What We Are Reading Today: Live Long and Evolve, by Mohamed A. F. Noor

Updated 24 August 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Live Long and Evolve, by Mohamed A. F. Noor

In Star Trek, crew members travel to unusual planets, meet diverse beings, and encounter unique civilizations. Throughout these remarkable space adventures, does Star Trek reflect biology and evolution as we know it? What can the science in the science fiction of Star Trek teach us? In Live Long and Evolve, biologist and die-hard Trekkie Mohamed Noor takes readers on a fun, fact-filled scientific journey.

Noor offers Trekkies, science-fiction fans, and anyone curious about how life works a cosmic gateway into introductory biology, including the definitions and origins of life, DNA, reproduction, and evolutionary processes, such as natural selection and genetic drift.

 For instance, he shows how the rapid change in a population of nanite robots follows basic principles of natural selection that apply to species on Earth. He explains how certain creatures depicted in the series are bisexual, not asexual, and what evolutionary advantage that difference provides. And he considers factors that affect successful interspecies mating and delves into what keeps species distinct. Noor discusses the importance of research and how Star Trek has influenced scientists to engage in cutting-edge work.

Giving readers irresistible and entertaining insights, Live Long and Evolve looks at some of the powerful science behind one of the most popular and longest-running science-fiction series.


What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

Updated 24 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

  • In 1933, when in a bid to pull the US out of depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts
  • Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families

JEDDAH: The American economy is strong in large part because nobody believes that America would ever default on its debt. Yet in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt did just that, when in a bid to pull the country out of depression, he depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts. American Default is the story of this forgotten chapter in America’s history.

Sebastian Edwards provides a compelling account of the economic and legal drama that embroiled a nation already reeling from global financial collapse.

It began on April 5, 1933, when FDR ordered Americans to sell all their gold holdings to the government. This was followed by the abandonment of the gold standard, the unilateral and retroactive rewriting of contracts, and the devaluation of the dollar.

Anyone who held public and private debt suddenly saw its value reduced by nearly half, and debtors — including the US government — suddenly owed their creditors far less.

Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families. The banks fought back, and a bitter battle for gold ensued. In early 1935, the case went to the Supreme Court. 

Edwards describes FDR’s rancorous clashes with conservative Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a confrontation that threatened to finish the New Deal for good— and that led to FDR’s attempt to pack the court in 1937.

At a time when several major economies never approached the brink of default or devaluing or recalling currencies, American Default is a timely account of a little-known yet drastic experiment with these policies, the inevitable backlash, and the ultimate result.