A fresh history and tour d’ horizon of “the most complex object in the known universe.” Although scientists still struggle to understand the brain, they know a great deal about it; Cobb, a professor of biological sciences, delivers an excellent overview. No one experiences his or her brain, but even the ancients were conscious of their heart, so deep thinkers, led by Aristotle, concluded that it governed human actions, perceptions, and emotions. Some Greeks experimented—on live animals; Cobb’s descriptions are not for the squeamish—but “they merely showed that the brain was complicated. Aristotle’s heart-centered view remained enormously influential, partly because of his immense prestige but above all because it corresponded to everyday experience.” Matters changed only with the scientific revolution, and Cobb writes a riveting account of four centuries of brain research that soon revealed its structure and made slower but steady progress describing its functions, which depend on complex brain cells, neurons, that communicate with each other through electrical signals but don’t actually touch. The author ends the “history” section and begins “present” in the mid-20th century. This may puzzle readers, but he has a point. “Since the 1950s,” he writes, “our ideas have been dominated by concepts that surged from biology into computing—feedback loops, information, codes and computation, but…some of the most brilliant and influential theoretical intuitions about how nervous systems might ‘compute’ have turned out to be completely wrong.” Although the computer metaphor is showing its age, the digital revolution has produced dazzling progress, allowing scientists to study individual neurons, localize brain activity in living subjects, and manipulate objects by thinking. Cobb concludes that this avalanche of new knowledge hasn’t brought us nearer the holy grail of brain research—a neural correlate of consciousness—or led to dramatic advances in treating mental illness or paralysis, but these will happen…eventually. A lucid account of brain research, our current knowledge, and problems yet to be solved. Pub Date: April 21, 2020 ISBN: 978-1-5416-4685-8 Page Count: 480 Publisher: Basic Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020 Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020 Categories: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY | PSYCHOLOGY Share your opinion of this book Did you like this book? More by Matthew Cobb BOOK REVIEW LIFE’S GREATEST SECRET BOOK REVIEW GENERATION If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire. THE 48 LAWS OF POWER by Robert Greene ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1998 The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power. Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project. If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire. Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998 ISBN: 0-670-88146-5 Page Count: 430 Publisher: Viking Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010 Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998 Share your opinion of this book Did you like this book? More by Robert Greene BOOK REVIEW THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE BOOK REVIEW MASTERY More About This Book BOOK TO SCREEN Drake Producing 48 Laws of Power Show Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science... A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING by Bill Bryson ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2003 Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers. As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.” Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective. Pub Date: May 6, 2003 ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1 Page Count: 304 Publisher: Broadway Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010 Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003 Categories: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Share your opinion of this book Did you like this book? More by Bill Bryson BOOK REVIEW THE BODY BOOK REVIEW THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING BOOK REVIEW ONE SUMMER more We can’t wait for you to join Kirkus!Please sign up to continue.It’s free and takes less than 10 seconds!Already have an account? OR Sign in with Google Trouble signing in? 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