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review 2018-06-25 08:21
Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World by Oren Harman
Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World - Oren Harman

TITLE:  Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World

 

AUTHOR:  Oren Harman
 

PUBLICATION DATE:  June 2018

 

FORMAT: kindle ebook/PDF

 

ISBN-13:  9780374150709

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NOTE: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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From the blurb:

"We no longer think, like the ancient Chinese did, that the world was hatched from an egg, or, like the Maori, that it came from the tearing-apart of a love embrace. The Greeks told of a tempestuous Hera and a cunning Zeus, but we now use genes and natural selection to explain fear and desire, and physics to demystify the workings of the universe.

Science is an astounding achievement, but are we really any wiser than the ancients? Has science revealed the secrets of fate and immortality? Has it provided protection from jealousy or love? There are those who believe that science has replaced faith, but must it also be a death knell for mythology?

Evolutions brings to life the latest scientific thinking on the birth of the universe and the solar system, the journey from a single cell all the way to our human minds. Reawakening our sense of wonder and terror at the world around us and within us, Oren Harman uses modern science to create new and original mythologies. Here are the earth and the moon presenting a cosmological view of motherhood, a panicking mitochondrion introducing sex and death to the world, the loneliness of consciousness emerging from the memory of an octopus, and the birth of language in evolution summoning humankind's struggle with truth. Science may not solve our existential puzzles, but like the age-old legends, its magical discoveries can help us continue the never-ending search.
"

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This book is exactly what it states on the cover - 15 myths that explain our world - but it is not a comparative mythology text or a book that refutes misconceptions of evolution.  In this book, Oren Harman takes some of the current scientific knowledge (about the formation of the universe, Earth, and evolution of various organisms) and formulates it into 15 mythological "stories", usually from someone's perspective (e.g. Mother Earth, a trilobite).  The writing style is fanciful and lyrical, occassionally overly verbose.  

I'm really not sure who the target audience of this book is supposed to be.  If you have knowledge of the topics the author covers, you might find this book amusing, though you won't find any new information.  If your scientific knowledge is limited, then most of these 15 myths will probably be confusing to you.  Personally I found the Chapter "Illuminations", which provides references and explains where the author got his information, more interesting than all the fuzzy mythological stories.  In my opinion, this book is either very clever or very silly, depending on the readers mood and inclination for expecting something more substantial than wierd stories touted as myths.  I really was hoping for more meat and less fluffiness.

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review 2018-06-22 10:21
WE: ROBOT by David Hambling
WE: ROBOT: The robots that already rule our world - David Hambling

TITLE: WE: ROBOT: The Robots That Already Rule Our World

 

AUTHOR:  David Hambling

 

PUBLICATION DATE: 2018

 

FORMAT: ebook/ PDF

 

ISBN-13: 978 1 78131 805 8

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NOTE: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

___________________________________

 

From the blurb:

Robots exist all around us. They populate our factories, assist our surgeons and have become an integral part of our armed forces. But they are not just working behind the scenes – impressive inventions such as free-roaming hoovers takecare of your household chores and the iPal is set to become your closest friend.

David Hambling reveals the groundbreaking machines – once the realm of science fiction – that are by our sides today, and those that are set to change the future forever. From the Reem robocop that polices the streets of Dubai to the drones that deliver our parcels and even the uncanny Gemonoid Hi-4 built to look just like you, here are fifty unique robots that reach into every aspect of our daily lives.

We:Robot examines why robots have become embedded in our culture, how they work and what they tell us about our society and its future.

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In We:Robot, David Hambling discusses the myriad of ways that robots and humans already work together and what the future may hold for robot-human interactions.  He provides a variety of specific robotic examples under four categories:  robots at work, robots at war, robots in your life and robots beyond.  Each robot example includes a page sized diagram (and sometimes a photograph), its dimensions, construction material, power source, processor, year of first use and then a summary of the robot's history and uses.  

Examples of specific robots include:
(1) industrial robots such as those that help put cars together, those that are designed to pick strawberries, skyscraper window washers (aptly named the Gekko Facade Robot), pilotbots, the alpha burger-bot, and the robot that herds and milks cows!!;
(2) household, lifestyle and medical robots such as the Roomba "vacuum cleaner", the Automower 450X, the Da Vinci Surgical System, the kiddies entertainment unit (IPAL - not sure letting a robot raise your child is a good idea, but it's there!), bionic hands;
(3) war robots such as drones, the packhorse replacement packbot, exoskeletons; and
(4) robots in the future such as the robonaut, underwater dolphin robot, a remote controlled lifeguard robot, Curiosity Mars rover, the soft, squishy octobot, swarming kilobots, and the Dubai police robots.

I found this book to be particularly fascinating - I had no idea there were that many robots running around!  The writing style is clear and conversational, with no technobabble.  The illustrations are beautifully (and colourfully) rendered and accompanied by colour photographs of a selection of the stranger robots.

This is an interesting book that takes a look at some specific robots, how they work, how they fit into our lives and what the future holds for us and them.  I suspect even technophobes will find this book interesting.

 

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review 2018-06-19 07:58
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

A pleasant, well-written, if sometimes heavy-handed, story of love and romance after 60.  That sounds a bit milquetoast, but that's not what the book is; it may not have stirred my soul, but it was easy to pick up and hard to put down.  

 

Small village, small minds, race relations and a dying class system set the scene for a plot that is not unpredictable. But Simonson excels at writing rich characters that come alive on the page; the only time she failed for me was Roger.  Roger had no redeeming qualities and should have been disinherited posthaste.  Otherwise, the characters are what make the story.

 

A very solid 4 stars.

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review 2018-06-17 09:35
Elizabeth and Her German Garden
Elizabeth and Her German Garden (The Penguin English Library) - Elizabeth von Arnim

I loved this - I think I first heard about it from a mention by Themis-Athena, but had to await its publication here before reading it.  It's a slim tome, but packed; at 104 pages, what I originally thought would be a fast read instead took me a couple of days, despite my being absorbed in it.

 

Mostly, it's a celebration of gardens, the outdoors, and nature, as written by one new to all of it.  But buried in the narrative, structured loosely like a diary, are moments of scathing wit, social commentary, and on the part of her husband, not a little misogyny.  Elizabeth and her German Garden was originally published in 1898 and though its language is of the time, Elizabeth is refreshingly modern.  Her thoughts, attitude, and personality are in almost all ways indistinguishable from the average 21st century woman's voice.  I loved her and her scathing, dry wit.

 

My only complaint about the book is it was slightly too short.  After lamenting two years of summer droughts that kept her in suspense of her garden's potential, the book ends at the very start of April and spring; I desperately want to know if she finally got to see her garden in all its glory!  Did the yellow border work out?  Enquiring minds are left hanging!

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review 2018-06-13 08:32
The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery & Nic Bishop
The Hyena Scientist - Sy Montgomery,Anne Bishop

The Hyena Scientist is a book written with 10-12 year old's in mind.  However, I'm sure most adults can get something out of it as well.  In this book Montgomery and Bishop take a tour through the Hyena research station in Kenya lead by zoologist Kay Holecamp.  The book reads like a travelogue with intersting bits about the spotted hyenas that this group studies, along with a nail-biting episode of floods and getting stuck in mud.  There are also short biographical sections for the scientists and assistants that operate this particular research station.  The main attraction of this book are the numerous (every single page!) colour photographs of spotted hyenas (fascinating creatures!) and other wildlife.  This is a good inspirational and educational book for children.

 

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