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pandora’s seed

PANDORA’S SEED

THE UNFORESEEN COST OF CIVILIZATION

by Spencer Wells ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2010

A population geneticist examines how human endeavors have shaped the world and finds that not all the changes have been beneficial.

When prehistoric man first sowed seeds some 10,000 years ago, they had no idea they were starting humans down the path to agriculture, settlements and civilization, a state now faced with grave challenges. Wells (Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project, 2006, etc.), director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project, takes the reader back in time to reveal the alterations that have taken place since the Neolithic period within the human body, in society and in the environment. The author shows that farming and the subsequent growth and spread of populations led to enormous changes in human lifestyles that altered our DNA. More disturbing are the external changes. Shaping the landscape to grow plants and animals for food, Wells argues, has created a mismatch between human biology and the environment, which has promoted the spread of major diseases, such as malaria and AIDS. Further, he argues that our present densely populated, socially stimulating, noisy world is likely the reason for the rise in mental illness in most societies. Wells does not overlook the more familiar issues of environmental pollution and climate change, calling global warming the biggest social challenge of the 21st century. Most of the world’s problems, he writes, stem from greed, and technology cannot provide the solution. What is required, according to Wells, is a new way of viewing the world. As we move further away from our origins as a species, he says, perhaps we should downsize our lifestyles and learn to want less.

At times demands close reading of fairly technical material, but the narrative is lightened by the author’s informed firsthand accounts of encounters with people around the world.

Pub Date: June 8, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6215-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Kirkus Reviews’
Best Books Of 2016

New York Times Bestseller

National Book Critics Circle Winner

LAB GIRL

by Hope Jahren ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2016

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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More by Hope Jahren

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science.

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

by Bill Bryson ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2003

Bryson (I’m a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

A population geneticist examines how human endeavors have shaped the world and finds that not all the changes have been beneficial.

Pandora’s Seed

Why the Hunter-Gatherer Holds the Key to Our Survival

The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization

By Spencer Wells

By Spencer Wells

By Spencer Wells

By Spencer Wells

Category: Science
Category: Science

Sep 13, 2011 | ISBN 9780812971910 | 5-3/16 x 8 –> | ISBN 9780812971910 –> Buy

Jun 08, 2010 | ISBN 9780679603740 | ISBN 9780679603740 –> Buy

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Sep 13, 2011 | ISBN 9780812971910

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Jun 08, 2010 | ISBN 9780679603740

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About Pandora’s Seed

Ten thousand years ago, our species made a radical shift in its way of life: We became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers. Although this decision propelled us into the modern world, renowned geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells demonstrates that such a dramatic change in lifestyle had a downside that we’re only now beginning to recognize. Growing grain crops ultimately made humans more sedentary and unhealthy and made the planet more crowded. The expanding population and the need to apportion limited resources created hierarchies and inequalities. Freedom of movement was replaced by a pressure to work that is the forebear of the anxiety millions feel today. Spencer Wells offers a hopeful prescription for altering a life to which we were always ill-suited. Pandora’s Seed is an eye-opening book for anyone fascinated by the past and concerned about the future.

About Pandora’s Seed

Ten thousand years ago, our species made a radical shift in its way of life: We became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers. Although this decision propelled us into the modern world, renowned geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells demonstrates that such a dramatic change in lifestyle had a downside that we’re only now beginning to recognize. Growing grain crops ultimately made humans more sedentary and unhealthy and made the planet more crowded. The expanding population and the need to apportion limited resources created hierarchies and inequalities. Freedom of movement was replaced by a pressure to work that is the forebear of the anxiety millions feel today. Spencer Wells offers a hopeful prescription for altering a life to which we were always ill-suited. Pandora’s Seed is an eye-opening book for anyone fascinated by the past and concerned about the future.

Ten thousand years ago, our species made a radical shift in its way of life: We became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers. Although this decision propelled…