Mark Avery has assembled a beautiful storehouse of information in Remarkable Birds. Included are over 200 exquisite and highly detailed illustrations of birds in their natural habitats. The book divides its subject matter into eight diverse categories of birds, making it a useful reference volume. It discusses birds as common as the domestic pigeon and as exotic as the Hoopoe.
Moreover, the visual appeal of the book will entice even the casual reader into pages of quality reading material that detail the place of birds in literature, art, and history.
An added bonus is the list of internet sources and books for further reading found at the back of the book. The list is arranged in the same eight categories as the book. Readers will appreciate Dr. Avery‘s guidance in choosing appropriate additional reading material because of his experience and vast knowledge, including serving for over a decade as Conservation Director of Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
It is easy to imagine this book as a perfect gift for any birdwatcher, whether they be amateur or pro.
Thames & Hudson
First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life
First Sight is not a cryptic title that connotes a spooky collection of all things psychic and paranormal. On the contrary, it reflects a title to a theory developed by Carpenter, which proposes that there is more normalcy to the psychic experience than one may expect. The reality is that the psychic experience, or psi, goes on all the time. Better defined as “the ability to affect physical events without touching them,” psi works through the unconscious processes and are actually our first sight – our first contact with the world, and where information is first gathered. Using the First Sight model that consists of two assertions about human nature and the structure of the mind, and the thirteen corollaries that explain those assertions, Carpenter presents to readers, as he states, “a revolutionary understanding of how each of us fits within the world and how we are put together within ourselves.”
Determined “to learn whether or not the stuff of parapsychology (psi) is real and if it is, how it works,” clinical psychologist and parapsychologist James C. Carpenter addresses a plethora of questions and draws from core findings of parapsychology and contemporary psychology research to get the necessary answers to back up his arguments. One key argument is that psi plays an active role in our memory, our perception, our motivation, and our creativity. To better understand how psi works, Carpenter explains that psi is divided into two parts, psychokinesis (the expression of psi information) and extrasensory perception (ESP, or the impression of psi information). Carpenter gives a practical application of that description through a simple example of a visual perception, run backward in sequence, of how psi works within every experience:
D. I see X (an attributed understanding of an experience), and I think about it.
C. Just prior to that, I experience a collection of sensations that I attempt to construe.
B. Just prior to that, sensations register subliminally.
A. Just prior to that, an extrasensory anticipation of the event (and/or a psychokinetic elicitation of the event) initiates the perceptual process.
While there is a major assumption held universally by parapsychologists, as well as critics, that “psi is a matter of unusual conscious experiences (such as precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy),” Carpenter is careful to point out that the First Sight model specifically spells out that psi events are NOT about conscious and anomalous experiences, nor is psi a set of abilities or traits (like many psychics will claim). But rather its focus is on unconscious experiences. This is not to say that those conscious experiences are invalid. Rather people, as Carpenter states, ” who are prone to having many psychic experiences and who have some degree of control over their production would be expected to have a general intention to gain knowledge…and this intention should be relatively congruent at both a conscious and unconscious level and be consistent over time.”
Scientifically minded readers will quickly gravitate to First Sight. Carpenter’s thorough and technical analysis on a paradoxical topic sheds refreshing enlightenment not only in the field of parapsychology, but also a clearer understanding of the psychic experience in our daily lives.
Maria’s Duck Tales: Wildlife Stories From My Garden
Maria Daddino is entranced with nature, all its flora and fauna, and she writes enchantingly of her impressions of and encounters with the residents and transients of her wildlife habitat home along Penataquit Creek of Long Island. As if reading pages from her personal diary, each of the thirteen essays detailing the antics of the ducks, geese, and swans that arouse her care and curiosity both amuse and beguile the reader. Tales about Peeper and Patches, twin ducklings with opposite personalities, endear the heart as their survival tactics are recounted. Liaisons between ducks are followed and their fidelity commands her admiration. At times Daddino gushes with love and sympathy for her menagerie of critters whom she affectionately names according to the impression they make on her … the duck Grace named for her beauty, another named Robert whose personality was like her son’s, and Jack because he was like a jumping jack.
While cared for with TLC, ducks which imprinted on this garden naturalist were always returned to their family and natural setting as soon as rehabilitation permitted, and scrupulously observed from a distance. Not only is the avian behavior naturally reported, the personalities and foibles are delightfully described. There are brief glances at other habitat residents such as opossums, squirrels, the elegant fish eagle or osprey, and the elusive red fox. Charming miniature color illustrations enhance the text. While the stories appear to emotionally anthropomorphize the creatures, these vignettes serve to make animal behavior accessible to the public. If ever I am to return to Earth in another form, I cannot think of a more idyllic place to be than as a Muscovy duck in Maria Daddino’s garden.
The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination
With delicate elegance and touches of delightful wit, British naturalist Richard Mabey chronicles the story of plants through the ages. Looking at history, literature, and the life cycle of botanical forms, the author transforms these photosynthesizing forms into enchanting creatures with their inimitable genetics and mysterious means of survival and reproduction.
Fascinating facts emerge, one being that the design of the Amazonian megaflower, the world’s largest waterlily served as the template for London’s Crystal Palace of 1851. In the American West, the pioneers were awed by the giant sequoia which were subsequently conquered by cutting them down. The ancient cycads survived the dinosaurs, and some plants easily develop camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. Glance at how plants have been regarded from prehistoric times to the present, how they have been abused and misused, and how they have been exploited.
Plant survival mechanisms pose mysteries for human botanists, this is another world that relies on a dissimilar sensory system, one that requires a Rosetta Stone for translation. Enhanced with dozens of colorful illustrations, engaging examples, thoughtful queries, and an historical background, the reader will be coaxed into this cabaret of plants.
The General Theory of Information: Origin of Truth and Hope
This is an inspirational piece. The expressions are a little repetitious, but they stimulate reflections on concepts we take for granted. The book is broken down into short episodes, instead of more lengthy chapters, hoping to capture alluring concepts and cataloguing them accordingly. In each, a different aspect of separability and non- separability, as well as nonlocal and nonlocality are discussed with respect to various mindsets. These are to make sense out of the universe in terms of reality, taking into account the various theories that deal with either the smallness of the universe, quantum theory or the largeness, relativity theory.
The authors of the book recognize Claude E. Shannon as the founder of information theory. His original work involved mathematic models for storing and compressing information data. The theory’s primary application is in information transmission in data processing. The book’s approach to explaining the dynamic processes of information is rather mathematically consistent. This is because the different aspects of information transition are categorized and born into a syllogistic environment allowing logical deduction in addition to algorithmic methods. The theory of information as it appears in this book, however, proposes to unlock the secrets of reality.
Some of the more important considerations include speed of light, space, time, and gravity. At the speed of light, time and space equal zero. Presumably, this would imply that time and space would cease to exist in realms where particles move at the speed of light. This indicates that there is no space-time and no gravity on the subatomic level since the electrons are moving at light speed. According to the theory, the nature of information becomes blurred.
The subtle leaps in sub-atomic particles, where an electron leaps from one orbital zone to another is one of the areas addressed by General Information Theory. According to quantum theory, the electron vanishes from one orbital plane to another, either higher or lower. We know this much: if higher, it absorbs energy; if lower, it gives up energy. Either way, energy is exchanged. But how is the information about the electron’s location revealed? This has been a mystery. When an electron leaps from one orbital zone to another, according to quantum theory, the electron vanishes and then reappears as though by magic. Even though we know there is an energy change proportional to its location, how do we know the information about this action? At last, the General Theory of Information promises to unlock the secret.
The premise of the book explains why information exists in two forms: local and nonlocal. The theory in the book is an attempt to explain how information transforms from one state to another. This is based on Einstein’s special theory of relativity. At the speed of light, the book says, time and space don’t exist. Consequently, on the quantum level, this occurrence is common.
Although the future of information theory needs more refining, the book proposes significant advances that will stimulate profound insights of the workings of nature and in general how we think as human beings. The read will, at the very least, broaden our scope of an idea that at one time served only as a practical tool.
Bigfoot in Evolutionary Perspective: The Hidden Life of a North American Hominin
Wilson’s Bigfoot in Evolutionary Perspective is an in-depth look at the available information regarding this unique cryptid. The author takes an anthropologist’s approach, studying many different aspects of the creature known as “Bigfoot”.
Making use of John Green’s database of reported sightings, Wilson presents us with a plethora of statistical evidence. There are chapters devoted to anatomical analysis, from height to a propensity for night reflecting eyes, and to abilities and sensory perceptions. Other chapters compare and contrast known sasquatch information to another hominid—Gigantopithecus, and to our nearest relatives among geni Homo and Australopithecus. Chapters on anatomy include specific discussions of hands, feet, and cranial capacity. Wilson also covers the Very Important Topic of hoaxers, which is necessary to address when writing about any cryptid. He also covers another Very Important Topic, that of eyewitness fallibility, something else important to acknowledge.
Fun stuff: it was very neat to see such a nice, organized analysis of this elusive cryptid. Wilson clearly supports the pro side, but he’s good at playing the Devil’s Advocate and arguing both sides. I like how the material was presented. This book is intellectual rather than sensational.
Not so fun stuff: there’s a scattering of grammar errors. It could use another proofing session. There aren’t too many though. I did find the language at times very convoluted and difficult to parse, though I read a great deal of scholarly material (anthropology, psychology, archaeology, philosophy). I think it could be tidied up a bit, while still keeping the scholarly bent. I do disagree somewhat with the section on eyewitness reliability. Having carried out many mock “crime” or “surprise” scenarios for teaching/learning purposes, I have to say eyewitness recall is quite unreliable. Our brains are very good at filling memory gaps with what we expect and sometimes what we desperately desire. A person who has an unexplainable encounter who believes in cryptids is more likely to fill gaps with that, than is the person who is a skeptic.