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Mind, Life, and Universe: Conversations with Great Scientists of Our Time (Sciencewriters) Hardcover – August 21, 2007

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Product Details

  • Series: Sciencewriters
  • Hardcover: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933392614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933392615
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,849,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this invigorating collection, American microbiologist Margulis and popular Spanish science TV-show host Punset do an excellent job making high science palatable, understandable and even exciting to lay-readers. The book is divided into four parts, and many of the interviews in Parts I and II concern the basic structure of the human brain and how different researchers study its evolution and development. The candid interviews unveil the origins of the curiosity that drives scientists to study particular questions-William Day's dissatisfaction with the standard models for the origin of life, why Steven Strogatz is intrigued by simultaneity and cyclicity. Part III delves into evolution and human history, but readers may find Part IV the most interesting, as it touches on such varied topics as time travel, other dimensions and "atomic consciousness." Chapters are short, move briskly and make ideal bedtime (or even beach) reading. Readers with even a casual interest in science will want to take a look.
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

To understand what sets humans apart from other creatures, look at their dreams. So argues evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Humphrey as he probes the distinctive cognitive balance that humans maintain through nightly adventures in dreamland. But other scientists approach the puzzles of human life from different perspectives, now rapidly expanding in genetics, neurophysiology, biochemistry, and quantum physics. What curious nonspecialist, then, could resist a volume bringing together all of these perspectives? Originating in 36 interviews conducted by Spanish television personality Eduardo Punset, the conversations collected here provide a capacious survey of cutting-edge science. Judicious editing helps readers recognize the themes linking these wide-ranging reflections. Again and again it is the paradox of human identity that commands attention. Naturalist Jane Goodall, for instance, ponders the disturbing similarities between aggressive chimpanzees and war-prone humans. Meanwhile, biochemist Sydney Brenner muses on how humans have converted cultural evolution into the new engine driving species change. And physicist Eugene Chudnovsky contemplates a future in which human inventiveness may create half-human, half-computer cyborgs. Rich food for speculation! Christensen, Bryce

More About the Author

Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, received the 1999 National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton. She has been a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences since 1983 and of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences since 1997. Author, editor, or coauthor of chapters in more than forty books, she has published or been profiled in many journals, magazines, and books, among them Natural History, Science, Nature, New England Watershed, Scientific American, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Firsts, and The Scientific 100. She has made numerous contributions to the primary scientific literature of microbial evolution and cell biology.

Margulis's theory of species evolution by symbiogenesis, put forth in Acquiring Genomes (co-authored with Dorion Sagan, 2002), describes how speciation does not occur by random mutation alone but rather by symbiotic d©tente. Behavioral, chemical, and other interactions often lead to integration among organisms, members of different taxa. In well-documented cases some mergers create new species. Intimacy, physical contact of strangers, becomes part of the engine of life's evolution that accelerates the process of change. Margulis works in the laboratory and field with many other scientists and students to show how specific ancient partnerships, in a given order over a billion years, generated the cells of the species we see with our unaided eyes.The fossil record, in fact, does not show Darwin's predicted gradual changes between closely related species but rather the "punctuated equilibrium" pattern described by Eldredge and Gould: a jump from one to a different species.

She has worked on the "revolution in evolution" since she was a graduate student. Over the past fifteen years, Margulis has cowritten several books with Dorion Sagan, among them What is Sex? (1997), What is Life? (1995), Mystery Dance: On the Evolution of Human Sexuality (1991), Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our Microbial Ancestors (1986), and Origins of Sex:Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination (1986).

Her work with K.V. Schwartz provides a consistent formal classification of all life on Earth and has lead to the third edition of Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth (1998). Their classification scheme was generated from scientific results of myriad colleagues and its logical-genealogical basis is summarized in her single-authored book Symbiosis in Cell Evolution: Microbial Communities in the Archean and Proterozoic Eons (second edition, 1993). The bacterial origins of both chloroplasts and mitochondria are now well established. Currently, with colleagues and students, she explores the possible origin of cilia from spirochetes.

Since the mid-1970s, Margulis has aided James E. Lovelock, FRS, in documenting his Gaia Theory, which posits that the Earth's surface interactions among living beings, rocks and soil, air and water have created a vast, self-regulating system. From the vantage of outer space the Earth looks like an amazing being; from the vantage of biochemistry it behaves in many ways like a giant organism.

Photo by Luis Rico

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Nor necessarily should Punsett, a Spanish economist with a good grasp of science.
Bill Baity
Because it is written in an interview style for TV, I think everyone can understand the topics presented.
Andrew W. Brousseau
The book itself is divided into parts and these parts are divided into subsections.
Stephen Pletko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Eduardo Punset, the Spaniard who conducts almost all of the interviews in this wide-ranging book with some of the world's most highly respected scientists, is the host of the Spanish-language TV show Redes (Networks). As such he is experienced at drawing out scientists in such a way that their work comes alive to a general audience.

Lynn Margulis is the famous biologist who pioneered endosymbiotic ideas leading to the "Origin of Eukaryotic Cells," a book she published in 1970. Here she acts as co-editor and mostly intervenes in the text in footnotes to point to errors or misconceptions. There is something almost quirky about the way these interviews, or "discussions," as Penset calls them, appear on the pages. There are typos and obvious errors in translation. Part of the problem is that the interviews in most cases were patched together from transcripts and edited to remove some of the imprecision, repetition, and the um-ing and ah-ing that natural speech is prone to. The result nonetheless is a fascinating survey of what is happening in a host of scientific fields as expressed by some of science's greatest stars.

Included are interviews with Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Jane Goodall, Oliver Sacks, James E. Lovelock, Stephen Jay Gould, Paul Davies and thirty others. There is a foreword by David T. Suzuki, and Margulis contributes an introduction with acknowledgments. A charming feature are the black and white line drawings of the scientists under the chapter headings. There are biographical notes about the scientists near the end of the book, and a list of readings recommended by the scientists (two each).
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on January 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover

Consider these eight statements:

(1) "There is a psychological immune system that protects us from the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'...but we are unaware of it."
(2) "In a utopian world, psychopaths would stand out as predators, because that is what they do, take advantage of others. We could live in a perfect utopia and there would always be psychopaths."
(3) "The role of dreams is to throw us into extraordinary social situations."
(4) "We know now that practically all human health problems will be resolved one day."
(5) "We will suffer for all we have done and only then will we understand how wonderful our planet was."
(6) "Some animals live in the trees, others on the sea, others underground, others fly, others dig, but essentially, they are all doing the same thing: they are working to survive and therefore to pass their genes on to the future. The genes encode the instructions that enable animals to exist."
(7) "If extra dimensions really explain phenomena in our world, then there are experimental implications of this fact for the future. Our ideas will lead us to see evidence for extra dimensions."
(8) "If you asked me whether in a hundred years time we will travel into the future, I will tell you that it is very possible."

The above are statements made by eight scientists found in this fascinating book that has the transcribed interviews of scientists from around the world. According to the book's cover, this book is edited by Dr. Lynn Margulis (who received the 1999 U.S. National Medal of Science) and Eduardo Punset who currently works in Spanish TV where he hosts a television program that communicates science to a worldwide Spanish-speaking audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bill Baity on August 11, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a bit tough to review; parts are five-star and parts are less than stellar. As previous reviewers have noted, these are fascinating glimpses into the minds of some great scientists. And they should not be held accountable for the occasionally poor translations and other slip-ups. Nor necessarily should Punsett, a Spanish economist with a good grasp of science. But somebody in the publishing house should have given this a thorough going-over. I tend to come to a skidding stop when I hit these errors - perhaps you are able to glide gracefully over them. One example, from the next-to-last sentence; a byte may be 4,5,6,7,8,9,16,32 or even perhaps 64 bits, but never 1000! Memory used to be expressed in kilobytes (1000 bytes), and now in mega and tera bytes, but that is bytes (8 or 16 bits standard) not bits. OK, I'm bit-picking. More seriously, many of these conversations reflect knowledge of a decade ago. Since Amazon now claims to be selling more e-books than physical ones, it is also important to note that while you can get to Margulis' comments, you are left stranded there in the Kindle version.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Walter J. Smith on February 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As I have much to read in this collection of interviews with contemporary scientific greats, this is necessarily a preliminary review. The writing is mostly good, though the editing leaves much to be desired. For example, the book begins with a superbly composed and presented 'foreward' by David T. Suzuki, followed by an Introduction and Acknowledgements by Lynn Margulis, and then, at the beginning of Part One, another introduction with no author indicated.

As an admirer of Lynn Margulis's works, I must say I noticed this about her brilliant earlier collection, "Chimeras and Consciousness," a thorough and tough look at the origins of life and it's basic composition. That book is so extraordinarily compelling that it embodies the scientific thrusts, as do the Bateson's books, that will forever joust the silly traditional theologians and philosophers and novelists and artists off the stages of culture & history if for no other reason that our age calls for a radical new imagination of who we are, where we originated, and what are our contemporary greatest challenges. The other academics simply are outclassed by this kind of science.

This book collects more of the same great scientific thinking by a variety of excellent contemporary scientists right where they do their work and introduces much of their most poignant work.

I hope this book doesn't embody the same plague of editorial flaws as does "Chimeras and Consciousness."
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