Annal: 1997 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1997.

Book:How the Mind Works

How the Mind Works

Steven Pinker

In this book, Steven Pinker explains what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life. How the Mind Works explains many of the imponderables of everyday life. Why does a face look more attractive with makeup? How do “Magic-Eye” 3-D stereograms work? Why do we feel that a run of heads makes the coin more likely to land tails? Why is the thought of eating worms disgusting? Why do men challenge each other to duels and murder their ex-wives? Why are children bratty? Why do fools fall in love? Why are we soothed by paintings and music? And why do puzzles like the self, free will, and consciousness leave us dizzy?

The arguments in the book are as bold as its title. Pinker rehabilitates unfashionable ideas, such as that the mind is a computer and that human nature was shaped by natural selection. And he challenges fashionable ones, such as that passionate emotions are irrational, that parents socialize their children, that creativity springs from the unconscious, that nature is good and modern society corrupting, and that art and religion are expressions of our higher spiritual yearnings.

Book:Deadly Feasts

Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague

Richard Rhodes

It lurks in the meat we eat. Undetectable, it incubates for years. It kills by eating holes in people’s brains, so that they stagger and collapse and lose their minds. It’s one hundred percent fatal. And it’s already abroad in America.

Deadly Feasts reads like a Michael Crichton thriller—but it’s documented fact, bringing sober early warning of a new threat to our very lives that every one of us needs to heed. In this brilliant and gripping medical detective story, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes follows the daring explorations of maverick scientists as they track the emergence of the deadly “stealth” maladies known as prion diseases—strange new disease agents unlike any others known on earth. Mad cow disease is one. Besides hundreds of thousands of cattle, young people in Britain and France have already died from it—died from eating beef. …[more]

Book:The Fabric of Reality

The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes and Its Implications

David Deutsch

Deutsch’s pioneering and accessible book integrates recent advances in theoretical physics and computer science to explain and connect many topics at the leading edge of current research and thinking, such as quantum computers, and physics of time travel, and the ultimate fate of the universe.

Book:The Trouble With Testosterone And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament

The Trouble With Testosterone And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament

Robert M. Sapolsky

In The Trouble with Testosterone, Robert M. Sapolsky draws from his career as a behavioral biologist to interpret the peculiar drives and intrinsic needs of that most exotic species—Homo sapiens. With candor, humor, and lush observations, these essays marry cutting-edge science with a rich and compassionate humanity. Sapolsky’s book ranges broadly over the web of life, studying its details and plotting its themes.

“Curious George’s Pharmacy” examines recent exciting claims that wild primates know how to medicate themselves with forest plants. “Junk Food Monkeys” relates the adventures of a troop of baboons who stumble onto a tourist garbage dump. “Poverty’s Remains” claims that science is as riddled with metaphors as a Shakespearean sonnet. “Measures of Life” begins as a witty analysis of firing squads and concludes as a dazzling meditation on the roles and responsibilities of scientists. And…[more]

Book:Venus Revealed

Venus Revealed: A New Look Below the Clouds of Our Mysterious Twin Planet

David Harry Grinspoon

Early robot probes sent by Russian and American scientists had given us some tantalizing but fragmentary glimpses of the surface and atmosphere, hinting at some of the most exotic conditions seen in the solar system. Magellan showed a planet full of beautiful landscapes, some eerily familiar and some completely unexpected—a world of active volcanoes, shining mountains, and even river valleys carved by torrents of flowing lava. Venus may once have had a wet, temperate, comfortable climate, much like Earth’s. What happened to turn it into a hostile, burning, acid world? Our twin has important tales to tell us regarding several of Earth’s most pressing environmental problems, including ozone destruction, global warming, and acid rain.

In Venus Revealed, David Grinspoon makes a compelling case for comparative planetology as an important tool for gaining knowledge that is vital for our long-term survival on our own planet. He re-examines the uniqueness of our own Earth in light…[more]

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