Spring. It's one of the nature's greatest shows, and a prime time for observing natural science. This spring has been a chilly one, and scientists, farmers and all sorts of outdoors enthusiasts are wondering if nature is out of sync, especially in the midwestern United States.
"Spring has gone from foul to pathetic to laughable," wrote Minneapolis meteorologist Paul Douglas on his blog last week. "The weather map looks like something out of The Twilight Zone."
Extreme and unpredictable weather is not only bad for nature, it's bad for business. The USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center provides information and tools for understanding and managing natural resources under climate change. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is another online resource that assesses and forecasts the impacts of short-term climate variability.
Besides obsessing about the weather, another important spring ritual is the compilation of your reading list. There are thousands of titles to choose from, of course, so Big Think will be taking a look at a select few in a given field. Today we start with books on biology, recommended by our experts, editors and readers. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter by Terrence W. Deacon
Now out in paperback, Deacon's book seeks a 'Theory of Everything' that includes humans, and one that answers the question as to why we have consciousness, and hence a purpose in life. Those are big questions, but they are crucial ones. As Deacon writes, "Even as our scientific tools have given us mastery over so much of the physical world around us and within us, they have at the same time alienated us from these same realms. It is time to find our way home."
2. Gulp: Adventures in the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
Carl Zimmer put it best in this blurb he provided for Gulp: "Mary Roach put her hand in a cow's stomach for you, dear reader. If you don't read Gulp, then that was all for naught. Plus, you'll miss out on the funniest book ever written about guts.
Look for the release of Mary Roach's interview with Big Think in the coming weeks.
3. Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D. and Kathryn Bowers
Why do doctors and veterinarians treat their patients so differently when humans and animals have so many of the same ailments? The cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and science writer Kathryn Bowers advocate a pan-species approach to medicine they call zoobiquity, and in this wonderful book explore just how much the animal kingdom has to teach us about what it is to be human.
4. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
This collection of autobiographical essays (including Sedaris's first colonoscopy) is as freewheeling and hilarious as one would expect from this comic genius.
5. The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de Waal
Primate behavior meets moral philosophy meets cultural history meets evolutionary biology in Frans de Waal's masterful investigation of what gives purpose to our lives. Waal flows effortlessly from Nietzsche to Erwin Panofsky to Joan Miro to Michael Jackson to Charles Darwin.
Do you know of a book that must be added to this list? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.