories that touch on many parts of the technological world we live in. Read more
Published on October 6, 2011 by Christopher Obert
5.0 out of 5 stars Feeling Like a Child Again ... Hopeful and Limitless!
This collection has a good variety of subjects, sources and is well organized. I strongly recommend this volume especially if you are interested in the brain and the overall... Read more
Published on April 7, 2011 by East West
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