Annal: 1995 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1995.

Book:Naturalist

Naturalist

Edward O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson—University Professor at Harvard, winner of two Pulitzer prizes, eloquent champion of biodiversity—is arguably one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. His career represents both a blueprint and a challenge to those who seek to explore the frontiers of scientific understanding. Yet, until now, little has been told of his life and of the important events that have shaped his thought.

In Naturalist, Wilson describes for the first time both his growth as a scientist and the evolution of the science he has helped define. He traces the trajectory of his life—from a childhood spent exploring the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida to life as a tenured professor at Harvard—detailing how his youthful fascination with nature blossomed into a lifelong calling. He recounts with drama and wit the adventures of his days as a student at the University of Alabama and his four decades at…[more]

Book:The Alchemy of the Heavens

The Alchemy of the Heavens: Searching for Meaning in the Milky Way

Ken Croswell

The Alchemy Of The Heavens offers an exciting and accessible survey of what we know about our galaxy.  The home of the earth, the sun, and countless other stars, the Milky Way has long been an object of human fascintation, but it’s been in the last forty years that astromoners and astrophysicists have made the most startling discoveries about our galaxy.  Author Ken Croswell reveals that the Milky Way formed as many earlier galaxies collopsed and smashed together; that may of the elements in the galaxy—including the iron and carbon that course through our bodies—were born in exploding supernovae; that in all likelihood there is a massive black hole at the center of the galaxy, with a million times more mass than the sun, and that the Milky Way’s oldest stars preserve the elements created in the big bang, thereby serving as “fossils” of the universe’s earliest days. A captivating journey through the modern astronomy of the Milky Way, Croswell shows us how a deeper understanding of the nature and working of the galaxy can offer larger clues into the origins of the universe itself.

Book:An Anthropologist on Mars

An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales

Oliver Sacks

Neurological patients, Oliver Sacks once wrote, are travellers to unimaginable lands. An Anthropologist on Mars offers portraits of seven such travellers—including a surgeon consumed by the compulsive tics of Tourette’s syndrome unless he is operating; an artist who loses all sense of color in a car accident, but finds a new sensibility and creative power in black and white; and an autistic professor who cannot decipher the simplest social exchange between humans, but has built a career out of her intuitive understanding of animal behavior. These are paradoxical tales, for neurological disease can conduct one to other modes of being that—however abnormal they may be to our way of thinking—may develop virtues and beauties of their own.

The exploration of these individual lives is not one that can be made in a consulting room or office, and Sacks has taken off his white coat and deserted the hospital, by and large, to join his subjects in their own environments. He feels, he says,…[more]

Book:Descartes' Error

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

Antonio R. Damasio

“Although I cannot tell for certain what sparked my interest in the neural underpinnings of reason, I do know when I became convinced that the traditional views on the nature of rationality could not be correct.”

Thus begins a book that takes the reader on a journey of discovery, from the story of Phineas Gage, the famous nineteenth-century case of behavioral change that followed brain damage, to the contemporary recreation of Gage’s brain; and from the doubts of a young neurologist to a testable hypothesis concerning the emotions and their fundamental role in rational human behavior. Drawing on his experiences with neurological patients affected by brain damage (his laboratory is recognized worldwide as the foremost center for the study of such patients), Antonio Damasio shows how the absence of emotion and feeling can break down rationality. In the course of explaining how emotions and feelings contribute to reason and to adaptive social behavior, Damasio also offers…[more]

Book:The Moral Animal

The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

Robert Wright

Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women’s interests? These are among the questions that have made The Moral Animal one of the most provocative science books in recent years. Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics—as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies.

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