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Pure Sciences

Ballantine, Richard and Dutcher, Jim. The Sawtooth Wolves.
Baum, Richard and Sheehan, William. In Search of Planet Vulcan.
Capra, Fritjof. The Web of Life.
Clark, William B. Sex and the Origins of Death.
Clawson, Calvin C. Mathematical Mysteries.
Dawkins, Richard. Climbing Mount Improbable.
Dewdney, A. K. Yes, We Have No Neutrons.
Folsing, Albrecht. Albert Einstein.
Gibson, Nancy. Wolves.
Goldsmith, Donald. The Hunt for Life on Mars.
Greene, Harry W. Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature.
Gribbin, John and Gribbin, Mary. Richard Feynman: A Life in Science.
HAL's Legacy.
Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf.
de Waal, Frans and Lanting, Frans. Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape.
Hill, Leonard. Shells.
Lear, Linda. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature.
McNutt, John and Boggs, Lesley P. Running Wild.
Phillips, Michael K. and Smith, Douglas W. The Wolves of Yellowstone.
Stringer, Christopher and McKie, Robin. African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity.
Walsh, John Evangelist. Unraveling Piltdown.
The Yellowstone Wolf
Zahavi, Amotz and Zahavi, Avish. The Handicap Principle.

Ballantine, Richard and Dutcher, Jim. The Sawtooth Wolves.1996. 192p. Rufus, Route 212, Bearsville, NY 12409, $40 (0-9649915-0-0). DDC: 599.74.

Gibson, Nancy. Wolves. 1996. 72p. index. illus. Voyageur, paper, $14.95 (0-89658-299-X). DDC: 599.74.

Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf. Jan. 1997. 400p. index. illus. Holt, $29.50 (0-8050-3716-0). DDC: 599.74.

Phillips, Michael K. and Smith, Douglas W. The Wolves of Yellowstone. Dec. 1996. 112p. index. illus. Voyageur, $24.95 (0-89658-330-9). DDC: 599.74.

The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook. Ed. by Paul Schullery. 1996. 366p. index. illus. High Plains, $32.50 (1-881019-13-6). DDC: 599.74.

These titles appeal to ascending gradations of interest in canis lupus: pure pictorial (Ballantine and Dutcher); introductory (Gibson); comprehensive (Hampton); reverent (Phillips and Smith); and intense (Schullery).

For those attracted to full-page spreads of howling wolves, playful pups, and packs in fang-bared snarl, Sawtooth Wolves provides a visual spectacular. It's a spin-off from photographer Dutcher's nature film, Wolf, which he claims 200 million people have seen. Dutcher and his crew, along with text writer and project director Ballantine, observed and filmed the behavior of a pack that Dutcher raised in a 25-acre enclosure in Idaho over a six-year period. Habituated to his crew's presence, the wolves tolerated close human approach, resulting in unusually dynamic photography, especially evident in the illustrations of pack hierarchy. An entrancing entree to the world of the wolf.

Gibson, an environmentalist, gives basic information about the various wolf subspecies around the world: their size, weight, territorial range. About 50 color photographs illustrate the color and physical variations among them. However, her text predominantly concerns the North American gray wolf; Gibson surveys its evolutionary antecedents, its behavior, and the extermination campaign against it. Ending with an account of the reintroduction program gives younger readers needing book-report facts a solid start in the subject.

Hampton is a skilled writer (Children of Grace: The Nez PerceWar of 1877, 1994) who offers another class narrative. This one covers four centuries of human animosity toward the North American wolf, from observations of the predator at Jamestown up through the intense opposition from ranchers to reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone Park. Whatever accounts for such abiding enmity, Hampton goes very far toward explaining it. The hatred is inspired, naturally, by depredations of wolves on stock animals but is also moderated by our fascination with the wolf as a highly intelligent predator. The Native American tribes held strong beliefs about the wolf, to which Hampton devotes one excellent chapter encompassing creation legends centering on wolves and adaptation of the wolves' natural behavior to the hunting and warfare techniques of certain tribes. To the whites, though, the wolf was not to be emulated, but extirpated, a campaign whose nearly successful course Hampton ably chronicles.

Phillips and Smith were the restoration leaders of the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Recovery project, initiated with the first shipment of wolves in January 1995 and the last in early 1996. They provide an interesting account of the operation of the project, which includes interviews with or essays by other members of the team and descriptions of the wolves and what happened to them (a wolf Phillips particularly admired was killed by poachers). The Phillips and Smith complements the Schullery nicely.

For the wolfologist to whom pretty pictures are simply not enough, Schullery has assembled research material that grew out of the preparation to put wolves back into Yellowstone Park. Some papers are scientific, some are legal, and most are for seriously interested readers to whom the phrase "environmental impact statement" portends exciting prose ahead. Perhaps of most interest to regional libraries, this anthology concludes with reports and graphs tracking the movements of the park's new residents. --Gilbert Taylor

Baum, Richard and Sheehan, William. In Search of Planet Vulcan: The Ghost in Newton's Clockwork Universe. June 1997. 350p. illus. Plenum, $28.95 (0-306-45567-6). DDC: 523.4.

Before it spawned Spock, the "planet" Vulcan was proposed to orbit inside Mercury to account for a chronic deviation in Mercury's predicted orbit. When amateur astronomer Edmond Lescarbault claimed to see the culprit, case closed, right? But try as they might, no one else could observe the fugitive; still, theoretically, its existence suited world-class mathematician Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, so he offered proof. A curiosity in the history of astronomy, the case demonstrates how a scientific authority can get the whole world barking up the wrong tree. Baum and Sheehan readably recount how Le Verrier made his name by explaining perturbations in Uranus' orbit in terms of an unknown planet, duly discovered as Neptune in 1846. The authors give a merry rendition of astronomers tramping to solar eclipses to glimpse Vulcan, the repeated futility of which finished it off, but the problem of Mercury's orbit persisted. Einstein eventually solved it: a curvature of space-time, not a planet, explained Mercury's orbit. Enjoyable recreational reading for astro-buffs. --Gilbert Taylor

Capra, Fritjof. The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems. Oct. 1996. 368p. index. illus. Doubleday/Anchor, $19.95 (0-385-47675-2). DDC: 574.

Dawkins, Richard. Climbing Mount Improbable. Sept. 1996. 288p. index. illus. Norton, $25 (0-393-03930-7). DDC: 575.01.

Two prominent scientists explain the latest theories about integrative systems of life.

Capra's The Tao of Physics (1991) has been hailed as pioneering and invaluable; his newest book will serve as an equally important introduction to the "emerging theory of living systems." As anyone who follows science knows, we are in the midst of a profound paradigm shift from a mechanistic focus on the working "parts" of the universe to attempts to comprehend the whole. Capra tracks the course of this growing recognition of the "web of life," of the interconnectedness of all life processes, by taking us through one cogent explanation after another of such complicated and intriguing topics as the development of cybernetics, the Gaia hypothesis and its connection to deep ecology, the mathematics of complexity and chaos theories, and, venturing out into ever more rarefied territory, the latest theories of cognition, which state that "mind is not a thing but a process--the very process of life."

Unlike Capra, Dawkins, author of The Blind Watchmaker (1987) and River Out of Eden (1995), is a classic Darwinist. Here he has created a metaphorical Mount Improbable to help explain the process of evolution. One of the main sticking points in accepting the theory of natural selection is believing that randomness, or chance, could possibly lead to the evolution of something as sophisticated as, for instance, the eye. Dawkins explains that Darwinism is "not a theory of random chance. It is a theory of random mutation plus non-random cumulative natural selection." The cumulative aspect is where the mountain comes in. Dawkins illustrates how improbability combined with nature's drive toward perfection resulted in the evolution of such wonders as spider webs, wings, shells, and the incredible symbiotic world enclosed within each and every fig. It's all quite complicated, but even at his most detailed and demanding, Dawkins is always graspable and illuminating. --Donna Seaman

Clark, William B. Sex and the Origins of Death. Nov. 1996. 185p. index. illus. Oxford, $22 (0-19-510644-X). DDC: 574.87.

Billions of years ago, single cells lived, died, and disintegrated. As cells grew larger and multicellular creatures evolved, sexual reproduction entered the picture, and somatic (body) cells had to protect the DNA in the germ cells until it could duplicate itself and continue to exist, at which point the particular somatic cells were no longer needed. Clark points out that there are two basic types of death, one caused by accident or necrosis, and the other caused by suicide or programmed cell death. The latter, apoptosis, was discovered and named just 24 years ago, and much of the information Clark draws on has been more recently discovered. Nature sees no difference between the deaths of brain, liver, or foot cells, but human beings evaluate their minds and bodies in a less impartial manner. Accordingly, Clark explores some of the social, phiosophical, and religious aspects of human beings in his lucid, thought-provoking work that concludes that, in the long view, humans differ not at all from other living creatures. William Beatty

Clawson, Calvin C. Mathematical Mysteries: The Beauty and Magic of Numbers. Nov. 1996. 320p. Plenum, $27.95 (0-306-45404-1). DDC: 512.

A writer in love with his subject, Clawson offers the perfect antidote to the phobias and misconceptions surrounding mathematics. Teasing one marvel after another from simple formulas, he reveals the splendors of a subject too often avoided as drudgery or ordeal. Great mathematicians, he shows, have bequeathed to their successors not only techniques for solving problems but also mysteries inviting contemplation, not solution. Not infrequently, these mysteries link up in startling ways--as when the ancient Golden Mean unexpectedly emerges within the Fibonacci Sequence so important to modern scientific investigations. Unlike some colleagues who cherish their professional secrets as the shibboleths of a pure mathematics untainted by practical application, Clawson rejoices that today's theoretical breakthrough is tomorrow's method of making codes or engineering plastics. But the mental vista he opens for his readers stretches far beyond the numbers we recognize as useful tools to those we acknowledge as humbling enigmas. A superb math book for the general reader. --Bryce Christensen

Dewdney, A. K. Yes, We Have No Neutrons: An Eye-Opening Tour through the Twists and Turns of Bad Science. Apr. 1997. 171p. index. illus. Wiley, $22.95 (0-471-10806-5). DDC: 500.

In a waggish vein, Dewdney recounts eight scientific flops in this century, in which scientists let their conviction regarding a new discovery (and desire for fame) outrun the basic methods of science. After a funny summary of said methods, Dewdney introduces the discoverer of "N-rays," ReneBlondlot, whose rays no one else could reproduce--the requirement of irreproducibility also led to the downfall of cold fusion, a recent fiasco probably more familiar to readers. On another fundamental blunder that leads to bad science, not posing a proper thesis, Dewdney hangs the "biosphere," admired more by TV cameras than scientists. He then turns to methodological shortcomings in subjects as varied as the search for extraterrestrial life, Freudian psychology, and the genetic basis, some allege, of human intelligence, spicing his skepticism with biting asides. Expounded in an engaging, conversational manner, these eccentric episodes in scientific progress might appeal both to students starting to grasp principles of the scientific method and to oldsters looking for a chuckle. --Gilbert Taylor

de Waal, Frans and Lanting, Frans. Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape. May 1997. 235p. index. illus. Univ. of California, $39.95 (0-520-20535-9). DDC: 599.88.

Bonobos, formerly called "pygmy chimpanzees," are the least known of the great apes. This wonderful book by a preeminent primatologist does much to introduce the general reader to one of our closest relatives. Covering studies undertaken both in captivity and in the species' natural habitat in Zaire, de Waal's riveting account compares bonobo behavior with that of the better-known chimpanzee and with humans. Complemented by Frans Lanting's coffee-table-quality photographs of wild and captive bonobos, the chapters cover the discovery of the bonobo (in 1929), its habitat and how it shaped the species' behavior, and the fears for the future of wild bonobos in an unstable region. Interviews with researchers provide a full picture of scientific studies, and extensive notes pertaining to each chapter explain many concepts in greater detail. This highly recommended book should be in all libraries. One minor warning: bonobos engage in all forms of sexual contact, and this behavior is fully explored in both the text and the photos. --Nancy Bent

Folsing, Albrecht. Albert Einstein. Tr. by Ewald Osers. Mar. 1997. 928p. index. illus. Viking, $37.95 (0-670-85545-6). DDC: 530.092.

His name connotes incomparable genius even for those who cannot fathom his famed theory. Yet the man who unveiled the deepest secrets of the universe has himself long remained an enigma to his admirers. But now, in an exhaustively researched narrative, Folsing unravels the enigma as he depicts the surprising variety of figures who all fit within Einstein's life story: the hot-tempered little boy who threw a chair at his tutor; the talented violinist who thrilled Saturday-afternoon gatherings with his interpretations of Beethoven; the brokenhearted husband who wept at the Berlin train station as his marriage crumbled; the neophyte psychologist who dined with Jung and corresponded with Freud; the ardent pacifist who willingly performed tasks for the German war machine; the skeptic who rejected his ancestral religion yet risked his station and even his life by affirming his Jewishness; the aging revolutionary who fought against the young turks creating quantum physics. Folsing deserves high praise for allowing the nonspecialist to share the singular mental odyssey that culminated in Einstein's remarkable discoveries, especially the theory of relativity. But he deserves even higher praise for exposing the vulnerabilities and inadequacies that made Einstein, for all his genius, one of us--an oft-perplexed and frustrated human being. As long as readers care about Einstein's character as well as his formulas, this book will attract and deserve attention. --Bryce Christensen

Goldsmith, Donald. The Hunt for Life on Mars. Feb. 1997. 256p. index. illus. Dutton, $24.95 (0-525-94336-6). DDC: 578.6.

It is hard to imagine anything more cosmically significant than the discovery of evidence of life on Mars. When news of a forthcoming Science article about a remarkable four-pound meteorite named ALH 84001, the oldest rock known to humankind, was leaked to the mainstream press in August 1996, the scientists involved were forced to forgo professional protocol and come forward with their earth-shaking data. In the ensuing excitement, many of the finer details of their research were glossed over. Accomplished science popularizer and astronomer Goldsmith preserves the story of ALH 84001, from its discovery on the ice of Antarctica in 1984 by Roberta Score to the realization, 10 years later, that not only was this "weird" rock Martian but it was also inlaid with carbonate globules and what might be traces of tiny single-cell organisms. Goldsmith's lively interviews with key players personalize this riveting tale of discovery and ongoing debate about the origin of life on Earth, its possible connection to life on Mars, and the future of Mars exploration. An engaging, comprehensive, and timely book on one of our age's most profound quests. --Donna Seaman

Greene, Harry W. Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature. June 1997. 288p. index. illus. Univ. of California, $45 (0-520-20014-4). DDC: 597.96.

Zahavi, Amotz and Zahavi, Avish. The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle. Tr. by Na'Ama Zahavi-Ely. June 1997. 265p. index. illus. Oxford, $25 (0-19-510035-2). DDC: 591.59.

Two exceptional books about animals may well charm, and will certainly inform, many library users.

Snakes fascinate most people, and Greene is able to express both his own fascination and love for snakes and his scientific curiosity about them in the same phraseology. His anecdotal, clear writing style introduces the reader to such scholarly subjects as the classification of the 2,700 species of snakes, their general biology, and the lifestyles of the major groups. Greene's narratives of encounters with various species of snakes he met while doing his field research provide a good introduction to the concepts explored in the succeeding text. The astonishing differences in adaptations and behavior among animals built on the same very specific body plan are explored in each example and are enhanced by the notes for each chapter. An extensive bibliography completes an excellent book, recommended for all libraries. Though the reviewer worked from a galley, the color photos will certainly add tremendously to the impact of Greene's text.

To quote the Zahavis' epilogue, "The Handicap Principle is a very simple idea: waste can make sense, because by wasting one proves conclusively that one has enough assets to waste. . . ." The idea that the handicap, be it physical (e.g., large antlers on deer, long tails on peacocks) or behavioral (antelopes jumping to show a predator that it is observed), demonstrates the quality of the handicapped animal is explored in this extremely well-written popularization of the authors' scientific work. Covering species as different as tigers and barn swallows, and topics as diverse as parasitism and parental care, the authors apply their theory to many aspects of animal behavior that were difficult to explain previously. The chapters are divided into short sections, allowing the authors to drive home specific ideas in self-contained units. Line drawings illustrate the sections, and footnotes lead the reader to the material in the extensive bibliography. Highly recommended. --Nancy Bent

Gribbin, John and Gribbin, Mary. Richard Feynman: A Life in Science. July 1997. 304p. index. Dutton, $24.95 (0-525-94124-X).DDC: 530.

This, the second life of Feynman, after James Gleick's Genius (1992), exemplifies the prolific Gribbins' winning biographical method that recounts the everyday life of the subject and contextualizes the import of his work. More essential than the colorful legends about the bongo-playing, safe-cracking, topless-bar-frequenting Feynman--which the Gribbins allude to but don't dwell on--is his character as a scientist. This was curious, persistent, scrupulously honest, indifferent to credit-taking, and brilliant. And more effective than the straight telling of what Feynman did on the atomic bomb or in the realms of quantum mechanics, superconductivity, and quarks is the Gribbins' exposition of the principles of atomic physics and the unknowns of the day that excited Feynman's interest. Electron-photon dynamics, for example, were still imperfectly understood until Feynman came along, and his Nobel Prize insights are cogently available to nonmath readers in this able presentation, as are the more graspable private aspects of Feynman's life. Ought to jump off most science shelves. --Gilbert Taylor

HAL's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality. Ed. by David G. Stork. Jan. 1997. 376p. index. illus. MIT, $22.50 (0-262-19378-7). DDC: 791.43.

As trivia mavens know, HAL, the Heuristic ALgorithmic computer, was "born" in Urbana, Illinois, on January 12, 1997; hence this Festschrift observing the occasion. The chapters are contributed by a dozen researchers into artificial intelligence (AI), responding to the intuitive questions felt by viewers of 2001: A Space Odyssey about the reality of HAL's capabilities, which may increase the prospect of mass appeal. Some of HAL's skills, such as playing chess, have been developed; others, conversing in human language for instance, are difficult, distant goals. And although the movie's action was impelled by the anticipation of AI, the consensus is that any HAL-like computer is far off, so the chapters also address the status of attributes of the movie HAL, such as lipreading, facial recognition, computer infallibility, and planning. The last chapter might be the most interesting because it outlines how HAL failed in his plan to kill the crew, though every chapter will engage every cyberphile (and might comfort the phobes). An inspired book expressed in layperson's terms. --Gilbert Taylor

Hill, Leonard. Shells: Treasures of the Sea. 1996. 311p. index. illus. Hugh Lauter Levin; dist. by Macmillan, $75 (0-88363-595-X). DDC: 594.147.

Few objects in the natural world rival the astonishing beauty of seashell forms, and in Hill's sumptuously oversize book overflowing with gorgeous photographs, that fact is declared in no uncertain terms. If collecting shells as art objects remains a popular pastime, the reason why is obvious after even a brief glimpse of the captivating sculptural qualities exhibited by the seashells shown here. From shimmeringly smooth to roughly ridged, with iridescent colors and mysteriously complex shapes and patterns, the glorious diversity of shells clearly merits a spectacular book such as this one. Hill's commentary provides scientific background on mollusks to further enhance the visual feast, while rare images show living creatures in their watery environment. A fine resource for collectors and naturalists alike. --Alice Joyce

Lear, Linda. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. Sept. 1997. 500p. index. illus. Holt, $35 (0-8050-3427-7). DDC: 570.

Finally, an empathic biographer interprets the life of Rachel Carson (1907-64), the catalyst for the modern environmental movement and author of such seminal works as The Sea around Us (1951) and Silent Spring (1962). So little has been known about Carson that every page of Lear's chronicle of her quest to help us recognize and protect the sanctity and oneness of life is full of revelations. Lear traces the path of Carson's determined, self-sacrificing life from her nature-struck youth to her dream of becoming a writer, her focus on science instead of literature in college, her unusual career as a government scientist, and, coming full circle, her transformation into a "literary sensation." Carson's primary objective was to express her love for and fascination with nature in prose that blended scientific accuracy with lyricism, but when her meticulous studies of coastal regions exposed the dire effects of pollution, she found herself entering into new and instantly controversial territory. Sadly, Carson was never able to fully enjoy her achievements, bedeviled, as she was, by complex family responsibilities and illness. Carson gave her life to save ours, and now, thanks to Lear, we can fully appreciate her sacrifices and her triumphs. --Donna Seaman

McNutt, John and Boggs, Lesley P. Running Wild: Dispelling the Myths of the African Wild Dog. Mar. 1997. 150p. index. illus. Smithsonian, $45 (1-56098-717-0). DDC: 599.7.

McNutt and Boggs have produced a compelling book on one of Africa's most endangered species. These particolored canines are not as well known as lions or leopards, but, as this book illustrates, demonstrate fascinating social behavior. The narration, divided into six chapters on topics like predation or play, follows a number of packs of dogs the authors studied for several years in the Okavango Delta region of Botswana. Intimate details of pack life are revealed in the stunning photographs, which illustrate the authors' discussions of pup rearing, the mechanics of the hunt, and the relationships among pack members. A plea for the conservation of this species is interwoven throughout the text. While the photographers alone have produced a beautiful coffee-table book, the authors' text takes the work beyond beauty and into the realm of science. A useful index refers the reader to specifics within the general chapters; the short glossary and further reading sections would have benefited from some expansion. Overall, this is a book highly recommended for all libraries. --Nancy Bent

Stringer, Christopher and McKie, Robin. African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity. July 1997. 272p. index. illus. Holt/John Macrae, $25 (0-8050-2759-9). DDC: 599.93.

Stringer, a pioneer of the out-of-Africa theory of human evolution, directs the Human Origins Group at London's Natural History Museum; McKie is science editor of the Observer in London. Together, they provide a fascinating overview of scientific confluence and controversy about "what it means to be human." Drawing on breakthroughs in paleoanthropological, archaeological, and DNA research, Stringer and McKie describe "the emergence of the human lineage" through various hominid forms; outline changing notions about the relationship between Neanderthals and modern humans; trace possible explanations for Homo sapiens' success in dominating the world (and the troubling consequences of that success); and examine adaptations to local climate and other conditions that define visible racial and ethnic distinctions, though our genetic differences are infinitesimally small. On the fringe of academic respectability just over a dozen years ago, Stringer's theory has been supported by so many diverse scientific studies it is the new orthodoxy (though opponents, in pop science like The Bell Curve as well as conflicting anthropological schools, still counterattack). Given this debate's political and social ramifications, the demanding but accessible African Exodus should generate interest. --Mary Carroll

Walsh, John Evangelist. Unraveling Piltdown: The Science Fraud of the Century and Its Solution. Sept. 1996. 304p. index. illus. Random, $25 (0-679-44444-0). DDC: 573.3.

Proclaimed a stunning anthropological discovery when unearthed in 1912 in a Sussex gravel pit, the humanoid skull dubbed Piltdown Man occupied an important position in evolutionary theory until finally exposed as a hoax in 1953. But the perpetrator of the hoax has remained a matter of conjecture--until now. A historical sleuth of considerable talent, Walsh traces scientific and biographical evidence to the culprit. He also clears the reputations of several prominent figures--including Arthur Conan Doyle and Teilhard de Chardin--falsely accused of involvement in the hoax. But Walsh's investigative task requires him to do more than identify the man guilty of the fraud. He must also lay bare the carelessness, naivete, and misplaced zeal of scientists who could (and should) have detected the deception. As gripping as a mystery novel, this tale of deceit and credulity will enthrall any reader willing to suspend faith in modern science as a coolly rational enterprise. --Bryce Christensen

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