Wetenschap & Filosofie

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2015: Het zingende paard. Een dialoog over voortreffelijkheid

‘Excellentie’ is een toverwoord. Het opent deuren naar selectieve bachelors en masters, tot beurzen voor PhD-plaatsen of internationale uitwisselingen – zelfs in het basisonderwijs kunnen excellente leerlingen al in een zogenoemde plusklas terechtkomen. Maar bestaat het eigenlijk wel? Is het objectief te meten? Kunnen en moeten we ernaar streven?

Jeroen Geurts, wetenschapper in hart en nieren, en Harm van der Gaag, rechtgeaard filosoof, pakken dit probleem in een socratische dialoog aan. In eerste instantie staan ze niet hetzelfde in deze kwestie. De wetenschapper wil criteria benoemen voor excellentie, om het vervolgens zinvol te kunnen toepassen in de academische praktijk. De filosoof twijfelt aan de betekenis en de waarde van het begrip. Moeten we wel van een paard verwachten dat het, naast het trekken van de kar, ook kan zingen? Zorgt onze focus op excellentie er niet voor dat men gemiddeld minder goed wordt, omdat we goed niet goed genoeg vinden?

Aan het eind van het vriendschappelijk dispuut wordt gemeenschappelijke grond gevonden in de herontdekking van het ouderwetse begrip ‘voortreffelijkheid’.

Wat is excellentie, hoe stellen we het vast, kunnen en moeten we ernaar streven? In Het Zingende Paard doen Jeroen Geurts (hoogleraar neurowetenschappen en lid van De Jonge Akademie van de KNAW) en Harm van der Gaag (filosofisch consulent) verslag van hun socratische dialoog over “Excellentie”.

Socrates & de dialoog

Op de markt in het antieke Athene stelde Socrates (ca. 400 v.C.) opvattingen op de proef die door zijn tijdgenoten als vanzelfsprekend werden aangenomen. Hij bevroeg hen naar de aannames en implicaties van hun opvattingen en liet zijn gesprekspartners standaard achter in volle verwarring, doordrongen van het besef van hun onwetendheid. Veel van deze gesprekken (dialogen) zijn opgetekend door Plato, die er echter ook zijn eigen draai aan gaf.

Tegenwoordig bedoelen we met ‘socratische dialoog’ een gesprek waarin deelnemers gezamenlijk proberen een filosofische vraag te beantwoorden. Dit is meestal een langdurig gesprek over een belanghebbend onderwerp waarover deelnemers op eigen gezag en uit eigen ervaring spreken. Een hedendaags socratisch gesprek eindigt net als in het antieke Athene vaak in verwarring: het vanzelfsprekende is minder vanzelfsprekend geworden, het belang van voortdurend onderzoek is duidelijk geworden.

Excellentie inkaderen?

De dialoog tussen de neurowetenschapper en de filosoof die aan de basis ligt van Het Zingende Paard besloeg een vol weekend. Het thema is in eerste instantie ingestoken vanuit het perspectief van de wetenschapper. In de wetenschappelijke sector speelt de notie ‘excellentie’ een sleutelrol bij het toekennen van subsidies, aanstellingen en hoogleraarschappen. Al snel zijn de vragen, argumenten en conclusies die voorbij trekken in het natuurlijke verloop van het gesprek ook breder van toepassing. De mannen onder elkaar spreken onder meer over excellente auto’s.

Bij het vaststellen van ‘excellentie’ in de wetenschap hanteert men ogenschijnlijk vele verschillende, zogenaamd objectieve criteria, maar het ontbreekt aan een eenduidige meetlat. Is het dan zo dat je excellentie ‘gewoon ziet’, volgens je eigen subjectieve maatstaf? Nee, deze voorlopige conclusie blijkt niet houdbaar en niet wenselijk in de praktijk. Kijk je etymologisch vanuit het Latijn naar het begrip, dan betekent excellentie zoveel als ‘uitstijgen boven’, ‘ex-cellere’. Een excellente wetenschapper steekt daarmee boven de schaal van goed, beter, best uit. Is ‘excellentie’ dan ‘allerbest’? Wederom nee, want dan zijn we weer terug in de, inmiddels opgerekte, schaal, terwijl ‘ex’ toch suggereert dat het buiten het kader ligt. Excellentie is echt anders dan zomaar heel erg goed. Maar of er bij excellentie sprake is van het oprekken van kaders of het openbreken ervan blijft de vraag. De gesprekspartners en schrijvers slapen er een nachtje over en de dialoog gaat de volgende ochtend verder.

Het zingende paard

De titel verwijst naar de sleutelpassage in de dialoog. De filosoof, die zich steeds openlijker de rol van de antieke Socrates toekent, tovert het concept ‘voortreffelijkheid’ uit zijn hoge hoed en breekt daarmee in op de eigenlijke structuur van het socratische dialoog. Hij geeft een kleine les over de antiek Griekse notie ‘arêtê’, deugdelijkheid, voortreffelijkheid — in het Engels interessant genoeg vaak vertaald met ‘excellence’. Al is deze wending wat geforceerd, het begrip geeft een interessante impuls aan het verloop van het gesprek. Een voortreffelijk paard doet wat een paard moet doen en kunnen, als paard. Het kan dus niet zingen, maar is gewoon een goed paard, niet per se het beste paard van allemaal of een beter paard dan andere paarden. Deze conclusie is, in de beste traditie van Socrates, verwarrend, want we bedoelen normaliter met ‘excellent’ toch zeker meer, of iets anders dan ‘gewoon goed’.

Geurts en Van der Gaag willen met dit boek klaarblijkelijk een bijdrage leveren aan de brede discussie over de rol van excellentie binnen de hedendaagse wetenschappelijke talentselectie. Hun impliciete boodschap is dat de Nederlandse selectie van wetenschappelijk talent, met haar focus op excellente toponderzoekers, is als een markt voor zingende paarden. Die doen niet alleen alle paard-eigen dingen op voortreffelijke wijze, maar van hen wordt bovendien verwacht dat ze kunnen zingen. Dit vinden de schrijvende gesprekspartners duidelijk een bedenkelijke stand van zaken.

Wat heeft een hoogbegaafde aan deze opgeschreven dialoog?

Veel elementen uit deze dialoog over excellentie, het zal u niet zijn ontgaan, zijn eveneens van toepassing op het conceptualiseren van hoogbegaafdheid. Coachlink Magazine had vorig jaar april een themanummer over “uitblinken”. Kerntalentenanalyst Anna Geburtig betoogt er weliswaar met behulp van een andere filosoof (Bas Haring, “Voor een echt succesvol leven”, 2007) dat hoogbegaafdheid niet per definitie gelijk is aan succesvol zijn (p. 66-69); in de rest van het magazine legt men wel onmiddellijk de link “uitblinken = excelleren = hoogbegaafd”. Prompt is ook een meetlat nodig om onderscheid te kunnen maken, een norm om te kunnen vergelijken met anderen. Maar denk eens na over de vraag of we bij hoogbegaafdheid eigenlijk te maken hebben met oprekkende kaders of met een buitenkaderig begrip? Als je hoogbegaafdheid wilt definiëren, bepaalt je antwoord op die vraag veel.

Ik raad niet alleen “hoogbegaafdheids-theoretici” aan om dit boekje in een rustig uurtje door te lezen. Ook in de praktijk is het behulpzaam voor persoonlijke reflectie op je hoogbegaafdheid. Veel hoogbegaafden worstelen met hooggespannen prestatieverwachtingen, van anderen en van henzelf. Hoe heerlijk is het als je alleen maar “gewoon goed” hoeft te zijn in galopperen en de ploeg trekken en niet ook nog hoeft te kunnen zingen?

Claartje van Sijl, 3 november 2016

Claartje van Sijl is filosofisch counselor. Ze helpt academici bij het gebruiken van hun intuïtie voor beter wetenschappelijk onderzoek. Ze helpt hen met vragen over doelen, het zoeken van een richting, balans en zelfverzekerdheid in hun leven en carrière.
Genre: Levenslessen, Werk & Ondernemen, Wetenschap & Filosofie

2014: Waartoe is de universiteit op aarde?

De universiteit staat ter discussie. Hoogleraren, docenten en studenten laten hun stem horen. De economisering wordt aan de kaak gesteld en de kritiek ten aanzien van de huidige publicatiecultuur groeit. Het wetenschappelijke en maatschappelijke nut van beide wordt betwijfeld – dat vindt inmiddels ook het bedrijfsleven. De nadruk op onderzoek en de enorme groei van het aantal studenten gaan bovendien ten koste van de kwaliteit van onderwijs. Academische vorming en vrijheid zijn in het geding!

Het is tijd de balans op te maken. Wat is er de afgelopen decennia gebeurd met de universiteit? Wat is er misgegaan en hoe kan het beter? Kortom: Waartoe is de universiteit op aarde?

Genre: Werk & Ondernemen, Wetenschap & Filosofie

2012: Ontspoorde wetenschap. Over fraude, plagiaat en academische mores

De fraudezaak van psycholoog Diederik Stapel veroorzaakte recent grote onrust in de Nederlandse wetenschap. Was deze affaire het topje van de ijsberg? Onderzoeksjournalist Frank van Kolfschooten, die sinds de jaren negentig al vele onthullingen deed over fraude- en plagiaatzaken, ging op zoek naar nieuwe voorbeelden die tot nu toe buiten de publiciteit zijn gebleven.

Hij ontdekte opnieuw spectaculaire zaken van wetenschappers die onderzoeksresultaten verzinnen/vervalsen of het werk van collega’s overschrijven. Hij tekende ook ervaringen op van Nederlandse slachtoffers van bedriegers in de internationale wetenschappelijke wereld.

In Ontspoorde wetenschap, dat ook een overzicht biedt van de belangrijkste fraudegevallen uit de Nederlandse wetenschapsgeschiedenis, laat van Kolfschooten zien hoe universiteiten zaken aanpakken en daarbij soms falen. Het resultaat is een zeer smakelijk boek voor een groot publiek.

Genre: Werk & Ondernemen, Wetenschap & Filosofie

2012: Een beetje opstandigheid. Johanna Westerdijk, de eerste vrouwelijke hoogleraar van Nederland

Nederlands eerste vrouwelijke hoogleraar was géén gejaagde, zenuwzieke en gecompliceerde vrouw, constateerde een krant in 1917 met enige verbazing. Buitengewoon was ze, in meer dan één opzicht. Met haar bulderende lach, haar liefde voor partijtjes, drank en dans, haar afkeer van handwerkjes, huwelijk en andere zinloze conventies, haar opgewektheid, gastvrijheid en mensenkennis veroverde Johanna Westerdijk een unieke plaats in een door mannen gedomineerde wereld. Onder haar leiding groeide een oude villa in Baarn uit tot het centrum van een wereldomspannend netwerk van wetenschappers en industriëlen.

‘Werken en feesten vormt schoone geesten’ werd haar levensmotto, in steen gebeiteld boven de deur van het laboratorium. Haar verhaal geeft een verrassende inkijk in de wetenschappelijke wereld van het interbellum en in het leven van een buitengewone vrouw.

Genre: Biografie, Grote geschiedenis, Wetenschap & Filosofie

2011: Schelpen en beschaving. De evolutionaire zienswijze van Geerat Vermeij

Dit boek biedt een persoonlijke en in veel opzichten onconventionele kijk op evolutie en het menselijk bestaan. De evolutietheorie vormt het fundament voor een wereldbeeld waarin de natuurlijke strijd om het bestaan en het functioneren van de menselijke beschaving en economie samenkomen. Daarvan uitgaand kunnen we begrijpen waar we vandaan komen, waar we naartoe gaan en hoe wij en de rest van de levende natuur in onze weergaloos mooie wereld betekenis krijgen. Geerat Vermeij, een van de interessantste intellectuelen van deze tijd, is een gedreven auteur. Hij is bereid om risico’s te nemen in een poging het (zeer) grote geheel in beeld te brengen. Zo ontvouwt zich een grensverleggend en uitdagend betoog over de verstrekkende invloed van evolutionaire processen.

Genre: Autobiografie, Grote geschiedenis, Toekomst & Maatschappij, Wetenschap & Filosofie

2009: Academisch leven. Notities voor een antropologie van de moderne universiteit

Universiteiten zijn er al meer dan duizend jaar en nog steeds vormen zij een heel sterk merk. Er mag dan veel worden geklaagd, maar een universiteit heeft nog altijd aanzien; men wil er graag werken en de studenten blijven komen. Waarin schuilt die veerkracht van de universiteit? Klaas van Berkel probeert die vraag te beantwoorden door de universiteit nu eens door de ogen van een antropoloog te bekijken. Wat zie je als je je concentreert op het alledaagse leven op en rond de universiteit? Die alledaagse praktijken onthullen een heel andere werkelijkheid dan de officiële voorschriften en regels. Hoogleraren gedragen zich niet als ambtenaren die een bepaalde overheidstaak uitvoeren, maar als vrije intellectuelen die door de overheid in staat worden gesteld hun wezensbestemming te volgen. Ook de grenzen tussen werk en privé en de verhouding tussen de seksen liggen anders dan het officieel lijkt. Dat veroorzaakt veel klachten, maar het houdt de universiteit ook op de been.

Genre: Werk & Ondernemen, Wetenschap & Filosofie

2005: Een onwrikbaar geloof in rechtvaardigheid. Aletta Jacobs 1854-1929

Iedereen kent haar als de eerste vrouw in Nederland die werd toegelaten tot een universiteit, de eerste vrouw die afstudeerde als arts, de eerste vrouw die promoveerde, de eerste vrouw die een artsenpraktijk opende en de eerste vrouw die zich op een kieslijst voor de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen wilde laten plaatsen. Maar wie was deze eigenzinnige vrouw die met grote vanzelfsprekendheid haar plek in de wereld opeiste? Gedreven door een onwrikbaar gevoel voor rechtvaardigheid betwistte Aletta Jacobs waar zij kon de fatsoensregels die vrouwen belemmerden in hun vrije tijd. Zij werd uiteindelijk de spil en de ziel van de Nederlandse beweging voor vrouwenkiesrecht. Haar wapens daarbij waren een scherp politiek en strategisch inzicht, humor, toewijding, idealisme, onuitputtelijke energie en doorzettingsvermogen.

Met gevoel voor het sprekende detail beschrijft Mineke Bosch de lange weg die Aletta Jacobs aflegde van ‘eenvoudig dorpskind’ uit een joods doktersgezin in de Groninger veenkoloniën tot wereldburgeres die op bezoek ging bij de paus én de president van Amerika om hun persoonlijk de resoluties van het Haagse Vrouwencongres voor de vrede aan te bieden.

Genre: Biografie, Grote geschiedenis, Wetenschap & Filosofie

1980: Godel, Escher, Bach. Een eeuwige gouden band

Hofstadter ontving in 1980 de Pulitzerprijs voor deze internationale bestseller en nog steeds, meer dan dertig jaar later, is er geen beter boek geschreven voor wie iets wil begrijpen van de manier waarop niet alleen kunstmatige maar ook menselijke intelligentie werkt.

Hofstadter geeft een briljante interpretatie van de drie genieën: de graficus Escher, de wiskundige Gödel en de componist Bach. Met dit populairwetenschappelijke werk beïnvloedde hij een generatie filosofen, computergekken, wiskundigen en taalkundigen.

Aan de oppervlakte worden de gemeenschappelijke elementen in de werken en levens van Gödel, Escher en Bach besproken. Op een dieper niveau is het boek een weergave van de concepten die ten grondslag liggen aan wiskunde, symmetrie en intelligentie. Dit is geen boek over muziek en kunst, maar over hoe waarneming en denkwijzen hun oorsprong hebben in diep verstopte neurologische mechanismen.

Genre: Levenslessen, Wetenschap & Filosofie

1969: Speech acts. An essay in the philosophy of language

In his first major work, Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (1969), Searle proposed that each kind of speech act can be defined in terms of a set of rules that identify the conditions that are individually necessary and collectively sufficient for “sincerely and non-defectively” performing an act of that kind. Among the rules for promising, for example, are that the speaker (S) predicate a future act (A) of himself, that S intend to carry out A, that the hearer (H) prefer that S carry out A, that it not be obvious to both S and H that S would carry out A in the normal course of events, and that S intend to place himself under an obligation to carry out A.

At a more general level, Searle identified three basic dimensions with respect to which different kinds of speech vary from one another: the illocutionary point of the act, insofar as it is an act of a certain type; what he called the act’s “direction of fit”; and the psychological state expressed by the act. For example, the illocutionary point of a statement, insofar as it is a statement, is to present the world as being a certain way, and the illocutionary point of an order, insofar as it is an order, is to get the hearer to do something.

Genre: Levenslessen, Wetenschap & Filosofie

1916: Einstein: Mijn theorie. Over de speciale en algemene relativiteitstheorie

Sinds 1916, toen dit werk in het Duits verscheen, is het ontelbare malen vertaald en herdrukt. En ondanks het feit dat Einstein in 1955 is overleden en natuurkunde sindsdien een stormachtige ontwikkeling heeft doorgemaakt, is dit boek ook nu nog een onovertroffen inleiding tot dit moeilijke maar zeer interessante onderwerp. Hier is de meester zelf aan het woord!

De natuurkundige grondslagen van de speciale en algemene relativiteitstheorie worden duidelijk en begrijpelijk behandeld. De nadruk ligt dan ook niet op de wiskundige precisie van de presentatie, maar op de algemene wetenschappelijke en filosofische aspecten.

Genre: Wetenschap & Filosofie

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2017: The great unknown. Seven journeys to the frontiers of science

Ever since the dawn of civilization we have been driven by a desire to know—to understand the physical world and the laws of nature. The idea that there might be a limit to human knowledge has inspired and challenged scientists and functioned as a spur to innovation. Now, in this dazzling journey through seven great breakthroughs in our understanding of the world, Marcus du Sautoy invites us to consider the outer reaches of human understanding. Are some things beyond the predictive powers of science? Or are those thorny challenges our next breakthroughs?

In 1900, Lord Kelvin—who gave the world telegraph cables and the Second Law of Thermodynamics—pronounced that there was “nothing new to be discovered in physics now.” Then came Einstein. Du Sautoy reminds us that again and again major breakthroughs were ridiculed and dismissed at the time of their discovery. He takes us into the minds of the greats and reveals the fraught circumstances of their discoveries. And he carries us on a whirlwind tour of everything from probability to particle physics, grounding his deeply personal exploration in simple concepts like the roll of dice, the notes of a cello, or how a clock measures time.

At once exhilarating and accessible, The Great Unknown will challenge you to think in new ways about every aspect of the known world and will give you the tools to understand the riddles our most creative scientists are still struggling to solve.

Genre: Big history, Future & Society, Science & Philosophy

2015: Spirals in time. The secret life and curious afterlife of seashells

Seashells are the sculpted homes of a remarkable group of animals: the molluscs. These are some of the most ancient and successful animals on the planet, and they have fascinating tales to tell.

But watch out. Somme molluscs can kill you if you eat them; some will kill you if you stand too close. That hasn’t stopped people using their shells in many ways over thousands of years. Spirals in Time charts the course of shells through history, from the first jewellery and the oldest currencies through to their use as potent symbols of sex and death, prestige and war, not to mention a nutritious (and tasty) source of food. We learn how shells have been exchanged for human lives, tapped for mind-bending drugs, and have even inspired advances in engineering and medicine.

In this book, Helen Scales leads us on a journey into the realm of these undersea marvels, animals that build a myriad of spiralling structures following just a few simple rules of mathematics and evolution. From shadowy mangrove forests to the deep blue ocean, she goes in search of everything from snails that ‘fly’ underwater on tiny wings to octopuses accused of stealing shells, giant mussels with golden beards, and clams that scrawl intricate messages to themselves in the fabric of their shells.

Shells are also bellwethers of our impact on the natural world. Some species have been overfished, others poisoned by polluted seas; perhaps most worrying of all, molluscs are expected to fall victim to ocean acidification, a side-effect of climate change that may soon cause shells to simply melt away. But rather than dwelling on what we risk losing, Spirals in Time urges you to ponder how seashells can reconnect us with nature, and heal the rift between ourselves and the living world.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

2014: The Unpersuadables. Adventures with the enemies of science

While excavating fossils in the tropics of Australia with a celebrity creationist, Will Storr asked himself a simple question: Why don’t facts work? Why, that is, did the obviously intelligent man beside him sincerely believe in Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and a six-thousand-year-old Earth, in spite of the evidence against them?

It was the start of a journey that would lead Storr all over the world. In The Unpersuadables, he tours Holocaust sites with a famed denier and a band of neo-Nazis, experiences is own murder during “past life regression” hypnosis, discusses the looming One World Government with an iconic climate skeptic, and investigates the tragic life and death of a women who believed her parents were high priests in a vast baby-eating cult.

Blending the skepticism of Ben Goldacre, the tenacity of Jon Krakauer, and the empathetic wit of Bill Bryson into a voice all his own, Storr reveals how the stories we tell ourselves about the world invisibly shape our beliefs in profound and often stubborn ways – even if they are completely wrong.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2014: Quantum field theory for the gifted amateur

Quantum field theory is arguably the most far-reaching and beautiful physical theory ever constructed, with aspects more stringently tested and verified to greater precision than any other theory in physics. Unfortunately, the subject has gained a notorious reputation for difficulty, with forbidding looking mathematics and a peculiar diagrammatic language described in an array of unforgiving, weighty textbooks aimed firmly at aspiring professionals. However, quantum field theory is too important, too beautiful, and too engaging to be restricted to the professionals. This book on quantum field theory is designed to be different. It is written by experimental physicists and aims to provide the interested amateur with a bridge from undergraduate physics to quantum field theory. The imagined reader is a gifted amateur, possessing a curious and adaptable mind, looking to be told an entertaining and intellectually stimulating story, but who will not feel patronised if a few mathematical niceties are spelled out in detail. Using numerous worked examples, diagrams, and careful physically motivated explanations, this book will smooth the path towards understanding the radically different and revolutionary view of the physical world that quantum field theory provides, and which all physicists should have the opportunity to experience.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2013: Octopus! The most mysterious creature in the sea

No one understands the octopus. With eight arms, three hearts, camouflaging skin, and a disarmingly sentient look behind its highly evolved eyes, how could it appear anything but utterly alien?

Octopuses have been captivating humans for as long as we have been catching them. Many cultures have octopus-centric creation myths, art, and, of course, cuisine. For all of our ancient fascination and millions of dollars’ worth of modern research, hoever, we still have not been able to get a firm grasps on these enigmatic creatures.

Now, Katherine Harmon Courage, a veteran journalist and contributing editor for Scientific American, dives into the mystifying underwater world of the octopus. She reports from around the globe of her adventures in Spain, Greece, and even Brooklyn, inviting us to experience the scientific discoveries and deep cultural ties that connect us to the octopus. You’ll discover:

  • The oldest known fossilized octopus is estimated to have lived 296 million years ago – even before the first dinosaurs emerged.
  • Government agencies are funding research labs around the world to re-create the octopus’s naturally occurring camouflage techniques.
  • About two thirds of an octopus’s brain capacity is spread throughout its eight arms, meaning one literally has a mind of its own.
  • Octopuses have aced numerous intelligence tests, including opening childproof bottles, solving mazes, and even recognizing individual people.
  • The octopus can change colors and textures within milliseconds to vanish against its background – yet we have no evidence that it can see in color.

Courage deftly interweaves personal narrative with interviews with leading octopus experts. The result is an entertaining yet scientifically grounded exploration of the octopus and its infinitely complex world.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

2011: Stephen Hawking. His life and work

Stephen Hawking is one of the most remarkable figures of our time – a Cambridge genius who has earned international celebrity and become and inspiration to those who have witnessed his triumph over disability. This is Hawking’s life story by Kitty Ferguson, written with the help from Hawking himself and his close associates.

Ferguson’s Stephen Hawking’s Quest for a Theory of Everything was a Sunday Times bestseller in 1992. She has now transformed that short book into a hugely expanded, carefully researched, up-to-the-minute biography giving a rich picture of Hawking’s life – his childhood, the heart-rendering beginning of his struggle with motor neurone disease, his ever-increasing international fame, and his long personal battle for survival in pursuit of a scientific understanding of the universe. Throughout, Kitty Ferguson also summarizes and explains the cutting-edge science in which Hawking has been engaged.

Stephen Hawking is written with the clarity and simplicity for which all Kitty Ferguson’s books have been praised. The result is a captivating account of an extraordinary life and mind.

Genre: Biography, Science & Philosophy

2010: Citizens of the sea. Wondrous creatures from the Census of Marine Life

The astonishing diversity of ocean life will wow you in this riveting book by marine scientist Nancy Knowlton. Citizens of the Sea reveals the most intriguing organisms in the ocean, captured in action by skilled underwater photographers from National Geographic, the Census of Marine Life, and others.

As you read lively vignettes about sea creatures’ names, defenses, migration, mating habits, and more, you’ll be amazed to discover fascinating facts like…

  • At twice the weight of the biggest dinosaurs, the blue whale is the largest animal ever to live on Earth.
  • There can be more than 20,000 different kinds of bacteria in just a quart of seawater.
  • The claw of a mantis shrimp moves as fast as a .22-caliber bullet.
  • Antarctic icefish have antifreeze in their blood.
  • Seals use their whiskers to feel objects the way monkeys use their hands.
  • Blue-footed boobies choose their mates based on the brightness of their feet.
  • Seaweed products can be found in everything from toothpaste to chocolate milk.
  • Cone snails are walking pharmacies, each containing hundreds of potential drugs.
  • Herring mate in schools that can be 25 miles long.

Brilliantly photographed and written in an easygoing style, Citizens of the Sea will inform and enchant you with close-up documentation of life in the ocean realm.

Genre: Future & Society, Science & Philosophy

2009: Darwin’s lost world. The hidden history of animal life

Darwin was deeply puzzled. Beyond the rocks of the Cambrian, full of trilobites and other animal fossils, there seemed to be a thundering silence. Where were the ancestors of these animals? Were there long gaps in these ancient rocks? Was the story of the oldest life erased forever?

Martin Brasier gives a vivid, compelling, personal account of the quest for Precambrian life. In an exhilarating journey that takes us to Siberia and Outer Mongolia, he shows what we have learned of the extraordinary creatures of the Precambrian, and the questions that remain.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

2009: The faith instinct. How religion evolved and why it endures

The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures is a 2009 book about the evolution of religious behavior by New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade, in which the author argues that religious behaviours have evolved through natural selection and shares similar evolutionary origins with other forms of collective behaviour in animals, primarily tribal behaviour. Wade argues that religious behaviour, through shared gods and beliefs, music and dance that creates social solidarity, is the driving force in making groups of people who are not related to each other by family, comply with and enforce shared norms and rules for social behaviour that are necessary for societies to function, thereby allowing humans who are not related to each by family to function together in a civilization.

Wade argues that the selection for religious behaviour began at least 50,000 years ago between African tribes, where tribes that benefited more from the unifying power of shared gods and beliefs, music and dance, outcompeted rivals and thus left more survivors, whereby genes underlying a brain-based “faith instinct” proliferated, which caused religious tendencies to be ingrained in the human brain.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

2009: Rachel Carson. Witness for nature

Rachel Carson: Witness for nature is the long-awaited definitive biography of the courageous ecologist and nature writer whose book Silent Spring began a movement that transformed the way we understand ourselves and the living world.

By drawing on previously unavailable sources and on interviews with those who knew her, Linda Lear gives a compelling portrait of this heroic woman, illuminating the origin of her connection with nature and of her determination to save what she loved. Lear reveals the unexpected influence of Carson’s early experience with industrial pollution and examines her live-changing encounter with the possibility of global extinction in the frightening days of the early Cold War.

The book follows Carson’s efforts to become a marine biologist at a time when women were unwelcome in the academic community. It shows how her connections with nature were confirmed and strengthened through her work as a government scientist and editor, where her views about the potential dangers of synthetic chemical pesticides evolved. By the late 1950’s, Carson had transformed colourless government research into three brilliant, popular books about the sea, including The Edge of the Sea, and had become the most respected science writer in America.

Carson was convinced that she must speak out to inform a society made complacent by postwar prosperity. When her Silent Spring appeared in 1962, it did more than any single publication or event to alert the world to the hazards of environmental poisoning. Carson’s personal courage propelled her to complete her work against formidable odds, confronting a government and industry that were heedlessly putting the future of the living world at risk.

Rachel Carson challenged the culture of her time and, in the process, shaped a powerful social movement that altered the course of American history. In her sensitive rendering of Carson’s tragically short but affirming life, Linda Lear reminds us how her witness was ultimately able to turn the world in a different direction.

Genre: Big history, Biography, Science & Philosophy

2009: Koster Sea. The first marine national park in Sweden

This book is available on >Amazon.

Stephan Edman has in depth information about Sweden’s first marine national park!

Did you know that crabs walk for miles across the seafloor carrying their >>babies<< under their abdomen, that sea cucumbers split out their guts to defend themselves or that ordinary shrimps perform a sex change midway through life?

These and many other interesting and amusing facts are presented in this book about the Kosterhavet Marine National Park – a wonderful, diverse world, full of contrasts, all within a surprisingly small area. Most of the aquatic environments that are typical of the west coast are found here alongside some unusual and unique habitats, among them the only living coral reef in Sweden.

The national park is home of some six thousand marine species. Magical underwater photography and easy to understand “at home” features bring you sea squirts and sea anemones, bristle worms and brachiopods. We visit snails that live on the beach and encounter lichens and >>speaking<< algae. Then we step ashore on idyllic islands to enjoy the flora and fauna. At sea we meet skuas, seals and a whale or two.

This book also introduces fishermen, scientists, islanders and nature lovers – dedicated people who have participated in shaping the national park, and who will do their very best to manage it and preserve it for the future.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2008: Oceans. A visual guide

This practical reference features:

  • the blue planet – a dynamic water world that harbors life
  • exploration, mythology, archaeology and the emergence of oceanography
  • a survey of marine plants and animals in oceanic habitats
  • the dark, deep seafloor and biodiverse ocean fringes
  • oceans as human habitat, food supply and dumping ground
  • factfile, glossary, ocean category tables and more
  • stunning full-color photographs and illustrations throughout
Genre: Science & Philosophy

2008: Manipulative monkeys. The Capuchins of Lomas Barbudal

With their tonsured heads, white faces, and striking cowls, the monkeys might vaguely resemble the Capuchin monks for whim they were named. How they act is something else entirely. They climb onto each other’s shoulders four deep to frighten enemies. They test friendship by sticking their fingers up one another’s noses. They often nurse – but sometimes kill – each other’s offspring. They use sex as a means of communicating. And they negotiate a remarkably intricate network of alliances, simian politics, and social intrigue. Not monkish, perhaps, but as we see in this downright ethnographic account of the capuchins of Lomas Barbudal, their world is as complex, ritualistic, and structured as any society.

Manipulative Monkeys takes us into a Costa Rican forest teeming with simian drama, where since 1990 primatologists Susan Perry and Joseph H. Manson have followed the lives of four generations of capuchins. What the authors describe is behavior as entertaining – and occasionally alarming – as it is recognizable: the competition and cooperation, the jockeying for position and status, the peaceful years under an alpha male devolving into bloody chaos, and the complex traditions passed from one generation to the next. Interspersed with their observations of the monkeys’ lives are the authors’ colorful tales of the challenges of tropical fieldwork – a mixture so rich that by the book’s end we know what it is to be a wild capuchin monkey or a field primatologist. And we are left with a clear sense of the importance of these endangered monkeys for understanding human behavioral evolution.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2008: The Earth after us

What would alien visitors of the far future, piecing together the history of Earth, find of our brief reign? What clues will we leave? What fossils? Just as we have gained knowledge of the past, of ancient climates and the activities of creatures long dead, so too might they decode the rocks. Jan Zalasiewicz uses this imaginary scenario to show how geologists reconstruct past worlds from their understanding of the dynamic processes that shape the Earth, making use of the tiniest signs in the rocks. Humankind has already done enough to leave a unique marker of climate change driven by our actions. If aliens were to uncover the ‘human stratum’ a hundred million years in the future, what would they make of us? And how might we be judged?

Genre: Big history, Future & Society, Science & Philosophy

2008: Grave secrets of dinosaurs. Soft tissues and hard science

This is a paleontological detective story, a 65-million-year-old case so cold it’s the hottest development in modern dinosaur-hunting. The victim, a hadrosaur, was discovered in the Hell Creek Badlands of North Dakota in 1999 by and enthusiastic fossil hound named Tyler Lyson. What seemed at first glance a solid but routine find would soon reveal itself to be one of the rarest of all specimens – a dinosaur mummy, and not just any mummy, but perhaps the finest and most complete example ever unearthed.

But this book is more than a window into the far-distant past; it’s also an account of a centyr and more of paleontological pioneers and a vivid portrait of the state of the art in modern paleontology. Phillip Manning calls upon many scientific disciplines and employs such high-teck tools as electron microscopes, LiDAR, and the world’s largest CT scanner, originally built to examine NASA spacecraft, now put to work imaging the enormous ancient creature that died hundreds of millennia ago.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

2007: The road to reality. A complete guide to the laws of the universe

One of today’s most accomplished scientists presents the only comprehensive and comprehensible account of the physics of the universe. Penrose examines the mathematical foundations of the physical universe, exposing the underlying beauty of physics and giving us one the most important works in modern science writing.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2007: BANG! The complete history of the universe

Why BANG!? Why did three men from markedly different backgrounds come together and spend to years passionately trashing out the text of a book about a Big Bang? Because they believe that every intelligent, inquisitive human being should have the chance to hear this astounding story, only very recently beginning to make sense – The complete history of the universe – in a language everyone can understand.

BANG! Space, time, matter… the Universe was born 13.7 billion years ago. Infinitely small at first, it expanded more rapidly than anyone can contemplate. Brian May, Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott explain how all this came about, from the moment when time and space came into existence, to the formation of the first stars, galaxies and planets, and to the evolution of human beings able to contemplate our own origins and ultimate destiny. Then on towards that destiny in the infinite future, long after the Earth has been consumed by the Red Giant Sun. The story is told in clear, straight forward terms, in the strict order in which the events happened, and uses no mathematics.

BANG! is an amazing story and this newly revised text brings it Bang! up to date. Is it fiction? The authors hope not, since it is based upon lifetimes work by great scientists such as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and hundreds of other brilliant minds. Enjoy, and let your imagination run riot.

Genre: Big history, Future & Society, Science & Philosophy

2007: Deeper than light

This book is available on >Amazon.

The earliest perception of the earth and the sea was that they were flat and if a sailor reached the horizon, he would fall off the edge! The geographical extent of the sea was unknown, its depth unfathomable, and unlikely to be tested as myth proclaimed that the deep waters were inhabited by monsters ready to take the unwary seaman.

The last 170 years of scientific discovery have brought about revolutionary changes in the way in which we understand the deep seas and open ocean. some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth lie hidden deeper than light. This book will take us on a journey from relatively shallow waters down to the abyss, discovering exciting deep-sea creatures on route.

Motivated by a passion for life in the deep sea, the authors, all active members of the Census of Marine Life, wanted to share their enthusiasm and convey the unsuspected richness of marine life, its strange animals and unusual ways of life at the greatest depths. Richly illustrated with photographs and art and introducing state-of-the-art knowledge in deep-sea biology, this book appeals to all curious by nature.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2007: Very special relativity. An illustrated guide

This book is available on >Amazon.

Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, first published in 1905, radically changed our understanding of the world. Familiar notions of space and time and energy were turned on their head, and our struggle with Einstein’s counterintuitive explanation of these concepts was underway. The task is no easier today than it was a hundred years ago, but in this book Sander Bais has found an original and uniquely effective way to convey the fundamental ideas of Einstein’s Special Theory. Bais’s previous book, The Equations, was widely read and roundly praised for its clear and commonsense explanation of the math in physics. Very Special Relativity brings the same accessible approach to Einstein’s theory. Using a series of easy-to-follow diagrams and employing only elementary high school geometry, Bais conducts readers through the quirks and quandaries of such fundamental concepts as simultaneity, causality, and time dilation.

An intellectual journey into the heart of the Special Theory, the book offers an intimate look at the terms and ideas that define our reality.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2007: The deep. The extraordinary creatures of the abyss

The deep sea is Earth’s largest reservoir of life. Largely uncharted – only about five percent of the seafloor has been mapped with any reasonable degree of detail – the abyssal plains are home to creatures as magnificent as they are strange. Combining the latest deep-sea science with astonishing imagery, The Deep takes readers on a voyage into the darkest realms of the ocean.

Revealing nature’s oddest and most mesmerizing creatures in crystalline detail, The Deep features more than two hundred color photographs of terrifying sea monsters, living fossils, and ethereal bioluminescent creatures. some photographed here for the very first time. Accompanying these breathtaking photographs are contributions from some of the world’s most respected researchers that examine the biology of deep-sea organisms, the ecology of deep-sea habitats, and the history of deep-sea exploration.

An unforgettable visual and scientific tour of the teeming abyss, The Deep celebrates the incredible diversity of life on Earth and will captivate anyone intrigued by the unseen – and unimaginable – creatures of the deep sea.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

2007: The silent deep. The discovery, ecology, and conservation of the deep sea

The Silent Deep tells the story of the exploration and discovery of the deep sea, the ecology of its diverse environments, and the impact of humans, highlighting the importance of global stewardship in keeping this delicate ecosystem alive and well. Written by world-renowned deep-sea ecologist Tony Koslow, this book is a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the state of the deep sea today, accessible to anyone interested in ocean science, the story of scientific discovery, and conservation of the earth’s most threatened ecosystems.

Genre: Big history, Future & Society, Science & Philosophy

2006: Masterminds. Genius, DNA, and the quest to rewrite life

Combining myth, biography, and wit, this is a highly original depiction of cutting-edge science and its profound implications, told through the scientists who are rewriting life on earth.

Throughout history, the scientists’ personalities have astonished us. From Galileo to Jonas Salk, they push and stretch society’s boundaries though their great leaps of imagination and originality, providing us with everything from the wheel to rocket ships and penicillin. Today’s masterminds in biotechnology promise lifespans up to 400 years, cures for cancer, and an end to pollution. But they are also capable of causing social upheavals with Frankenstein-like nightmare creations, as well as bioweapons.

Award-winning writer David Ewing Duncan has written a startling narrative about science and personality, delving into stem cells, cloning, bioengineering, and genetics by telling the stories of the characters at the fulcrum of the science. He uses a unique method of tying in age-old stories and myths – from Prometheus and Eve to Faustus and Frankenstein – to ask the question: can we trust these scientists?

Genre: Biography, Future & Society, Science & Philosophy

2003: The modern Moon. A personal view

Find this book on >Amazon.

Everyone on earth has looked up in wonder at the Moon. As the destination for the most audacious – and most expensive – voyage in history, the Moon has become the Rosetta stone for understanding the origin and evolution of the Earth and the other planets of our solar system.

Drawing on both traditional telescopic observations and the modern explorations of the Apollo, Clementine, and Lunar Prospector missions, The modern Moon: A personal view is an authoritative guidebook that tells the reader not only what to look for, but why to look. Combining scientific understanding with detailed descriptions and exquisite photographs, this book turns every reader with a backyard telescope into a field geologist equipped to unravel the Moon’s past and understand its present.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

2002: Endeavour. The story of Captain Cook’s first great epic voyage

This beautifully illustrated book gives a vivid account of life on board the Endeavour and its epic journey into the unknown between 1768 and 1771. The true purpose of this journey was to discover Terra Australis. However, British government, who wished to keep this a secret from other nations, claimed it was merely a scientific expedition to observe the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun.

Not only did the voyage result in the mapping of New Zealand, the east coast of Australia and the observation of the transit of Venus, but there was a wealth of other astronomical, navigational, zoological, botanical and anthropological discoveries.

Peter Aughton’s clearly written narrative captures the sense of adventure when sailing uncharted seas. While the wonder of the new never ceases, the three-year expedition is not without its tragedies and the Endeavour only narrowly escapes complete destruction as it strikes the Great Barrier Reef. The sailors are shown in all their strength as they navigate dangerous seas and combat life-threatening diseases. Aughton brings to life the many personalities on board the Endeavour from the cool, contained Captain Cook and the dapper botanist Joseph Banks to the roughest crew members, press-ganged into service. He also vividly describes the indigenous people encountered along the way, such as the light-fingered Tahitians, ferocious Maoris and the suspicious Aborigines. Beautifully illustrated with maps, drawings and etchings by the ship’s artist, Sydney Parkinson, as well as other members of the crew including Cook himself, Endeavour is the riveting story of an expedition that is unrivalled in scientific and artistic discovery.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

2001: The little book of stars

Stop for a moment to admire the nighttime stars that glitter and wheel overhead. To look at them is thrilling, but what do we really know about the pinpoints of light that stretch away into the black enormity of the sky? Can we possibly understand these glowing bodies that are separated from us by such vast stretches of time and space?

In The Little Book of Stars, Jim Kaler helps us see how modern astronomers have come to understand our stellar companions. In telling the story of the stars – actually the many stories of the stars – he describes their hidden births and violent deaths, their immense ages, and the near-unbelievable variety of sizes and configurations in which they exist. In their complexity and dynamism, Kaler tells us, the stars provide a view into the extraordinary physical forces that are at play in the Universe. And he describes how over the last 400 years scientists have come to understand, at first slowly and tentatively, now with increasing speed and certainty, just what these forces are and how they work. More, Kaler describes how we as humans have come to understand the stars, and how we have used them to keep time, to navigate, to try to predict the future, and to tell stories that explain our origins.

The Little Book of Stars will help you understand, with a revitalized sense of wonder, how our own history is inextricably tied to that of the stars, and how we are with them part of a singular ans astonishing Universe.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

1999: The eternal trail. A tracker looks at evolution

This book is available on >Amazon.

Were Jurassic dinosaurs social creatures? Can you determine the shape of a ram’s horns from its footprints? Paleontologist Martin Lockley answers these questions and many more in this highly original tale of tracking and track making. From the earliest fossilized prints left by a millipede on a volcanic island to Neil Armstrong’s footprint, forever embedded in the lunar dust, Lockley reinterprets the story of evolution, recorded over millions of years in the bedrock of our planet and its environs.

Reading a track, according to Lockley, is not unlike reading a book. And the experience can be just as enlightening. Far more than mere impressions in the earth’s crust, fossil footprints are alive with information about an animal’s overall shape, its behavior – even its color. Lockley demonstrates how the science of tracking is giving us new insights into the biology and evolutionary history of a diverse array of extinct animals. In the process, he offers a new, holistic approach to tracking – one that highlights the self-organizing principles at work in the natural world.

While The Eternal Trail is an eloquent testimony to the unity of form and function, it is also a marvelous adventure that spans the far reaches of the globe. We accompany Lockley to South Africa to examine earth’s first mammals (250 million-year-old Permian bushpigs caught napping in their burrow during a flood); to eastern Turkmenistan, where Lockley’s team uncovers the longest dinosaur trackway in the world; and to a place called Purgatory in the Rocky Mountains, where we find evidence of thousands of freshwater clams trampled to death by lumbering brontosaurs.

Trackers have always been keen observers of the natural world – from the Bushmen of the Kalahari (who, at an early age, could pick out their mother’s footprints from among those of the rest of the tribe) to the 19th century’s eccentric tracker-priests. Like those before him, Martin Lockley has an uncanny ability to get beneath an extinct animal’s skin and bring it to life. In so doing, he helps us see the world through a different lens.

Filled with fascinating anecdotes and surprising discoveries, The Eternal Trail initiates us into the art and science of tracking, while offering a poetic reflection on the continuity of life.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

1998: Wizard. The life and times of Nikola Tesla. Biography of a genius

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), credited as the inspiration for radio, robots, and even radar, has been called the patron saint of modern electricity. Based on original material and previously unavailable documents, this acclaimed book is the definitive biography of the man considered by many to be the founding father of modern electrical technology. Among Tesla’s creations were channeling of alternating current, fluorescent and neon lighting, wireless telegraphy, and the giant turbines that harnessed the power of Niagara Falls.

The book is illustrated with sixteen pages of photographs, including the July 20, 1931, Time magazine cover for an issue celebrating the inventor’s career.

Genre: Big history, Biography, Science & Philosophy

1989: The politics of evolution. Morphology, medicine, and reform in radical London

Theories of evolution have been put forward for several decades before Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, but in the turbulent 1830s they were abominated by the respectable scientists at Oxford and Cambridge. Why? Adrian Desmond finds an answer by looking not at the wealthy Oxbridge gents but at the radicals, Dissenters, and atheists in London’s medical schools and secular university, where materialist theories of life flourished.

Lamarck’s ideas about evolution and Geoffroy’s theory of a “unity of plan” in animals were imported into Britain in the 1820s by medical dissidents and were soon adopted by the radical underworld. Such theories were politically useful to fierce democrats intent on leveling society, and at the cut-price anatomy schools, medical unions, and new University of London (whose founders hoped to “crush bigotry”) activists saw in evolution a means of attacking the natural theology of the Oxbridge Anglicans and the hated hospital consultants. These upper-class scholars and surgeons in turn feared that talk of life being powered by base Nature rather than the Godhead would wreck the paternalistic system on which their privileges depended.

The dread of being lumped with the agitators, Desmond contends, actually prevented Darwin from publishing his own theory of evolution until twenty years later. Many clerics clung to the notion of a static nature periodically updated by God, but in time a group of Coleridge’s disciples at the Royal College of Surgeons developed a sophisticated theory of change to rival the radicals’ own. Desmond concludes his story with the decline of the radicals as these Tories took the initiative.

The Politics of Evolution exploits a wealth of rarely examined material – radical tracts, medical newspapers, and manuscripts – to give fresh insight into pre-Darwinian anatomy and evolution. It provides a vivid portrait of a hectic, bustling London and its scientific lowlife, full of grit, humor, drunkenness, and bankruptcies. It also contains the first account of the private medical schools, analyzes the reform movements within the learned societies, looks at the role of Dissenting teachers, and relates the scientific and social views of the city’s leading comparative anatomists: Robert Grant (the first to talk of “evolution” in a modern sense), P. M. Roget, W. B. Carpenter, T Southwood Smith, and Richard Owen. By providing the view “from below”, a dimension missing from previous histories of biology, it changes our understanding of science, medicine, and society in nineteenth-century England.

Genre: Big history, Science & Philosophy

1969: Set theory and its logic

This is an extensively revised edition of Mr. Quine’s introduction to abstract set theory and to various axiomatic systematizations of the subject. The treatment of ordinal numbers has been strengthened and much simplified, especially in the theory of transfinite recursions, by adding an axiom and reworking the proofs. Infinite cardinals are treated anew in clearer and fuller terms than before. Improvements have been made all through the book; in various instances a proof has been shortened, a theorem strengthened, a space-saving lemma inserted, an obscurity clarified, an error corrected, a historical omission supplied, or a new event noted.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

1913: Principia Mathematica

The Principia Mathematica (often abbreviated PM) is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913.

PM was an attempt to describe a set of axioms and inference rules in symbolic logic from which all mathematical truths could in principle be proven. As such, this ambitious project is of great importance in the history of mathematics and philosophy, being one of the foremost products of the belief that such an undertaking may be achievable. However, in 1931, Gödel’s incompleteness theorem proved definitively that PM, and in fact any other attempt, could never achieve this lofty goal; that is, for any set of axioms and inference rules proposed to encapsulate mathematics, either the system must be inconsistent, or there must in fact be some truths of mathematics which could not be deduced from them.

One of the main inspirations and motivations for PM was the earlier work of Gottlob Frege on logic, which Russell discovered allowed for the construction of paradoxical sets. PM sought to avoid this problem by ruling out the unrestricted creation of arbitrary sets. This was achieved by replacing the notion of a general set with the notion of a hierarchy of sets of different ‘types’, a set of a certain type only allowed to contain sets of strictly lower types. Contemporary mathematics, however, avoids paradoxes such as Russell’s in less unwieldy ways, such as the system of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory.

PM is not to be confused with Russell’s 1903 The Principles of MathematicsPM states: “The present work was originally intended by us to be comprised in a second volume of Principles of Mathematics… But as we advanced, it became increasingly evident that the subject is a very much larger one than we had supposed; moreover on many fundamental questions which had been left obscure and doubtful in the former work, we have now arrived at what we believe to be satisfactory solutions.”

PM has long been known for its typographical complexity. Famously, several hundred pages of PM precede the proof of the validity of the proposition 1+1=2. The Modern Library placed it 23rd in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

1687: Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for ”Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”), often referred to as simply the Principia, is a work in three books by Sir Isaac Newton, in Latin, first published 5 July 1687. After annotating and correcting his personal copy of the first edition, Newton also published two further editions, in 1713 and 1726. The Principia states Newton’s laws of motion, forming the foundation of classical mechanics, also Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and a derivation of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion (which Kepler first obtained empirically). The Principia is ”justly regarded as one of the most important works in the history of science”.

Genre: Science & Philosophy

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