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Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid Hardcover – March 1, 2011
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"Williams is a fine writer and takes us on an engaging and informative journey through the world of cephalopod science..." --- John Farndon, The Spectator
"The giant squid is now accepted as a fact of oceanic life and I have been revelling in all squid in the recently published American book Kraken...."
Simon Barnes, The Times of London
About the Author
Wendy Williams's writing has appeared on the front pages of the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Baltimore Sun. She's also written for the New York Times, Parade Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Science. Williams is the coauthor of Cape Wind, which was named one of 2007's ten best environmental books by Booklist and one of the year's best science books by Library Journal. She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
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Top Customer Reviews
There’s a lot of really interesting stuff here — we start out with a short history lesson, where we meet the first people to prove that large squids actually existed. We get lots of detail about squid anatomy. We take a cold, nighttime boat ride with a bunch of marine researchers as they do the messy, chaotic work of catching, tagging, and releasing Humboldt squid in Monterey Bay.
We get details about cephalopod luminescence and about their amazing ability to change color in extremely detailed ways — especially interesting because they’re colorblind. We learn how the study of squids has led to breakthroughs in biology, medicine, and neuroscience. We get probably more info than we ever really wanted on the bizarre, endlessly varied mating habits of cephalopods.
We get a lot of info about just how smart squids, octopuses, and cuttlefish are. I really think this is one of the most interesting scientific questions out there right now — there’s pretty widespread consensus that cephalopods are smarter than we suspected they might be, but no one really knows if they’re as smart as a mouse, as a cat, as a dog, as an ape, or even higher. They seem to be very good at figuring out puzzles — but is that true intelligence or animal instinct? Are their camouflaging and color-changing abilities better indicators of intelligence? Researchers who work closely with these animals say they’re intelligent and even have individual personalities — but is that just mankind anthropomorphizing animals? And how on earth do you measure the intelligence of any creature as deeply alien to the human bipedal norm?
This is deeply fascinating and extremely readable. Some things are covered amazingly well. We get a very real sense that scientists are sometimes frustrated by how much they know but how little they understand about animals like squids. And this book has the very best discussion I’ve ever seen about animal intelligence and the question of how to measure it. Researchers used to give dogs the same IQ test they’d give babies — paint a dot on their forehead, put ’em in front of a mirror, and see whether they realize that the image in the mirror is really them. The problem, however, is that dogs don’t have a strong visual sense, so mirrors aren’t particularly significant to them — sense of smell, on the other hand, is very powerful for dogs, so intelligence tests should focus on the ways dogs learn through their olfactory senses. So how do you design IQ tests for an octopus?
If this book has a weak point, it might be that it gives very short shrift to the cephalopod in popular culture. There’s some discussion of some old novels and a monster movie from the ’50s, but this really is a golden age for squid popularity in the mass media, and it was an element I was a bit surprised to see get so little attention in this very thorough and comprehensive book.
Nevertheless, that’s a very minor nitpick for a book I really had a blast reading. Go pick it up.
Still- it's fascinating, has a lot of Science well-described, and is engagingly written.
A set of color photo plates in the middle would have been nice, but the B&W photos in the text were adequate. The book is very beautifully designed and published.
Although this book is presented as being primarily about squid, about half of the content deals with other cephalopods, such as the octopus. What I really loved about this book (and the true measure of great non-fiction) is that you are presented with countless ideas, concepts, and topics that encourage further investigation. On the Kindle Fire, this is as simple as highlighting a word or phrase and doing an internet search. You may find yourself getting caught up viewing various pictures and videos online in the midst of reading this book. I absolutely love that the author found a way to keep the narrative simple enough that the reader can either move along at a comfortable pace, or let his or her curiosity temporarily divert them away from the text.
I would have loved if the photos were available in a higher resolution for e-reading. They are hard to see on my Kindle Touch, and just barely better on my Kindle Fire. There is also a passage at the very beginning of the book that is actually an image, which is too hard to see, no matter how much I zoomed in. If the publisher could have found a way to include or enhance the images, or presented web links from within the text - this book would be perfect.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you're into this sort of thing pick it up. Great book.Read more
I am also not an expert on cephalopods.
That being said: I liked this book very much.Read more
WILLIAMS, Wendy.Read more
Sarah LitchRead more