Hi guys! I am very excited about the February 27, 2018 launch of Strange Survivors. The book is in production right now, meaning that they are actually printing it! To give you a little taste of what is coming up, here is a small sample including three sections. Would you please share this post with friends, family, and acquaintances who may be interested in popular science?
“I wrote this book with the semi-mythical “interested layperson” in mind. This means that I will not be excessively technical but, neither will I be patronizing. This book is for you, my fellow science enthusiast. I was a bookworm long before I became a science professional, and regardless of our respective walks of life, we belong to the same club. I’ve tried to write as if we were having a conversation over coffee (assuming your coffee conversation focuses on things like venoms and killer snails). Ideally, this conversation will be interesting, thought provoking, and—why not?—amusing as well. The natural world is certainly awe inspiring, but it is also deeply weird and often frankly hilarious: this is part of its considerable charm.”
“The very first time humans saw electricity in action must have been a moment of indescribable beauty that almost immediately took a truly terrifying turn, especially if it happened at night. As with most of these “firsts” in the human journey, there is no historical record of this occurrence—it is very likely that people witnessed lightning and thunder well before it even occurred to us to document the events in our lives. However, we can easily imagine a group of ancient people settling down at night. Children were finally quiet, and everybody was about to retire to after a long day of “huntering” and gathering. They could not know that they would soon experience what is widely regarded as “one of the best free shows” that nature has to offer.
The splendor of lightning seen from afar, the kind of lightning that illuminates a significant portion of the sky, must have taken them by surprise. To the inquisitive mind of a primate—make no mistake, we humans are primates—this spectacle must have been a rather beautiful yet curious event, the kind of moment that inspired a sense of wonder. Then, a couple of seconds after the light, the sound arrived, and it was not a particularly pleasant one, as the sound of thunder is invariably ominous. In this particular instance, let’s say the storm was heading toward the tribe, meaning that as time passed, lightning and thunder occurred closer and closer together.
Eventually, the light and the blast would occur simultaneously in a terrifying yet almost otherworldly beautiful display of brightness and sound. Witnessing such an event would have likely kindled the curiosity of our ancestors, who eventually came up with many ideas to explain how lightning and thunder came to be. These early explanations were usually connected with spiritual or supernatural beliefs. Inspired by the raw power of this natural phenomenon, virtually every culture throughout history has worshipped weather gods, with Zeus and Thor being only two of the most familiar examples.”
“Without a doubt, the capacity for regeneration is one of the most exquisite survival strategies ever evolved on this planet, and there are some curious organisms out there that are true champions as far as regeneration is concerned. These include several species of sponges that possess extreme regenerative powers. For example, if you take one such sponge and completely dissociate its cells and then—to add a literal insult to an actual injury—let’s say, pass those cells through a mesh, if left alone, those cells will eventually reunite and reform a complete sponge, a normal, healthy sponge, none the worse for wear. True, sponges, as interesting as they are, are barely animals at all (with apologies to all my zoologist friends), as they do not seem to do much (I am now talking about the sponges, not about my zoologist friends).”
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