Showing 121 - 130 of 203 annotations tagged with the keyword "Science"

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This book contains 29 short essays by physician-scientist Lewis Thomas, originally published in the early 1970s in The New England Journal of Medicine. The essays center on science, and range in focus from the molecular (e.g., DNA) to the subcellular to the organism to social interactions and all the way up to the search for extra-terrestrial life. Some themes reappear in several essays: science as a grand, engaging enterprise worthy of the brightest minds; communication between organisms creating the intricate dance of the social organism; the relationship of man to both nature and the grand scheme of the universe.

Lewis is fascinated by communication not only at the cellular level, but also at the pheremonal and cerebral level: "Language, once it comes alive, behaves like an active, motile organism" (90). The ant and its colony, as an example of a simultaneous individual and integrated social organism, form a link for Thomas between the enclosed unit of a cell and the complex interactions of a society. Indeed, macro-micro comparisons continue throughout the essays, and even conclude the final essay, "The World's Biggest Membrane," which lauds the atmosphere as protector, filter, and provider: "Taken all in all, the sky is a miraculous achievement. It works, and for what it is designed to accomplish it is as infallible as anything in nature. . . it is far and away the grandest product of collaboration in all of nature" (48).

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Among animals only humans have difficulty giving birth. While other primates deliver their babies with little fuss, women experience painful labor and childbirth. The explanation for this discrepancy lies in the size of the human head at birth. As hominids evolved ever larger and larger brains, the fetal head had to increase in size at birth. Eventually the head almost outstripped the female pelvis's ability to expand enough to allow it through the birth canal. This delicate balance between fetus and pelvis accounts for human fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality.

As a response to the growing threat of childbirth, human females evolved away from estrus (i.e. sexual receptivity only when ovulating) to the menstrual cycle and continuous sexual receptivity. The mysterious moon-related cycle led women to formulate the concept of "time" and make the connection between sex and pregnancy. It also allowed them to refuse sex when they were ovulating.

Women then taught time consciousness to men, and men used their growing self-consciousness to begin to establish control over nature (and women). The sense of being-in-time led inevitably to awareness of mortality. This, in turn, stimulated humans to create gods and religion in order to ward off death anxiety.

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Grace and Grit

Wilber, Ken

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In the fall of 1983, Treya Killam was about to be married to Ken Wilber, a prominent theorist in the field of transpersonal psychology, when she was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. This is Ken Wilber's story, with much of it told through his wife Treya's journals and letters, of their five-year battle against her cancer, a long roller-coaster ride that ended in her death by euthanasia in 1988. The narrative includes details of several conventional and unconventional cancer therapies.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This selection of Miroslav Holub's poems is organized around five major topics--genealogy, anthropology, semiology, pathology, and tautology--rather than chronologically. The poems, some of which date back to his first collection in 1958, were translated into English by a number of different persons, but mostly by David Young, who has had a long-term collaboration with Holub.

Holub states his major preoccupation in "Bones," the very first poem in this collection: "We seek / a backbone / that will stay / straight." (p. 13) The search reaches its fullest expression in "Interferon," a long poem about messages, messengers, and interference: "Cells infected by a virus / send signals out . . .

And when a poet dies, deep in the night / a long black bird wakes up in the thicket / and sings for all it's worth." (p.159) The first step in the search is to learn to interpret the signals, and to understand the black bird's song. To do that, one has to ask questions. Yet, in the face of enormous "Suffering," we are drawn to passivity: "But I ask no questions, / no one asks any questions, / because it's all quite useless." (p. 147) How to overcome the inertia and proceed, even in the face of likely failure?

Holub reminds us that even "In the Microscope" we find "cells, fighters / who lay down their lives / for a song." (p. 149) In fact, there may be something worth fighting for, although perhaps we can only see it under extreme circumstances, as in "Crush Syndrome," where a concrete mixer snaps up the hand of a man cleaning it: "The finger bones / said a few things you don't hear very often...In that moment / I realized I had a soul." (p. 174). But perhaps what we call the soul is really just our deep yearning to survive, as in "Heart Transplant": "It's like a model of a battlefield / where Life and Spirit / have been fighting / and both have won." (p. 179)

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Evidence of Things Unseen

Wiggins, Marianne

Last Updated: Oct-12-2004
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This book interweaves an American love story with the development and repercussions of x-ray technology and atomic energy. It is an intriguing and beautifully written story. The setting is the southeastern United States, where the male protagonist, Fos, meets and marries Opal. Fos is a returning World War I veteran when the story begins; the story ends some years after the atomic bomb is dropped in World War II.

Fos is stationed in France during World War I. His assignment is to produce chemical flares. He shares a trench bunker with "Flash," the regiment photographer. After the war is over, Fos and Flash open up a photography shop in Flash's hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Fos is fascinated by natural phenomena such as phosphorescence, radiation, and the application of scientific discoveries for practical use. Flash is a good businessman and has a way with the ladies.

After Fos marries Opal, the three are in business together--Opal has accounting experience and handles the shop's "books." On the side, Fos and Opal have a traveling show that features an "x-ray box" where people can view the skeleton of their own feet. Opal is part of the show, on exhibit to demonstrate how this works as Fos x-rays her feet. A baby comes into their lives--they name him Lightfoot. The novel takes these characters and a few other connected figures through the 1920s into the Depression of the 1930s and formation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to the work on the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Fos is recruited by the government to work at Oak Ridge--to take photographs. To say any more about the plot would spoil the pleasure of reading this absorbing book.

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Autopsy in the Form of an Elegy

Stone, John

Last Updated: Jun-25-2004
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Stone's 12 line elegy leaves the reader breathless as style and content merge to create the surprise of unexpected death. During autopsy a clot is discovered in an otherwise "nearly perfect" being.

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Summary:

Dr. Flaherty, a practicing neurologist, sets out to explore the act of writing and, more broadly, creativity, in the context of both neuroscience and emotion. She begins by describing several brain conditions that seem to enhance the need to write, even to the extent of obsessive hypergraphia. Next she turns to the opposite state, writer's block, looking at both psychological and neuroscientific perspectives.

Using some of the recent studies of the relationships between certain brain centers and language related phenomena, Flaherty further clarifies some of the cognitive bases for creating literature. Finally, the study turns specifically to the temporal lobe as the possible organic site of the perceived voice of the muse in religious and creative inspiration.

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Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This story of one exceptionally accomplished family's discovery of their past and future relationships with Huntington's Disease (HD) is also the story of how the Wexler family changed the cultural narrative of HD for other families at risk for this genetically-transmitted and currently incurable disease. The HD diagnosis of Leonore Wexler (the author's mother) inspires Milton Wexler, a psychologist, to create a major foundation for HD research, which develops critical mass and influence as Leonore Wexler's condition deteriorates, and after her death. The book interweaves the story of the Wexlers' emotional and other negotiations with HD and the story of their efforts to create an HD community comprised of those with active symptoms of HD, family members, advocates, and researchers.

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The Grasshopper

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-22-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dr. Dymov is an earnest and rather boring young physician, who is preoccupied with his patients and his research. Olga, his wife, craves the excitement and gaiety of the artistic life. She discovers a new lease on romance with Ryabovsky, a colorful landscape artist, who takes her on a cruise on the Volga River. As they spoon under the stars, Olga and her lover make light of her bumptious stay-at-home husband.

After she returns from the cruise, Dymov forgives her infidelity, but in Olga's mind, his forgiveness proves to be another strike against the poor slob, since she just can't stand his complaisant devotion. She runs back to Ryabovsky for a while, until he makes it clear that he is bored with her.

Then one day Dymov develops diphtheria, evidently contracted by "sucking up the mucus through a pipette from a boy with diphtheria. And what for? It was stupid . . . just from folly." Dymov soon becomes delirious, and then dies. Suddenly, Olga is overcome with guilt and grief. Too late, Olga realizes that her husband was a hero.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Winter investigates the process by which Freudian psychoanalysis became legitimized within modern Western culture and internalized as a kind of "psychological common sense" (4). She argues that Freud's adoption of the Oedipus myth allowed him to draw on the cultural status of classical scholarship and claim the universality of the tragic theme for his own project. She traces how Freud worked to establish an institutional infrastructure for psychoanalysis, to establish it as a profession. His analysis of culture and society represents another strategy in establishing and extending the importance of psychoanalysis: the claim that psychoanalysis powerfully illuminates not only the workings of the human brain (the domain of psychiatry, psychology, and neurology) but also the functions of society (the analytic domain of anthropology and sociology).

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