In praise of science: curiosity, understanding, and progress

Sander Bais
MIT Press, 2010

Publisher's Summary:

A virtuoso introduction to the field of science, the most democratic of human endeavors.

In this engaging, lyrical book, physicist Sander Bais shows how science can liberate us from our cultural straitjacket of prejudice and intolerance. We're living in a time in which technology is taken for granted, yet belief in such standard scientific facts as evolution is actually decreasing. How is it possible for cell phones and Creationism to coexist? Science -- fundamental, fact-based knowledge, not the latest technological gadget -- can give us the global and local perspectives we need to make the world a better place.

Bais argues that turning points in the history of science have been accompanied by similar milestones in social change, deeply affecting our view of nature, our perception of the human condition, and our understanding of the universe and our place in it. After a lively description of how curiosity trumps prejudice and pseudoscience in matters ranging from lightning rods to the transmission of HIV, Bais considers what drives science and scientists, a quest that culminates in that miraculous mixture of creativity and ingenuity found in the greatest scientists. He describes what he calls the "circle of science" -- the microcosm and the macrocosm as mirror images -- and demonstrates unity in a dazzling sequence of topics, including the hierarchy of structures, the forces of nature, cosmological evolution, and the challenge of complexity. Finally, Bais takes on the obstacles science encounters in a world dominated by short-term political and economic interests.

Science, he says, needs to get its message out. Drawing on sources that range from Charles Darwin and Karl Popper to Herbert Marcuse and Richard Feynman, with In Praise of Science, Bais does just that.

Manhattan Project to the Santa Fe Institute: the memoirs of George A. Cowan

George A. Cowan
University of New Mexico Press, 2010

Publisher's Summary:

The telephone lay in pieces on George Cowan's office desk in the basement of Princeton's physics building. It was his first day as a graduate student in the fall of 1941. Down the hall, on the door of the cyclotron control room, a sign warned, "Don't let Dick Feynman in. He takes tools." On that day, the future Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman needed a piece from his new office mate's phone, so he borrowed it without even introducing himself.

Cowan's memoir is an engaging eyewitness account of how science works and how scientists, as human beings, work as well. In discussing his career in nuclear physics from the 1940s into the 1980s, Cowan weaves in intriguing anecdotes about a large cast of distinguished scientists--all related in his wry, self-deprecating manner.

Besides his nearly forty-year career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Cowan also helped establish banks in Los Alamos and Santa Fe, served as treasurer of the group that created the Santa Fe Opera, and in the late 1980s participated in founding the Santa Fe Institute and served as its first president. He anchored its interdisciplinary work in his quest to find "common ground between the relatively simple world of natural science and the daily, messy world of human affairs."

Since the early 1990s Cowan has pursued a new interest in psychology and neuroscience to gain a deeper understanding of patterns of human behavior.

This autobiography will appeal to anyone interested in a concise, intellectually engaged account of science and its place in society and public policy over the past seventy years.

Networks: an introduction

Mark E.J. Newman
Oxford University Press, 2010

Publisher's Summary:

The scientific study of networks, including computer networks, social networks, and biological networks, has received an enormous amount of interest in the last few years. The rise of the Internet and the wide availability of inexpensive computers have made it possible to gather and analyze network data on a large scale, and the development of a variety of new theoretical tools has allowed us to extract new knowledge from many different kinds of networks.

The study of networks is broadly interdisciplinary and important developments have occurred in many fields, including mathematics, physics, computer and information sciences, biology, and the social sciences. This book brings together for the first time the most important breakthroughs in each of these fields and presents them in a coherent fashion, highlighting the strong interconnections between work in different areas.

Subjects covered include the measurement and structure of networks in many branches of science, methods for analyzing network data, including methods developed in physics, statistics, and sociology, the fundamentals of graph theory, computer algorithms, and spectral methods, mathematical models of networks, including random graph models and generative models, and theories of dynamical processes taking place on networks.

 

 

Complexity: a guided tour

Melanie Mitchell
Oxford University Press, 2009

Publisher's Summary:

What enables individually simple insects like ants to act with such precision and purpose as a group? How do trillions of neurons produce something as extraordinarily complex as consciousness? In this remarkably clear and companionable book, leading complex systems scientist Melanie Mitchell provides an intimate tour of the sciences of complexity, a broad set of efforts that seek to explain how large-scale complex, organized, and adaptive behavior can emerge from simple interactions among myriad individuals. Based on her work at the Santa Fe Institute and drawing on its interdisciplinary strategies, Mitchell brings clarity to the workings of complexity across a broad range of biological, technological, and social phenomena, seeking out the general principles or laws that apply to all of them. Richly illustrated, Complexity: A Guided Tour--winner of the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in Science--offers a wide-ranging overview of the ideas underlying complex systems science, the current research at the forefront of this field, and the prospects for its contribution to solving some of the most important scientific questions of our time.

The nature and timing of the neolithic demographic transition in the North American Southwest

[Chapter in] The Neolithic demographic transition and its consequences

Timothy A. Kohler, Matt Glaude
Springer, 2008

Publisher's Summary:

Maize agriculture was practiced in the US Southwest slightly before 2000 BC, but had a negligible impact on population growth rates until it was coupled with other innovations in subsistence and social practice. These include the development or introduction of more productive landraces; the ability to successfully cultivate maize under a greater variety of conditions, with dry farming especially important; the addition of beans, squash, and eventually turkey to the diet; and what we infer to be the remapping of exchange networks and the development of efficient exchange strategies in first-millennium-AD villages. Our tabulations of the P(5-19) proportion emphasize the heartlands of the Chaco and Mesa Verde Anasazi (prehispanic Pueblo) populations. We find that this measure is somewhat affected by warfare in our region. Nevertheless, there is a strong identifiable Neolithic Demographic Transition signal in the US Southwest in the mid-first-millennium AD in most sub-regions, visible a few hundred years after the introduction of well-fired ceramic containers, and more or less contemporaneous with the first appearance of villages.

Cooperation

[Chapter in] The new Palgrave dictionary of economics

Macmillan, 2008

Publisher's Summary:

The award-winning The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition is now available as a dynamic online resource. Consisting of over 1,900 articles written by leading figures in the field including Nobel prize winners, this is the definitive scholarly reference work for a new generation of economists. Regularly updated! This product is a subscription based product.

Globalization and egalitarian redistribution

Pranab K. Bardhan, Samuel Bowles, Michael Wallerstein, Russell Sage Foundation
Princeton University Press and Russell Sage Foundation, 2006

Publisher's Summary:

Can the welfare state survive in an economically integrated world? Many have argued that globalization has undermined national policies to raise the living standards and enhance the economic opportunities of the poor. This book, by sixteen of the world's leading authorities in international economics and the welfare state, suggests a surprisingly different set of consequences: Globalization does not preclude social insurance and egalitarian redistribution--but it does change the mix of policies that can accomplish these ends.

Globalization and Egalitarian Redistribution demonstrates that the free flow of goods, capital, and labor has increased the inequality or volatility of labor earnings in advanced industrial societies--while constraining governments' ability to tax the winners from globalization to compensate workers for their loss. This flow has meanwhile created opportunities for enhancing the welfare of the less well off in poor and middle-income countries. Comprising eleven essays framed by the editors' introduction and conclusion, this book represents the first systematic look at how globalization affects policies aimed at reducing inequalities.

The contributors are Keith Banting, Pranab Bardhan, Carles Boix, Samuel Bowles, Minsik Choi, Richard Johnston, Covadonga Meseguer Yebra, Karl Ove Moene, Layna Mosley, Claus Offe, Ugo Pagano, Adam Przeworski, Kenneth Scheve, Matthew J. Slaughter, Stuart Soroka, and Michael Wallerstein.

Inequality, cooperation, and environmental sustainability

Jean-Marie Baland and Pranab Bardhan
Princeton University Press, 2006

Publisher's Summary:

Would improving the economic, social, and political condition of the world's disadvantaged people slow--or accelerate--environmental degradation? In Inequality, Cooperation, and Environmental Sustainability, leading social scientists provide answers to this difficult question, using new research on the impact of inequality on environmental sustainability.

The contributors' findings suggest that inequality may exacerbate environmental problems by making it more difficult for individuals, groups, and nations to cooperate in the design and enforcement of measures to protect natural assets ranging from local commons to the global climate. But a more equal division of a given amount of income could speed the process of environmental degradation--for example, if the poor value the preservation of the environment less than the rich do, or if the consumption patterns of the poor entail proportionally greater environmental degradation than that of the rich. The contributors also find that the effect of inequality on cooperation and environmental sustainability depends critically on the economic and political institutions governing how people interact, and the technical nature of the environmental asset in question. The contributors focus on the local commons because many of the world's poorest depend on them for their livelihoods, and recent research has made great strides in showing how private incentives, group governance, and government policies might combine to protect these resources.

Network analysis and ethnographic problems: process models of a Turkish nomad clan

Douglas R. White and Ulla Johansen
Lexington Books, 2006

Publisher's Summary:

Using network visualization and the study of the dynamics of marriage choices, Network Analysis and Ethnographic Problems expands the theory of social practice to show how changes in the structure of a society's kinship network affect the development of social cohesion over time. Using the genealogical networks of a Turkish nomad clan, authors Douglas White and Ulla Johansen explore how changes in network cohesion are revealed to be indicative of key processes of social change. This approach alters in fundamental ways the anthropological concepts of social structure, organizational dynamics, social cohesion, marriage strategies, as well as the study of community politics within the dynamics of ongoing personal interaction.

Moral sentiments and material interests: the foundations of cooperation in economic life

Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles
MIT Press, 2005

Publisher's Summary:

Moral Sentiments and Material Interests presents an innovative synthesis of research in different disciplines to argue that cooperation stems not from the stereotypical selfish agent acting out of disguised self-interest but from the presence of "strong reciprocators" in a social group.

Presenting an overview of research in economics, anthropology, evolutionary and human biology, social psychology, and sociology, the book deals with both the theoretical foundations and the policy implications of this explanation for cooperation. Chapter authors in the remaining parts of the book discuss the behavioral ecology of cooperation in humans and nonhuman primates, modeling and testing strong reciprocity in economic scenarios, and reciprocity and social policy. The evidence for strong reciprocity in the book includes experiments using the famous Ultimatum Game (in which two players must agree on how to split a certain amount of money or they both get nothing).

Unequal chances: family background and economic success

Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, Melissa Osborne Groves
Princeton University Press and Russell Sage Foundation, 2005

Publisher's Summary:

Is the United States "the land of equal opportunity" or is the playing field tilted in favor of those whose parents are wealthy, well educated, and white? If family background is important in getting ahead, why? And if the processes that transmit economic status from parent to child are unfair, could public policy address the problem? Unequal Chances provides new answers to these questions by leading economists, sociologists, biologists, behavioral geneticists, and philosophers.

New estimates show that intergenerational inequality in the United States is far greater than was previously thought. Moreover, while the inheritance of wealth and the better schooling typically enjoyed by the children of the well-to-do contribute to this process, these two standard explanations fail to explain the extent of intergenerational status transmission. The genetic inheritance of IQ is even less important. Instead, parent-offspring similarities in personality and behavior may play an important role. Race contributes to the process, and the intergenerational mobility patterns of African Americans and European Americans differ substantially.

Following the editors' introduction are chapters by Greg Duncan, Ariel Kalil, Susan E. Mayer, Robin Tepper, and Monique R. Payne; Bhashkar Mazumder; David J. Harding, Christopher Jencks, Leonard M. Lopoo, and Susan E. Mayer; Anders Björklund, Markus Jäntti, and Gary Solon; Tom Hertz; John C. Loehlin; Melissa Osborne Groves; Marcus W. Feldman, Shuzhuo Li, Nan Li, Shripad Tuljapurkar, and Xiaoyi Jin; and Adam Swift.

Understanding capitalism: competition, command, and change

Samuel Bowles, Richard Edwards, Frank Roosevelt
Oxford University Press, 2005

Publisher's Summary:

Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Command, and Change, Third Edition, is an introduction to economics that explains how capitalism works, why it sometimes does not work as well as we would like it to, and how over time it not only changes but also revolutionizes the world around us. The "three-dimensional approach" of the text focuses on competition in markets; command in firms, governments, and international relations; and change as a permanent feature of a capitalist economy driven by technical innovation and conflict over the distribution of income.

The book covers the standard topics of supply and demand, market competition, imperfect competition, aggregate demand, inflation, and unemployment. It emphasizes the extraordinary dynamism and material productivity of the capitalist economy; the psychological foundations of human behavior; the logic and limitations of Adam Smith's invisible hand; technical change and the new information-based economy; global economic integration and its impact on national economies; the impact of economic activity on the environment; and inequality both within and among nations. In addition, it provides a critical evaluation of the tenets of neoclassical economics, a clear introduction to contract theory, and material drawn from new research in behavioral, institutional, and information economics.

Robustness and evolvability in living systems

Andreas Wagner
Princeton University Press, 2005

Publisher's Summary:

All living things are remarkably complex, yet their DNA is unstable, undergoing countless random mutations over generations. Despite this instability, most animals do not grow two heads or die, plants continue to thrive, and bacteria continue to divide. Robustness and Evolvability in Living Systems tackles this perplexing paradox. The book explores why genetic changes do not cause organisms to fail catastrophically and how evolution shapes organisms' robustness. Andreas Wagner looks at this problem from the ground up, starting with the alphabet of DNA, the genetic code, RNA, and protein molecules, moving on to genetic networks and embryonic development, and working his way up to whole organisms. He then develops an evolutionary explanation for robustness.

Wagner shows how evolution by natural selection preferentially finds and favors robust solutions to the problems organisms face in surviving and reproducing. Such robustness, he argues, also enhances the potential for future evolutionary innovation. Wagner also argues that robustness has less to do with organisms having plenty of spare parts (the redundancy theory that has been popular) and more to do with the reality that mutations can change organisms in ways that do not substantively affect their fitness.

Unparalleled in its field, this book offers the most detailed analysis available of all facets of robustness within organisms. It will appeal not only to biologists but also to engineers interested in the design of robust systems and to social scientists concerned with robustness in human communities and populations.

Aquatic food webs: an ecosystem approach

Andrea Belgrano, Ursula M. Scharler
Oxford University Press, 2005

Publisher's Summary:

This volume provides a current synthesis of theoretical and empirical food web research. Whether they are binary systems or weighted networks, food webs are of particular interest to ecologists in providing a macroscopic view of ecosystems. They describe interactions between species and their environment, and subsequent advances in the understanding of their structure, function, and dynamics are of vital importance to ecosystem management and conservation. Aquatic Food Webs provides a synthesis of the current issues in food web theory and its applications, covering issues of structure, function, scaling, complexity, and stability in the contexts of conservation, fisheries, and climate. Although the focus of this volume is upon aquatic food webs (where many of the recent advances have been made), any ecologist with an interest in food web theory and its applications will find the issues addressed in this book of value and use. This advanced textbook is suitable for graduate level students as well as professional researchers in community, ecosystem, and theoretical ecology, in aquatic ecology, and in conservation biology.

Microeconomics: behavior, institutions, and evolution

Samuel Bowles
Princeton University Press, 2003

Publisher's Summary:

In this novel introduction to modern microeconomic theory, Samuel Bowles returns to the classical economists' interest in the wealth and poverty of nations and people, the workings of the institutions of capitalist economies, and the coevolution of individual preferences and the structures of markets, firms, and other institutions. Using recent advances in evolutionary game theory, contract theory, behavioral experiments, and the modeling of dynamic processes, he develops a theory of how economic institutions shape individual behavior, and how institutions evolve due to individual actions, technological change, and chance events. Topics addressed include institutional innovation, social preferences, nonmarket social interactions, social capital, equilibrium unemployment, credit constraints, economic power, generalized increasing returns, disequilibrium outcomes, and path dependency.

Each chapter is introduced by empirical puzzles or historical episodes illuminated by the modeling that follows, and the book closes with sets of problems to be solved by readers seeking to improve their mathematical modeling skills. Complementing standard mathematical analysis are agent-based computer simulations of complex evolving systems that are available online so that readers can experiment with the models. Bowles concludes with the time-honored challenge of "getting the rules right," providing an evaluation of markets, states, and communities as contrasting and yet sometimes synergistic structures of governance. Must reading for students and scholars not only in economics but across the behavioral sciences, this engagingly written and compelling exposition of the new microeconomics moves the field beyond the conventional models of prices and markets toward a more accurate and policy-relevant portrayal of human social behavior.

Human biologists in the archives: demography, health, nutrition, and genetics in historical populations

Alan C. Swedlund, D. Ann Herring
Cambridge University Press, 2003

Publisher's Summary:

This book describes how archival data inform anthropological questions about human biology and health. The authors present a diverse array of human biological evidence from a variety of sources including the archaeological record, medical collections, church records, contemporary health and growth data, and genetic information from the descendants of historical populations. The contributions demonstrate how the analysis of historical documents expands the horizons of research in human biology, extends the longitudinal analysis of microevolutionary and social processes into the present, and enhances the understanding of the human condition.

[Chapter in] Handbook of social and cultural anthropology

Douglas R. White
Rand-McNally, 1974

Twenty-eight original articles provide a comprehensive survey of the theories, methods, and research issues that have recently emerged in all subfields of the discipline.