When the immune system bites back, and biodiversity v. capitalism: Books in brief

2023-02-19 01:47:45 By : Mr. joyear Gz

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Andrew Robinson’s many books include Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts and Einstein on the Run: How Britain Saved the World’s Greatest Scientist. He is based in London. Mirror Tint For House Windows

When the immune system bites back, and biodiversity v. capitalism: Books in brief

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Inflammation of the body sounds threatening, but is a protective ancestral response to threats such as microorganisms, chemicals and traumas. It has “served us well through most of human history”, writes gastroenterologist Shilpa Ravella in her fascinating, case-oriented, story of inflammation, diet and disease. This is less true of ‘hidden inflammation’: a “silent fire” invisible to the person experiencing it and to tools for diagnosing inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. Ravella focuses on controlling hidden inflammation through nutrition.

“You Are Not Expected to Understand This”

Ed. Torie Bosch Princeton Univ. Press (2022)

The title of this intriguingly human collection of articles about computer coding quotes a line from the Unix source code, written by a programmer in 1975. The code contained a frustrating bug that could not be fixed, so the software had to be entirely rewritten. Coding has always consisted of both wins and blunders, as discussed by the book’s 29 contributors, including programmers, technologists, historians, journalists and academics, covering subjects ranging from space exploration to human biases around race.

Everyday Life in the Ice Age

Elle Clifford & Paul Bahn Archaeopress (2022)

Most studies of the ice age 40,000–12,000 years ago focus, unexcitingly, on cataloguing tools. In this witty, richly illustrated look at European ice-age life — the first of its kind in English — social psychologist Elle Clifford and archaeologist Paul Bahn try to decipher tool use. Inevitably, swathes are speculative. Fewer than 200 human skeletons and fragments from the time survive; to supplement archaeological evidence, the authors use data from hunter-gatherers and knowledge of basic human behaviour, animals and plants.

On the Trail of Blackbody Radiation

Don S. Lemons et al.M.I.T. Press (2022)

Black-body radiation — emitted and absorbed by non-reflective bodies in thermal equilibrium — was named by Gustav Kirchhoff in 1862. But he and others were perplexed by calculations suggesting it should be infinite at high frequencies. This unavoidably mathematical history by three physicists follows the trail from Kirchhoff to Max Planck — who in 1900 explained that the radiation could change its energy only in minimal increments proportional to the wave’s frequency — and Albert Einstein’s quantum theory of radiation in 1917.

Christina Dunbar-Hester Univ. Chicago Press (2023)

California has long been a byword for the clash between the environment and capitalism. Science and technology studies scholar Christina Dunbar-Hester investigates Long Beach near Los Angeles: a hub for petroleum shipping and refining, and a world-leading container-shipping port, but also a wetland area full of wildlife. Focusing on cetaceans, bananas, sea birds and otters, her informed interdisciplinary study considers how to avoid toxic tension between biodiversity and capital accumulation.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-023-00333-5

The author declares no competing interests.

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Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden)

Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden)

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF)

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF)

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When the immune system bites back, and biodiversity v. capitalism: Books in brief

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