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Aetna and the Moon

Explaining Nature in Ancient Greece and Rome

Liba Taub

Classical authors used both prose and poetry to explore and explain the natural world. In Aetna and the Moon, Liba Taub examines the variety of ways in which ancient Greeks and Romans conveyed scientific information. Oregon State University Press is proud to present this inaugural volume in the Horning Visiting Scholars Series.

In ancient Greece and Rome, most of the technical literature on scientific, mathematical, technological, and medical subjects was written in prose, as it is today. However, Greek and Roman poets produced a significant number of widely read poems that dealt with scientific topics. Why would an author choose poetry to explain the natural world? This question is complicated by claims made, since antiquity, that the growth of rational explanation involved the abandonment of poetry and the rejection of myth in favor of science.

Taub uses two texts to explore how scientific ideas were disseminated in the ancient world. The anonymous author of the Latin Aetna poem explained the science behind the volcano Etna with poetry. The Greek author Plutarch juxtaposed scientific and mythic explanations in his dialogue On the Face on the Moon.

Both texts provide a lens through which Taub considers the nature of scientific communication in ancient Greece and Rome. General readers will appreciate Taub’s thoughtful discussion concerning the choices available to ancient authors to convey their ideas about science—as important today as it was in antiquity—while Taub’s careful research and lively writing will engage classicists as well as historians of science.

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Affect and Artificial Intelligence

By Elizabeth A. Wilson

In 1950, Alan Turing, the British mathematician, cryptographer, and computer pioneer, looked to the future: now that the conceptual and technical parameters for electronic brains had been established, what kind of intelligence could be built? Should machine intelligence mimic the abstract thinking of a chess player or should it be more like the developing mind of a child? Should an intelligent agent only think, or should it also learn, feel, and grow? Affect and Artificial Intelligence is the first in-depth analysis of affect and intersubjectivity in the computational sciences. Elizabeth Wilson makes use of archival and unpublished material from the early years of AI (1945-70) until the present to show that early researchers were more engaged with questions of emotion than many commentators have assumed. She documents how affectivity was managed in the canonical works of Walter Pitts in the 1940s and Turing in the 1950s, in projects from the 1960s that injected artificial agents into psychotherapeutic encounters, in chess-playing machines from the 1940s to the present, and in the Kismet (sociable robotics) project at MIT in the 1990s. Elizabeth A. Wilson is a professor in the Department of Women's Studies at Emory University. She is the author of Neural Geographies: Feminism and the Microstructure of Cognition and Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body. "Original and beautifully written." -Lucy Suchman, Lancaster University "An elegantly written, thoroughly engaging, and absolutely compelling history of the role of emotions and affect in thought about, and design of, 'artificial intelligence.'" -Robert Mitchell, Duke University "In this fresh and provocative contribution to the exploding field of affect studies, Elizabeth Wilson argues convincingly and in a spirit of welcome generosity that from its very beginnings the theory and practice of artificial intelligence has been decisively marked by feelings-surprise, curiosity, delight, shame, and contempt-as well as computational logic. She suggests, with wonderful wit and a fine intelligence, that interiority is conjugated by positive and passionate affects of attachment as well as cognitive circuits among humans and machines. Her own attachment to the archive of AI is palpable and her focus on the biography of key figures in its early history is immensely refreshing." -Kathleen Woodward, author of Statistical Panic: Cultural Politics and Poetics of the Emotions

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Africa in a Changing Global Environment

Perspectives of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in Africa

Africa is one continent severely affected by the ravaging effects of global environmental change yet it is least responsible for this. The continentís rural and urban poor are particularly vulnerable to reduced agricultural production, worsening food security, increased incidence of both flooding and drought, spreading of disease and heightening risk of conflict over scarce land and water resources. As such this timely book consisting of chapters authored by scholars from multi-disciplinary backgrounds provides the reader a variety of contexts from which to understand the impacts of global environmental change and how a effected African communities are adapting and mitigating this scourge. In addition it discusses different models for mitigation and adaptation applicable to local contexts.

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After the Genome

A Language for Our Biotechnological Future

Michael J. Hyde

Biotechnological advancements during the last half-century have forced humanity to come to grips with the possibility of a post-human future. The ever-evolving opinions about how society should anticipate this biotechnological frontier demand a language that will describe our new future and discuss its ethics. After the Genome brings together expert voices from the realms of ethics, rhetoric, religion, and science to help lead complex conversations about end-of-life care, the relationship between sin and medicine, and the protection of human rights in a post-human world. With chapters on the past and future of the science-warfare narrative, the rhetoric of care and its effect on those suffering, black rhetoric and biotechnology, planning for the end of life, regenerative medicine, and more, After the Genome yields great insight into the human condition and moves us forward toward a genuinely humane approach to who we are and who we are becoming.

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The Afterlives of Animals

A Museum Menagerie

Edited by Samuel J.M.M. Alberti

In the quiet halls of the natural history museum, there are some creatures still alive with stories, whose personalities refuse to be relegated to the dusty corners of an exhibit. The fame of these beasts during their lifetimes has given them an iconic status in death. More than just museum specimens, these animals have attained a second life as historical and cultural records. This collection of essays--from a broad array of contributors, including anthropologists, curators, fine artists, geographers, historians, and journalists--comprises short "biographies" of a number of famous taxidermized animals. Each essay traces the life, death, and museum "afterlife" of a specific creature, illuminating the overlooked role of the dead beast in the modern human-animal encounter through practices as disparate as hunting and zookeeping. The contributors offer fresh examinations of the many levels at which humans engage with other animals, especially those that function as both natural and cultural phenomena, including Queen Charlotte’s pet zebra, Maharajah the elephant, and Balto the sled dog, among others. Readers curious about the enduring fascination with animals who have attained these strange afterlives will be drawn to the individual narratives within each essay, while learning more about the scientific, cultural, and museological contexts of each subject. Ranging from autobiographical to analytical, the contributors’ varying styles make this delightful book a true menagerie.

Contributors: Samuel J. M. M. Alberti, Royal College of Surgeons * Sophie Everest, University of Manchester * Kate Foster * Michelle Henning, University of the West of England, Bristol * Hayden Lorimer, University of Glasgow * Garry Marvin, Roehampton University, London * Henry Nicholls * Hannah Paddon * Merle Patchett * Christopher Plumb, University of Manchester * Rachel Poliquin * Jeanne Robinson, Glasgow Museums * Mike Rutherford, University of the West Indies * Richard C. Sabin, Natural History Museum * Richard Sutcliffe, Glasgow Museums * Geoffrey N. Swinney, University of Edinburgh

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Against Ecological Sovereignty

Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World

Mick Smith

Against Ecological Sovereignty is a passionate defense of radical ecology that speaks directly to current debates concerning the nature, and dangers, of sovereign power. Engaging the work of Bataille, Arendt, Levinas, Nancy, and Agamben, among others, Mick Smith reconnects the political critique of sovereign power with ecological considerations, arguing that ethical and political responsibilities for the consequences of our actions do not end with those defined as human.

Against Ecological Sovereignty is the first book to turn Agamben’s analysis of sovereignty and biopolitics toward an investigation of ecological concerns. In doing so it exposes limits to that thought, maintaining that the increasingly widespread biopolitical management of human populations has an unrecognized ecological analogue—reducing nature to a “resource” for human projects. Smith contends that a radical ecological politics must resist both the depoliticizing exercise of sovereign power and the pervasive spread of biopolitics in order to reveal new possibilities for creating healthy human and nonhuman communities.

Presenting a stinging critique of human claims to sovereignty over the natural world, Smith proposes an alternative way to conceive of posthumanist ecological communities—one that recognizes the utter singularity of the beings in them.

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The Age of Analogy

Science and Literature between the Darwins

Devin Griffiths

Erasmus Darwin and his grandson, Charles, were the two most important evolutionary theorists of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. Although their ideas and methods differed, both Darwins were prolific and inventive writers: Erasmus composed several epic poems and scientific treatises, while Charles is renowned both for his collected journals (now titled The Voyage of the Beagle) and for his masterpiece, The Origin of Species.

In The Age of Analogy, Devin Griffiths argues that the Darwins’ writing style was profoundly influenced by the poets, novelists, and historians of their era. The Darwins, like other scientists of the time, labored to refashion contemporary literary models into a new mode of narrative analysis that could address the contingent world disclosed by contemporary natural science. By employing vivid language and experimenting with a variety of different genres, these writers gave rise to a new relational study of antiquity, or "comparative historicism," that emerged outside of traditional histories. It flourished instead in literary forms like the realist novel and the elegy, as well as in natural histories that explored the continuity between past and present forms of life. Nurtured by imaginative cross-disciplinary descriptions of the past—from the historical fiction of Sir Walter Scott and George Eliot to the poetry of Alfred Tennyson—this novel understanding of history fashioned new theories of natural transformation, encouraged a fresh investment in social history, and explained our intuition that environment shapes daily life.

Drawing on a wide range of archival evidence and contemporary models of scientific and literary networks, The Age of Analogy explores the critical role analogies play within historical and scientific thinking. Griffiths also presents readers with a new theory of analogy that emphasizes language's power to foster insight into nature and human society. The first comparative treatment of the Darwins’ theories of history and their profound contribution to the study of both natural and human systems, this book will fascinate students and scholars of nineteenth-century British literature and the history of science.

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The Age of Smoke

Environmental Policy in Germany and the United States, 1880-1970

Frank Uekoetter

In 1880, coal was the primary energy source for everything from home heating to industry. Regions where coal was readily available, such as the Ruhr Valley in Germany and western Pennsylvania in the United States, witnessed exponential growth-yet also suffered the greatest damage from coal pollution. These conditions prompted civic activism in the form of “anti-smoke” campaigns to attack the unsightly physical manifestations of coal burning. This early period witnessed significant cooperation between industrialists, government, and citizens to combat the smoke problem. It was not until the 1960s, when attention shifted from dust and grime to hazardous invisible gases, that cooperation dissipated, and protests took an antagonistic turn.This book presents an original, comparative history of environmental policy and protest in the United States and Germany. Dividing this history into distinct eras (1880 to World War I, interwar, post–World War II to 1970), Frank Uekoetter compares and contrasts the influence of political, class, and social structures, scientific communities, engineers, industrial lobbies, and environmental groups in each nation. He concludes with a discussion of the environmental revolution, arguing that there were indeed two environmental revolutions in both countries: one societal, where changing values gave urgency to air pollution control, the other institutional, where changes in policies tried to catch up with shifting sentiments. Focusing on a critical period in environmental history, The Age of Smoke provides a valuable study of policy development in two modern industrial nations, and the rise of civic activism to combat air pollution. As Uekoetter's work reveals, the cooperative approaches developed in an earlier era offer valuable lessons and perhaps the best hope for future progress.

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Age of System

Understanding the Development of Modern Social Science

Hunter Heyck

Before the Second World War, social scientists struggled to define and defend their disciplines. After the war, “high modern” social scientists harnessed new resources in a quest to create a unified understanding of human behavior—and to remake the world in the image of their new model man. In Age of System, Hunter Heyck explains why social scientists—shaped by encounters with the ongoing “organizational revolution” and its revolutionary technologies of communication and control—embraced a new and extremely influential perspective on science and nature, one that conceived of all things in terms of system, structure, function, organization, and process. He also explores how this emerging unified theory of human behavior implied a troubling similarity between humans and machines, with freighted implications for individual liberty and self-direction. These social scientists trained a generation of decision-makers in schools of business and public administration, wrote the basic textbooks from which millions learned how the economy, society, polity, culture, and even the mind worked, and drafted the position papers, books, and articles that helped set the terms of public discourse in a new era of mass media, think tanks, and issue networks. Drawing on close readings of key texts and a broad survey of more than 1,800 journal articles, Heyck follows the dollars—and the dreams—of a generation of scholars that believed in “the system.” He maps the broad landscape of changes in the social sciences, focusing especially intently on the ideas and practices associated with modernization theory, rational choice theory, and modeling. A highly accomplished historian, Heyck relays this complicated story with unusual clarity.

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Agent Orange

History, Science, and the Politics of Uncertainty

Edwin A. Martini

Taking on what one former U.S. ambassador called “the last ghost of the Vietnam War,” this book examines the far-reaching impact of Agent Orange, the most infamous of the dioxin-contaminated herbicides used by American forces in Southeast Asia. Edwin A. Martini’s aim is not simply to reconstruct the history of the “chemical war” but to investigate the ongoing controversy over the short- and long-term effects of weaponized defoliants on the environment of Vietnam, on the civilian population, and on the troops who fought on both sides. Beginning in the early 1960s, when Agent Orange was first deployed in Vietnam, Martini follows the story across geographical and disciplinary boundaries, looking for answers to a host of still unresolved questions. What did chemical manufacturers and American policymakers know about the effects of dioxin on human beings, and when did they know it? How much do scientists and doctors know even today? Should the use of Agent Orange be considered a form of chemical warfare? What can, and should, be done for U.S. veterans, Vietnamese victims, and others around the world who believe they have medical problems caused by Agent Orange? Martini draws on military records, government reports, scientific research, visits to contaminated sites, and interviews to disentangle conflicting claims and evaluate often ambiguous evidence. He shows that the impact of Agent Orange has been global in its reach affecting individuals and communities in New Zealand, Australia, Korea, and Canada as well as Vietnam and the United States. Yet for all the answers it provides, this book also reveals how much uncertainty—scientific, medical, legal, and political—continues to surround the legacy of Agent Orange.

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