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Enhancing Evolution

The Ethical Case for Making Better People

John Harris

In Enhancing Evolution, leading bioethicist John Harris dismantles objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer babies, and cloning and makes an ethical case for biotechnology that is both forthright and rigorous. Human enhancement, Harris argues, is a good thing--good morally, good for individuals, good as social policy, and good for a genetic heritage that needs serious improvement. Enhancing Evolution defends biotechnological interventions that could allow us to live longer, healthier, and even happier lives by, for example, providing us with immunity from cancer and HIV/AIDS. Further, Harris champions the possibility of influencing the very course of evolution to give us increased mental and physical powers--from reasoning, concentration, and memory to strength, stamina, and reaction speed. Indeed, he says, it's not only morally defensible to enhance ourselves; in some cases, it's morally obligatory.

In a new preface, Harris offers a glimpse at the new science and technology to come, equipping readers with the knowledge to assess the ethics and policy dimensions of future forms of human enhancement.

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Entertaining Elephants

Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus

Susan Nance

Consider the career of an enduring if controversial icon of American entertainment: the genial circus elephant. In Entertaining Elephants Susan Nance examines elephant behavior—drawing on the scientific literature of animal cognition, learning, and communications—to offer a study of elephants as actors (rather than objects) in American circus entertainment between 1800 and 1940. By developing a deeper understanding of animal behavior, Nance asserts, we can more fully explain the common history of all species. Entertaining Elephants is the first account that uses research on animal welfare, health, and cognition to interpret the historical record, examining how both circus people and elephants struggled behind the scenes to meet the profit necessities of the entertainment business. The book does not claim that elephants understood, endorsed, or resisted the world of show business as a human cultural or business practice, but it does speak of elephants rejecting the conditions of their experience. They lived in a kind of parallel reality in the circus, one that was defined by their interactions with people, other elephants, horses, bull hooks, hay, and the weather. Nance’s study informs and complicates contemporary debates over human interactions with animals in entertainment and beyond, questioning the idea of human control over animals and people's claims to speak for them. As sentient beings, these elephants exercised agency, but they had no way of understanding the human cultures that created their captivity, and they obviously had no claim on (human) social and political power. They often lived lives of apparent desperation.

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Environmental Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops

Rebecca Grumet

Since the mid-1990s, when the technology was first introduced, the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops has grown exponentially. In the U.S. alone, adoption rates for transgenic cotton, corn, and soybeans are between 70–90%. Across the globe, 14 million farmers grow GE crops in more than twenty countries. Yet many countries are discussing and debating the use and adoption of GE technology because of concerns about their impact on the environment and human health. Now, in this comprehensive handbook, a team of international experts present the scientific basis for GE crops, placing them in the context of current agricultural systems, and examining the potential environmental risks posed by their deployment. An integrated approach to an increasingly hot and globally debated topic, the book considers the past, present, and future of GE crops, and offers an invaluable perspective for regulation and policy development.

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Eocene-Oligocene Climatic and Biotic Evolution

Donald R. Prothero

The transition from the Eocene to the Oligocene epochs was the most significant event in earth history since the extinction of dinosaurs. As the first Antarctic ice sheets appeared, major extinctions and faunal turnovers took place on the land and in the sea, eliminating forms adapted to a tropical world and replacing them with the ancestors of most of our modern animal and plant life. Through a detailed study of climatic conditions and of organisms buried in Eocene-Oligocene sediments, this volume shows that the separation of Antarctica from Australia was a critical factor in changing oceanic circulation and ultimately world climate. In this book forty-eight leading scientists examine the full range of Eocene and Oligocene phenomena. Their articles cover nearly every major group of organisms in the ocean and on land and include evidence from paleontology, stable isotopes, sedimentology, seismology, and computer climatic modeling. The volume concludes with an update of the geochronologic framework of the late Paleogene.

Originally published in 1992.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles

Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson

Who was Richard Kemp, after whom the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is named? Is Wake’s Gecko named after Berkeley’s Marvalee Wake? Or perhaps her husband, David? Why do so many snakes and lizards have Werner in their name? This reference book answers these and thousands of other questions about the origins of the vernacular and scientific names of reptiles across the globe. From Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti, the Florida copperhead subspecies named for Roger Conant, to Xantusia, the night lizard genera namesake of John Xantus, this dictionary covers everyone after whom an extant or recently extinct reptile has been named. The entries include a brief bio-sketch, a list of the reptiles that bear the individual’s name, the names of reptiles erroneously thought to be associated with the person, and a summary of major—and sometimes obscure or even incidental—contributions made by the person to herpetology and zoology. An introductory chapter explains how to use the book and describes the process of naming taxa. Easy to use and filled with addictive—and highly useful—information about the people whose names will be carried into the future on the backs of the world’s reptiles, The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles is a handy and fun book for professional and amateur herpetologists alike.

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Ethnobotany of Pohnpei

Plants, People, and Island Culture

compiled and edited by Michael J. Balick

Ethnobotany of Pohnpei examines the relationship between plants, people, and traditional culture on Pohnpei, one of the four island members of the Federated States of Micronesia. Traditional culture is still very strong on Pohnpei and is biodiversity-dependent, relying on both its pristine habitats and managed landscapes; native and introduced plants and animals; and extraordinary marine life. This book is the result of a decade of research by a team of local people and international specialists carried out under the direction of the Mwoalen Wahu Ileilehn Pohnpei (Pohnpei Council of Traditional Leaders). It discusses the uses of the native and introduced plant species that have sustained human life on the island and its outlying atolls for generations, including Piper methysticum (locally known as sakau and recognized throughout the Pacific as kava), which is essential in defining cultural identity for Pohnpeians. The work also focuses on ethnomedicine, the traditional medical system used to address health conditions, and its associated beliefs.

Pohnpei, and indeed the Micronesian region, is one of the world’s great centers of botanical endemism: it is home to many plant species found nowhere else on earth. The ultimate goal of this volume is to give readers a sense of the traditional ethnobotanical knowledge that still exists in the area, to make them aware of its vulnerability to modernization, and to encourage local people to respect this ancient knowledge and keep such practices alive. It presents the findings of the most comprehensive ethnobotanical study undertaken to date in this part of Micronesia and sets a new standard for transdisciplinary research and collaboration.

387 color illus.

Chapter contributors: Kiped Albert, Michael J. Balick, Jeff Daniells, Lois Englberger, Timothy Flynn, Wayne Law, Roberta A. Lee, Dana Lee Ling, Amy Levendusky, David H. Lorence, Adelino Lorens, Jackson Phillip, Diane Ragone, Bill Raynor.

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The Evolution of Animal Communication: Reliability and Deception in Signaling Systems

Reliability and Deception in Signaling Systems

William A. Searcy

Gull chicks beg for food from their parents. Peacocks spread their tails to attract potential mates. Meerkats alert family members of the approach of predators. But are these--and other animals--sometimes dishonest? That's what William Searcy and Stephen Nowicki ask in The Evolution of Animal Communication. They take on the fascinating yet perplexing question of the dependability of animal signaling systems.

The book probes such phenomena as the begging of nesting birds, alarm calls in squirrels and primates, carotenoid coloration in fish and birds, the calls of frogs and toads, and weapon displays in crustaceans. Do these signals convey accurate information about the signaler, its future behavior, or its environment? Or do they mislead receivers in a way that benefits the signaler? For example, is the begging chick really hungry as its cries indicate or is it lobbying to get more food than its brothers and sisters?

Searcy and Nowicki take on these and other questions by developing clear definitions of key issues, by reviewing the most relevant empirical data and game theory models available, and by asking how well theory matches data. They find that animal communication is largely reliable--but that this basic reliability also allows the clever deceiver to flourish. Well researched and clearly written, their book provides new insight into animal communication, behavior, and evolution.

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Evolution of Death, The

Why We Are Living Longer

In The Evolution of Death, the follow-up to Becoming Immortal: Combining Cloning and Stem-Cell Therapy, also published by SUNY Press, Stanley Shostak argues that death, like life, can evolve. Observing that literature, philosophy, religion, genetics, physics, and gerontology still struggle to explain why we die, Shostak explores the mystery of death from a biological perspective. Death, Shostak claims, is not the end of a linear journey, static and indifferent to change. Instead, he suggests, the current efforts to live longer have profoundly affected our ecological niche, and we are evolving into a long-lived species. Pointing to the artificial means currently used to prolong life, he argues that as we become increasingly juvenilized in our adult life, death will become significantly and evolutionarily delayed. As bodies evolve, the embryos of succeeding generations may be accumulating the stem cells that preserve and restore, providing the resources necessary to live longer and longer. If trends like this continue, Shostak contends, future human beings may join the ranks of other animals with indefinite life spans.

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The Evolution of Individuality

Leo W. Buss

Leo Buss expounds a general theory of development through a simple hierarchical extension of the synthetic theory of evolution. He perceives innovations in development to have evolved in ancestral organisms where the germ line was not closed to genetic variation arising during the course of ontogeny.

Originally published in 1988.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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The Evolution of Obesity

Michael L. Power and Jay Schulkin

In this sweeping exploration of the relatively recent obesity epidemic, Michael L. Power and Jay Schulkin probe evolutionary biology, history, physiology, and medical science to uncover the causes of our growing girth. The unexpected answer? Our own evolutionary success. For most of the past few million years, our evolutionary ancestors' survival depended on being able to consume as much as possible when food was available and to store the excess energy for periods when it was scarce. In the developed world today, high-calorie foods are readily obtainable, yet the propensity to store fat is part of our species' heritage, leaving an increasing number of the world's people vulnerable to obesity. In an environment of abundant food, we are anatomically, physiologically, metabolically, and behaviorally programmed in a way that makes it difficult for us to avoid gaining weight. Power and Schulkin’s engagingly argued book draws on popular examples and sound science to explain our expanding waistlines and to discuss the consequences of being overweight for different demographic groups. They review the various studies of human and animal fat use and storage, including those that examine fat deposition and metabolism in men and women; chronicle cultural differences in food procurement, preparation, and consumption; and consider the influence of sedentary occupations and lifestyles. A compelling and comprehensive examination of the causes and consequences of the obesity epidemic, The Evolution of Obesity offers fascinating insights into the question, Why are we getting fatter?

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