Bookshelf: Biological Sciences Division

L&S Author Interview: Noah Whiteman & "Most Delicious Poison"

October 17, 2023
Noah Whiteman, professor of genetics, genomics, evolution and development and director of the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley, speaks about his new book, Most Delicious Poison: The Story of Nature's Toxins--From Spices to Vices.

In this interview, Noah Whiteman shares his experience writing Most Delicious Poison, which focuses on the chemicals that plants, fungi, and small animals make to defend themselves from attack. He simultaneously explores how these intricate mechanisms found in nature have found their way into the human experience and our consumption...

Nature's poisons: Why we love them and abuse them

October 24, 2023

Noah Whiteman posing with a sunflower leafAs an evolutionary biologist, Noah Whiteman knows that many chemicals humans abuse — cocaine, heroin, caffeine, alcohol — originated in the continual arms race between plants, fungi or microbes and the animals that want to eat them.

It was only after the death of his father in 2017 from alcohol abuse disorder, however, that the...

Speciesism in Biology and Culture: How Human Exceptionalism is Pushing Planetary Boundaries

Co-Author: Brent Mishler

This open access book explores a wide-ranging discussion about the sociopolitical, cultural, and scientific ramifications of speciesism and world views that derive from it. In this light, it integrates subjects across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

The 21st-century western world is anthropocentric to an extreme; we adopt unreasonably self-centered and self-serving ideas and lifestyles. Americans consume more energy resources per person than most other nations on Earth and have little concept of how human ecology and population biology interface with...

Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life

Dacher Keltner

Awe is mysterious. How do we begin to quantify the goose bumps we feel when we see the Grand Canyon, or the utter amazement when we watch a child walk for the first time? How do you put into words the collective effervescence of standing in a crowd and singing in unison, or the wonder you feel while gazing at centuries-old works of art? Up until fifteen years ago, there was no science of awe, the feeling we experience when we encounter vast mysteries that transcend our understanding of the world. Scientists were studying emotions like fear and disgust, emotions that seemed essential...

Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait

Bathsheba Demuth

Floating Coast is the first-ever comprehensive history of Beringia, the Arctic land and waters stretching from Russia to Canada. The unforgiving territories along the Bering Strait had long been home to humans—the Iñupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia—before American and European colonization. Rapidly, these frigid lands and waters became the site of an ongoing experiment: How, under conditions of extreme scarcity, would modern ideologies of capitalism and communism control and manage the resources they craved?

Drawing on her own experience living with and...

Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War

Brandon R. Brown
Max Planck is credited with being the father of quantum theory, and his work was described by his close friend Albert Einstein as "the basis of all twentieth-century physics." But Planck's story is not well known, especially in the United States. A German physicist working during the first
half of the twentieth century, his library, personal journals, notebooks, and letters were all destroyed with his home in World War II. What remains, other than his contributions to science, are handwritten letters in German shorthand, and tributes from other scientists of the time.

In ...

In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business

Charlan Jeanne Nemeth
We’ve decided by consensus that consensus is good. In In Defense of Troublemakers, psychologist Charlan Nemeth argues that this principle is completely wrong: left unchallenged, the majority opinion is often biased, unoriginal, or false. It leads planes and markets to crash, causes juries to convict innocent people, and can quite literally make people think blue is green. In the name of comity, we embrace stupidity. We can make better decisions by embracing dissent. Dissent forces us to question the status quo, consider more information, and engage in creative decision-making.


Treating Sleep Problems: A Transdiagnostic Approach

Allison G. Harvey and Daniel J. Buysse

This practical manual presents an innovative modular treatment for adults and adolescents with a wide range of sleep and circadian rhythm problems, such as insomnia, daytime sleepiness, poor sleep quality, and irregular sleep-wake schedules. The treatment applies broadly to all individuals with sleep problems, including those with psychiatric disorders. It is grounded in a cutting-edge understanding of sleep health and integrates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), and other evidence-based therapies. Each module is...