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SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 22, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439100187
  • ASIN: B005GNKJYI
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,543,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Martin Nowak is one of the most creative scientists of our time, and Roger Highfield is a superb science writer. Their insights into the mystery of cooperation will change the way you think about everything. If you're looking for the next Big Idea book, you've just found it.”

—Steven Strogatz, Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, and New York Times contributor

"SuperCooperators looks beyond The Selfish Gene and invites us to think afresh about evolution. Contrary to the simplistic idea that selfishness is the only strategy for survival, the brilliant Martin Nowak proves that cooperation is also vitally important. This rich and rewarding book teems with new ideas and insights, which co-author Roger Highfield makes wonderfully lucid and entertaining."

—Graham Farmelo, author of The Strangest Man, winner of the Costa Biography Award

"A fantastic journey into the science of cooperation, with important implications for both individuals and society alike."

—Richard Wiseman, author of Paranormality, 59 Seconds and Quirkology

"Martin Nowak is regarded as the foremost mathematical theorist working in evolutionary biology. His contributions on cooperation and altruism here augmented by the expertise of Roger Highfield, fall in one of the most important domains of present-day biology."

—Edward O. Wilson, author of Consilience and Pellegrino University Research Professor, Harvard University

"Roger Highfield deftly weaves together a personal and informative account of the research of Harvard's Martin Nowak to reveal five mechanisms that rule human behaviour. On the way, they explore the origins of life, language, cancer and much more, and highlight how evolution can lead to cooperation as well as competition."

—Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and recent President of the Royal Society

"A panoramic view of the role of cooperation in the evolution... [A] sweeping survey... Nowak is a mathematical biologist, and his enthusiasm for numbers is extremely useful in his discussions of evolutionary theory. However, thankfully for the mathematically disinclined, there is little hard math here...A fleshed-out, persuasive chronicle of the bright side-collective enterprise-of the evolutionary road."

—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

MARTIN A. NOWAK is Professor of Biology and Mathematics at Harvard University. He is Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. In 1998 he moved to Princeton to establish the first center in Theoretical Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study. Nowak has won many prizes and has revolutionized the mathematical approach to biology.  Nowak has made important contributions to the understanding of virus infections and cancer. He has pioneered the mathematical theory for the evolution of human language and altruistic behavior.Supercooperators will be Nowak's first book for a general audience.

ROGER HIGHFIELD, Ph.D. (Co-Writer) is the Editor of New Scientist magazine, which is now the world’s biggest selling weekly science and technology magazine. He has written/coauthored six popular science books, two of which have been bestsellers, including After Dolly, The Science of Harry Potter, The Physics of Christmas, The Private Lives of Albert Einstein, and Frontiers of Complexity. His most recent work was as the outside editor on genomic researcher J. Craig Venter's autobiography, A Life Decoded, published in November, 2007 (Viking, US; Allen Lane, UK) .

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Customer Reviews

This book too is a personal description of scientific research.
C. Kollars
Nowak's first language isn't English, and a coauthor helped make the book more readable.
JJ
Let's just say that this book could have been written more humble.
Peter van der Windt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a lot, but I rarely suggest books to people I am acquainted with (you know, people get sick of that sort of thing); however, since I finished reading this book, I can honestly say that this is the one volume I have actually recommended to my friends and family. This book covers a crucial aspect of our modern life and is far-and-away one of the most indispensable pieces of scientific writing I have read to date. For example, take this quote from the Preface: "Many problems that challenge us today can be traced back to a profound tension between what is good and desirable for society as a whole and what is good and desirable for an individual. That conflict can be found in global problems such as climate change, pollution, resource depletion, poverty, hunger, and overpopulation. The biggest issues of all - saving the planet and maximizing the collective lifetime of the species Homo sapiens - cannot be solved by technology alone. They require novel ways for us to work in harmony. If we are to continue to thrive, we have but one option. We now have to manage the planet as a whole. If we are to win the struggle for existence, and avoid a precipitous fall, there's no choice but to harness this extraordinary creative force. We now have to refine and to extend our ability to cooperate. We must become familiar with the science of cooperation. Now, more than ever, the world needs SuperCooperators."

One reviewer called Martin Nowak a virtuoso, this is most certainly true, and it may even be an understatement. It would seem that Dr. Nowak has his hands in nearly every discipline and knows nearly everyone who is anyone in the scientific community.
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55 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Manfred Milinski on March 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For Martin Nowak cooperation is the master architect of evolution. This man is obsessed with the idea that cooperation is an indispensable driving force of evolution at any level - mutation, selection and cooperation. Without cooperation among RNAs in the primordial soup, you and me would be still one of them. Is he crazy? Nowak has been Professor of Mathematical Biology at Oxford, the first head of the Program in Theoretical Biology at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, and now he is full professor of Biology and Mathematics at Harvard University in his own institute called "Nowakia". Of his numerous papers more than 50 were published in Nature or Science. Nowak is a leading evolutionary theorist of our time. Why is he crazy for cooperation?

Cooperation has always been Nowak's main subject that he studies mostly with only one technique: mathematics. "We can capture the way it (evolution) works with mathematics, distilling its essence into the form of equations." "SuperCooperators" is the grand review of his oeuvre on cooperation, a kind of textbook that reads like a bestselling novel with a wonderfully lucid and enthusiastic style, thanks to Nowak's ghost-writer and kind of co-author ("with" instead of "and") Roger Highfield, an ingenious science writer and the editor of the New Scientist magazine. A layperson could enjoy just reading this book and finally has happened to learn most about a fascinating part of biology. Imagine all textbooks were written this way! Try this appetizer from the chapter on the evolution of language: "Gossip. Banter. Chat. Let's talk. Let's organize a colloquium. Even better, let's have a party! Language allows people to work together, to exchange their ideas, their thoughts, and their dreams.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Karl Sigmund on March 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Martin Nowak is, first and foremost, a virtuoso. He has turned modelling into an art. Whether they deal with mutations inducing cancer, irregular verbs turning regular, the spread of HIV or the chemical lego of pre-life, his models always capture quintessential aspects with superb clarity and elegance. Even more remarkable as his light and confident touch in setting up the models is his dexterity in interpreting the results. He goes straight for the thrill. Nowak is enormously convincing and persuasive. This requires, of course, that he is convinced of himself. The evolution of cooperation has been the main theme of his stellar career, which led him in the briefest time from beginnings in Vienna to professorships in Oxford, Princeton and Harvard. Nowak's Hirsch-index is eighty (meaning that eighty of his more than three hundred papers have each been quoted in at least eighty papers), a fantastic achievement for someone in the mid-forties. Now he has decided to reach out for a larger audience, and written, with the expert support of Roger Highfield, one of Britain's foremost science writers, a book intended for the bestseller lists. Cooperation is a topic of central importance in many fields ranging from chemistry and biology to social and economic sciences, and Nowak is uniquely qualified, by his interdisciplinary background and his skills as communicator, to cover the whole canvas in a masterly tour.
One need not agree with all Nowak claims. In fact, some of the chapters will be highly controversial. Nowak defends his views with bravado, be they on kin selection or on Gustav Mahler's music. Some of these views make me slightly wince, but that is part of the fun. Nowak lives for his work, and merges with gusto his biography with the story of his field. Sobriety and a sceptical distance are for critics, not artists. Nowak runs on sheer enthusiasm, and conveys much of it to the reader. The book is a pleasure, heady, stimulating and brimful with adrenaline.
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