Pantheon Books

Fight evil. Read books.

Posts tagged science

4 notes

“In a world of gadgets that blare artificial light into our eyes at all hours of the day, we are resetting our clocks with each text or e-mail sent in the middle of the night.” –Neil Shubin, The Universe Within

From one of our finest and most popular science writers, and the best-selling author of Your Inner Fish comes The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People, the answer to a scientific mystery story as big as the world itself: How have astronomical events that took place millions of years ago created the unique qualities of the human species?

With his trademark clarity and exuberance, Shubin takes an even more expansive approach to the question of why we look the way we do. Starting once again with fossils, he turns his gaze skyward, showing us how the entirety of the universe’s fourteen-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies. As he moves from our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings of our eyes, he makes clear how the evolution of the cosmos has profoundly marked our own bodies.

Filed under evolution lit natural history fossils neil shubin the universe within pantheon books physiology science

22 notes

"Galileo had been diagnosed with death: this was what the first page said. He, too, had been diagnosed with death, his own, and now. In fear he looked into himself and saw he was a small and paltry thing. He took his telescope and looked up at the sky. He saw the stars were distant and indifferent. He took his microscope and looked at the cells of his body. He saw they lived and died without concern for him."
From Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul by Giulio Tononi
[Image: iBouguereau, by Aurore Latuilerie]

"Galileo had been diagnosed with death: this was what the first page said. He, too, had been diagnosed with death, his own, and now. In fear he looked into himself and saw he was a small and paltry thing. He took his telescope and looked up at the sky. He saw the stars were distant and indifferent. He took his microscope and looked at the cells of his body. He saw they lived and died without concern for him."

From Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul by Giulio Tononi

[Image: iBouguereau, by Aurore Latuilerie]

Filed under lit books reading Neuroscience science galileo phi giulio tononi tech

5 notes


On my early visits to China in the mid-1980s, I assumed that as a Western journalist I would be noticed, followed, surveilled — and I was. Most of the time today, however, foreigners are noticed only to the extent that they provide an opportunity for, or create an obstacle to, a business deal some Chinese dreamer has in his or her sights.
These are the successes. Some of the limits and failures are well publicized: among others, the environmental despoliation that has made cancer the leading cause of death in China; the demographic shift caused by the one-child policy that threatens to make China the first society to grow old before it grows rich; and the problems of transparency and accountability in the Chinese governing system, illustrated most recently by the Bo Xilai and Chen Guangcheng cases.
Those, at least, are the problems that get the headlines. But there’s a bigger one, which the Chinese government and public are only now starting to recognize: whether the success of China’s current model is leading toward a “low-wage trap,” in which its outsourcing factories get bigger but don’t necessarily move the country toward the higher tiers of the world economic structure.
Put differently, will Chinese companies ever go from assembling iPads to fostering future Apples of their own — or, similarly, from selling knockoff copies of Western movies, music, search engines and online apps to establishing China’s own pop-culture industries with worldwide profits and soft-power appeal?


via The New York Times, “Can China Escape the Low-Wage Trap?” by James Fallows, author of China Airborne.

On my early visits to China in the mid-1980s, I assumed that as a Western journalist I would be noticed, followed, surveilled — and I was. Most of the time today, however, foreigners are noticed only to the extent that they provide an opportunity for, or create an obstacle to, a business deal some Chinese dreamer has in his or her sights.

These are the successes. Some of the limits and failures are well publicized: among others, the environmental despoliation that has made cancer the leading cause of death in China; the demographic shift caused by the one-child policy that threatens to make China the first society to grow old before it grows rich; and the problems of transparency and accountability in the Chinese governing system, illustrated most recently by the Bo Xilai and Chen Guangcheng cases.

Those, at least, are the problems that get the headlines. But there’s a bigger one, which the Chinese government and public are only now starting to recognize: whether the success of China’s current model is leading toward a “low-wage trap,” in which its outsourcing factories get bigger but don’t necessarily move the country toward the higher tiers of the world economic structure.

Put differently, will Chinese companies ever go from assembling iPads to fostering future Apples of their own — or, similarly, from selling knockoff copies of Western movies, music, search engines and online apps to establishing China’s own pop-culture industries with worldwide profits and soft-power appeal?

via The New York Times, “Can China Escape the Low-Wage Trap?” by James Fallows, author of China Airborne.

Filed under china business technology china airborne james fallows science news politics new york times the new york times

1 note

China Airborne by James Fallows is out today! About the book:

More than two-thirds of the new airports under construction today are being built in China. Chinese airlines expect to triple their fleet size over the next decade and will account for the fastest-growing market for Boeing and Airbus. But the Chinese are determined to be more than customers. In 2011, China announced its Twelfth Five-Year Plan, which included the commitment to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars to jump-start its aerospace industry. Its goal is to produce the Boeings and Airbuses of the future. Toward that end, it acquired two American companies: Cirrus Aviation, maker of the world’s most popular small propeller plane, and Teledyne Continental, which produces the engines for Cirrus and other small aircraft. In China Airborne, James Fallows documents, for the first time, the extraordinary scale of this project and explains why it is a crucial test case for China’s hopes for modernization and innovation in other industries. He makes clear how it stands to catalyze the nation’s hyper-growth and hyper- urbanization, revolutionizing China in ways analogous to the building of America’s transcontinental railroad in the nineteenth century. Fallows chronicles life in the city of Xi’an, home to more than 250,000 aerospace engineers and assembly workers, and introduces us to some of the hucksters, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and dreamers who seek to benefit from China’s pursuit of aerospace supremacy. He concludes by examining what this latest demonstration of Chinese ambition means for the United States and the rest of the world—and the right ways to understand it.

Read an excerpt here.
(Photo of Xi’an Xianyang International Airport via Wiki Commons.)

China Airborne by James Fallows is out today! About the book:

More than two-thirds of the new airports under construction today are being built in China. Chinese airlines expect to triple their fleet size over the next decade and will account for the fastest-growing market for Boeing and Airbus. But the Chinese are determined to be more than customers. In 2011, China announced its Twelfth Five-Year Plan, which included the commitment to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars to jump-start its aerospace industry. Its goal is to produce the Boeings and Airbuses of the future. Toward that end, it acquired two American companies: Cirrus Aviation, maker of the world’s most popular small propeller plane, and Teledyne Continental, which produces the engines for Cirrus and other small aircraft.
 
In China Airborne, James Fallows documents, for the first time, the extraordinary scale of this project and explains why it is a crucial test case for China’s hopes for modernization and innovation in other industries. He makes clear how it stands to catalyze the nation’s hyper-growth and hyper- urbanization, revolutionizing China in ways analogous to the building of America’s transcontinental railroad in the nineteenth century. Fallows chronicles life in the city of Xi’an, home to more than 250,000 aerospace engineers and assembly workers, and introduces us to some of the hucksters, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and dreamers who seek to benefit from China’s pursuit of aerospace supremacy. He concludes by examining what this latest demonstration of Chinese ambition means for the United States and the rest of the world—and the right ways to understand it.

Read an excerpt here.

(Photo of Xi’an Xianyang International Airport via Wiki Commons.)

Filed under lit science tech technology travel china james fallows aviation

93 notes

[T]hough we don’t realize it, we are making many decisions each second. Should I spit out my mouthful of food because I detect a strange odor? How shall I adjust my muscles so that I remain standing, and don’t tip over? What is the meaning of the words that other person is uttering? And what kind of person is she, anyway? These decisions seem effortless—but that is only because the effort they demand is expended in parts of the brain that function outside awareness. Take speech. When you read the sentence "The cooking teacher said the children made good snacks," most people automatically understand a certain meaning for the word “made.” But if you read, "The cannibal said the children made good snacks," you automatically interpret the word “made” in a more alarming sense. The difficulty in making sense of even simple speech is well-appreciated by computer scientists who struggle to create machines that respond to natural language. Their frustration is illustrated by an apocryphal story of the early computer that was given the task of translating the homily "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" to Russian and then back to English. According to legend, it came out: "The vodka is strong but the meat is rotten." Luckily, our unconscious does a far better job, and handles language, sense perception, and a myriad of other tasks, leaving our deliberative conscious mind time to focus on more important things like complaining to the person who programmed the translation software.
(from Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow)

[T]hough we don’t realize it, we are making many decisions each second. Should I spit out my mouthful of food because I detect a strange odor? How shall I adjust my muscles so that I remain standing, and don’t tip over? What is the meaning of the words that other person is uttering? And what kind of person is she, anyway? These decisions seem effortless—but that is only because the effort they demand is expended in parts of the brain that function outside awareness. Take speech. When you read the sentence "The cooking teacher said the children made good snacks," most people automatically understand a certain meaning for the word “made.” But if you read, "The cannibal said the children made good snacks," you automatically interpret the word “made” in a more alarming sense. The difficulty in making sense of even simple speech is well-appreciated by computer scientists who struggle to create machines that respond to natural language. Their frustration is illustrated by an apocryphal story of the early computer that was given the task of translating the homily "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" to Russian and then back to English. According to legend, it came out: "The vodka is strong but the meat is rotten." Luckily, our unconscious does a far better job, and handles language, sense perception, and a myriad of other tasks, leaving our deliberative conscious mind time to focus on more important things like complaining to the person who programmed the translation software.

(from Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow)

Filed under lit books reading leonard mlodinow subliminal subconscious neuroscience science psychology Peter Mendelsund