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The following reviews were published on either Sacramento Book Review monthly journal or posted on SacramentoBookreview.com or SanFranciscoBookReview.com

Mission to the Moon

by Alan Dyer.

Science & Nature. $19.99. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Amazon.com title: Aiming for the Moon

The loftiest pursuit in the history of exploration began with the Apollo Space Program. We are dazzled by the famous Saturn V Rocket, space modules and recoveries. The book boasts an abundance of pictures of every kind of moon lander, rocket engines, astronauts and space paraphernalia.

This wonderful pictorial collection of lunar missions and preparation remind us of our audacity to boldly voyage to forbidding places as the moon and back. Author, Alan Dyer sets a mood for the multitude of technological achievements in the wake of the many mishaps that led up to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, which revealed the now immortal quote, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The book features 200 crisp photos illustrating an era of daring courage and the haunting horror of defeat, reminding us of the risks and rewards of space travel. An Apollo chronology provides a window into each of the 11 Apollo flights. Even the near disaster of Apollo 13 was captioned by the French newspapers: “Apollo: C’est tres Grave.” Don’t forget to see the DVD and poster. Before the book ends, a comprehensive glossary greets us, clarifying all those cool scientific terms.


The Day We Found the Universe

by Marcia Bartusiak 368 Pages $27.95 Pantheon Books

Amazon.com Title: Just How Big Is This Universe?

We are led through an intimate wonderland of familiar faces representing the greatest thinkers of the cosmos. Pulling on the loose threads of early players, Bartusiak has created a platform from which we can see the farthest reaches of what we can observe, justifying what she researched while balancing precariously on the shoulders of giants. She leads us to believe that during each stage of discovery, the pioneers could not possibly have seen the larger picture. Only theorists who looked beyond their imagination could perceive that the grandest of schemes was even grander than even the giants knew.

Many people think that the greatest discoveries came from a magnificent awe, a sudden revelation that something magic pervaded the night sky. That’s not how it came to be. It was the work of countless unknowns, charting and logging data for years and looking at the sky nightly. The culmination of the greatest investigators of the twentieth century directed us to think that the universe was grander than we could ever imagine. Viewing through the new 100-inch Lick Observatory telescope in the early part of the century, our first glimpse at Andromeda was vague and fuzzy, only hinting at what it might be. Observers in those days referred to galaxies as nebulae not knowing what else to call them. Other exotic real estate such as quasars, neutron stars, and black holes were not in the picture at all.

By 1995, when the space telescope named after the late Edwin Hubble, placated the theoretical physicists and haunted others, it began to validate theories by dazzling discoveries and awakening a fresh view of proposals made three-quarters of a century ago. The enormous scale of the universe could not have been imagined in the early days. It would be a full revelation to discover hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. The Day We Found the Universe is a long one. It is a day that encompasses the twentieth century.

The author has uncovered the magnitude of the enormity of the universe by summoning these great minds together in a single volume and identifying them as leaders of the movement confirming we have indeed found the universe.


The Nature of Technology

by W. Brian Arthur 256 Pages $27.00 Free Press/Simon & Schuster Science and Nature

Amazon.com Title: The Evolution of Technology

Arthur clarifies what is and what is not technology in his new book, The Nature of Technology. He orchestrated three definitions guiding the reader through the maze of technological jibber. He cleverly shows these relationships with a deep understanding of the background in which technology is enmeshed, exploiting every available device that arises from the desire to improve upon existing technology to crystallize it as a functional unit of study. Striving to enlighten and stimulate our concerns by reminding us how the advance of technology directs society, the writer proposes inventiveness and shows how use of technology actually drives itself.

The book calls for the need to study technology, setting it apart from other science and maintaining its classification within a scientific framework. The author appreciates that technology operates under the veil of science and believes many think it is less important than science itself. Yet, we are plagued by our dependence every time we pick up a new gadget.

Although a little wordy, making the reader’s mind wonder, Arthur’s extensive knowledge is right on target. We are reminded that we stand at the crossroads of a major milestone and will witness a world-changing amalgamation of our inter-related technologies. Arthur has compiled a rich collection of components that justify his definitions to work in a changing world.


Whole Earth Discipline

By Stewart Brand Publisher: Penguin Imprint: Viking Adult Category: Science & Nature Price: $25.95 325 Pages

Amazon.com Title: A Breath of Fresh Air

While many make a lot of noise about the green movement, Stewart Brand makes a bold statement that simply cannot be ignored. His discussion about the world’s carrying capacity is disturbingly fascinating and right on target. He points to a rather scary scenario for various systems reaching their capacity threshold and changing forever and forever changing the landscape on earth. He sees millions of species lost, large landlocked ice shelves sliding into the ocean, increasing water levels by 16 feet or more.

Stewart Brand has orchestrated a diverse approach to understand the environmental predicament we find ourselves in. He accomplishes this with a unique and resourceful embodiment of knowledge reaching out to a distinguished group of thinkers who have established authority in their own realm. Together, Brand points the way to understanding. We must become benevolent ecosystem engineers. We must be like earthworms, terra forming the planet for its future sustainability. We must be like the birds and the bees, pollinating the earth for prosperity.

His work is a breath of fresh air. If we are to enjoy that air in future generations, we better wake up and see what we have done and find ways to fix it.


Life Ascending

by Nick Lane $26.95 W.W. Norton & Company

Amazon.com Title: The Price of Immortality

We are immediately enlightened by Nick Lane’s brilliant and unique observation of ordinary science in order to derive a fresh perspective in an enriching and entertaining intellectual medium. His style is as lavish as it is clear. Life Ascending is not merely a collection of informative anecdotes, but sets a standard for similar books. His insights are not unlike those offered by Michio Kaku, the late Carl Sagan, et al., and share their enthusiasm.

The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution explains the questions we ask from the origin of life through sex, movement and finally consciousness and death. According to Lane, “Death…is programmed into the very fabric of life.” Such extraordinary reflections embody the mark of a passion for life that sets him apart from others. A fascinating journey into the largest questions that man has asked awaits the reader.

His is an offering that satisfies the soul and embraces life as a vessel of knowledge. I admire his gifts and respect his patience in unlocking the subtle secrets of the universe. I want to see more thinkers like Nick Lane.


The Universe--Order Without Design

by Carlos I. Calle $27.98 Prometheus Books Science and Nature

Amazon.com Title: Order without God

The author of The Universe raised a significant question concerning the nature of the universe in his subtitle. While other reviewers have examined his evidence, taking the position that it contradicts a case for order without design, I believe that Calle has succeeded in making his case. He acknowledges the revelation in theoretical physics, cosmology, Big Bang Theory and the expansion of the universe, making the case that order in the universe prevails whether or not God is present.

Although his review of the literature is comprehensive and accurate, he only tiptoes through the vast jungle of fragile ideas that support his notion of order without design. Even though he pleads a strong case for believing that such order does indeed exist, he refuses to yield to divine intervention.

I think that Calle allows himself the luxury to explore every avenue. Working his way through the literature, the reader feels enlightened because the author draws upon the ideas of the greatest thinkers to drive the most significant ideas. It is a good read filled with many ways to challenge your own thoughts. I highly recommend the work for those who do not seek absolute answers to a nebulous question.


The Case for Pluto

by Alan Boyle

Publisher: Wiley Category: Science & Nature Price: $22.95 258 Pages. Amazon Title: A New Home for Pluto

With a fresh style and a clear voice, Alan Boyle addresses The Case for Pluto. Ever since the search for a planet between Mars and Jupiter led to the discovery of the asteroid belt, the hunt for a planet at the edge of the solar system not only led to the discovery of Clyde Tombaugh’s Pluto, but also to the now well-known Kuiper Belt and the lesser known Ort Cloud.

Several efforts have aimed to demote Pluto to dwarf planet status, leading to one of the biggest controversies astronomy has seen since astronomers tried to capture images of stars hiding behind the sun during a solar eclipse as predicted by Einstein. A number of planet demystifiers have come to the aid of the planet degradation era, some with torches held high and some with lynch knots.

The main problem is that Pluto has enjoyed popularity. Boyle puts up a good battlefront for the case for Pluto, considering every angle and leaving no scientific mind undisturbed. What the scientific community could agree upon was that Pluto was both a planet and not a planet at the same time. The solution was to reclassify, hoping to quell the problem. A must read.


The Seven Pillars of Creation

by William P. Brown

Category: Science & Nature 334 Pages

Amazon title: The Bible, Science and Creation—A Bold New Look

What a pleasant surprise to find a work that is not afraid to speak to us. This book represents a monumental task of research and demonstrates a bold statement about creation. The book features a vast 54-page list of references, notes and 20-page bibliography, in addition to a superb 14-page index.

The author encompasses inter-related arguments from the Bible and represents them with the fabric of the cosmos, (Chapter 9) in which he puts forward the idea that, “All creation has an instinct for renewal,” a quotation of Tertullian. (See Brown’s notes.) His research is seated in biblical as well as scientific literature. The work is not easy reading. It is literate, bold and brave and hopes to gather ideas from different funds of knowledge to give credence to and appreciation of our incomprehensibly vast cosmos, both in the literal sense as well as the spiritual.

The book boasts both a biblical reference and scientific understanding—a challenge for the informed reader. This cornucopia of human knowledge is an incisive read for discerning thinkers.


Dreaming the Biosphere: The Theater of All Possibilities

by Rebecca Reider

Category: Science & Nature

Amazon title: A Dream for the Future

University of New Mexico Press. Category: Science & Nature Price: $39.95 258 Pages

With reverence and pizzazz, Rebecca Reider has unveiled Dreaming the Biosphere. Based upon a concept first developed by Sir Thomas More in 1516, known as Utopia, The Biosphere is a breath of fresh air. Far from Utopia, the Biosphere hoped to bring about a new way to view surviving on a planet troubled with uncertainty. She also poses a broader question that addresses what we need to do once we leave earth, raising deep concerns about colonization outside of our blue sphere.

Instead of a pile of chapters, Reider combs through four “acts:” Seeds, Genesis, Pioneering, The Reset Button and an epilogue, in which she explores the multi-faceted sterility of Dreaming the Biosphere . She does not pretend to exhibit her work in anything but a human experiment. In so doing, she has accumulated a chronicle of dedication to the task of discovering just what constitutes our living sphere and how we can live in it, ensuring our intense interest in further development.

Her book is an inspiration, a canvass to build upon for those bold enough to undertake the effort and research to better understand our living environment and a reflection on the human need to understand our world.


Time

By Eva Hoffman

University of New Mexico Press. Category: Science & Nature Price: $39.95 214 Pages

Amazon title: A Temporal Problem Identified

Eva Hoffman’s well-crafted and tantalizing prose posits a new mode of thinking in the area of temporal studies. Her book is an attempt to link every aspect of life to the inescapable grip of time. She determines human temporality by how humans live by the clock. Her rich testament to those concerns encompasses four specific areas: Time and the Body; Time and the Mind; Time and Culture; and Time in Our Time.

She peeks beneath the obvious to reveal hidden temporal relationships that animals experience. This raises some rather curious questions of time realization. She explains that, “Elephants live seven times longer than mice and an elephant’s heart beat is seven times slower. Does that mean that mice feel that they live as long?”

She refers the Hayflick limit that explains the limitation on cells’ ability to replicate. The implication is that we are deemed finite by nature. Time in Our Time discusses the way time allocation has changed. The author observes how home time is now more closely aligned with work time. These new temporal arenas allows us to understand how it seems that the way we experience time has also changed with time. A terrific read.


Decoding Reality

By Vlatko Vedral

Category: Science & Nature 229 Pages

Amazon title:Bits and Pieces

A new kid on the block with a fresh idea of what it’s all about wakes up the book world. On the quantum level, information appears to have no meaning, appearing as simple units of decision. Yet, the whole modern society is based on that very fact—i.e. computer-machines language. It all stems from “bits and pieces.”

He begins to assemble an argument for the bases of our technological reality, pointing out that our soft tissues operate based on more machine-line processes behind the scenes. Even so, we are a composite always achieving a state of which the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

Although his style is punchy with a prologue followed by three major parts being some 12 chapters and ending quite aptly with an epilogue. In all, a neat package, which mimics the machinery of reality. The book is a wonderful acknowledgement of reality’s complexity, giving us a neat rendering of what it ought to be. The author must be commended for his treatment of such an illusive topic. An invigorating read. I see great promise for this talented and modern new thinker.






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