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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch. In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself. The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould. With a new preface. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Evolutionary science is not only one of the greatest breakthroughs of modern science, but also one of the most controversial. Perhaps more than any other scientific area, evolutionary science has caused us all to question what we are, where we came from, and how we relate to the rest of the universe. Encyclopedia of Evolution contains more than 200 entries that span modern evolutionary science and the history of its development. This comprehensive volume clarifies many common misconceptions about evolution. For example, many people have grown up being told that the fossil record does not demonstrate an evolutionary pattern, and that there are many missing links. In fact, most of these missing links have been found, and their modern representatives are often still alive today. The biographical entries represent evolutionary scientists within the United States who have had and continue to have a major impact on the broad outline of evolutionary science. The biographies chosen reflect the viewpoints of scientists working within the United States. Five essays that explore interesting questions resulting from studies in evolutionary science are included as well. The appendix consists of a summary of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, which is widely considered to be the foundational work of evolutionary science and one of the most important books in human history. The five essays include: How much do genes control human behavior?What are the ghosts of evolution?Can an evolutionary scientist be religious?Why do humans die?Are humans alone in the universe
Over the past twenty years, paleontologists have made tremendous fossil discoveries, including fossils that mark the growth of whales, manatees, and seals from land mammals and the origins of elephants, horses, and rhinos. Today there exists an amazing diversity of fossil humans, suggesting we walked upright long before we acquired large brains, and new evidence from molecules that enable scientists to decipher the tree of life as never before. The fossil record is now one of the strongest lines of evidence for evolution. In this engaging and richly illustrated book, Donald R. Prothero weaves an entertaining though intellectually rigorous history out of the transitional forms and series that dot the fossil record. Beginning with a brief discussion of the nature of science and the "monkey business of creationism," Prothero tackles subjects ranging from flood geology and rock dating to neo-Darwinism and macroevolution. He covers the ingredients of the primordial soup, the effects of communal living, invertebrate transitions, the development of the backbone, the reign of the dinosaurs, the mammalian explosion, and the leap from chimpanzee to human. Prothero pays particular attention to the recent discovery of "missing links" that complete the fossil timeline and details the debate between biologists over the mechanisms driving the evolutionary process. Evolution is an absorbing combination of firsthand observation, scientific discovery, and trenchant analysis. With the teaching of evolution still an issue, there couldn't be a better moment for a book clarifying the nature and value of fossil evidence. Widely recognized as a leading expert in his field, Prothero demonstrates that the transformation of life on this planet is far more awe inspiring than the narrow view of extremists.
Are Jane Austen and Charles Darwin the two great English empiricists of the nineteenth century? Peter W. Graham poses this question as he brings these two icons of nineteenth-century British culture into intellectual conversation in his provocative new book. Graham shows that while the one is generally termed a naturalist (Darwin's preferred term for himself) and the other a novelist, these characterizations are at least partially interchangeable, as each author possessed skills that would serve well in either arena. Both Austen and Darwin are naturalists who look with a sharp, cold eye at the concrete particulars of the world around them. Both are in certain senses novelists who weave densely particularized and convincingly grounded narratives that convey their personal observations and perceptions to wide readerships. When taken seriously, the words and works of Austen and Darwin encourage their readers to look closely at the social and natural worlds around them and form opinions based on individual judgment rather than on transmitted opinion. Graham's four interlocked essays begin by situating Austen and Darwin in the English empirical tradition and focusing on the uncanny similarities in the two writers' respective circumstances and preoccupations. Both Austen and Darwin were fascinated by sibling relations. Both were acute observers and analysts of courtship rituals. Both understood constant change as the way of the world, whether the microcosm under consideration is geological, biological, social, or literary. Both grasped the importance of scale in making observations. Both discerned the connection between minute, particular causes and vast, general effects. Employing the trenchant analytical talents associated with his subjects and informed by a wealth of historical and biographical detail and the best of recent work by historians of science, Graham has given us a new entree into Austen's and Darwin's writings.
Describes general facts, the origins of birds, body structures, and the lives of famous bird enthusiasts.
“Simultaneously sobering and exhilarating, Michael Tennesen’s wide-ranging survey of disasters highlights both life’s fragility and its metamorphosing persistence” (Booklist) and describes what life on earth could look like after the next mass extinction. A growing number of scientists agree we are headed toward a mass extinction, perhaps in as little as 300 years. Already there have been five mass extinctions in the last 600 million years, including the Cretaceous Extinction, during which an asteroid knocked out the dinosaurs. Though these events were initially destructive, they were also prime movers of evolutionary change in nature. And we can see some of the warning signs of another extinction event coming, as our oceans lose both fish and oxygen, and our lands lose both predators and prey. In The Next Species, Michael Tennesen questions what life might be like after it happens. In thoughtful, provocative ways, Tennesen discusses the future of nature and whether humans will make it through the bottleneck of extinction. Could life suddenly get very big as it did before the arrival of humans? Could the conquest of Mars lead to another form of human? Could we upload our minds into a computer and live in a virtual reality? How would we recognize the next humans? Are they with us now? Tennesen delves into the history of the planet and travels to rainforests, canyons, craters, and caves all over the world to explore the potential winners and losers of the next era of evolution. His predictions, based on reports and interviews with top scientists, have vital implications for life on earth today. The Next Species is “an engrossing history of life, the dismal changes wrought by man, and a forecast of life after the sixth mass extinction” (Kirkus Reviews).
Why was there a meltdown at the Fukushima power plant? Why do some people get cancer and not others? Why is global warming happening? Why does one person get depressed in the face of life's vicissitudes while another finds resilience? Questions like these—questions of causality—form the basis of modern scientific inquiry, posing profound intellectual and methodological challenges for researchers in the physical, natural, biomedical, and social sciences. In this groundbreaking book, noted psychiatrist and author Peter Rabins offers a conceptual framework for analyzing daunting questions of causality. Navigating a lively intellectual voyage between the shoals of strict reductionism and relativism, Rabins maps a three-facet model of causality and applies it to a variety of questions in science, medicine, economics, and more. Throughout this book, Rabins situates his argument within relevant scientific contexts, such as quantum mechanics, cybernetics, chaos theory, and epigenetics. A renowned communicator of complex concepts and scientific ideas, Rabins helps readers stretch their minds beyond the realm of popular literary tipping points, blinks, and freakonomic explanations of the world.

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