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Encountering Life in the Universe

Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology

Edited by Chris Impey, Anna H. Spitz, and William Stoeger

Are we alone in the universe? Are the planets our playground to treat as we will, or do we have a responsibility to other creatures who may inhabit or use them? Do we have a right to dump trash in space or leave vehicles on Mars or the moon?  How should we interact with other life forms?

Encountering Life in the Universe examines the intersection of scientific research and society to further explore the ethics of how to behave in a universe where much is unknown. Taking contributions from notable experts in several fields, the editors skillfully introduce and develop a broad look at the moral questions facing humans on Earth and beyond.

Major advances in biology, biotechnology, and medicine create an urgency to ethical considerations in those fields. Astrobiology goes on to debate how we might behave as we explore new worlds, or create new life in the laboratory, or interact with extraterrestrial life forms. Stimulated by new technologies for scientific exploration on and off the Earth, astrobiology is establishing itself as a distinct scientific endeavor.

In what way can established philosophies provide guidance for the new frontiers opened by astrobiology research? Can the foundations of ethics and moral philosophy help answer questions about modifying other planets? Or about how to conduct experiments to create life in the lab or about? How to interact with organisms we might discover on another world?

While we wait for the first echo that might indicate life beyond Earth, astobiologists, along with  philosophers, theologians, artists, and the general public, are exploring how we might behave—even before we know for sure they are there. Encountering Life in the Universe is a remarkable resource for such philosophical challenges.

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Exoplanets

Edited by Sara Seager

For the first time in human history, we know for certain the existence of planets around other stars. Now the fastest-growing field in space science, the time is right for this fundamental source book on the topic which will lay the foundation for its continued growth.

Exoplanets serves as both an introduction for the non-specialist and a foundation for the techniques and equations used in exoplanet observation by those dedicated to the field.

Funding to make this important volume an affordable addition to anyone's library was provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Exploring Mars

Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery

By Scott Hubbard; Foreword by Bill Nye

The Red Planet has been a subject of fascination for humanity for thousands of years, becoming part of our folklore and popular culture. The most Earthlike of the planets in our solar system, Mars may have harbored some form of life in the past and may still possess an ecosystem in some underground refuge. The mysteries of this fourth planet from our Sun make it of central importance to NASA and its science goals for the twenty-first century.  

In the wake of the very public failures of the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999, NASA embarked on a complete reassessment of the Mars Program. Scott Hubbard was asked to lead this restructuring in 2000, becoming known as the "Mars Czar." His team's efforts resulted in a very successful decade-long series of missions--each building on the accomplishments of those before it--that adhered to the science adage "follow the water" when debating how to proceed. Hubbard's work created the Mars Odyssey mission, the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix mission, and most recently the planned launch of the Mars Science Laboratory

Now for the first time Scott Hubbard tells the complete story of how he fashioned this program, describing both the technical and political forces involved and bringing to life the national and international cast of characters engaged in this monumental endeavor.  Blending the exciting stories of the missions with the thrills of scientific discovery, Exploring Mars will intrigue anyone interested in the science, the engineering, or the policy of investigating other worlds.
 

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Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl and His Legacy

Edited by Galen Brokaw and Jongsoo Lee

Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl is one of the most controversial and provocative Mexican chroniclers from the colonial period. A descendant of both the famous Prehispanic poet-king Nezahualcoyotl and Hernán Cortés’s ally Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, he penned chronicles that rewrote Prehispanic and colonial history. Traditionally known as a Europeanized historian of Tetzcoco, he wrote prolifically, producing documents covering various aspects of pre- and postconquest history, religion, and literature.

His seventeenth-century writings have had a lasting effect on the understanding of Mexican culture and history from the colonial period to the present. But because Alva Ixtlilxochitl frequently used Tetzcocan oral traditions and pictorial codices of his ancestors’ heroic achievements, scholars have long said that his writings exhibit a Tetzcocan bias that distorts representations and understandings of Prehispanic Mexican history and culture.

Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl and His Legacy is a collection of essays providing deeper perspective on the life, work, and legacy of Alva Ixtlilxochitl. The contributors revise and broaden previous understandings of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s racial and cultural identity, including his method of transcribing pictorial texts, his treatment of gender, and his influence on Mexican nationalism. Chapter authors coming from the fields of anthropology, history, linguistics, and literature offer valuable new perspectives on the complexities of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s life and his contributions to the history and scholarship of Mexico.

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Finding Meaning

Kaona and Contemporary Hawaiian Literature

Brandy Nalani McDougall

In this first extensive study of contemporary Hawaiian literature, Brandy Nalani McDougall examines a vibrant selection of fiction, poetry, and drama by emerging and established Hawaiian authors, including Haunani-Kay Trask, John Dominis Holt, Imaikalani Kalahele, and Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl. At the center of the analysis is a hallmark of Hawaiian aesthetics—kaona, the intellectual practice of hiding and finding meaning that encompasses the allegorical, the symbolic, the allusive, and the figurative.

With a poet’s attention to detail, McDougall interprets examples of kaona, guiding readers through olelo no'eau (proverbs), mo‘olelo (literature and histories), and mooku'auhau (genealogies) alongside their contemporary literary descendants, unveiling complex layers of Hawaiian identity, culture, history, politics, and ecology.

Throughout, McDougall asserts that “kaona connectivity” not only carries bright possibilities for connecting the present to the past, but it may also ignite a decolonial future. Ultimately, Finding Meaning affirms the tremendous power of Indigenous stories and genealogies to give activism and decolonization movements lasting meaning.

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Flamenco Hips and Red Mud Feet

Poems by Dixie Salazar

“Duality” is at the center of Flamenco Hips and Red Mud Feet, a striking collection of poems both intimate and grand. The poet, Dixie Salazar, has spent a lifetime forging her own identity out of two cultures: “On one side was my father’s world: Spanish speaking from las montanas. On the other side was my mother’s world: a deep Southern drawl wafting from the magnolia and chinaberry trees.” As her poems reveal, she is a product of both cultures but not completely at home in either one.

In the two sections of the book—“Inside” and “Outside”—parallelism and symmetry interact with themes both public and private. Flamenco Hips and Red Mud Feet presents thirty-nine poems in free verse and traditional poetic forms, especially the sonnet and adaptations of the sonnet. The sonnet—usually consisting of the octet (eight lines) that sets up the main idea of the poem and the sestet (six lines) that resolves, answers or completes the poem—is a natural form for a poet whose identity is divided. Double sonnets and “double-linked sonnets doubled” reflect the duality the poet feels inside her skin. And the poems written to and for a “lost sister” reinforce the theme.

Throughout this provocative book, Salazar navigates the alienation of her cultural in-between-ness. By the end, she appears to become more comfortable with her status of “outsider,” deciding that she doesn’t need to give in to pressures to pick a side or to accept others’ ideas of where her own “borders” begin or end.

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Fleshing the Spirit

Spirituality and Activism in Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous Women’s Lives

Edited by Elisa Facio and Irene Lara

Fleshing the Spirit brings together established and new writers exploring the relationships between the physical body, the spirit and spirituality, and social justice activism. Examining the complex and dynamic connections among these concepts, the writers emphasize the value of “flesh and blood experience” as a site of knowledge. They argue that spirituality—something quite different from institutional religious practice—can heal the mind/body split and set the stage for social change. Spirituality, they argue, is a necessary component of an alternative political agenda focused on equitable social and ecological change.

The anthology incorporates different genres of writing—such as poetry, testimonials, critical essays, and historical analysis—and stimulates the reader to engage spirituality in a critical, personal, and creative way. This interdisciplinary work is the first that attempts to theorize the radical interconnection between women of color, spirituality, and social activism. Before transformative political work can be done, the authors say in multiple ways, we must recognize that our spiritual need is a desire to more fully understand our relations with others. Conflict experienced on many levels sometimes severs those relations, separating us from others along racial, class, gender, sexual, national, or other socially constructed lines.

Fleshing the Spirit offers a spiritual journey of healing, health, and human revolution. The book’s open invitation to engage in critical dialogue and social activism—with the spirit and spirituality at the forefront—illuminates the way to social change and the ability to live in harmony with life’s universal energies.

Contributors

Volume Editors
Elisa Facio
Irene Lara
 
Chapter Authors
Angelita Borbón
Norma E. Cantú
Berenice Dimas
C. Alejandra Elenes
Alicia Enciso Litschi
Oliva M. Espín
Maria Figueroa
Patrisia Gonzales
Inés Hernández- Avila
Rosa María Hernández Juárez
Cinthya Martinez
Lara Medina
Felicia Montes
Sarahi Nuñez- Mejia
Laura E. Pérez
Brenda Sendejo
Inés Talamantez
Michelle Téllez
Beatriz Villegas

 

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Florida

A Fire Survey

Stephen J. Pyne

In Florida, fire season is plural, and it is most often a verb. Something can always burn. Fires burn longleaf, slash, and sand pine. They burn wiregrass, sawgrass, and palmetto. The lush growth, the dry winters, the widely cast sparks—Florida is built to burn.

In this important new collection of essays on the region, Stephen J. Pyne colorfully explores the ways the region has approached fire management. Florida has long resisted national models of fire suppression in favor of prescribed burning, for which it has ideal environmental conditions and a robust culture. Out of this heritage the fire community has created institutions to match. The Tallahassee region became the ignition point for the national fire revolution of the 1960s. Today, it remains the Silicon Valley of prescription burning. How and why this happened is the topic of a fire reconnaissance that begins in the panhandle and follows Floridian fire south to the Everglades.

Florida is the first book in a multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region. The volumes in To the Last Smoke will also cover California, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, and several other critical fire regions. The series serves as an important punctuation point to Pyne’s fifty-year career with wildland fire—both as a firefighter and a fire scholar. These unique surveys of regional pyrogeography are Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”

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Food Systems in an Unequal World

Pesticides, Vegetables, and Agrarian Capitalism in Costa Rica

Ryan E. Galt

Pesticides, a short-term aid for farmers, can often be harmful, undermining the long-term health of agriculture, ecosystems, and people. The United States and other industrialized countries import food from Costa Rica and other regions. To safeguard the public health, importers now regulate the level and types of pesticides used in the exporters’ food production, which creates “regulatory risk” for the export farmers. Although farmers respond to export regulations by trying to avoid illegal pesticide residues, the food produced for their domestic market lacks similar regulation, creating a double standard of pesticide use.

Food Systems in an Unequal World examines the agrochemical-dependent agriculture of Costa Rica and how its uneven regulation in export versus domestic markets affects Costa Rican vegetable farmers. Examining pesticide-dependent vegetable production within two food systems, the author shows that pesticide use is shaped by three main forces: agrarian capitalism, the governance of food systems throughout the commodity chain, and ecological dynamics driving local food production. Those processes produce unequal outcomes that disadvantage less powerful producers who have more limited choices than larger farmers, who usually have access to better growing environments and thereby can reduce pesticide use and production costs.
 
Despite the rise of alternative food networks, Galt says, persistent problems remain in the conventional food system, including widespread and intensive pesticide use. Facing domestic price squeezes, vegetable farmers in Costa Rica are more likely to supply the national market with produce containing residues of highly toxic pesticides, while using less toxic pesticides on exported vegetables. In seeking solutions, Galt argues for improved governance and research into alternative pest control but emphasizes the process must be rooted in farmers’ economic well-being.

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For All of Humanity

Mesoamerican and Colonial Medicine in Enlightenment Guatemala

Martha Few

Smallpox, measles, and typhus. The scourges of lethal disease—as threatening in colonial Mesoamerica as in other parts of the world—called for widespread efforts and enlightened attitudes to battle the centuries-old killers of children and adults. Even before edicts from Spain crossed the Atlantic, colonial elites oftentimes embraced medical experimentation and reform in the name of the public good, believing it was their moral responsibility to apply medical innovations to cure and prevent disease. Their efforts included the first inoculations and vaccinations against smallpox, new strategies to protect families and communities from typhus and measles, and medical interventions into pregnancy and childbirth.

For All of Humanity examines the first public health campaigns in Guatemala, southern Mexico, and Central America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Martha Few pays close attention to Indigenous Mesoamerican medical cultures, which not only influenced the shape and scope of those regional campaigns but also affected the broader New World medical cultures. The author reconstructs a rich and complex picture of the ways colonial doctors, surgeons, Indigenous healers, midwives, priests, government officials, and ordinary people engaged in efforts to prevent and control epidemic disease.

Few’s analysis weaves medical history and ethnohistory with social, cultural, and intellectual history. She uses prescriptive texts, medical correspondence, and legal documents to provide rich ethnographic descriptions of Mesoamerican medical cultures, their practitioners, and regional pharmacopeia that came into contact with colonial medicine, at times violently, during public health campaigns.

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