Annal: 1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1994.

Book:The Beak of the Finch

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

Jonathan Weiner

On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin’s finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself. The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould.

Book:The End of Evolution

The End of Evolution

Peter Ward

Paleontologist Peter Ward searches for the clues to catastrophic extinctions and documents signs that a third mass extinction has already begun on our planet. With contagious enthusiasm for fossil-hunting and love of the land and sea, Ward documents the rich diversity of life past and present, bringing home how fragile the balance of life on earth is, while projecting into the future to show the best, and worst, possible scenarios we can hope for—and work toward.

“The pace of species extinction provoked by human rapacity may well now equal the rate of loss in the great mass extinction events that punctuate the history of life. We need a broad perspective on this most portentous of all ecological and evolutionary disasters-and who better than a paleontologist to provide it.” —Stephen Jay Gould

“The current extinction of species at the hand of Man—a crime that posterity will regard as more pernicious than the…[more]

Book:Signs of Life

Signs of Life: The Language and Meanings of DNA

Robert Pollack

The genetic age is upon us, yet most people have only a limited understanding of the wondrous chemical that encodes the formula for all living things. As DNA’s secrets are revealed, they must be rescued from the obscuring language of science, and now Signs of Life does just that. Borrowing from the humanities, Robert Pollack offers an entirely fresh perspective: DNA, he argues, should be seen as a great work of natural literature, a three-billion-year-old, continuously evolving text.

An award-winning scientist and teacher, Pollack displays both a sophisticated understanding of biology and a remarkable gift for metaphor. In elegant prose, he shows precisely how DNA provides the instruction book for life. He takes us deep inside a living cell—a teeming walled city—and explains how the genetic script at its heart governs all its operations. He opens the book containing the human genome and lucidly reveals the process by which biologists and physicians have begun to read its words and…[more]

Book:Uncommon Sense

Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science

Alan Cromer

Most people believe that science arose as a natural end-product of our innate intelligence and curiosity, as an inevitable stage in human intellectual development. But physicist and educator Alan Cromer disputes this belief. Cromer argues that science is not the natural unfolding of human potential, but the invention of a particular culture, Greece, in a particular historical period. Indeed, far from being natural, scientific thinking goes so far against the grain of conventional human thought that if it hadn’t been discovered in Greece, it might not have been discovered at all.

In Uncommon Sense, Alan Cromer develops the argument that science represents a radically new and different way of thinking. Using Piaget’s stages of intellectual development, he shows that conventional thinking remains mired in subjective, “egocentric” ways of looking at the world—most people even today still believe in astrology, ESP, UFOs, ghosts and other paranormal…[more]

Book:Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

Robert M. Sapolsky

Robert Sapolsky’s acclaimed Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers combines cutting-edge research with a healthy dose of good humor and practical advice to explain how prolonged stress causes or intensifies a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, and more. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal’s body does, but we usually do not turn off the stress-response in the same way—through fighting, fleeing, or other quick actions. Over time, this chronic activation of the stress-response can make us literally sick. This thoroughly updated third edition, which features new chapters on sleep disorders and addictions as well as new sections on gender differences, anxiety, weight gain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress management, is richer than ever with insights into how the nervous system responds to stress and how those responses can be controlled.

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