Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids: 65 Million Years of Mammalian Evolution in Europe by Jordi Agustí

Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids: 65 Million Years of Mammalian Evolution in Europe - Jordi Agusti, Mauricio Anton

TITLE:  Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids: 65 Million Years of Mammalian Evolution in Europe

 

AUTHOR:  Jordi Agustí

 

ILLUSTRATOR:  Mauricio Antón

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2002

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780231116404

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DESCRIPTION:

"Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids takes us on a journey through 65 million years, from the aftermath of the extinction of the dinosaurs to the glacial climax of the Pleistocene epoch; from the rain forests of the Paleocene and the Eocene, with their lemur-like primates, to the harsh landscape of the Pleistocene Steppes, home to the woolly mammoth. It is also a journey through space, following the migrations of mammal species that evolved on other continents and eventually met to compete or coexist in Cenozoic Europe. Finally, it is a journey through the complexity of mammalian evolution, a review of the changes and adaptations that have allowed mammals to flourish and become the dominant land vertebrates on Earth.

With the benefit of recent advances in geological and geophysical techniques, Jordi Agust? and Mauricio Ant?n are able to trace the processes of mammalian evolution as never before; events that hitherto appeared synchronous or at least closely related can now be distinguished on a scale of hundreds or even dozens of thousands of years, revealing the dramatic importance of climactic changes both major and minor. Evolutionary developments are rendered in magnificent illustrations of the many extraordinary species that once inhabited Europe, detailing their osteology, functional anatomy, and inferred patterns of locomotion and behavior. Based on the latest research and field work, Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids transforms our understanding of how mammals evolved and changed the face of the planet.
"

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REVIEW:

 

This book takes a look at what was going on with mammal evolution, and to a lesser degree climate, in Europe during the Cenozoic Age.  There are numerous black & white sketches and a collection of colour plates.  The writing is rather technical with an empahsis on fossil teeth and the differences in teeth between the various species/families of mammals.  The run-on paragraphs about a vast quantity of mammals with names in italics (can't be helped since these animals don't have common names) also makes things somewhat tedious.  The lack of maps does not help much either.  In short, an interesting, but technical, overview of what was going on in Europe during the Age of Mammals, but something that would probably appeal more to a paleontologist or a dentist with an interest in prehistoric mammals.

 

If you want a more comprehensive, useful and world-wide overview of the Age of Mammals, I recommend "End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals by Ross D.E. MacPhee".

 

 

 

NOTE:  Book slightly outdated since there has been much research and new evidence and hypotheses since 2002.

 

Funny

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 16 - Chlorocarbon Compounds

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

... in which we learn about refrigeration and the compounds that made this possible (CFCs), the ozone layer, chemical warfare, PCBs, pesticides such as DDT, dioxin, chloroform, etc.

 

"The ideal refrigerant molecule has special practical requirements. It must vaporize within the right temperature range; it must liquefy by compression—again within the required temperature range; and it must absorb relatively large amounts of heat as it vaporizes. Ammonia, ether, methyl chloride, sulfur dioxide, and similar molecules satisfied these technical requirements as good refrigerants. But they either decomposed, were fire hazards, were poisonous, or smelled terrible—sometimes all of these.

Despite the problems with refrigerants, the demand for refrigeration, both commercial and domestic, grew. Commercial refrigeration, developed to meet the demand of trade, preceded home refrigeration by fifty or more years. The first refrigerators for in-home use became available in 1913 and by the 1920s had begun to replace the more traditional icebox, supplied with ice from industrial ice plants. In some early home refrigerators the noisy compressor unit was installed in the basement, separate from the food box.

Looking for an answer to concerns about toxic and explosive refrigerants, mechanical engineer Thomas Midgley, Jr.—already successful as the developer of tetraethyl lead, a substance added to gasoline to reduce engine knock—and chemist Albert Henne, working at the Frigidaire Division of General Motors, considered compounds that were likely to have boiling points within the defined range of a refrigeration cycle. Most of the known compounds that fitted this criterion were already in use or had been eliminated as impractical, but one possibility, compounds of fluorine, had not been considered. The element fluorine is a highly toxic and corrosive gas, and few organic compounds containing fluorine had ever been prepared.

Midgley and Henne decided to prepare a number of different molecules containing one or two carbon atoms and a varying number of fluorine and chlorine atoms instead of hydrogen atoms. The resulting compounds, chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs, as they are now known), admirably fulfilled all the technical requirements of a refrigerant and were also very stable, nonflammable, nontoxic, inexpensive to manufacture, and nearly odorless."

 

 

Any Way the Wind Blows by Seanan McGuire [FREE SHORT STORY]

Just to let interested fans know that Seanan McGuire has a short story out.

 

"As Tor.com departs from its longtime home, the iconic Flatiron building, we present this sweet farewell from Seanan McGuire."

 

SHORT STORY:  Any Way the Wind Blows by Seanan McGuire

End of the Megafauna by Ross D.E. MacPhee

End of the Megafauna : the Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals - Peter Schouten, Ross D. E. MacPhee

TITLE:  End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals

 

AUTHOR:  Ross D.E. MacPhee

 

ILLUSTRATIONS:  Peter Schouten

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2019

 

ISBN-13:  9780393249293

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DESCRIPTION:

"Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller—including gorilla-sized lemurs, 500-pound birds, and crocodiles that weighed a ton or more—roamed the earth. These great beasts, or “megafauna,” lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone.

What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? No one event can be pinpointed as a specific cause, but several factors may have played a role. Paleomammalogist Ross D. E. MacPhee explores them all, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to account for critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses.

Along the way, we learn how time is determined in earth history; how DNA is used to explain the genomics and phylogenetic history of megafauna—and how synthetic biology and genetic engineering may be able to reintroduce these giants of the past. Until then, gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten re-create these megabeasts here in vivid detail.
"

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REVIEW:

 

This provides a good introduction and overview to the extinctions that occurred in the Cenozoic Era (Age of Mammals), focusing mainly on the megafaunal extinction at the end of the Pleistocene era.  The author discusses the evidence (or lack thereof), the various hypotheses, and the opposing or contradictory evidence and opinions.  Also discussed is the effect that early humans had on the megafauna and if human actions may be responsible for some of the extinctions.  This is an interesting, well thought-out book that is lavishly illustrated and a joy to read.

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 15 - Salt

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

"THE HISTORY OF common salt—sodium chloride, with a chemical formula of NaCl—parallels the history of human civilization. So valued is salt, so needed and so important, that it has been a major player not only in global trade but in economic sanctions and monopolies, wars, the growth of cities, systems of social and political control, industrial advances, and the migration of populations. Today salt is something of an enigma. It is absolutely essential to life—we die without it—but we are told to watch our salt intake as salt can kill. Salt is cheap; we produce and use enormous quantities of it. Yet for almost all of recorded history and probably for centuries before any history was recorded, salt was a precious commodity and often very expensive. The average person at the beginning of the nineteenth century would have had great difficulty in believing that we now routinely throw mounds of salt on roads to eliminate ice."

"The human need for salt, together with its specific methods of production, have historically made this mineral peculiarly fitted for political control, monopoly, and taxation. For a government, a tax on salt would produce a reliable income. There was no substitute for salt, and everyone needed it, so everyone would have to pay. Salt sources were known; the production of salt is difficult to hide, salt itself is bulky and hard to conceal, and its transportation can be easily regulated and taxed. From 2000 B.C. in China, where the Emperor Hsia Yu ordered that the imperial court would be supplied by salt from Shantung Province, down through the ages, salt has been profitable for governments through taxes, tolls, and tariffs. In biblical times salt, considered a spice and taxed as such, was subject to customs duty at the many stopping places along caravan routes. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., officials in Syria and Egypt continued to collect a salt tax that had originally been imposed by the Greek administration."

 

 

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

The Travelling Cat Chronicles - Hiro Arikawa

TITLE:  The Travelling Cat Chronicles

 

AUTHOR:  Hiro Arikawa

 

TRANSLATOR:  Philip Gabriel

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DESCRIPTION:

 

"It's not the journey that counts, but who's at your side.

Nana, a cat, is devoted to Satoru, his owner. So when Satoru decides to go on a roadtrip one day to find him a new home, Nana is perplexed. They visit Satoru's old friends from his school days and early youth. His friends may have untidy emotional lives but they are all animal lovers, and they also wonder why Satoru is trying to give his beloved cat away. Until the day Nana suddenly understands a long-held secret about his much-loved owner, and his heart begins to break.

Narrated in turns by Nana and by his owner, this funny, uplifting, heartrending story of a cat is nothing if not profoundly human."

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REVIEW:

 

I cannot write a review that does this book justice without providing spoilers or sounding soppy or silly.  It's a lovely, poignant book about relationships between people and animals (especially the cat) written from a cat's perspective and set in Japan. 

 

A more detailed review can be found here:  Portable Magic's Review

 

I believe this ended up a movie also.

 

 

The Cypria: Reconstructing the Lost Prequel to Homer's Iliad by D. M. Smith

The Cypria: Reconstructing the Lost Prequel to Homer's Iliad - D M Smith

TITLE:  The Cypria: Reconstructing the Lost Prequel to Homer's Iliad 

 

AUTHOR: D. M. Smith

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ASIN:  B074PVW66J

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DESCRIPTION:

 

In Classical times, the story of the Trojan War was told in a series of eight epic poems known as the Epic Cycle, of which only the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer survive to the present day. The first poem in the sequence was the Cypria, which described the early years of the war from Eris’ casting of the golden apple at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, to Paris’ abduction of Helen, the sacrifice of Iphigenia, Odysseus’ treacherous murder of Palamedes, and finally, the enslavement of Briseis and Chryseis, which sowed the seeds of the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad.

The Cypria is now lost, but the myths it once contained are known from a number of later writings. In an ambitious exercise in literary back-breeding, editor D. M. Smith attempts to reconstruct the lost prequel to Homer’s Iliad from the available material. Included are excerpts from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca, Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis and Colluthus’ The Rape of Helen, as well as lesser known documents such as Dictys Cretensis Ephemeris Belli Trojani, and the Excidium Troiae — a medieval summary of a lost Roman account of the Trojan War, discovered among the papers of an 18th century clergyman in the 1930s. This eclectic melange of Greek and Latin texts has been carefully edited and arranged in accordance with the known chronology of the Cypria, thus allowing readers to trace the story of this vanished epic as a continuous narrative for the first time in over a thousand years.

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REVIEW:

 

The Cypria (mostly lost or fragmented) was an epic poem in eleven books, variously attributed to Homer, Hegesias of Salmis, Cyprias of Halicarnassus or Stasinus of Cyprus.  The Cypria deals with the early history of the Troyan War ("pre-Iliad"), from its origins at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis to the capture of Chryseis and Briseis, leading into the events of the Iliad.

This is the author's attempt to reconstruct the lost poem from later writings, arranged and edited so as to approximate the lost originals.  The author's stated goal was to assemble a coherent, easy-to-follow narrative with the bare minimum of editorial intervention, in as great a detail as possible while relying only on Classical sources, i.e. works composed while the stories told in the Cypria were still a part of the public conscousness.  Smith hopes that this will at least allow a reader to enjoy this lost story as a single, (mostly) uninterrupted text for the first time in over a thousand years.  In this book, all the "pre-Iliad" excerpts and text are gathered together in one convenient volume, which provides the necessary back-story for anyone preparing to embark on a study of the Homeric epics.

The meat of the book is essentially a collection of excerpts from other texts that deal with the stories that were once included in the Cypria.  There is no author commentary to detract from this section of the book.  The book is also accompanied by an extensive introduction which details how Smith put together this book and which older texts he used as sources and any discrepencies in the tales.  I found the author's introduction to be very informative and this collection of the "pre-Iliad" narrative very useful.  This is something useful to have on hand for people who enjoy Homer's epics or wish to know more about the early Trojan War.

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 14 - Oleic Acid

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

... in which we learn about the history and mytholgoy of olive oil, the chemical properties of olive oil, and soap-making.

 

"Olive oil, a valued trade item for thousands of years, has been called the lifeblood of the societies that developed around the Mediterranean Sea. Even as civilizations rose and fell in the region, the olive tree and its golden oil were always at the base of their prosperity and at the heart of their culture."

 

"The more double bonds in a fatty acid, the more bent it is and the less efficient its packing. Less efficient packing requires less energy to overcome the attractions holding the molecules together, and they can therefore be separated at lower temperatures. Triglycerides with a higher proportion of unsaturated fatty acids tend to be liquids at room temperature rather than solids. We call them oils; they are most often of plant origin. Saturated fatty acids that can pack closely together require more energy to separate individual molecules and so melt at higher temperatures. Triglycerides from animal sources, with a higher proportion of saturated fatty acids than oils, are solid at room temperature. We call them fats."

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 17 - Molecules vs Malaria

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

... in which we learn about mosquitoes, malaria and quinine.

 

"Quinine, DDT, and hemoglobin—these three very different structures are united historically by their connections to one of our world’s greatest killers. ...Quinine is a naturally occurring plant product, as are many compounds that have had far-reaching effects on the development of civilization. Hemoglobin too is a natural product, but of animal origin. As well, hemoglobin belongs to the group of molecules classified as polymers, and again polymers of all types have been instrumental in major changes throughout history. And DDT illustrates the dilemmas often associated with man-made compounds. How different our world would be—for better or for worse—without synthetic substances produced through the ingenuity of those who create new molecules."

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 13 - Morphine, Nicotine, and Caffeine

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

... in which we learn about the opium wars and how this relates to morphine, nicotine, caffeine and chocolate and how these molecules funtion.

 

"Opium contains twenty-four different alkaloids. The most abundant one, morphine, makes up about 10 percent of crude opium extract, a sticky, dried secretion from the poppy flowerpod. Pure morphine was first isolated from this poppy latex in 1803 by a German apothecary, Friedrich Serturner. He named the compound that he obtained morphine, after Morpheus, the Roman god of dreams. Morphine is a narcotic, a molecule that numbs the senses (thus removing pain) and induces sleep."

"Investigation into why morphine and similar alkaloids are such effective pain relievers suggests that morphine does not interfere with nerve signals to the brain. Instead it selectively changes how the brain receives these messages—that is, how the brain perceives the pain being signaled. The morphine molecule seems able to occupy and block a pain receptor in the brain, a theory that correlates with the idea that a certain shape of chemical structure is needed to fit into a pain receptor."

"There are at least ten alkaloids in tobacco, the major one being nicotine. The content of nicotine in tobacco leaves varies from 2 to 8 percent, depending on the method of culture, climate, soil, and the process used to cure the leaves. In very small doses nicotine is a stimulant of the central nervous system and the heart, but eventually, or with larger doses, it acts as a depressant. This apparent paradox is explained by nicotine’s ability to imitate the role of a neurotransmitter."

 

"Grown in lands far from their origins, opium, tobacco, tea, and coffee have had a dramatic effect on local populations and on those people who have cultivated these plants. In many cases the ecology of these regions changed dramatically as native flora were destroyed to make way for acres of poppies, fields of tobacco, and verdant hillsides covered with tea bushes or coffee trees. The alkaloid molecules in these plants have spurred trade, generated fortunes, fueled wars, propped up governments, funded coups, and enslaved millions—all because of our eternal craving for a quick chemical fix."

 

 

 

After the Dinosaurs by Donald R. Prothero

After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals - Donald R. Prothero

TITLE:   After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals

 

AUTHOR:  Donald R. Prothero

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2006

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780253347336

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DESCRIPTION:

"Perhaps nudged over the evolutionary cliff by a giant boloid striking the earth, the incredible and fascinating group of animals called dinosaurs became extinct some 65 million years ago (except for their feathered descendants). In their place evolved an enormous variety of land creatures, especially the mammals, which in their way were every bit as remarkable as their Mesozoic cousins.

The Age of Mammals, the Cenozoic Era, has never had its Jurassic Park, but it was an amazing time in earth's history, populated by a wonderful assortment of bizarre animals. The rapid evolution of thousands of species of mammals brought forth gigantic hornless rhinos, sabertooth cats, mastodonts and mammoths, and many other creatures--including our own ancestors.

Their story is part of a larger story of a world emerging from the greenhouse conditions of the Mesozoic, warming up dramatically about 55 million years ago, and then cooling rapidly so that 33 million years ago the glacial ice returned. The earth's vegetation went through equally dramatic changes, from tropical jungles in Montana and forests at the poles, to grasslands and savannas across the entire world. Life in the sea also underwent striking evolution reflecting global climate change, including the emergence of such creatures as giant sharks, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales.

After the Dinosaurs is a book for everyone who has an abiding fascination with the remarkable life of the past.
"

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REVIEW:

 

An informative introductory book on the Age of Mammals meant for the interested lay-person or non-geologist/paleontologist.  The book covers the end of the Age of Dinosaurs and the Age of Mammals until our current century.  The author covers the changing climate, geography, flora and faunal species of each epoch (Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene) in separate chapters, accompanied by sketches, graphs, illustrations and a colour plate section. 

 

This book provides a good introduction to the Cenozoic Era, but does not deal with any particular topic in any particular depth.  There is however, a list of further reading recommendations at the end of each chapter and a decent reference section.   The brief section dealing with ancient hominins is a bit outdated (the book was published in 2006) and does not take into account new archaeological or genetic discoveries.  However, this section is incredibly short, so not too important in this book.  The author also tends to provide "lists" of species with obscure names in run-on sentences.  This would have been ok if he was listing tigers, lions, elephants, crocodiles and hippos; instead we have "perissodactyls, artiodactyls, elephants, whales, uintatheres, tillodonts, arctostylopids, pantodonts, rodents, rabbits, hyaenodont creodonts, and advanced primates, or anthropoids" - which is rather disconcerting even with sketches of some of these creatures provided.  But I did find the evolution of the horse, elephant and whale species rather interesting.  This book provides a nice overview of what was going on during the Age of Mammals.

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 12 - Molecules of Witchcraft

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

... in which we learn about many beneficial (or harmful) compounds isolated from plants and animals.

 

"Molecules that affect the heart are not found only in plants. Toxic compounds that are similar in structure to the cardiac glycosides are found in animals. These molecules do not contain sugars, nor are they used as heart stimulants. Rather, they are convulsive poisons and of little medical value. The source of these venoms is amphibians; extracts from toads and frogs have been used as arrow poisons in many parts of the world. Interestingly, the toad is, after the cat, the most common animal attributed in folklore as a familiar to a witch. Many potions prepared by so-called witches were said to contain parts of toads. The molecule bufotoxin is the active component of the venom of the common European toad, Bufo vulgaris, and is one of the most toxic molecules known. "

 

"Alkaloids are often physiologically active in humans, usually affecting the central nervous system, and are generally highly toxic. Some of these naturally occurring compounds have been used as medicines for thousands of years. Derivatives made from alkaloids form the basis of a number of our modern pharmaceuticals, such as the pain-relieving molecule codeine, the local anesthetic benzocaine, and chloroquine, an antimalarial agent."

"Toxicity alone has been enough to ensure fame for some alkaloids. The poisonous component of the hemlock plant, Conium maculatum, responsible for the death of the philosopher Socrates in 399 B.C., is the alkaloid coniine. Socrates, convicted on charges of irreligion and the corruption of the young men of Athens, was sentenced to death by drinking a potion made from the fruit and seeds of hemlock. Coniine has one of the simplest structures of all the alkaloids, but it can be just as lethal a poison as more complicated alkaloid structures such as that of strychnine, from the seeds of the Asiatic tree Strychnos nux-vomica."

"As bizarre as it might seem, the poisonous compound atropine acts as an antidote for groups of even more toxic compounds. Nerve gases such as sarin—released by terrorists in the Tokyo subway in April of 1995—and organophosphate insecticides, such as parathion, act by preventing the normal removal of a messenger molecule that transmits a signal across a nerve junction. When this messenger molecule is not removed, nerve endings are continuously stimulated, which leads to convulsions and, if the heart or lungs are affected, to death. Atropine blocks the production of this messenger molecule, so provided the right dosage is given, it is an effective remedy for sarin or parathion."

"The effects of some of the alkaloid molecules from this group can be so devastating that whole communities, afflicted with horrendous suffering, assumed that the catastrophe was the result of an evil spell cast by local witches. This group of alkaloids is found in the ergot fungus, Claviceps purpurea, that infects many cereal grains but especially rye. Ergotism or ergot poisoning was until fairly recently the next-largest microbial killer after bacteria and viruses. One of these alkaloids, ergotamine, causes blood vessels to constrict; another, ergonovine, induces spontaneous abortions in humans and livestock; while others cause neurological disturbances. Symptoms of ergotism vary depending on the amount of the different ergot alkaloids present but can include convulsions, seizures, diarrhea, lethargy, manic behavior, hallucinations, distortion of the limbs, vomiting, twitching, a crawling sensation on the skin, numbness in the hands and feet, and a burning sensation becoming excruciatingly painful as gangrene from decreased circulation eventually sets in. "

"Like cocaine, ergot alkaloids, although toxic and dangerous, have had a long history of therapeutic use, and ergot derivatives still play a role in medicine. For centuries herbalists, midwives, and doctors used extracts of ergot to hasten childbirth or produce abortions. Today ergot alkaloids or chemical modifications of these compounds are used as vasoconstrictors for migraine headaches, to treat postpartum bleeding, and as stimulants for uterine contractions in childbirth."

"The alkaloids of ergot all have the same common chemical feature; they are derivatives of a molecule known as lysergic acid."

 

 

 

The Heroes of Tolkien by David Day

The Heroes of Tolkien - David Day

This is a very pretty book with sketches, colour illustrations, time-lines and comparative tables.  However, the content is dissappointing.  This book comes across as a collection of superficial notes or dictionary entries of people and events, rather than a coherent analysis of Tolkien's heroes.  This is basically a collection of occassionally interesting but speculative and flimsy comparisons between Tolkien's mythology, people, kingdoms, and events and those of real-world mythologies, legends, kingdoms/empires and historical events.  The book provides nothing new for Tolkien fans and is rather repetitive, with numerous factual errors and confusion of names.  Day also seems to refute some of Tolkien's own professed origins as provided by Christopher Tolkien in his numerous texts.  There are no references so you can't research where Day came up with Tolkien's opinions or statements.

 


Recommended Book:
Aragorn - J. R. R. Tolkien's Undervalued Hero by Angela P. Nicholas

SPOILER ALERT!

Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 11 - The Pill

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

"In 1960 a contraceptive molecule emerged that played a major role in shaping contemporary society.

We are, of course, referring to norethindrone, the first oral contraceptive, usually known as “the pill.” The molecule has been credited with—or blamed for (depending on your point of view)—the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the women’s liberation movement, the rise of feminism, the increased percentage of women in the workplace, and even the breakdown of the family. Despite the varying opinions on the benefits or disadvantages of this molecule, it has played an important role in the enormous changes in society in the forty or so years since the pill was introduced."

 

"...the advent of oral contraceptives in the middle of the twentieth century marked the first truly safe and effective chemical means of birth control. Norethindrone is one of a group of compounds known as steroids, a perfectly good chemical name that now is often applied to performance-enhancing drugs illegally used by some athletes."

 

"Testosterone is an anabolic steroid, meaning that it is a steroid that promotes muscle growth. Artificial testosterones—manufactured compounds that also stimulate the growth of muscle tissue—have similar structures to testosterone. They were developed for use with injuries or diseases that cause debilitating muscle deterioration. At prescription-level doses these drugs help rehabilitate with minimal masculinizing effect, but when these synthetic steroids, like Dianabol and Stanozolol, are used at a ten or twenty times normal rate by athletes wanting to “bulk up” the side effects can be devastating.

Increased risk of liver cancer and heart disease, heightened levels of aggression, severe acne, sterility, and shriveled testicles are just a few of the dangers from the misuse of these molecules. It may seem a bit odd that a synthetic androgenic steroid, one that promotes male secondary characteristics, causes the testes to shrink, but when artificial testosterones are supplied from a source outside the body, the testes—no longer needing to function—atrophy."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annus Horribilis: Latin for Everyday Life by Mark Walker

Annus Horribilis: Latin for Everyday Life - Mark Walker

TITLE:  Annus Horribilis: Latin for Everyday Life

 

AUTHOR:  Mark Walker

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2008

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780752442846

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DESCRIPTION:

 

"What do "quid pro quo" and "habeas corpus" mean? Why do plants have Latin names? Why do families, towns, countries, and even football teams have Latin mottoes? What do the Latin epitaphs in churches say? These are just a few of the topics covered in this comprehensive guide to Latin for the layman. With wit and clear language, the Latin phrases and words that surround us and compose our contemporary vocabulary are exposed and decoded. Entertaining and informative, this study proves that Latin is anything but dead."
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REVIEW:
 
This book came about as a result of the author's teaching an evening class in Latin for adult beginners, and realising that the traditional Latin courses were not ideally suited to the needs of his mature students.  This is an introductory text to the type of Latin encountered in everyday life, that should be followed by a more comprehensive text if the reader has a further interest in the subject.  The author covers the history and development of Latin, familiar Latin phrases, acronyms & abbreviations, Roman names and numerals, mottoes, Latin for Gardeners, Doctors & Lawyers, church Latin, Latin in music, hymns, Christmas carols and the Latin Mass, Roman inscriptions and Latin epitaphs.  I found the book interesting and informative, and definitely requiring further examination.
 
 
 

Currently reading

Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago by Douglas H. Erwin
Skeletons: The Frame of Life by Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams