Annal: 2002 Aventis Prize for General Science Book

Results of the Aventis Prize in the year 2002.

Book:The Universe in a Nutshell

The Universe in a Nutshell

Stephen Hawking

One of the most influential thinkers of our time, Stephen Hawking is an intellectual icon, known not only for the adventurousness of his ideas but for the clarity and wit with which he expresses them. In this new book Hawking takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen’s terms the principles that control our universe.

Like many in the community of theoretical physicists, Professor Hawking is seeking to uncover the grail of science—the elusive Theory of Everything that lies at the heart of the cosmos. In his accessible and often playful style, he guides us on his search to uncover the secrets of the universe—from supergravity to supersymmetry, from quantum theory to M-theory, from holography to duality. …[more]

Book:The Madness of Adam and Eve

The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity

David Horrobin

This radical, highly readable and absorbing narrative leads to a new understanding of human evolution.

100,000 years ago we became human, and technical, religious, artistic, military and criminal abilities emerged. The first modern humans migrated from Africa to Eurasia and Australasia, carrying with them the genetic basis of schizophrenia, the only major illness found to the same extent in all racial groups. Modern evidence shows that families where schizophrenia is present are also exceptionaly creative in many different fields. Albert Einstein and James Joyce each had a schizophrenic child. David Horrobin draws on his knowledge of evolution, medicine and psychiatry to generate a startling hypothesis: we are human because some of us are schizophrenic and because a “touch of schizophrenia” is associated with that creativity which defines us and separates us from our nearest primate relatives.

Book:Measuring Eternity

Measuring Eternity: The Search for the Beginning of Time

Martin Gorst

The untold story of the religious figures, philosophers, astronomers, geologists, physicists, and mathematicians who, for more than four hundred years, have pursued the answer to a fundamental question at the intersection of science and religion: When did the universe begin?

The moment of the universe’s conception is one of science’s Holy Grails, investigated by some of the most brilliant and inquisitive minds across the ages. Few were more committed than Bishop James Ussher, who lost his sight during the fifty years it took him to compose his Annals of all known history, now famous only for one date: 4004 b.c. Ussher’s date for the creation of the world was spectacularly inaccurate, but that didn’t stop it from being so widely accepted that it was printed in early twentieth-century Bibles. As writer and documentary filmmaker Martin Gorst vividly illustrates in this captivating, character-driven…[more]

Book:A Primate's Memoir

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

Robert M. Sapolsky

This book was also published with the subtitle Love, Death and Baboons in East Africa.

“I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla,” writes Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist’s coming-of-age in remote Africa.

An exhilarating account of Sapolsky’s twenty-one-year study of a troop of rambunctious baboons in Kenya, A Primate’s Memoir interweaves serious scientific observations with wry commentary about the challenges and pleasures of living in the wilds of the Serengeti—for man and beast alike. Over two decades, Sapolsky survives culinary atrocities, gunpoint encounters, and a surreal kidnapping, while witnessing the encroachment of the tourist mentality on the farthest vestiges of unspoiled Africa. As he conducts unprecedented physiological research on wild primates, he becomes evermore enamored of his subjects—unique and compelling characters in their own right—and he returns to them summer after summer, until tragedy finally prevents him.

By turns hilarious and poignant, A Primate’s Memoir is a magnum opus from one of our foremost science writers.

Book:Rivals

Rivals: Conflict As the Fuel of Science

Michael White

White’s thesis is that the greatest advances in science come about through the stress of rivalry, whether between individual scientists, groups of scientists, institutions or even international communities of scientists. Not in this book do we have the thunderbolt of divine inspiration, or the placid, sterile and rather dull world in which it is popularly imagined the scientist lives: for White, great scientific advancements often find their origin and progression into the wider world through the very human battles for supremacy among the experts in any particular field, battles which can be born of jealousy, pettiness and simple personality clashes, as well as more noble instincts. The book deals with eight instances in the history of science and technology which changed the world, all of which have acute rivalry at their heart: Newton and Leibniz, Lavoisier and Priestley, Darwin and Wallace, Edison and Tesla, the race for the Atom Bomb, Crick and Watson, the Space Race and Gates and Ellison.

Book:The Secret Life of Dust

The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things

Hannah Holmes

Some see dust as dull stuff, useless at best, and sneeze-inducing at worst. But in the hands of writer Hannah Holmes, dust becomes a dazzling and mysterious force. As Holmes says, dust is a messenger, and air is its medium. And by the end of this fascinating journey through The Secret Life of Dust, we cannot help but agree.

Humble dust, we discover, built the very planet we walk upon. It tinkers with the weather and it spices the air we breathe. Billions of tons of tiny particles rise into the air annually—the dust of deserts and forgotten kings mixing with volcanic ash, sea salt, leaf fragments, scales from butterfly wings, shreds of T-shirts, and fireplace soot. And eventually, of course, all this dust must settle.

The story of restless dust begins among exploding stars, then treks through the dinosaur beds of the Gobi Desert, digs…[more]

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