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on January 8, 2018
I really enjoyed his "Walking Zero" and "Skeptics", but this one was just dry enough that I found myself losing interest. It's a bit less focussed than the other two books mentioned.
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on May 5, 2005
Chet Raymo, a physics and astronomy professor at Stonehill College, poetically and lyrically takes us on a "stroll" with him while he walks from his home in North Easton, Massachusetts to the college campus. He has walked this path for 37 years and by careful observation of the forested landscape, he has garnered an eternities worth of insights. One is immediately reminded or the keen observations and musings of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, et al. "The Path" is written in an uncomplicated, approachable style for all audiences, and yet deep with wisdom and knowledge producing a broad spectrum view of the workings of the world.

And from Raymo's musings, we see the history of the Stonehill region come to life and how it has shaped the lives of generations of people, the flora/fauna and the "natural" landscape with special attention to the early entrepreneurs who most influenced the region, their motivations of nation building, personal wealth and the current display of their legacies.

We get an over-view of geologic transformations, biological processes, and the building blocks of all physical manifestations through the coding of DNA strands. The interconnectedness of all life and our tinkering with nature resulting in such side-effects and backlashes as global warming and broken down natural resource distribution cycles.

From the wintertime stroll, we get observations of: "The tiny six-pointed snowflake is, on a deeper level, a buzzing hive of molecular vibrations. And so, too, the lush diversity of life in the water meadow, examined more closely, resolves itself into a fandango of dancing molecules. The seen is a mask for the unseen. Our eyes open at birth to a flood of photons, but we must learn to see." (p. 146)

The careful observations of nature in action through all four seasons from a stroll on this path creates a summation of our evolving human relation to life on the planet in such thoughts as: "Knowledge once gained cannot be unlearned, and knowledge is power. For better or worse, the future of the planet has been handed to us, not by a deity but by fate. Stewardship of other creature is in our hands." "...an understanding of the ecological wholeness of the Earth suggest that our altruism should extend to other creatures, too: plants, animals, even microbes." And, "Environmental conservation-clean water and air, a steady climate- is in the interest of our species." (p. 171)

This is a beautiful melding of the thoughts and observations of such greats as the sociobiologist, E. O. Wilson, "The Future of Life", Thomas Berry, "The Dream of the Earth", et al. who are all in unison with the profound need for humanity to seriously embrace an ethic of life stewardship for the survival of our beautiful blue planet Earth. Thank you again, Prof. Chet Raymo!
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on December 28, 2016
One of my favorite books. Nature oriented and very interesting; thought provoking and well written.
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on June 1, 2012
Chet Raymo has done it again. He can take a scene that looks familiar and average to most of us and make it into a a wide path of connected thoughts. His eclectic nature defines a life more full than what most of us know. Thanks Mr. Raymo for making something invisible right there before our eyes.
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on May 2, 2016
Thank you.
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on August 4, 2013
Everybody should read this book. Chet Raymo writes so well. I have purchased this book 5 times so I could pass it along to friends
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on March 19, 2011
Very enjoyable and informative reading. If you like books about
nature and science you'll like this very much.
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on July 31, 2015
Wonderful and inspiring book regarding our world God created and wants us to care for.
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VINE VOICEon November 2, 2009
Physicist Chet Raymo walks the same path to and from his office at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. He has ruminated upon the history of the rocks, the flowers, the water, and the people existing along this one mile path. There are human stories, and stories that involve the forces that shape the universe. From Ames iron shovels to gigantic sheets of flowing ice to the nature of gravity, Raymo has pondered life, the universe and everything (yes... this comes straight from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but this is my observation, not Raymo's).

And he is broad in these ruminations:

"Although bluebirds are again thriving at Sheep Pasture, malaria continues to be the world's biggest killer of children. Since the withdrawal of DDT for malaria control in South Africa, cases of the disease have quadrupled. Many public health officials now call for renewed use of DDT in certain malaria-ridden parts of the globe, at least until a vaccine or genetic fix comes along. Did Silent Spring save songbirds in New England and put babies at risk in Mozambique. Our technological interventions in nature usually involve a muddy moral arithmetic" (p. 128).

"A tiny fraction of the Sun's energy falls upon the Earth's oceans and evaporates water molecules into the air. It takes about 1,000 calories of energy for the Sun to evaporate a thimbleful of water from the sea; each thimbleful of water in the atmosphere represents 1,000 calories of stored solar energy. The Sun does the heavy lifting on Earth, heaving tens of thousands of cubic miles of water up out of the seas and into the atmosphere each year. Most of this water precipitates back into the oceans, but some of it falls on land as rain or snow, from whence it makes its way downhill to the sea in a great recirculation called the water cycle" (p. 15). And this is the source of the water flowing down North Easton's Queset Brook, which powered the Ames shovel manufacturing shops, which modified the local communities and allowed people to modify their habitats.

I had a couple of disagreements with Raymo. In discussing evolution, he wrote, "Let's say that every time a monkey types by chance a string of 'A's I give it a banana. And I give the other [999] monkeys a boot in the behind. Pretty soon we'd have lots of monkeys hitting the 'A' key incessantly. And no one would call it random. Selection has been at work. If I had supervision of a thousand monkeys not for a thousand years but, say, for a million generations, a sufficient supply of bananas, and a durable boot (the well-fed, unbooted monkeys being the most successful at procreation), sooner or later I would almost certainly witness a creature who sat at his or her machine and typed: 'Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,who is already sick and pale with grief that thou her maid art far more fair than she.' And the same dynamic applies exactly to the evolution of organisms, where competition for scare resources provides the bananas or boot" (p. 85). I'll bet you could train monkeys a lot faster than this. This is learning, not evolution. What is the genetic basis here for selection to act upon?

And Raymo also writes, "Computer chips are not as sentient as human brains..." (p. 89). "Sentience" is commonly defined as awareness or consciousness. I'd assert that computer chips are not sentient at all. Has AI advanced further than I am aware?

I wonder if a reader has to be aware of New England habitats and history to get the most out of this book. Being from the West but growing up in the East, I felt somewhat familiar with the plants he notes, and the effects of glaciers on the landscape. But I was oblivious to the stories behind many of the names he mentions. That did detract me from his message, I think. I wonder if a reader from the East would have similar problems with a western author, such as Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire.

Still, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this book. Raymo always links and stitches the universe together in unique ways; that is the talent of his writing.
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VINE VOICEon October 12, 2004
The Path is exactly what the title says it is, a one-mile walk which lends Raymo the small details of life and the world (monarch butterflies, a minor brook, blooming loosestrife) so that he may expand on them to larger, grander issues: the birth of the universe and our world, global warming, the impact of technology, etc. Both the stroll and the read are "pleasant" --short little jaunts that will seem at least somewhat familiar to many, especially those who would tend toward a book of this sort especially. The mini-essays on these larger issues dip in and out, offering the reader just enough information to keep them interested and while sometimes the brevity seems perfect, at others it comes across as a bit superficial. Raymo keeps the book grounded in the literalness of his walk and also in the local history, which though certainly less important and obviously more proscribed than the universe as a whole, at times is actually more interesting. Overall, Raymo keeps a nice balance on the three-legged stool of his physical walk along the path, his historical walk through the village's past, and his rational stroll through the science of nitrogen-fixing and star formation. Overlaying all three, permeating the entire work, is a spirituality that is warm, familiar, conversational, rarely didactic, often passionate, and always sincere. While the book was interesting and well-written throughout, I thought the writing ticked up in the last quarter or so to a more poetic, lyric style that was a true pleasure to read. Overall, the book is a good intro to the topics, its local history nicely balances the grander view, and if it reads a bit superficially or disjointed at times, those flaws don't outweigh the positives. It isn't a great book by any stretch, nor does it aspire to it. It is just as it's advertised, a pleasant stroll that now and then catches you by surprise in a moment of joyful appreciation. Recommended.
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