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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008 Paperback – October 8, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Groopman (How Doctors Think) has collected a wide range of articles, covering futurology to forensics, for this sparkling entry in Tim Folger's annual series. In "Our Biotech Future," Freeman Dyson claims that "the century of biology" is upon us, when biotechnology follows the path of the computer industry, giving "the tools of genetic engineering" to the average breeder of animals or plants. In a New Yorker article, Jeffrey Toobin compares forensic experts who actually give testimony in court to the characters in television's C.S.I. series. Christopher Conselice, in "The Universe's Invisible Hand," discusses how the 1998 discovery of "so-called dark energy" in the universe has led some scientists to create models predicting that its evolution might "rip apart" existing galaxies. Robin Marantz Henig warns in "Our Silver-Coated Future" that there may be serious unforeseen risks in unchecked use of nanotechnology, especially the most commonly used, "nanosilver," an "antimicrobial" added to many consumer products. Though prolific readers may argue over the "best" moniker, each piece more than exceeds Groopman's standards ("novel and surprising arguments, protagonists who articulate their themes in clear, cogent voices, and vivid cinema"), making this a delight for any fan of popular science.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the latest volume in this outstanding series, doctor and medical researcher Jerome Groopman serves as guest editor and seeks to present “surprising and significant connections.” The result is thoroughly eclectic, ranging from a look at the determined inventor of the “gravity radio” to a visit with an interpreter seeking to literally untangle the Incan language. Communication is also the focal point in a sprawling article on the Piraha people and their long interaction with Christian missionaries. Groopman has selected profiles of innovators pushing the boundaries of research in all sorts of unexpected ways, including the operator of a hybrid animal zoo, and sharing a yearning to reach beyond the accepted order. One memorable quote can stand as the volume’s credo. In “Science and Islam in Conflict,” Todd Pitock pays tribute to Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal and writes, “Vision is not an individual thing. It’s a collaboration.” This can also be read as a broad reminder of what people who value scientific inquiry must do—band together—as the American war on science continues its disastrous advance. --Colleen Mondor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Best American (Book 2008)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618834478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618834471
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on October 13, 2008
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Not much hard science, but every essay is compelling reading - a good way to bring your scientific side up to date yearly. I have not missed one in the entire series and every year I end up thinking the new edition is the best ever. This year's editor, Jerome Groopman, made the final selections.

John Cohen - You won't find hybrids in American zoos where purebreds are the rule but in alternate sites it's a different story. Whether by the natural method, artificial insemination, or by techniques that allow scientists to manipulate DNA, more are turning up more every year - zorses, wholphins, tigons, beefaloes, lepjags, zonkeys, camas, bonanzees, and pizzly bears. Some of them breed and appear more fit than either parent. I won't even mention the humanzees.

John Colapinto - *among my favorites - The Piraha tribe of Brazil has a tonal and melodic language unrelated to any other. According to linguist Dan Everett, who has lived with them on and off for 25 years, the language also doesn't exhibit "recursion," a requirement of modern linguistic theory. Recursion is an "idea within an idea" - example: John's hat, which was red, one of several possible colors...and so on. Chomsky's dominant theory of linguistics says Everett just isn't looking hard enough but Chomsky's fellow linguists can't find the recursion either. The Piraha have no religion, live in the here and now, and are not the least bit interested in anything outside their culture.

Christopher Conselice - A thorough discussion of dark energy, the substance that makes up the bulk of the universe. Get ready for some major tweaking in your understanding of cosmology. This is one of the hard science articles.

Gareth Cook - Yes, the Incas did too know how to write.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on November 13, 2008
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This anthology, edited by Jerome Groopman, is exactly what one would hope for - a wide-ranging collection of well-written, fascinating articles which will expand the reader's horizons and are fun to read. Groopman's anthology benefits from his having cast a very broad net, as well as from the depth of his intellectual curiosity. In his introduction, he outlines his criteria for inclusion:

"the articles ... have novel and surprising arguments, protagonists who articulate their themes in clear, cogent voices, and vivid cinema. They are not verbose or tangential. They are filled with simple declarative sentences. ... I suspect none of the articles was easy to write. Each shows a depth of thought and reporting that takes time and considerable effort."

These target criteria show that we are in good hands - the only remaining question is whether they are actually achieved for the pieces included in the anthology. The answer is a resounding yes - with very few exceptions (only Freeman Dyson's piece on biotechnology and Michael Specter's article on retroviruses seemed fuzzy to me) the writing is crisp and clear, and the subject material is interesting and thought-provoking. That is, in my estimation, Dr Groopman's batting average is 22 excellent pieces of 24 (and your view on the Dyson and Specter pieces may differ). Which far exceeds the norm for this kind of anthology.
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By Dan5280 on August 27, 2010
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This book tickles my insides with happiness as my mind is swept up in thoughts about scientific advances which seem to be ever increasing in their rate and importance. If you're the type of person who thinks critically about the world around you, I can't recommend this book enough. Depending on your interests, not every article will be gem but most will and you'll want to pass them onto friends; not to mention the value of having a grasp of our world's biological and technological mind-blowing progress. So cool!
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I have also discovered new favorite writers and magazines through these collections. There is nothing here too scientific for anyone to understand. I thank the editor(s) for previewing hundreds (if not thousands) of articles, and choosing the best and most interesting.
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