What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's thatthe million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.
Explores the origins of writing and the historic relationship between humans and their written words, and discusses the threat posed to the art of writing and the thought patterns behind it by the digital age.
Focusing on the human relationship with plants, the author uses botany to explore four basic human desires--sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control--through portraits of four plants that embody them: the apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato.
A vivid snapshot of America's journey from Victorian-era propriety to 20th-century modernity. Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history--and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago at the dawn of the 20th century, the Club welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons into a stately double mansion, and the Everleigh sisters treated their girls far better than most madams. But not everyone appreciated their attempts to elevate the industry.
Cod spans a thousand years and four continents. From the Vikings, who pursued the codfish across the Atlantic, and the enigmatic Basques, who first commercialized it in medieval times, to Bartholomew Gosnold, who named Cape Cod in 1602, and Clarence Birdseye, who founded an industry on frozen cod in the 1930s, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs, and of course the fishermen, whose lives have interwoven with this prolific fish.
Tells the interwoven stories of two men--Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication--whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time. Set in Edwardian London, an era of séances, science, and fog, and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, "the kindest of men," nearly commits the perfect crime.
A history of shoplifting assesses its cultural and economic significance, tracing its rise with the onset of department stores, its pathology, and its role as a symbol of anti-establishment sentiments and hyper-consumerism.
When acclaimed science journalist Heather Pringle was dispatched to a remote part of northern Chile to cover a little-known scientific conference, she found herself in the midst of the most passionate gathering of her working life -- dozens of mummy experts lodged in a rambling seaside hotel, battling over the implications of their latest discoveries. Infected with their mania, Pringle spent the next year circling the globe, stopping in to visit the leading scientists so she could see firsthand the breathtaking delicacy and unexpected importance of their work.In The Mummy Congress , she recounts the intriguing findings from her travels, bringing to life the hitherto unknown worlds of the long-dead, and revealing what mummies have to tell us about ourselves.
The Language Wars examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such details as the split infinitive, elocution, and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or its future.
Drawing on the lives of five great scientists -- Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle and Albert Einstein -- scientist/author Mario Livio shows how even the greatest scientists made major mistakes and how science built on these errors to achieve breakthroughs, especially into the evolution of life and the universe.
In Visions of Infinity, celebrated mathematician Ian Stewart provides a fascinating overview of the most formidable problems mathematicians have vanquished, and those that vex them still. He explains why these problems exist, what drives mathematicians to solve them, and why their efforts matter in the context of science as a whole. An approachable and illuminating history of mathematics as told through fourteen of its greatest problems, Visions of Infinity reveals how mathematicians the world over are rising to the challenges set by their predecessors--and how the enigmas of the past inevitably surrender to the powerful techniques of the present.
Isaac Newton said that if he had seen farther than others, it was because he was standing on the shoulders of giants: Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo Galilei, and Johannes Kepler. James A. Connor focuses on one of those giants in his fascinating and largely untold story of the "Protestant Galileo," Johannes Kepler. Set against the backdrop of the witchcraft trial of his mother, Kepler's Witch vividly brings to life the tidal forces of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, submerging us into these turbulent times, revealing not only the surprisingly spiritual nature of early modern science, but Kepler's role as a neglected hero of conscience.
The scientific establishment of Europe--from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton--had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution--a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.
In this vivid and captivating journey through the colors of an artist’s palette, Victoria Finlay takes us on an enthralling adventure around the world and through the ages, illuminating how the colors we choose to value have determined the history of culture itself. How did the most precious color blue travel all the way from remote lapis mines in Afghanistan to Michelangelo’s brush? What is the connection between brown paint and ancient Egyptian mummies? Why did Robin Hood wear Lincoln green? In Color, Finlay explores the physical materials that color our world, such as precious minerals and insect blood, as well as the social and political meanings that color has carried through time.
The periodic table of the elements is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, obsession, and betrayal. These tales follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and all the elements in the table as they play out their parts in human history.
The story of our most vital resource, and how it has shaped the history of every human society, spans five millennia, from ancient Mesopotamia to the parched Sun Belt, from ancient Rome to China. Anthropologist Fagan sets out three ages of water: In the first, lasting thousands of years, water was scarce--so precious that it became sacred in almost every culture. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, water entered the second age: water as commodity. And today, we are entering a third age: as our population approaches nine billion and ancient aquifers run dry, we must learn once again to treat this essence of life with humility, even reverence.
Over 65 million years ago in what is now South Dakota, a Tyrannosaurus rex fell into a riverbed and died. In 1990, the skeleton was found, virtually complete, in what many call the most spectacular dinosaur fossil discovery ever. This is an account of the battles that ensued over rights to the find, involving dinosaur hunters, a federal prosecutor, and a Native American tribe, and pitting museums against corporate giants.
A biologist presents the natural history of feathers, applying the findings of paleontologists, ornithologists, biologists, engineers, and art historians to answer questions about the origin of feathers, their evolution, and their uses throughout the ages.
Sam Kean explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA. There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. Kean's vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species' future.
A look inside the world of forensics examines the use of human cadavers in a wide range of endeavors, including research into new surgical procedures, space exploration, and a Tennessee human decay research facility.
A thrilling account of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian London and a brilliant exploration of how Dr John Snow's solution revolutionised the way people think about disease, cities, science and the modern world. This is an endlessly fascinating and compelling account of the summer of 1854, from the microbial level to the macro-urban-theory level, including, most importantly, the human level.
Charts the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies, documenting how before its vaccine the disease caused fatal brain infections and sparked the creations of monsters, including werewolves, vampires and zombies.
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells--taken without her knowledge in 1951--became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.
The author offers a look at depression in which he draws on his own battle with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, researchers, doctors, and others to assess the complexities of the disease, its causes and symptoms, and available therapies.
A "biography" of cancer from its origins to the epic battle to cure, control, and conquer it. A combination of medical history, cutting-edge science, and narrative journalism that transforms the listener's understanding of cancer and much of the world around them. The author provides a glimpse into the future of cancer treatments and offers a bold new perspective on the way doctors, scientists, philosophers, and lay people have observed and understood the human body for millennia.
One Good Turn tells the tale of the screwdriver and the screw. Leonardo da Vinci sketched a machine for carving wood screws and the rest is delightfully compelling history. Rybczynski demonstrates exactly how, without screws, there would be no telescope, no microscope -- in short, no enlightenment science -- and why the Industrial Revolution would still be waiting in the wings. The screwdriver, perhaps the last hand-tool in a world gone cyber, represents nothing less than the triumph of precision and mass production.
Based on exhaustive research and interviews with driving experts and traffic officials around the globe, Traffic gets under the hood of the everyday activity of driving to uncover the surprisingly complex web of physical, psychological, and technical factors that explain how traffic works, why we drive the way we do, and what our driving says about us.
Author and bitters enthusiast Brad Thomas Parsons traces the history of the world's most storied elixir, from its earliest "snake oil" days to its near evaporation after Prohibition to its ascension as a beloved (and at times obsessed-over) ingredient on the contemporary bar scene. Parsons writes from the front lines of the bitters boom, where he has access to the best and boldest new brands and flavors, the most innovative artisanal producers, and insider knowledge of the bitters-making process.
The bestselling author of "Devil in the White City" turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler's rise to power. The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A narrative account of the twentieth president's political career offers insight into his background as a scholar and Civil War hero, his battles against the corrupt establishment, and Alexander Graham Bell's failed attempt to save him from an assassin's bullet.