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Science, Fiction, and points in between

• The second of Time's five ''Visions 21'' issues considers ''how we will live'' in the coming century, with pieces by among others Barbara Ehrenreich, David Gelernter, Ben Stiller, and the ubiquitous Robert Wright (Will We Ever Log Off?). Plus, the second part of Caleb Carr's serialized novella ''Killing Time''. Also in this issue: interesting articles about 'expert' websites and (not yet online) a new kind of legal tender for the web called 'beenz'. — Time February 21

• Literary reviews: Michiko Kakutani calls E.L. Doctorow's new novel City of God ''a novel of ideas that may be packed with ideas but that fails as a satisfying work of fiction''; i.e., ''self-important'', ''pretentious and abstract''.

(Tue 15 Feb 2000)

• Both New York Times Book Review (review) and Salon (interview) look at a new book by David Buss, The Dangerous Passion (Free Press), that applies evolutionary psychology to love: the subtitle is ''why jealousy is as necessary as love and sex''.

• Numerous nonfiction reviews this weekend, especially in the Washington Post Book World: a review of Matt Ridley's Genome; a review of Sherwin Nuland's The Mysteries Within; a review of George Johnson's book about Murray Gell-Mann; a review of Michael Shermer's How We Believe. The New York Times Book Review also reviews Nuland's book.

• Literary reviews: E.L. Doctorow's new novel City of God (Random House) is reviewed by Gail Caldwell in the Boston Globe and reviewed by Simon Houpt in the Globe and Mail.

• Last December's Robert Wright essay in The New Yorker calling Stephen Jay Gould an ''accidental creationist'' is available on Wright's website; it was adapted from his new book Nonzero. New York Magazine for February 14, 2000, has an article about the long-running, mostly one-sided feud between Wright and Gould.

(Mon 14 Feb 2000)

• Phycisists at CERN are claiming evidence for a new state of matter, a ''quark-gluon plasma'', that existed at the beginning of the universe. — NY Times | LA Times | ScienceDaily

(Thu 10 Feb 2000)

• The Executive Director of the California Chicano News Media Assocation writes to Newsweek, objecting to the magazine's use of the word ''alien'' to describe young Elián González, the Cuban boy in Florida at the center of a political tug-of-war. The word has become so identified with beings from outer space, through TV and movies, that it is ''dehumanizing and derogatory'' to apply it to a human being. — Newsweek 14 Feb

Discover magazine for March [not yet online; the website still has the January issue as current] has a handy ''Field Guide to New Planets'', with details about the 29 best-known extra-solar worlds. Also: a symposium on the topic of how humanoid robots should be, with John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, and others.

(Wed 9 Feb 2000)

Robert Wright's ''The Earthling'' column returns after a hiatus, with thoughts on cynicism and David Letterman. — Slate 7 Feb

• This week's The New Yorker (Feb. 14) has an article about the health risks of space exploration, especially on a long trip to Mars.

• Nonfiction review:
L.D. Meagher reviews Robert Crowley's nonfiction anthology What If? (Putnam, Sep 1999), noting that '' 'Counterfactual' is a term historians use to describe a series of events that didn't happen. In fiction, a counterfactual is known as "alternate history." Apparently, historians don't want their scholarly speculations confused with the ruminations of the laity. So they invented their own word. So be it.''

Literary fiction review [not online]:
Time Magazine, February 14th, reviews E.L. Doctorow's new novel City of God (Random House), which addresses ''the nature of--and the impediments to--religious faith at the end of the technologically advanced and barbarously blood-soaked 20th century''. The book is cast as the notes of an author called Everett, who imagines what Einstein and Wittgenstein might have thought on such matters.

• Article on digital publishing leads with an example from Arthur C. Clarke. — NY Times 7 Feb

(Tue 8 Feb 2000)

• Nonfiction reviews:
Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer reviews Robert Wright's Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (Pantheon) in the February 6th Los Angeles Times Book Review. He finds much of interest in it but ultimately accuses Wright of succumbing to same trap of wishful thinking that creationists are famous for. Also: Kenneth Anderson reviews Wendy Kaminer's Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials.

(Mon 7 Feb 2000)

• Did Time magazine, in naming Einstein person of the century, give him too much credit for 20th century artistic modernism and moral relativism? David Greenberg thinks so — Slate

(Thu 3 Feb 2000)

• Steven Pinker (How the Mind Works, etc.) and Robert Wright discuss Wright's new book, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny: ''Is Evolution Goal Oriented?'' — Slate

• Evolutionary biology applied to love: cover story — U.S. News and World Report

• Profile of Tom Wolfe — Salon 1 Feb

• Why this year's Leap day is very special — Washington Post 1 Feb

• Giant Cockroach In Bathroom: 'A Harrowing, Kafkaesque Experience,' Grad Student Says — The Onion

(Wed 2 Feb 2000)

• Nonfiction reviews:
Robert Wright's Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (Pantheon) is the lead review in this week's New York Times Book Review. Reviewer Simon Conway Morris says ''this intelligent book deserves a sympathetic reading'' yet finds it doesn't go far enough; ''For all its boldness and chutzpah, 'Nonzero' suffers from a failure of nerve.'' Also available: the first chapter.

Also in the NYTBR: David Pogue reviews Lawrence Lessig's Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace (Basic Books), which speculates about forthcoming regulation of the Internet, ''In a book that's sometimes as brilliant as the best teacher you ever had, sometimes as pretentious as a deconstructionists' conference, Lessig plays digital Cassandra: he predicts that the Internet will become a monster that tracks our every move, but that nobody will heed his warning.''

And: a review by Bernd Heinrich of Irene Maxine Pepperberg's The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilites of Grey Parrots (Harvard), which makes remarkable claims about the capacities of certain birds. The 15 January Issue of New Scientist has an interview with the author.

The February 2000 Scientific American has an article by Torrence V. Johnson about the Galileo mission to Jupiter and its moons, complete with the usual spectacular photos. Also, a review by Kevin Padian of Henry Gee's In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life (Free Press): ''This is a subversive book. Read it only if you want to know how scientists actually do their work, as opposed to the mythology of textbooks and documentaries. In it, you will discover how and why the beloved Linnean system of taxonomy -- the one that gave us classes and orders and families, oh my!--is being replaced by a wholly evolutionary way of looking at nature.'' A working title for the book was Thirty Ghosts, an allusion to a remark in Arthur C. Clarke's Foreword to 2001: ''Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.''

(Tue 1 Feb 2000)

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