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Archive for the 'Science' Category

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

How Quarks Turned into Cultures

Quarks to Culture

“What were the innovations that developed along the forward path in time that went from quarks to culture to form a sequence of transitions to new fundamental levels? To help focus, I coined the term ‘combogenesis.’ Combogenesis is the genesis of new types of things and relations by combination and integration of previously existing things.” — Tyler Volk

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. Today, we are happy to present a short excerpt from an interview that with John Horgan at Scientific American‘s Cross-Check blog. You can read the interview in full at the Cross-Check website.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

How Quarks Turned into Cultures: Big-picture biologist Tyler Volk talks about his book on “How We Came to Be”
By John Horgan

What is combogenesis?

In answering the question about a count I was led onward to a next one: What were the innovations that developed along the forward path in time that went from quarks to culture to form a sequence of transitions to new fundamental levels? To help focus, I coined the term “combogenesis.” Combogenesis is the genesis of new types of things and relations by combination and integration of previously existing things. For those into “emergence” theory, I would say that combogenesis is a special subset of emergence. But combogenesis is more precisely defined and leads to a logical way to distinguish levels and then ask questions about contrast and comparison across levels. Its use is restricted in this book to the levels that built-up a “grand sequence,” from the fundamental particles of physics through biology and to geopolitical states….

A related concept is offered in the book’s Part 3: combogenic convergence. Once one has in hand the levels of combogenesis as a set of similar “things,” one can ask about themes or parallels within that set. Examples include parallels in the levels that originated biological and cultural evolution (respectively, prokaryotic cells and human tribal metagroups), and in the levels that followed those “evolutionary base levels” (respectively, eukaryotic cells and agrovillages).

Could the next great transformation spawned by combogenesis be what some call the Singularity?

The final level I cover is the geopolitical state. It originated thousands of years ago at different sites around the world at different times. The obvious question is, what happens next? The logic of combinogenesis would indicate a merger of nations. I see nations as cultural evolutionary descendants of the ancient states, all on the same level of the geopolitical state, similar to the way that ancient simplest animals and modern large mammals are on the same level of multicellularity.

Now the logic of combogenesis would indicate that for a planetary scale to develop as a truly new level in the grand sequence, that scale will not take place from the domination by any current government or government system. Were that to become the case, it would not be a substantial innovation but simply an increase in size of a current pattern. Thus the logic leads us to think more radically about the structures that might result in a coming planetary stage.
Now, those into the Singularity—where cheap machines match and then surpass human general intelligence—can spin scenarios of utopias or dystopias. I agree with Nick Bostrom, we need to be thinking about the matter of AI a lot more. The internet-AI is participating in the coming planetary scale. In fact, we all need to be thinking and talking about and debating the human future a lot more, rather than simply letting it happen or letting certain powerful individuals in government, tech, or finance determine it (a complex topic, because voters and consumers weigh in). I tend to think about new international “organs” of the planetary scale. Please, no Borg-like future. I personally lean toward a desirably complex world but one more decentralized across multiple modalities compared to today.

Personal, cognitive evolutionary dynamics (one’s internal decision-making, with its evolutionary “recipe” of processes of propagation, variation, and selection) need to be part of this evolution toward planetization. After all, important structures of cultural evolution are linked to patterns laid down in earlier levels of the grand sequence. Specifically, the animal body (level 8) participates in the next level of the animal social group (level 9), with the animals themselves remaining the main unit of evolutionary adaptation, because the animal body had and has a life cycle that involves death and therefore was subject to intense selection. In our genus Homo ancestry, this led to increased brain size and new cognitive capabilities. Despite our current lives in multiply nested social systems, we have inherited this intense degree of individuality from several levels down. Let us keep that, even if a planetary scale is coming into being.

We need more imagination about all this. David Grinspoon, for example, in his book Earth in Human Hands, is wonderfully on the case here, proposing a “Sapiezoic aeon” to come (if we are successful). My hope is that pattern-thinking-tools developed from the grand sequence and prior transitions of combogenesis can help contribute to such new imaginings of our future.

Read the article in full at Scientific American’s Cross-Check blog.

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

How We Came in Be, In Twelve Images

Quarks to Culture

Quarks to Culture is a must-read. It weaves the myriad patterns of universe, life, and consciousness into a wonderful new tapestry. Volk combines scientific rigor and love for the humanities into a gentle, no-nonsense, full-of-facts, passionately well-written, fundamental new guide to help us better see ourselves in this ever-changing world.” — Francesco Tubiello, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. Today, we have a selection of images from the book that depict the twelve major transitions that Volk identifies as making up the Grand Sequence — the progression from simple systems to complex ones — that led to us.

Beginning with fundamental quanta and moving up through atoms, molecules, cells, animals, animal groups, and agrovillages (to name a few), Volk identifies the key mechanism behind each transition: the combination of simple elements into qualitatively new systems with new relations.

Click on the first image below to begin your tour through the fundamental levels of physical, biological, and cultural evolution that Tyler Volk explores in Quarks to Culture!

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Introducing Quarks to Culture

Quarks to Culture

“Can one start at the simplest things of physics and ratchet along a course in time that simultaneously progresses outward in scale? And perhaps during this tally, let’s not halt at our bodies as a terminal level but continue the logic on up to larger patterns that we as bodies and minds participate in, such as the social systems of complex culture.” — Tyler Volk

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. To start the feature, we are happy to present Volk’s Preface to Quarks to Culture.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Quarks to Culture, by Tyler Volk

Quarks to Culture

“It’s hard to convey the excitement of what Tyler Volk has achieved in Quarks to Culture. Here we have well-chosen words, in crystal-clear paragraphs, combining to form compelling chapters, all of which add up to a convincing account of where we humans fit in the grand scheme of things. Volk is, in short, a systems thinker. Few writers could have written such a book as this.” –Liam Heneghan, DePaul University

This week, our featured book is Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, by Tyler Volk. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Emigrating to Mars or Returning to Earth

The Traveler's Guide to Space

“[E]stablishing colonies on Mars will be the hardest, most expensive, most dangerous, and most transformative emigration experience in human history. Every aspect of human society will have to be modified or reinvented, including agriculture, water collection and purification, mining, manufacturing, construction, transportation, communication, medicine, reproduction, social activities, cultures, religions, education, economy, emergency
responses, recreation, policing, alcohol production, and protection from radiation, to name a few.” — Neil Comins

This week, our featured book is The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For One-Way Settlers and Round-Trip Tourists, by Neil F. Comins. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the final chapter of the book, in which Comins looks at the possibility of colonizing Mars from the point of view of a potential colonizer.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Traveler’s Guide to Space!

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

The Traveler’s Guide to Space

The Traveler's Guide to Space

“Once you get through the initial adjustment period, the fun begins, but with the caveat that just not everything you enjoy on Earth will be fun out there and things that you wouldn’t think if doing here, such as talking to someone who is upside down in front of you, or eating food that is floating, rather than on a plate, will be interesting experiences.” — Neil Comins

This week, our featured book is The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For One-Way Settlers and Round-Trip Tourists, by Neil F. Comins. Today, we are happy to present a guest post by Comins introducing some of the ideas in his book.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Traveler’s Guide to Space!

The Traveler’s Guide to Space
By Neil F. Comins

The era of civilian and commercial space travel has arrived, with paying tourists visiting the International Space Station and private companies developing rockets and other hardware to be used in space. Building on the knowledge about living in space gained over the past 65 years, countries and companies are making real plans to visit and perhaps colonize our Moon, as well as visiting other bodies in space, such as nearby asteroids and passing comets.

As exciting and romantic as such adventures are, none of them are as simple, straight-forward, or accessible as, for example, journeys to countries half way around the world. The latter trips basically require: arranging accommodations and activities; booking flights; getting a passport and visa (if necessary); getting any necessary inoculations and a supply of the medicines you need, along with medical insurance if necessary; letting your credit card company know you are making the trip, and, packing. Each of these things can be accomplished in a matter of minutes to hours, with the whole process taking perhaps a week, and much less time for the seasoned traveler. Preparing for a trip into space, whether just a quick ride above the boundary that defines space and back, a trip into orbit, one in which you leave Earth’s thrall, will require months, or even years of preparation, depending on the voyage. Astronauts preparing to go to the International Space Station today train for more than two years.

Virtually every aspect of life changes when you go into space. Adjusting to living out there, whether for a few days or a lifetime, is uncomfortable as your body gets acclimated to the lack of gravity, called microgravity. Besides the space sickness and physical changes in your body that microgravity causes, you will find that eating, another one of the pleasures on Earth, is a notably different experience in space, too. Food tastes much blander out there and so food that is crafted to be consumed in space is often accompanied by stronger spices than you would consider using on Earth.

Once you get through the initial adjustment period, the fun begins, but with the caveat that just not everything you enjoy on Earth will be fun out there and things that you wouldn’t think if doing here, such as talking to someone who is upside down in front of you, or eating food that is floating, rather than on a plate, will be interesting experiences. If you ever dreamed of flying like superwoman or superman, you will have the opportunity to do that in space, or at least to float weightlessly from one side of a room to another. You will also be able to heft and even throw people who, on Earth, would weigh much more than you do.

Next time you have sex, I invite you to think about the role gravity plays in your interactions with your companion. Microgravity changes many aspects of sexual relations, so substitute technology will have to be developed in order for you to be able to do it, much less enjoy it, up there.

Obviously, space journeys to different destinations will take different lengths of time and each will present you with different experiences and opportunities at your goal. Space travel will require, among other things, significant training on getting along with people from different cultures, countries, races, religions, and philosophies. You will also have to learn to make good use of your time on extended journeys, to prevent boredom, which can actually become dangerous.

Because every world that will be available to visit this century is different in size, composition, shape, and surface features, what you can see and do will depend intimately on your destination. Without a doubt, the most exotic, glamorous, and diverse world that may be on that list is Mars. However, the challenges involved in providing a viable habitat there, as well as reliable landers and, for those making round trip journeys, vehicles to return to orbit are substantial.

In The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For Round-Trip Tourists and One-Way Settlers, I explore all these aspects of space travel in the near future and much more. I also discuss activities and experiences available on different worlds in our astronomical neighborhood. The book is written both for people interested in going into space and anyone else who would like to see the big picture of space travel.

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Book Giveaway! The Traveler’s Guide to Space

The Traveler's Guide to Space

“There is no other book for the popular reader that addresses the many serious challenges involved in deep space travel. Understanding these issues is essential for anyone with an interest in space exploration. The Traveler’s Guide to Space does an excellent job at looking at the whole picture, from space tourists to one-way colonization; from physical to psychological challenges.” — Robert Geller, University of California, Santa Barbara

This week, our featured book is The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For One-Way Settlers and Round-Trip Tourists, by Neil F. Comins. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Exciting Times in Brain Science

Genes, Brains, and Human Potential

“Far from confirming what was expected, the research results, in fact, are suggesting something else: no less than a fundamental re-appraisal of many of our basic concepts. They indicate that expectations – the models framing research – have been more based on ideological assumptions that objective science. This is what happens when social experiences, such as class-structure or conventional gender roles, come to shape the concepts upon which scientific research is based – and which scientific research is then expected to reinforce.” — Ken Richardson

This week, our featured book is Genes, Brains, and Human Potential: The Science and Ideology of Intelligence, by Ken Richardson. Today, we are happy to present an article by Richardson on why the mountains of new data about particulars of brain activities have failed to construct a coherent model of overall function – what the brain is really for.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Genes, Brains, and Human Potential!

Exciting Times in Brain Science
By Ken Richardson

“These are exciting times in…” That’s a well-worn cliché, of course. But in two fields of science, at least, it’s not so trite. Advances in genetics over the last twenty years or so have been remarkable. Now DNA can be sequenced, and genes, even their molecular components – and who has them, or not – can be identified.

So the scene has been set for discovering genetic associations with complex diseases, or even individual differences in potential for traits like intelligence or education. And maybe that information can be used for selecting individuals for careers or as a basis for precision treatments in schools or families. In streams of exhortations, educators everywhere are now being told to think “genetically”.

Likewise with the brain: we’re enjoying a period of terrific breakthroughs, teeming with details about structure and function. New methods, particularly in “brain imaging”, have even produced speculation that the true nature of intelligence itself – and, again, who has it, or who does not – can be worked out “in the brain”. So teachers and educators are also being encouraged to be “brain scientists”.

But vaulting claims and promissory notes are one thing, reality another. High hopes about pinpointing genes are turning to disappointments. For well-defined medical conditions even weak genetic correlations have been difficult to establish. The difficulties are hugely magnified for traits like intelligence, for which there is not even agreed definition (quite apart from falling into the trap of automatically treating correlations as causes). (more…)

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

Introducing Genes, Brains, and Human Potential

Genes, Brains, and Human Potential

“Whatever powerful new technologies are applied [to questions about the causes of variation in human potential], we will still only get slightly more sophisticated expressions of essentially the same message. That is because the concepts themselves are really only veneered expressions of a very old—albeit often unconscious—ideology, rooted in the class, gender, and ethnic structure of society: a ladder view of a social order imposed on our genes and brains.” — Ken Richardson

This week, our featured book is Genes, Brains, and Human Potential: The Science and Ideology of Intelligence, by Ken Richardson. To kick the feature off, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s preface.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Genes, Brains, and Human Potential!

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Book Giveaway! Genes, Brains, and Human Potential, by Ken Richardson

Genes, Brains, and Human Potential

“In his latest book, Genes, Brains, and Human Potential, Richardson has again creatively illuminated the bases and limitations of genetic reductionist accounts of human intelligence, showing how cutting-edge research provides a valid alternative to such counterfactual and egregiously flawed models. Informative and inspiring, he convincingly counters these failed accounts of intelligence, forwarding a new relational theory of human development.” — Richard M. Lerner, Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development Tufts University

This week, our featured book is Genes, Brains, and Human Potential: The Science and Ideology of Intelligence, by Ken Richardson. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Press Roundup for ‘Weird Dinosaurs’

Weird Dinosaurs

“Our current understanding of dinosaurs is nothing like the creatures depicted in 2015′s Jurassic World... the new species are weirder than anything movie producers have been able to devise.” — John Pickrell

This week, our featured book is Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew, by John Pickrell, with a foreword by Philip Currie. Today, we feature a roundup of articles featuring Weird Dinosaurs from around the web.

The Sydney Morning Herald calls the book a “tour de force through the latest digs across the planet” that search for new species of dinosaurs, which are rapidly being discovered, and describes several such new species. For those of you who are fans of radio and podcasts, Radio New Zealand sat down with Pickerell in December and recorded a 35-minute interview with him on the book, highlighting how so many of the dinosaur species we now know have been discovered very recently – even since the 1990s.

Reviewer and dinosaur fan Jonathan Crowe admires how the book features stories of how these new dinosaurs were discovered, which are “replete with colourful characters, intrigue and controversy in some cases.” The Canadian National Post, meanwhile, has written up a list of important takeaways from Weird Dinosaurs that includes ‘rock stars’ and ‘feathered friends.’

More links and press for Weird Dinosaurs is available on its Facebook page!

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

On the Trail of Dinosaurs in Mongolia

Weird Dinosaurs

“Finds we made included the numerous remains of small herbivorous horned dinosaurs, known as Protoceratops; Velociraptor teeth; duck-billed hadrosaurs; armoured ankylosaurs and even Cretaceous-era birds’ eggs. All of these fossils hailed from the 70-million-year-old deposits of the Tugrugin Shiree region of the central Gobi Desert. Here our crew of 18 camped out in a stark, beautiful and very remote stretch of desert for 10 nights.” — John Pickrell

This week, our featured book is Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew, by John Pickrell, with a foreword by Philip Currie. Today, we follow Pickrell into the Gobi Desert as he documents the Australian Geographic Gobi Desert Fossil Dig Scientific Expedition in a video that was originally posted, along with an article by Pickrell at the Australian Geographic website. Over the course of the expedition, Mongolian paleontologists from the Institute of Paleontology and Geology in Ulaanbaatar and Australian volunteers found remains of more than thirty individual dinosaurs. Watch the 10-minute film to learn more about the dig and the dinosaur remains the team discovered!

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like?

Weird Dinosaurs

“When faced with new fossils today, palaeontologists have a much bigger body of knowledge to draw upon when creating reconstructions. In fact, our knowledge has increased to the degree that – somewhat miraculously – we can tell the colours of the dinosaur feathers of a range of species.” — John Pickrell

This week, our featured book is Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew, by John Pickrell, with a foreword by Philip Currie. Today, we are happy to provide a short excerpt from an article written by John Pickrell for Science Focus, the online home of BBC Focus Magazine, where you can read the article in full.

How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like?
By John Pickrell

We take reconstructions of dinosaurs for granted these days, but just how realistic are they, and how do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?

When ancient people were faced with strange bones, they did exactly what we do today, and used the best knowledge available to reconstruct the creatures that left them behind. Sometimes this resulted in poor conclusions. The first name assigned in print to any dinosaur remains was the ignominious title of Scrotum humanum – a label given by British physician Richard Brookes to the broken end of a femur in 1763, believing it to be the fossilised testicles of a Biblical giant.

We now know that the leg bone belonged to a Megalosaurus – correctly described as an extinct reptile by William Buckland in 1824. You can’t entirely blame Brookes for his conclusions, as dinosaurs would not be described as a group until 1842. That was when Richard Owen, head of what is now the Natural History Museum, revealed to the world a new class of strange, extinct creatures he called dinosaurs, meaning ‘fearfully great reptiles’. He imagined Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Hylaeosaurus to be reptiles with legs sprawled out to the sides, with scaly grey or green skin: something like modern lizards or crocodiles.

(more…)

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

A New Golden Age for Dinosaur Science

Weird Dinosaurs

“Dinosaurs are no longer the green or grey, dim-witted, lizard-like creatures we thought they were before the 1980s, nor the scaly, reptilian predators we remember best from Jurassic Park. Today we know they were fleet-footed and often feathery, with sharp intellects and also strange behaviours, physical attributes and adaptations.” — John Pickrell

This week, our featured book is Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew, by John Pickrell, with a foreword by Philip Currie. To get the week’s feature started, we are pleased to present an excerpt from Pickrell’s introduction.

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Weird Dinosaurs, by John Pickrell

Weird Dinosaurs

“In the 26 years since Jurassic Park was released we have unearthed about 75 per cent of all known dinosaur species…. Weird Dinosaurs is a tour de force through the latest digs across the planet. It features the amazing people unearthing new fossils and highlights the odd reptiles that roamed all corners of the earth millions of years ago.” — Marcus Strom, Sydney Morning Herald

This week, our featured book is Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew, by John Pickrell, with a foreword by Philip Currie. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

10 Tidbits from Gordon M. Shepherd’s Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine to Casually Slip into Conversation at Your Next Winetasting Party

Neuroenology

“If someone comments on how fun and relaxing winetasting parties are: ‘Actually, the process of orthonasal smells, or initial smell images, changing into mental images, while integrating taste, tactile, auditory, and visual stimuli is very involved.’”

This week, our featured book is Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, by Gordon M. Shepherd. Today, we are happy to present a list of ten tidbits about the science of how we taste wine for use in common wine-tasting party settings, pulled together by Columbia UP publicity intern Elisa Kong.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

10 Tidbits from Gordon M. Shepherd’s Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine to Casually Slip into Conversation at Your Next Winetasting Party
By Elisa Kong

1) When someone comments on how smooth the wine is: “Actually, the initial perceived smoothness of wine depends on the balance between the serous and mucus parts of your saliva.”

2) If you catch your friend tasting the wine before sniffing it: “Before you start tasting, remember that sniffing is quite important when tasting wine, as it allows you to sense a wine’s aroma, which is critical in your judgment of its taste… But don’t stop on my account!”

3) If someone’s having a difficult time picking up on the aroma of the wine at hand, ask them if their olfactory bulb, the first station for processing sensory response, is working. “Pardon me, but is your olfactory bulb in tune today?”

4) When your friend says the wine is too “tart,” remind them that “tart” is not a term to be used lightly, as it implies that a wine’s acidity is much too strong. Mild acidity adds an “edge” to wine, which might have been the more appropriate term to use. (more…)

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

The Vocabulary of Wine: Ten Neuroenologic Terms for Understanding the Neuroscience of Wine

Neuroenology

“Photoreceptor response: the electrical response when particles in light waves called photons hit the eye. This is what allows us to see a wine as red or white, or, in Shepherd’s view, red or pale.”

This week, our featured book is Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, by Gordon M. Shepherd. Today, we are happy to present a list of ten neuroenologic terms from the book compiled by Columbia UP publicity intern Andrew Loso.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

The Vocabulary of Wine: Ten Neuroenologic Terms for Understanding the Neuroscience of Wine
Compiled by Andrew Loso

Gordon M. Shepherd’s new book Neuroenology, the first book on wine tasting by a neuroscientist, offers a comprehensive take on how the senses and the brain perceive wine. The text is palatable for novice wine drinkers and novice scientists alike, and Shepherd introduces the reader to many new wine-related terms. “Neuroenology” itself is a new term which is defined as how the brain creates the taste of wine. These ten are a cross section across the many topics that Shepherd covers.

Aroma burst: the sensation produced by the high concentration of particles called volatiles that coat the mouth immediately after swallowing.

Congruent: describes when the stimuli involved with taste and retronasal smell complement each other, which is essential to maintaining the flavor balance of wine.

Experienced pleasure (EP): the good feeling we get from doing something, relevant here to a study in which subjects felt the same EP for wine ranging from $5 to $90 in a blind test.

Flavor image: one of the most complex, and rewarding, human flavor experiences in which taste, retronasal smell, tactile stimuli, and visual stimuli integrate.

Hedonistic value: the emotional value a person puts on wine, based on their preference for whether or not the wine tastes “good” to them.

Legs: drip lines created by swirling wine in a glass that reflect the wine’s chemical composition.

Mouthfeel: perceptions which physical touch stimuli activate, such as supple, aggressive, viscous, and steely.

Photoreceptor response: the electrical response when particles in light waves called photons hit the eye. This is what allows us to see a wine as red or white, or, in Shepherd’s view, red or pale.

Retronasal smell: the sensation produced after wine has entered the mouth as the mixing of saliva with particles called volatiles in the wine affects their volatility.

Taste modalities: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami, and fat, all of which are present in much lower quantities in wine than in food.

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

A New Approach to Wine Tasting

Neuroenology

“This book builds on [other] authoritative accounts by focusing on a new approach to wine tasting that can be summed up in the phrase: the taste is not in the wine; the taste is created by the brain of the wine taster.” — Gordon M. Shepherd

This week, our featured book is Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, by Gordon M. Shepherd. To get the feature started, we are happy to present Shepherd’s introduction to Neuroenology.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Book Giveaway! Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, by Gordon M. Shepherd

Neuroenology

“Shepherd provides a valuable and interesting glimpse into the human side of science and its inherently cross-disciplinary nature. After having read Neuroenology, every sniff, bite and gulp, will create a moment of reflection on how complex and wonderfully mysterious the human brain is.” — Christopher R. Loss, Culinary Institute of America

This week, our featured book is Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, by Gordon M. Shepherd. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, December 9th, 2016

John Pickrell on the Feathered Dinosaur Tail

Weird Dinosaurs

The following is an excerpt from an article that appears in full at the Australian Geographic website by John Pickrell, author of Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew on the recent stunning discovery of a perfect dinosaur tail perfectly preserved in amber.

The feathered dinosaur tail in amberDinosaur tail section running through the amber piece, surrounded by ants, a beetle and bits of plant.
IMAGE CREDIT: Royal Saskatchewan Museum/R.C. McKellar

Feathered Dinosaur Tail Found in Amber
John Pickrell

In Jurassic Park scientists found mosquitoes trapped in amber that had traces of dinosaur blood and DNA inside them. That was a fictional scenario, but researchers have now found what is, arguably, a much more exciting piece of prehistory trapped inside fossilised tree resin – the tail of a small carnivorous dinosaur covered in fluffy feathers.

Every week or so these days a new species of dinosaur is revealed to the world, but this specimen – dug up by amber miners in Myanmar (Burma) – has to be one of the most exciting discoveries of the past few years.

I first heard hints of this fossil when I interviewed its discoverer, Chinese palaeontologist Dr. Lida Xing, for my book Weird Dinosaurs early in 2016. Since then I have been waiting with great anticipation to the see these images.

A small coelurosaur dinosaur
A small coelurosaur dinosaur on the forest floor; the creature that left its tail in amber would have looked something like this.
IMAGE CREDIT: Cheung Chung-tat and Liu Yi

Today an international team of scientists – led by Lida, based at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, and amber fossil expert Dr Ryan McKellar at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada – reveal the details of the fossil in the journal Current Biology. What they have found is the tail of a small carnivorous dinosaur – it’s from a juvenile animal would have been about the size of a sparrow.

Read the full article at the Australian Geographic website!