Fascinating and enlightening: It's hard not to conclude that, in many ways, apes may be wiser than their upright relatives.

OUR INNER APE

A LEADING PRIMATOLOGIST EXPLAINS WHY WE ARE WHO WE ARE

Apes are our nearest relatives, and we have far more in common with them than we realize.

De Waal (Psychology/Emory Univ.; The Ape and the Sushi Master, 2001, etc.) has made a career of studying chimpanzees and bonobos, the two species closest to us on the evolutionary family tree. Many years of watching apes interacting—and paying close attention to individual apes—have revealed just how much of human nature arises from pre-human roots. We all recognize and mock the “animal” behavior of politicians and media stars ruled by the drives for sex and power. Chimpanzees are past masters of political infighting, and the easy sexuality of a bonobo tribe might make a Roman orgy seem sedate. But empathy and compassion are also part of our primate heritage, de Waal argues, offering plentiful examples—both anecdotal and rigorous—from his studies to support his point. He saw one zoo chimpanzee carry a stunned bird to the top of a tree and toss it in the air, trying to help it fly away. A chimpanzee mother, when the author showed an interest in her baby, carefully turned it around so the researcher could see its face. These and other observations show, he believes, that apes have the ability to see things from the point of view of others. The strong sense of community in a tribe of apes also appears to have a parallel in human groups—especially those living in small towns where everyone knows their neighbors. While the strongest ape usually rules his tribe, it is common for others to form alliances to resist a tyrant. De Waal extrapolates convincingly from his observations, many of which will surprise readers who think of apes as stupid brutes.

Fascinating and enlightening: It's hard not to conclude that, in many ways, apes may be wiser than their upright relatives.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2005

ISBN: 1-57322-312-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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

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

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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