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Ecological Orbits: How Planets Move and Populations Grow Hardcover – April 29, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0195168167 ISBN-10: 019516816X Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019516816X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195168167
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.8 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"A free-flowing essay on the theoretical foundations of ecology. This is a delightful little book... I recommend it highly as a true pleasure to read."--Physics Today


"Ginzburg and Colyvan suggest that some difficulties of environmental management stem from the fact that our current tools ignore the inertial aspects of population dynamics. If they are correct, Ecological Orbits ought to become an instant classic, one to be read by every professional and aspiring ecologist and environmental biologist." --Science


About the Author

Lev Ginzburg is at SUNY at Stony Brook. Mark Colyvan is at University of Queensland.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brian J McGill on April 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is extremely well written, entertaining, and of general interest. At about 150 pages it is also a very quick read. The equations are mostly moved into appendices. The general public interested in the inner workings of ecology should find this book a fun read.
But make no mistake, this book is really directed at, and a major challenge to, professional ecologists. There are at least three themes woven through this book.
1) The first is a comparison of ecology with physics. Given the recent debate on the ecology listserve (ECOLOG) on whether ecology is a hard or a soft science, this has to be considered a timely topic. The authors are an ecologist with a strong ealry training in mathematical physics and a philosopher of science. Far from bemoaning the shortcomings of the science of ecology, this book boldly asserts that ecology is as proud a science as physics and gives a very detailed and compelling refutation of the idea that ecology is a "soft" or "lesser" science.
2) This book identifies the field of allometry and metabolic energy as a central subject in ecology. Interestingly, one of the harshest critics of ecology (Ron Peters) identified this same field as one of the few "hard" areas of ecology
3) Finally, this book reasons by analogy with physics. A major breakthrough occurred in physics when Galileo and Newton realized that the second derivative of position (i.e. acceleration) was the fundamental quantity, not the first derivative (velocity) as thought for almost 2000 years. They carry this analogy over to ecology and suggest that ecology needs to focus not on deviations from a constant population size, but deviations from a constant population growth rate (i.e. r or lambda).
These themes are elegantly woven together.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ecological Orbits is an introduction to the inertial behaviour of populations. Humbly drawing from physics for the metaphor of how planets move and populations grow, this is a self-claimed "poetic" beginning of a new view as to why populations cycle. The book can be appreciated because of its fairness to traditional and this view, whilst describing how and the limits of metaphor the authors use to facilitate understanding of their new idea. Inertia and maternal inheritance are VERY important and poorly understood by biologists. With the exponentially-growing importance and new advances in understandings in these fields (e.g., epigenetic mechanisms, placticity), I predict this book will remain a less radical and more pertinent foundation in the future.

Additionally, I would like to point out that I appreciate the author's approach to introducing and stimulating new ideas. Every so often, when scientists have new ideas, they feel the need to compose tomes to meticulously and tediously lay out their arguments and counter arguments. This book is at the other end of the spectrum; it produces enough information to be cogent and efficacious, yet stimulating and not overwhelming.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has an effect upon the reader similar to that of James Gleick's Chaos or Dawkins' Ancestor's Tale, in that it gives one a glimpse of the beautiful order underlying the natural world. I truly hope that the propositions of this book hold out in the long run, for they seem to illuminate a path by which we can truly seek to understand life on our planet from a both quantitative and aesthetically pleasing standpoint.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By giniajim on March 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I got bogged down with this book and gave up after two or three chapters. It's not for the casual reader (which I am). I'm sure there's a germ of something good here, but it was just lost on me. My guess is that someone with more patience or more expertise might enjoy it, but not the layman.
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