Evolution: A Scientific American Reader

University of Chicago Press
9
Free sample

From the Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925 to the court ruling against the Dover Area School Board’s proposed intelligent design curriculum in 2005, few scientific topics have engendered as much controversy—or grabbed as many headlines—as evolution. And since the debate shows no signs of abating, there is perhaps no better time to step back and ask: What is evolution? Defined as the gradual process by which something changes into a different and usually more complex and efficient form, evolution explains the formation of the universe, the nature of viruses, and the emergence of humans. A first-rate summary of the actual science of evolution, this Scientific American reader is a timely collection that gives readers an opportunity to consider evolution’s impact in various settings.

Divided into four sections that consider the evolution of the universe, cells, dinosaurs, and humans, Evolution brings together more than thirty articles written by some of the world’s most respected evolutionary scientists. As tour guides through the genesis of the universe and complex cells, P. James E. Peebles examines the evidence in support of an expanding cosmos, while Christian de Duve discusses the birth of eukaryotes. In an article that anticipated his book Full House, Stephen Jay Gould argues that chance and contingency are as important as natural selection for evolutionary change. And Ian Tatersall makes two fascinating contributions, submitting his view that the schematic of human evolution looks less like a ladder and more like a bush.

With the latest on what’s being researched at every level of evolutionary studies, from prospects of life on other planets to the inner working of cells, Evolution offers general readers an opportunity to update their knowledge on this hot topic while giving students an introduction to the problems and methodologies of an entire field of inquiry.

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About the author

Scientific American, the premier general-interest science magazine, reports the most important developments in modern science, medicine, and technology to more than three million readers worldwide. The oldest continuously published magazine in the United States, it has been at the forefront of science for more than 150 years.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 15, 2008
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Pages
312
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ISBN
9780226742731
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / General
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In recent years, an ever-increasing amount of research has been conducted on the physico-chemical basis of the origin and evolution of life, or protobiology. Many questions are raised in this endeavor: What research methodology should be employed? What sort of dependable facts are available as a firm frame of reference upon which the physico-chemical origin of life or protolife could be examined? Is the origin due exclusively to chance events? If not, what is then responsible for the origin? What physical reality underlies the evolutionarily selective process leading to the origin? What role does variation assume and how is it generated in the course of evolution? Many research workers have pursued various avenues toward answering the stated questions. Among them, we believe Sidney W. Fox has been playing a very unique and pivotal role over the past quarter of a century, presiding over 240 man-years or more of labo ratory work. His laboratory syntheses of thermal proteins called proteinoids and proteinoid micro spheres have emphasized the prin ciple of the self-sequencing of amino acids as a key concept of protobiological synthesis. The significance of his contribution is seen in presenting the experimental evidence that the origin of life is largely due to nonrandom events. This discovery marks a new epoch in the conceptual development of studying the origin of life by focusing on the molecular processes that underlied the emergence and evolution of protobiological information.
The world’s most revered and eloquent interpreter of evolutionary ideas offers here a work of explanatory force unprecedented in our time—a landmark publication, both for its historical sweep and for its scientific vision. With characteristic attention to detail, Stephen Jay Gould first describes the content and discusses the history and origins of the three core commitments of classical Darwinism: that natural selection works on organisms, not genes or species; that it is almost exclusively the mechanism of adaptive evolutionary change; and that these changes are incremental, not drastic. Next, he examines the three critiques that currently challenge this classic Darwinian edifice: that selection operates on multiple levels, from the gene to the group; that evolution proceeds by a variety of mechanisms, not just natural selection; and that causes operating at broader scales, including catastrophes, have figured prominently in the course of evolution. Then, in a stunning tour de force that will likely stimulate discussion and debate for decades, Gould proposes his own system for integrating these classical commitments and contemporary critiques into a new structure of evolutionary thought. In 2001 the Library of Congress named Stephen Jay Gould one of America’s eighty-three Living Legends—people who embody the “quintessentially American ideal of individual creativity, conviction, dedication, and exuberance.” Each of these qualities finds full expression in this peerless work, the likes of which the scientific world has not seen—and may not see again—for well over a century.
Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken—imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms in the USSR and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time in order to witness the process of domestication. This is the extraordinary, untold story of this remarkable undertaking.

Most accounts of the natural evolution of wolves place it over a span of about 15,000 years, but within a decade, Belyaev and Trut’s fox breeding experiments had resulted in puppy-like foxes with floppy ears, piebald spots, and curly tails. Along with these physical changes came genetic and behavioral changes, as well. The foxes were bred using selection criteria for tameness, and with each generation, they became increasingly interested in human companionship. Trut has been there the whole time, and has been the lead scientist on this work since Belyaev’s death in 1985, and with Lee Dugatkin, biologist and science writer, she tells the story of the adventure, science, politics, and love behind it all. In How to Tame a Fox, Dugatkin and Trut take us inside this path-breaking experiment in the midst of the brutal winters of Siberia to reveal how scientific history is made and continues to be made today.

To date, fifty-six generations of foxes have been domesticated, and we continue to learn significant lessons from them about the genetic and behavioral evolution of domesticated animals. How to Tame a Fox offers an incredible tale of scientists at work, while also celebrating the deep attachments that have brought humans and animals together throughout time.
Have you ever wondered what’s happening in your brain as you go through a typical day and night? This fascinating book presents an hour-by-hour round-the-clock journal of your brain’s activities. Drawing on the treasure trove of information from Scientific American and Scientific American Mind magazines as well as original material written specifically for this book, Judith Horstman weaves together a compelling description of your brain at work and at play.

The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain reveals what’s going on in there while you sleep and dream, how your brain makes memories and forms addictions and why we sometimes make bad decisions. The book also offers intriguing information about your emotional brain, and what’s happening when you’re feeling love, lust, fear and anxiety—and how sex, drugs and rock and roll tickle the same spots.

Based on the latest scientific information, the book explores your brain’s remarkable ability to change, how your brain can make new neurons even into old age and why multitasking may be bad for you.

Your brain is uniquely yours – but research is showing many of its day-to-day cycles are universal. This book gives you a look inside your brain and some insights into why you may feel and act as you do.

The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain is written in the entertaining, informative and easy-to-understand style that fans of Scientific American and Scientific American Mind magazine have come to expect.

New York Times Bestseller

A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

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