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Snakes Sunrises and Shakespeare

Author: Gordon H. Orians
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
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Our breath catches and we jump in fear at the sight of a snake. We pause and marvel at the sublime beauty of a sunrise. These reactions are no accident; in fact, many of our human responses to nature are steeped in our deep evolutionary past—we fear snakes because of the danger of venom or constriction, and we welcome the assurances of the sunrise as the predatory dangers of the dark night disappear. Many of our aesthetic preferences—from the kinds of gardens we build to the foods we enjoy and the entertainment we seek—are the lingering result of natural selection. In this ambitious and unusual work, evolutionary biologist Gordon H. Orians explores the role of evolution in human responses to the environment, beginning with why we have emotions and ending with evolutionary approaches to aesthetics. Orians reveals how our emotional lives today are shaped by decisions our ancestors made centuries ago on African savannas as they selected places to live, sought food and safety, and socialized in small hunter-gatherer groups. During this time our likes and dislikes became wired in our brains, as the appropriate responses to the environment meant the difference between survival or death. His rich analysis explains why we mimic the tropical savannas of our ancestors in our parks and gardens, why we are simultaneously attracted to danger and approach it cautiously, and how paying close attention to nature’s sounds has resulted in us being an unusually musical species. We also learn why we have developed discriminating palates for wine, and why we have strong reactions to some odors, and why we enjoy classifying almost everything. By applying biological perspectives ranging from Darwin to current neuroscience to analyses of our aesthetic preferences for landscapes, sounds, smells, plants, and animals, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare transforms how we view our experience of the natural world and how we relate to each other.


Letters from a Young Poet

Author: Michael Molyneux
Publisher: Shanti Arts Publishing
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Inspired by a lonesome journey through South America, this collection of true stories documents an equally difficult journey through the dark corners of the human psyche via the colossal canyons of Peru, deserted strips of paradise in Ecuador, volcanic salt-flats in Bolivia, windswept grasslands of Patagonia, and the far reaches of Tierra Del Fuego. With engaging descriptions and intriguing tales, Molyneux delivers a sensual portrait of a wild continent, exploring cultural landscapes and the nature of human restlessness and ecstasy. Ultimately, these stories, as all others, are about the essential elements of the human condition: suffering and love.


The Origins of Creativity

Author: Edward O. Wilson
Publisher: Liveright Publishing
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“Brimming with ideas. . . . The Origins of Creativity approach[es] creativity scientifically but sensitively, feeling its roots without pulling them out.”—Economist In a stirring exploration of human nature recalling his foundational work Consilience, Edward O. Wilson offers a “luminous” (Kirkus Reviews) reflection on the humanities and their integral relationship to science. Both endeavors, Wilson argues, have their roots in human creativity—the defining trait of our species. By studying fields as diverse as paleontology, evolution, and neurobiology, Wilson demonstrates that creative expression began not 10,000 years ago, as we have long assumed, but more than 100,000 years ago in the Paleolithic Age. A provocative investigation into what it means to be human, The Origins of Creativity reveals how the humanities have played an unexamined role in defining our species. With the eloquence, optimism, and pioneering inquiry we have come to expect from our leading biologist, Wilson proposes a transformational “Third Enlightenment” in which the blending of science and humanities will enable a deeper understanding of our human condition, and how it ultimately originated.


Beasts at Bedtime

Author: Liam Heneghan
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
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Talking lions, philosophical bears, very hungry caterpillars, wise spiders, altruistic trees, companionable moles, urbane elephants: this is the magnificent menagerie that delights our children at bedtime. Within the entertaining pages of many children’s books, however, also lie profound teachings about the natural world that can help children develop an educated and engaged appreciation of the dynamic environment they inhabit. In Beasts at Bedtime, scientist (and father) Liam Heneghan examines the environmental underpinnings of children’s stories. From Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories. Some of the largest environmental challenges in coming years—from climate instability, the extinction crisis, freshwater depletion, and deforestation—are likely to become even more severe as this generation of children grows up. Though today’s young readers will bear the brunt of these environmental calamities, they will also be able to contribute to environmental solutions if prepared properly. And all it takes is an attentive eye: Heneghan shows how the nature curriculum is already embedded in bedtime stories, from the earliest board books like The Rainbow Fish to contemporary young adult classics like The Hunger Games. Beasts at Bedtime is an awakening to the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide—from the misadventures of The Runaway Bunny to more overt tales like The Lorax. Heneghan serves as our guide, drawing richly upon his own adolescent and parental experiences, as well as his travels in landscapes both experienced and imagined. Organized into thematic sections, the work winds its way through literary forests, colorful characters, and global environments. This book enthralls as it engages. Heneghan as a guide is as charming as he is insightful, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Beasts at Bedtime will help parents, teachers, and guardians extend those cozy times curled up together with a good book into a lifetime of caring for our planet.


Cognitive Architecture

Author: Ann Sussman
Publisher: Routledge
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*Winner of the Environmental Design Research Association 2016 Place Research Award!* In Cognitive Architecture, the authors review new findings in psychology and neuroscience to help architects and planners better understand their clients as the sophisticated mammals they are, arriving in the world with built-in responses to the environment that have evolved over millennia. The book outlines four main principles---Edges Matter, the fact people are a thigmotactic or a 'wall-hugging' species; Patterns Matter, how we are visually-oriented; Shapes Carry Weight, how our preference for bilateral symmetrical forms is biological; and finally, Storytelling is Key, how our narrative proclivities, unique to our species, play a role in successful place-making. The book takes an inside-out approach to design, arguing that the more we understand human behavior, the better we can design for it. The text suggests new ways to analyze current designs before they are built, allowing the designer to anticipate a user's future experience. More than one hundred photographs and drawings illustrate its key concepts. Six exercises and additional case studies suggest particular topics - from the significance of face-processing in the human brain to our fascination with fractals - for further study.


The Literary World

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Dead Men s Wages

Author: Lilian Pizzichini
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
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'Scratch the surface of any family and you will find stories of intrigue, abuse and illegitimacy. It is just that, because of the nature of my grandfather's business, our secrets are more sinister' Lilian Pizzichini's grandfather was a conman who worked with some of London's most notorious gangsters. Within the pages of this haunting and revealing account of his life, she re-creates, in vivid detail and with remarkable detachment, the world of criminals and corrupt policemen that he dominated until his death in 1978. This is a book to set the mind reeling with thoughts of cunning and intrigue, corruption, hardship and secrecy. Above all, it conveys beautifully the glamour and seduction of a London shrouded in mystery and this charismatic criminal who rose from its war-torn ashes.


Prehistory and the beginnings of civilization

Author: Jacquetta Hawkes
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History of Mankind Prehistory and the beginnings of civilization

Author: International Commission for a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind
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The Youth s Companion

Author: Nathaniel Willis
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Includes music.