Annal: 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2004.

Book:The Whale and the Supercomputer

The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change

Charles Wohlforth

Scientists and natives wrestle with our changing climate in the land where it has hit first—and hardest.

A traditional Eskimo whale-hunting party races to shore near Barrow, Alaska—their comrades trapped on a floe drifting out to sea—as ice that should be solid this time of year gives way. Elsewhere, a team of scientists transverses the tundra, sleeping in tents, surviving on frozen chocolate, and measuring the snow every ten kilometers in a quest to understand the effects of albedo, the snow’s reflective ability to cool the earth beneath it.

Climate change isn’t an abstraction in the far North. It is a reality that has already dramatically altered daily life, especially that of the native peoples who still live largely off the land and sea. Because nature shows her footprints so plainly here, the region is also a lure for scientists intent on comprehending the complexities of climate change. In this gripping account,…[more]

Book:His Brother's Keeper

His Brother's Keeper: A Story from the Edge of Medicine

Jonathan Weiner

From Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Beak of the Finch, comes His Brother’s Keeper—the story of a young entrepreneur who gambles on the risky science of gene therapy to try to save his brother’s life.

Stephen Heywood was twenty-nine years old when he learned that he was dying of ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease. Almost overnight his older brother, Jamie, turned himself into a genetic engineer in a quixotic race to cure the incurable. His Brother’s Keeper is a powerful account of their story, as they travel together to the edge of medicine.

The book brings home for all of us the hopes and fears of the new biology. In this dramatic and suspenseful narrative, Jonathan Weiner gives us a remarkable portrait of science and medicine today. We learn about gene therapy, stem cells, brain vaccines, and other novel treatments for such nerve-death diseases as ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s—diseases that afflict millions,…[more]

Book:On the Wing

On the Wing: To the Edge of the Earth with the Peregrine Falcon

Alan Tennant

In this extraordinary narrative, Alan Tennant, a passionate observer of nature, recounts his all-out effort to radio-track the transcontinental migration of the peregrine falcon—an investigation no one before him had ever taken to such lengths.

On the Wing transports us from the windswept flats of the Texas barrier islands—where the tundra falcons pause during their springtime journey north—to the Arctic, and then south, through Mexico, Belize, and into the Caribbean, in a hilariously picaresque and bumpy flight. At the helm is Tennant’s partner in falcon-chasing, George Vose, a septuagenarian World War II vet who trusts his instincts as much as his instruments. As the two men nearly lose their lives and run afoul of the law in the race to keep their birds in view and their rattletrap Cessna gassed up and running, Tennant renders with gorgeous precision and skill the landscape and wildlife they pass on the way and the falcons that direct their course. …[more]

Book:Opening Skinner's Box

Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century

Lauren Slater

Documents the drama of extraordinary inquiries into human psychology, bringing to life stories with unforgettable protagonists.

Lauren Slater delivers a witty and stunningly perceptive view of the progress of the science of the human mind in the last century. Beginning with B. F. Skinner and the legend of a child raised in a box, she takes us from a deep empathy with Stanley Milgram’s obedience subjects to a funny and disturbing re-creation of an experiment questioning the validity of psychiatric diagnosis. We observe cognitive dissonance among cult members whose apocalypse fails to arrive, and we see the groundwork being laid for a pill that promises to rescue the memories of aging baby boomers.

Through nine examples of ingenious experiments by some of psychology’s most innovative thinkers, Slater traces the evolution…[more]

Book:The Proteus Effect

The Proteus Effect: Stem Cells and Their Promise for Medicine

Ann Parson

“Stem cells hold particular promise for unlocking life-saving secrets of the cell…”—National Academy of Sciences

Cutting edge stem cell research could pave the way to a bold new era in medicine, providing cell-based treatments—perhaps even cures—for scores of diseases and illnesses. But what exactly are these biological wonders—these things called stem cells? And what promise do they really hold for medicine? As acclaimed author Ann Parson suggests, one way to measure the future is to first search back through the past to take stock of how humans have gradually awakened to these distinctive, often camouflaged, cells in our midst and slowly come to recognize their worth.

The story of stem cell technologies is at once compelling, controversial, and remarkable. Part detective story, part medical…[more]

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