Jargon-riddled and dense—not for the uninitiated.

READ REVIEW

MIRRORING PEOPLE

THE NEW SCIENCE OF HOW WE CONNECT WITH OTHERS

An intriguing but often impenetrable look at mirror neurons, specialized brain cells that the author believes enable us to empathize with others.

Mirror neurons are the chameleon cells of the brain, explains Iacoboni (UCLA School of Medicine). They help us “read” the actions and expressions of others, allowing us to understand the intentions and feelings of people around us. Numerous experiments have revealed that mirror neurons “fire” when we observe someone else taking an action or expressing an intention or feeling we recognize. For example, if you see someone reaching for an apple, your grasping and apple-eating mirror neurons will fire. When you see someone smiling, your mirror neurons map out a “mental plan” for smiling yourself. In effect, mirror neurons enable us to “imitate” the act of smiling, and give us the ability to feel empathy for the smiling person in front of us. The more a person imitates others, Iacoboni argues, the more empathetic he or she is likely to be. This is difficult material, and it’s made more so by the author’s discursive, roundabout and often turgid prose. Although his subject will be interesting to the lay student of neuroscience, it’s clear Iacoboni is a scientist first, a writer second—and a distant second at that. He describes each experiment in interminable, excruciating detail, but to no particular end; his excitement about the machinery that enabled a particular discovery will not be shared by anyone unversed in the minutiae of brain-scanning and electrode-implantation technology. The final chapters veer into random philosophical and cultural musings—the author argues, for example, that the science of mirror neurons should be put to use reducing violence, controlling addiction and introducing Americans to other cultures.

Jargon-riddled and dense—not for the uninitiated.

Pub Date: May 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-21017-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more