Award-winning science writer Helen Thomson unlocks the biggest mysteries of the human brain through nine extraordinary cases
Our brains are far stranger than we think. We take it for granted that we can remember, feel emotion, navigate, empathize, and understand the world around us, but how would our lives change if these abilities were dramatically enhanced -- or disappeared overnight?
Helen Thomson has spent years traveling the world, tracking down incredibly rare brain disorders. In Unthinkable she tells the stories of nine extraordinary people she encountered along the way. From the man who thinks he's a tiger to the doctor who feels the pain of others just by looking at them to a woman who hears music that's not there these people have had experiences that illustrate how the brain can shape our lives in unexpected and, in some cases, brilliant and alarming ways.
Story by remarkable story, Unthinkable takes us on an unforgettable journey through the human brain. Discover how to forge memories that never disappear, how to grow an alien limb, and how to make better decisions. Learn how to hallucinate and how to make yourself happier in a split second. Find out how to avoid getting lost, how to see more of your reality, even how exactly you can confirm you are alive. Think the unthinkable.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Never Lost Again
By Kilday, Bill
As enlightening as The Facebook Effect, Elon Musk, and Chaos Monkeys - the compelling, behind-the-scenes story of the creation of one of the most essential applications ever devised, and the rag-tag team that built it and changed how we navigate the world
Kilday, the marketing director for Keyhole and Google Maps, was there from the earliest days, and offers a personal look behind the scenes at the tech and the minds developing it. But this book isn't only a look back at the past; it is also a glimpse of what's to come. Kilday reveals how emerging map-based technologies including virtual reality and driverless cars are going to upend our lives once again.
Never Lost Again shows us how our worldview changed dramatically as a result of vision, imagination, and implementation. It's a crazy story. And it all started with a really good map.
By Colby, Jason M
Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place. Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean's greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s--the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them.
Oxford University Press
By Stager, Curt
A fascinating exploration of lakes around the world, from Walden Pond to the Dead Sea.
More than a century and a half have passed since Walden was first published, and the world is now a very different place. Lakes are changing rapidly, not because we are separate from nature but because we are so much a part of it. While many of our effects on the natural world today are new, from climate change to nuclear fallout, our connections to it are ancient, as core samples from lake beds reveal. In Still Waters, Curt Stager introduces us to the secret worlds hidden beneath the surfaces of our most remarkable lakes, leading us on a journey from the pristine waters of the Adirondack Mountains to the wilds of Siberia, from Thoreau's cherished pond to the Sea of Galilee.
Through decades of firsthand investigations, Stager examines the significance of our impacts on some of the world's most iconic inland waters. Along the way he discovers the stories these lakes contain about us, including our loftiest philosophical ambitions and our deepest myths. For him, lakes are not only mirrors reflecting our place in the natural world but also windows into our history, culture, and the primal connections we share with all life.
Beautifully observed and eloquently written, Stager's narrative is filled with strange and enchanting details about these submerged worlds -- diving insects chirping underwater like crickets, African crater lakes that explode, and the growing threats to some of our most precious bodies of water. Modern science has demonstrated that humanity is an integral part of nature on this planet, so intertwined with it that we have also become an increasingly powerful force of nature in our own right. Still Waters reminds us how beautiful, complex, and vulnerable our lakes are, and how, more than ever, it is essential to protect them.
W. W. Norton & Company
She Has Her Mother's Laugh
By Zimmer, Carl
Award-winning, celebrated New York Times columnist and science writer Carl Zimmer presents a history of our understanding of heredity in this sweeping, resonating overview of a force that shaped human society--a force set to shape our future even more radically.
She Has Her Mother's Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying genes became cheaper, millions of people ordered genetic tests to link themselves to missing parents, to distant ancestors, to ethnic identities. . . .
But, Zimmer writes, "Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors. Each piece has its own ancestry, traveling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are--our appearance, our height, our penchants--in inconceivably subtle ways." Heredity isn't just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors--using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates--but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. We need a new definition of what heredity is and, through Carl Zimmer's lucid exposition and storytelling, this resounding tour de force delivers it.
Weaving historical and current scientific research, his own experience with his two daughters, and the kind of original reporting expected of one of the world's best science journalists, Zimmer ultimately unpacks urgent bioethical quandaries arising from new biomedical technologies, but also long-standing presumptions about who we really are and what we can pass on to future generations.
Formerly Known As Food
By Lawless, Kristin
From the voice of a new generation of food activists, a passionate and deeply-researched call for a new food movement.
If you think buying organic from Whole Foods is protecting you, you're wrong. Our food -- even what we're told is good for us -- has changed for the worse in the past 100 years, its nutritional content deteriorating due to industrial farming and its composition altered due to the addition of thousands of chemicals from pesticides to packaging. We simply no longer know what we're eating.
In Formerly Known as Food, Kristin Lawless argues that, because of the degradation of our diet, our bodies are literally changing from the inside out. The billion-dollar food industry is reshaping our food preferences, altering our brains, changing the composition of our microbiota, and even affecting the expression of our genes. Lawless chronicles how this is happening and what it means for our bodies, health, and survival.
An independent journalist and nutrition expert, Lawless is emerging as the voice of a new generation of food thinkers. After years of "eat this, not that" advice from doctors, journalists, and food faddists, she offers something completely different. Lawless presents a comprehensive explanation of the problem -- going beyond nutrition to issues of food choice, class, race, and gender -- and provides a sound and simple philosophy of eating, which she calls the "Whole Egg Theory."
Destined to set the debate over food politics for the next decade, Formerly Known as Food speaks to a new generation looking for a different conversation about the food on our plates.
St. Martin's Press
The Man Who Climbs Trees
By Aldred, James
A professional tree climber encounters gorillas, snakes, spiders, and birds of prey, as well as answers and perspective, hundreds of feet up, all over the world
Every child knows the allure of climbing trees. But how many of us get to make a living at it, spending days observing nature from the canopies of stunning forests all around the world?
As a wildlife cameraman for the BBC and National Geographic, James Aldred spends his working life high up in trees, poised to capture key moments in the lives of wild animals and birds. Aldred's climbs take him to the most incredible and majestic trees in existence. In Borneo, home to the tallest tropical rain forest on the planet, just getting a rope up into the 250-foot-tall trees is a challenge. In Venezuela, even body armor isn't guaranteed protection against the razor-sharp talons of a nesting Harpy Eagle. In Australia, the peace of being lulled to sleep in a hammock twenty-five stories above the ground - after a grueling day of climbing and filming - is broken by a midnight storm that threatens to topple the tree.
In this vivid account of memorable trees he has climbed ("Goliath," "Apollo," "Roaring Meg") , Aldred blends incredible stories of his adventures in the branches with a fascination for the majesty of trees to show us the joy of rising - literally - above the daily grind, up into the canopy of the forest.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
By Auvinen, Karen
In the bestselling tradition of Cheryl Strayed's Wild and Helen MacDonald's H Is for Hawk, a stunning, inspirational memoir from an award-winning poet who ventures into the wilderness to seek answers to life's big questions and finds her way back after losing everything she thought she needed.
During a difficult time, Karen Auvinen flees to a primitive cabin in the Rockies to live in solitude as a writer and to embrace all the beauty and brutality nature has to offer. When a fire incinerates every word she has ever written and all of her possessions - except for her beloved dog Elvis, her truck, and a few singed artifacts - Karen embarks on a heroic journey to reconcile her desire to be alone with her need for community.
In the evocative spirit of works by Annie Dillard, Gretel Ehrlich, and Mary Oliver, Karen's rich and compulsively readable memoir is as much an inward as it is an outward pilgrimage. Her pursuit of solace and salvation by shedding trivial ties and living in close harmony with nature, along with her account of finding community and love, is sure to resonate with all of us who long for meaning and deeper connection. Rough Beauty is a luminous, lyric exploration of and homage to her forty seasons in the mountains, embracing the unpredictability and grace of living intimately with the forces of nature while making peace with her own wildness.
Here, for the first time, former high level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking first-hand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity--Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
Framed as a memoir--a chronicle of madness in which Ellsberg acknowledges participating--this gripping expose reads like a thriller and offers feasible steps we can take to dismantle the existing "doomsday machine" and avoid nuclear catastrophe, returning Ellsberg to his role as whistleblower. The Doomsday Machine is thus a real-life Dr. Strangelove story and an ultimately hopeful--and powerfully important--book about not just our country, but the future of the world.
The Design of Childhood
By Lange, Alexandra
From building blocks to city blocks, an eye-opening exploration of how children's playthings and physical surroundings affect their development.Parents obsess over their children's playdates, kindergarten curriculum, and every bump and bruise, but the toys, classrooms, playgrounds, and neighborhoods little ones engage with are just as important. These objects and spaces encode decades, even centuries of changing ideas about what makes for good child-rearing--and what does not. Do you choose wooden toys, or plastic, or, increasingly, digital? What do youngsters lose when seesaws are deemed too dangerous and slides are designed primarily for safety? How can the built environment help children cultivate self-reliance? In these debates, parents, educators, and kids themselves are often caught in the middle.