Tag Archives: history

The Journey of Man – Spencer Wells

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The Journey of Man
A Genetic Odyssey
Spencer Wells

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 31, 2012

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Around 60,000 years ago, a man—genetically identical to us—lived in Africa. Every person alive today is descended from him. How did this real-life Adam wind up as the father of us all? What happened to the descendants of other men who lived at the same time? And why, if modern humans share a single prehistoric ancestor, do we come in so many sizes, shapes, and races? Examining the hidden secrets of human evolution in our genetic code, Spencer Wells reveals how developments in the revolutionary science of population genetics have made it possible to create a family tree for the whole of humanity. Replete with marvelous anecdotes and remarkable information, from the truth about the real Adam and Eve to the way differing racial types emerged, The Journey of Man is an enthralling, epic tour through the history and development of early humankind.

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The Journey of Man – Spencer Wells

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Toms River – Dan Fagin

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Toms River

A Story of Science and Salvation

Dan Fagin

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: March 19, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE •  Winner of The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award • “A new classic of science reporting.”— The New York Times The riveting true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil Action, The Emperor of All Maladies, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks . One of New Jersey’s seemingly innumerable quiet seaside towns, Toms River became the unlikely setting for a decades-long drama that culminated in 2001 with one of the largest legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping. A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. For years, large chemical companies had been using Toms River as their private dumping ground, burying tens of thousands of leaky drums in open pits and discharging billions of gallons of acid-laced wastewater into the town’s namesake river. In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He tells the stories of the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and brings to life the everyday heroes in Toms River who struggled for justice: a young boy whose cherubic smile belied the fast-growing tumors that had decimated his body from birth; a nurse who fought to bring the alarming incidence of childhood cancers to the attention of authorities who didn’t want to listen; and a mother whose love for her stricken child transformed her into a tenacious advocate for change. A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed. NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND  KIRKUS REVIEWS “A thrilling journey full of twists and turns, Toms River is essential reading for our times. Dan Fagin handles topics of great complexity with the dexterity of a scholar, the honesty of a journalist, and the dramatic skill of a novelist.” —Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies   “A complex tale of powerful industry, local politics, water rights, epidemiology, public health and cancer in a gripping, page-turning environmental thriller.” —NPR “Unstoppable reading.” — The Philadelphia Inquirer   “Meticulously researched and compellingly recounted . . . It’s every bit as important—and as well-written—as A Civil Action and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks .” — The Star-Ledger   “Fascinating . . . a gripping environmental thriller.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)   “An honest, thoroughly researched, intelligently written book.” — Slate   “[A] hard-hitting account . . . a triumph.” — Nature   “Absorbing and thoughtful.” — USA Today From the Hardcover edition.

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Toms River – Dan Fagin

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Trump officials want to add a coal display to the EPA museum, because of course.

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Trump officials want to add a coal display to the EPA museum, because of course.

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Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body – Hugh Aldersey-Williams

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Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body
Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: June 3, 2013

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W. W. Norton


“A marvelous, organ-by-organ journey through the body eclectic…Irresistible [and] impressive.” —John J. Ross, Wall Street Journal The human body is the most fraught and fascinating, talked-about and taboo, unique yet universal fact of our lives. It is the inspiration for art, the subject of science, and the source of some of the greatest stories ever told. In Anatomies, acclaimed author of Periodic Tales Hugh Aldersey-Williams brings his entertaining blend of science, history, and culture to bear on this richest of subjects. In an engaging narrative that ranges from ancient body art to plastic surgery today and from head to toe, Aldersey-Williams explores the corporeal mysteries that make us human: Why are some people left-handed and some blue-eyed? What is the funny bone, anyway? Why do some cultures think of the heart as the seat of our souls and passions, while others place it in the liver? A journalist with a knack for telling a story, Aldersey-Williams takes part in a drawing class, attends the dissection of a human body, and visits the doctor’s office and the morgue. But Anatomies draws not just on medical science and Aldersey-Williams’s reporting. It draws also on the works of philosophers, writers, and artists from throughout history. Aldersey-Williams delves into our shared cultural heritage—Shakespeare to Frankenstein, Rembrandt to 2001: A Space Odyssey—to reveal how attitudes toward the human body are as varied as human history, as he explains the origins and legacy of tattooing, shrunken heads, bloodletting, fingerprinting, X-rays, and more. From Adam’s rib to van Gogh’s ear to Einstein’s brain, Anatomies is a treasure trove of surprising facts and stories and a wonderful embodiment of what Aristotle wrote more than two millennia ago: “The human body is more than the sum of its parts.”

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Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body – Hugh Aldersey-Williams

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Caesar’s Last Breath – Sam Kean

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Caesar’s Last Breath
Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us
Sam Kean

Genre: History

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: July 18, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.


The fascinating science and history of the air we breathe It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell. In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world. On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you’re probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra’s perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe’s creation. Tracing the origins and ingredients of our atmosphere, Kean reveals how the alchemy of air reshaped our continents, steered human progress, powered revolutions, and continues to influence everything we do. Along the way, we’ll swim with radioactive pigs, witness the most important chemical reactions humans have discovered, and join the crowd at the Moulin Rouge for some of the crudest performance art of all time. Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar’s Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second.

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Caesar’s Last Breath – Sam Kean

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Headstrong – Rachel Swaby

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Headstrong
52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World
Rachel Swaby

Genre: Reference

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: April 7, 2015

Publisher: Crown/Archetype

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists. In 2013, the  New York Times  published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the  Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light?        Headstrong  delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

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Headstrong – Rachel Swaby

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Jeff Sessions Was Just Confirmed as Attorney General

Mother Jones

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was just confirmed as attorney general by a 52-47 vote. Here are three things you need to remember about him:

He has a history of blocking black judges.

His anti-immigrant influence will go well beyond his role as attorney general.

Republicans have tried to rewrite his history on race.

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Jeff Sessions Was Just Confirmed as Attorney General

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Everyone on Capitol Hill Needs to Go Backpacking ASAP

Mother Jones

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Getting out into the wild is restorative. Fresh air, natural sounds and settings, a spot of exercise: It tends to free our mind, bring down our stress levels, and, with any luck, give us a break from work. The converse is also true. Excessive urban noise, for example, stresses us out and can wreak havoc on our psyches. These are things we know just based on everyday experience.

Author and journalist Florence Williams, whose last book was Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, takes this knowledge way further in a new book that focuses on the science behind the health-wilderness link. For The Nature Fix, which hits bookstores this week, Williams bounced around the planet talking to naturalists, scientists, and government workers to get to the bottom of our complex relationship with our environment, which turns out to be both intensely physical and psychological.

I reached out to Williams to talk about the science—and why our government is in desperate need of a monthlong camping trip.

Mother Jones: You write about something called “biophilia.” What is that and why is it important?

Florence Williams: Biophilia is a concept popularized by Harvard biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson that humans are deeply and instinctively bonded to living systems. It’s important because modern life has made us forget this. We think we are separate from nature, and we often treat the natural world as if that were the case. Our essential amnesia of biophilia has devastating consequences for both us and the natural world. Wilson believes that although the bond is instinctual, it must be cultivated from childhood or we lose it. If we really care about the future of our planet, we need start reconnecting little kids to nature. Unfortunately, many schools, neighborhoods and ever-tempting new technologies are moving kids in the opposite direction.

MJ: We’ve always known intuitively that nature has restorative effects, hence a turn in the countryside, but you really dug in. What surprised you?

FW: I figured being in beautiful environments would be good for our mood and mental health, but I wasn’t expecting the evidence that it also improves our attention and cognition. I was also kind of blown away by the so-called “awe studies” that show that when we experience even little shots of awe, like a sunset or an unexpected butterfly, it can make us actually more compassionate and generous. I have this new plan that we need to line the halls of Congress with potted ficuses and unleash some butterflies.

MJ: A lot of the health aspects of our exposure to nature seems to involve reducing our stress levels. Is there much else to it?

FW: There’s some debate about the mechanisms by which time in nature makes us feel better. It reduces our stress levels, but why? Some argue it’s because of the way information enters our brains. In ordinary life, we suffer from an onslaught of stimuli that taxes our frontal cortex, especially, leading to fatigue and a kind of general grumpiness. When we’re in nature, the frontal lobes get a break, and other parts of our brains get turned on, like parts governing empathy and daydreaming and self-concept.

Another theory is just that, hey, our nervous systems evolved in nature, not in Euclidean concrete cityscapes, and it just makes us feel good to be back in the green and the blue and the environments that sustained us for millions of years. Yet another piece of it is that being outside facilitates a lot of other effective happy-making things, like exercise and hanging out with fun people and seeing beauty. We can get those things in a city, too, but nature provides them for free and for all.

MJ: There’s a growing body of science supporting these health effects, but it seems like foreign scientists and governments are more serious about this stuff and more willing to act on it than Americans. What’s your theory on this?

FW: A lot of the countries I looked at have socialized medicine. It saves the system a lot of money to put some resources into preventing stress-related diseases and it increases worker productivity in the long run. As a psychologist in Finland told me, there just aren’t enough skilled workers to keep burning through them, like so many industries do in the US. So they invest in the workers, even giving them spa time and hiking days in the woods, so that they’ll keep working. And, oh yeah, they get a year off for parental leave—but don’t even get me started on that.

MJ: Tell me a bit about ways governments have taken action on this science, such as the “healing forests” of Japan and Korea.

FW: Japan has designated some 48 forest-therapy trails, mostly used by Tokyoites, who take the trains out of town and decompress from their demanding lives. South Korea now has three entire healing forests and another couple dozen planned. In both countries, healing rangers offer low-cost programs in stress management for everyone from firefighters with PTSD to school bullies to cancer patients. South Korea has explicitly made “green well-being” part of its forest management plan. Researchers have found that time in the woods improves cardiovascular health as well as mental health, so they’re really promoting it.

MJ: Richard Conniff wrote us an interesting piece a while back about how America’s national parks were inspired by Madison Grant, a prominent racist. To what extent is access to nature a social justice issue as it applies to public health?

FW: Madison Grant may have helped inspire the national parks, but so did Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted is well known for his love of boulders and big elms, but less known for his radical ideas about public space—especially green space—and democracy. He had toured the slave-holding South as a journalist and promoted the idea of parks as a mixing pot for the great American experiment. He understood that all men and women need to de-stress from the pressures of crowded and increasingly urban life. These notions are now back in vogue, and I don’t think there’s an environmental group out there—or a land-managing federal agency, or a kids’ health group—that isn’t looking at diversity in the outdoors as a core tenet. I’m really heartened by the efforts of groups like Outdoor Afro and GirlTrek and the scouting groups and a ton of others to improve access to nature for urban kids. And when the kids drag their parents outside, the benefits reach into their communities.

MJ: You also wrote a recent piece for Mother Jones, on how noise, which is defined as unwanted sound, appears to have significant negative effects on human health and learning capacity. Part of the equation is how sensitive a person is to noise. So what can a noise-sensitive urban dweller do? Is there a way to make peace with the leaf blowers or with the death metal our annoying housemates insist on blasting day and night?

FW: I wish that were true. I think once you’re bothered by noise, you’re probably always bothered by noise. The best we can hope for is to change up our personal soundscapes by wearing noise-canceling headphones, playing some nice birdsong or whatever music, and soundproofing your work space. Beyond that, we need to just get the heck out of dodge once in a while to recover some equanimity.

Florence Williams

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Everyone on Capitol Hill Needs to Go Backpacking ASAP

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Chart of the Day: Here’s How Trump Really Did Among Black Voters

Mother Jones

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As part of his touching remarks about Black History Month this morning, President Trump boasted that he “ended up getting substantially more” of the African-American vote than past Republican candidates. Glenn Kessler briefly picks this apart here, but everything is better with a chart. So here’s a chart. It shows the share of the black vote since 1972 for Republicans running against white Democrats:

Trump really kicked ass, didn’t he?

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Chart of the Day: Here’s How Trump Really Did Among Black Voters

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Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary Doesn’t Think Workers Should Get Breaks

Mother Jones

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The US Department of Labor exists to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners and job seekers,” and to “improve working conditions” and “assure work-related benefits and rights.” Andrew Puzder, Donald Trump’s choice to lead the department, has not exactly embodied those values in his career as CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent company of fast-food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. He’s a staunch and vocal opponent of minimum-wage hikes, and his company has had to pay out millions of dollars to settle overtime claims (more here).

And now, thanks to OC Weekly‘s Gabriel San Roman, we know what Puzder thinks of worker breaks. Spoiler: not much.

San Roman got to digging into the archives of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Oral and Public History, where he found a 2009 interview (not available online) with Puzder. According to San Roman, Puzder “complained about regulations and overtime laws, claiming workers are overprotected.” San Roman adds, quoting from the interview:

“Have you ever been to a fast food restaurant and the employees are sitting and you’re wondering, ‘Why are they sitting?'” Puzder asked. “They are on what is called a mandatory break emphasis his.” He shared a laugh with the interviewer, saying the so-called nanny state is why Carl’s Jr. doesn’t open up any new restaurants in California anymore.

Now, anointing a burger tycoon who openly disdains worker rights as labor secretary might seem like a quintessentially Trumpian move. But it’s worth remembering that Puzder is very much an establishment Republican. A major donor to GOP political campaigns, he served as an economic adviser and spokesman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and as a delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention and as chairman of the Platform Committee’s Sub-Committee on the Economy, Job Creation, and the Debt.

In late 2014, as the 2016 presidential race was about to heat up, Puzder listed his top three choices for the Republican nomination: Romney, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (now Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Energy), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. That same year, Puzder and then-Gov.Perry even appeared together at a Carl’s Jr. event in Austin, to roll out the burger chain’s “Texas BBQ Thickburger” and raise funds for a veterans’ charity, along with Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Ferguson. Puzder declared Perry “America’s best governor.”

And now they’ll both be in the Cabinet. Trump ran hard against the GOP establishment, only to hand it the keys to power.

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Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary Doesn’t Think Workers Should Get Breaks

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