Discovering the universe (4th edn)

Discovering the universe (4th edn)

four case-studies of important controversies, the single or multiple origin of the arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans, et aZ.), the ancestry of...

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four case-studies of important controversies, the single or multiple origin of the arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans, et aZ.), the ancestry of vertebrates, the origin of fish groups and the emergence of land vertebrates, and the origin of birds and mammals. Bowler then turns to the attempts to extract some general principles from the patterns of descent reconstructed from the fossil record: evolutionary trends supposedly directed by ‘laws’ of evolution and explanations of extinction. The penultimate chapter is on the contribution of biogeography and is succeeded by ‘metaphors of evolution’ that reveal the social biases of evolutionary biologists. The whole is a considerable, if slightly uneven, work of scholarship, that deserves an audience among evolutionary biologists concerned with the history of their subject. Alec Panchen

Picturing Knowledge. Edited by Brian Baigrie. Pp. 389. University of Toronto Press, 1996. Hardback f59.OO/lJS$80.00; paperback f18.50/US$24.95. ISBN 0 8020 2985 x/O 8020 7439 7. Most scientists think, and certainly communicate, as much with images as with words. Without slide projectors or overheads, blackboards or at least the backs of envelopes, they are lost souls. It is not only their popular books that are replete with illustrations, but also their presentations at conferences and their most profoundly technical articles. Their images are of many kinds, ranging from the most naturalistic to the most schematic, from colour photographs of natural phenomena to highly abstract diagrams that hardly claim to ‘represent’ the natural world at all. All such images function in the everyday practices of science in tight conjunction with words: looking and talking at the laboratory bench, illustrations and text in scientific publications. Until recently, these highly visual practices were scarcely represented at all in the work of the historians, philosophers and sociologists who analyze science past and present. This was a result of the dominance of a philosophy of scientific knowledge that privileged verbal propositional claims, and treated images as epistemically inferior; but it also reflected the dominantly humanistic training and textual bias of most of these ‘meta-scientists’. However, in the last few years this deplorable gulf between practitioners and analysts has begun to be closed. This book is a valuable contribution to that process. It contains ten essays, all appropriately well illustrated; each uses a specific set of related images to exemplify the varied roles of pictures and diagrams in the history of science. The studies range in time from the sixteenth century to the twen-

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Endeavour Vol. 21(l)

1997

tieth (though the era of computer imaging is not reached); the sciences discussed range from genetics to prehistoric archaeology, from chemistry to biological systematics, from anatomy to plate-tectonic geology; there are also essays on mathematical diagrams and pictures of machines. What emerges clearly from the ensemble of these essays is not only the great variety of scientific illustrations, from the most naturalistic to the most abstract, but also the sheer diversity of their functions in the construction of scientific knowledge. They serve not only to ‘impart information’ (in the editor’s words), but also more revealingly to convey theoretical meanings, and above all to persuade their viewers to accept specific interpretations. Illustrations, no less than the texts with which they are integrated, are above all instruments of scientific rhetoric, using that word in its proper nonpejorative sense. They help to convey the empirical basis for scientific theories, and indeed the theories themselves; but they also help, often far more effectively than any words, to give those theories the power and authority to persuade and convince. As integral components of scientific practice, illustrations are themselves science; in fact the contents of this book effectively undermine the assumption in its subtitle that they represent the use of ‘art’ in science. Martin Rudwick

Discovering the Universe (4th Edn). By William J. Kaufmann III and Neil F: Comins. Pp. 436. W. H. Freeman & Co., 1996. f28.95. ISBN 0 7167 2646 7. Probably the only negative criticism one can make of this book is that it is a paperback (and apparently only available as such), albeit a a fairly hefty and well-made one. This is not really much of a negative; it’s just that the book is so useful that it will become dog-eared far too soon. This may make it look much-loved, but any book that is essentially a reference work should be able to stand up to much use, open flat and be generally comfortable to handle. At least the admirable CD that comes with it qualifies on at least two of these counts. The fourth edition of William Kaufmann’s well-known textbook Universe, it is an introduction to astronomy for the nonspecialist: a Cambridge astronomer remarked to me ‘Oh yes, astronomy for poets...’ - not a put-down, but just that he was reminded of courses run in a number of universities by astronomers specifically for those without formal qualifications in physics or mathematics. And this is its real purpose, to take the curious reader systematically and with great clarity through all the major areas of its subject, including such topics of intense current concern as dark matter and black holes. Discovering the Universe is blessedly free

of exclamation marks and the breathlessness of the ‘isn’t it amazing’ kind that bedevil some more popular science writing. Of course it is all wonderful and amazing or whatever, and this book’s refreshing coolness and thoroughness does nothing to detract from that, apart maybe from one small lapse of taste: the reproduction (p. 381) of a rather trite painting called DNA Embraces the Planets. If scientists will include art to illustrate a thesis then they should use the real thing. The advance over earlier editions of the book is twofold: firstly, in the greater clarity of its arrangement and in the wealth of well-chosen diagrams and other illustrations; secondly, in its inclusion of a CDROM containing the whole book and more (watch the moon-buggy careering over the lunar surface; see the granulation of the solar photosphere; fly over the Martian volcanoes, and so on). Although the previous edition is claimed as the first multimedia science textbook, the fourth takes it a muchneeded stage further by fully integrating to the Internet. Provided the reader’s computer has a suitable Internet browser it will answer precisely the criticism that some of the information in such a work may too soon become out-of-date. This is especially true of a dynamic area like astronomy, where instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope have whetted the appetite for the latest images and for speculation about their meaning. Click on the correct URL (many suitable links are on the CD as well as much information about how to navigate) and you are more or less on the space telescope, with the rest of the Net at your fingertips. And all on the the little silver disc pocketed rather insecurely inside the back cover.. To conclude: anyone with more than a passing interest in astronomy should get hold of the book as soon as possible. There really is nothing else so good at this level. Richard Sword

Paleoclimate and Evolution, with Emphasis on Human Origins. Edited by E.S. Vrba et al. Pp. 547. Yale University Press, 1996. f 60.00. ISBN 0 300 06348 2. It is a decade or so now since weather and climate escalated from the realms of polite small talk to a matter of concern for the developed world. For the vast majority of people in the Third World, climate has never been off the agenda, it has always been a matter of at least hunger if not life and death. And equally for our hominid ancestors, the atmospheric forces must have been a matter of constant concern. We will never know what they felt or understood about climate but we should make every effort to find out how climate change of the geologically recent past impacted upon hominid evolution in order to help understand how it is going to effect

Copyright 0 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd. All right resewed. 0160-9327/97/$17.00.