A complex work on one of most complex scientific subjects.

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THE BRAIN

BREAKTHROUGH IN UNDERSTANDING: SECOND EDITION

Adams outlines the workings of the brain in this neuroscience book, now in an updated second edition.

Why do we do the things we do? It’s perhaps humanity’s most applicable question, and the answer to it lies in understanding our brains. That, however, remains something that’s more easily said than done. As Adams writes in his introduction, “After all, how could anyone have the temerity to think such a complicated structure could ever be understood?” The author characterizes the brain as a biological machine, though one of nearly inconceivable complexity, with tens of thousands of instructions carried out by hundreds of billions of neurons over untold numbers of neural input connections. However, Adams believes that the genetic rules governing all these interactions are relatively few in number, and his book attempts to lay them out in an accessible manner. The author offers his original theory of how the brain uses basic genetic instructions—such as reflexes—to learn all the other, higher functions, such as judgment, which humans develop over the course of their maturation. He provides in-depth explanations of the structure and purpose of the nervous system, the nature and role of genes, and the functions of various key pieces of the puzzle, including neurons. He explains the process of vision before getting into more abstract processes such as reflexes, pattern learning, recognition, and emotions. Later in the book, Adams offers speculation about what is perhaps the most mysterious of our brains’ functions—consciousness itself. With numerous charts illustrating the various (and sometimes Rube Goldberg–like) pathways of the brain, the author seeks to demystify this enigmatic organ with this book. Adams’ prose is straightforward and accessible throughout. However, the material here is still more difficult than one would find in a work of popular science. For instance, the author often uses terms from computing or engineering (in which he has a master’s degree) to explain mechanisms in the brain: “A patch panel, to borrow a term from…electronic engineering, is just a device for connecting various input lines to various other output lines. I believe the nervous system contains such a patch panel that is automatically programmed according to the ongoing circumstances.” This is also not solely a work about established facts, as Adams readily admits from the beginning: “Read this book as a combination of the known and of the possible and the probable, but not yet confirmed.” The author has a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles, and has built his theories on the work of earlier researchers as well as his own computer simulations. It’s admittedly dense and dry material, and it’s easy to get lost as Adams gallops off into hierarchical associations of features and “neurocrystals.” However, for readers who have some knowledge of how the brain functions or have a high tolerance for complex systems and are curious about what’s going on at the edge of neuroscience, Adams’ work acts as a challenging but highly informative primer.

A complex work on one of most complex scientific subjects.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79437-581-9

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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