What We Are Reading Today: Sapiens

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Updated 16 August 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Sapiens

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  • The book explains how these revolutions impacted the relationship between human beings and other species of flora and fauna

“Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” is a non-fiction history and social philosophy book written by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari and published in 2011.

Harari based this book on a history class he was giving to undergraduate students. The contents of the 20 chapters reflect what is being taught in each of the 20 lectures during the semester.

Sapiens discusses world history from the inception of Earth 4.5 billion years ago to modern-day human footprint. Harari divides the timeline of history into four sections: the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, the unification of humankind, and the scientific revolution.

The book explains how these revolutions impacted the relationship between human beings and other species of flora and fauna.

In section one, titled “The Cognitive Revolution,” there are four subcategories, with the first being “An Animal of No Significance,” that presents the reader with concise definitions of physics, chemistry, biology and history.

Section two, titled “The Agricultural Revolution,” discusses human beings’ domestication of plants and animals and explains that this revolution of interfering with naturally growing plants and wild animals started from western Iran, south-eastern Turkey and the Levant.

Section three, titled “The Unification of Humankind,” mentions that as agriculture required uniformity and cooperation between humans, the concept of collective rules and norms created the first structure of culture.

“The Scientific Revolution,” the final section, brings to light how human inventions and breakthroughs in the last 500 years catapulted humanity into a larger, more complex sphere of existence.

To put it into context, Harari highlights the first detonation of the atomic bomb — Oppenheimer’s weapon of mass destruction — in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16 1945.

Harari holds a Ph.D in history from the University of Oxford and is now a world history professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He was awarded the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in 2009 and 2012. His bestseller and most remarkable publication Sapiens sold more than 12 million copies worldwide.

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness

What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation:  Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness
Updated 04 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness

What We Are Reading Today: The Altruism Equation:  Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness

Author: Lee Alan Dugatkin

In a world supposedly governed by ruthless survival of the fittest, why do we see acts of goodness in both animals and humans? This problem plagued Charles Darwin in the 1850s as he developed his theory of evolution through natural selection.

Indeed, Darwin worried that the goodness he observed in nature could be the Achilles heel of his theory.

Ever since then, scientists and other thinkers have engaged in a fierce debate about the origins of goodness that has dragged politics, philosophy, and religion into what remains a major question for evolutionary biology.


What We Are Reading Today: The Future Is Asian

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Updated 03 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Future Is Asian

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Author: Parag Khanna

In the 19th century, the world was Europeanized. In the 20th century, it was Americanized. Now, in the 21st century, the world is being Asianized.
In this book, the writer tries to claim that the “Asian Century” is even bigger than you think. Far greater than just China, the new Asian system taking shape is a multi-civilizational order spanning Saudi Arabia to Japan, Russia to Australia, Turkey to Indonesia — linking 5 billion people through trade, finance, infrastructure, and diplomatic networks that together represent 40 percent of global GDP.

China has taken a lead in building the new Silk Roads across Asia, but it will not lead it alone. Rather, Asia is rapidly returning to the centuries-old patterns of commerce, conflict, and cultural exchange that thrived long before European colonialism and American dominance.

Asians will determine their own future — and as they collectively assert their interests around the world, they will determine ours as well, according to a review on goodreads.com.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Fit Nation

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Updated 03 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Fit Nation

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Author: Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

The author argues that the fight for a more equitable exercise culture will be won only by revolutionizing fitness culture at its core, making it truly inclusive for all bodies in a way it has never been.
In Fit Nation, historian and fitness instructor Natalia Mehlman Petrzela explains why places like US urban public pools are struggling. She traces how the US simultaneously became obsessed with working out and failed to provide necessary resources for it.
Petrzela’s book “continued to haunt me after I put it down,” said Yasmine AlSayyad in a review for The New York Times.
“I was embarrassed by the number of fitness brands that I recognized in it, and I winced at how much money I’ve forked out for them. But I wish I’d come out with a better understanding of how the US compares with other countries in this regard,” said the review.
Petrzela makes several observations about America that could have benefited from more context, AlSayyad added.

“I couldn’t stop wondering: Is workout culture in America more commercial than it is in other countries? And are we any fitter because of it?”

 


What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern

What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern
Updated 02 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern

What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern

Author: Jed Rasula

When T. S. Eliot published The Waste Land in 1922, it put the 34-year-old author on a path to worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize. “But,” as Jed Rasula writes, “The Waste Land is not only a poem: It names an event, like a tornado or an earthquake. Its publication was a watershed, marking a before and after. It was a poem that unequivocally declared that the ancient art of poetry had become modern.”

In What the Thunder Said, Rasula tells the story of how The Waste Land changed poetry forever and how this cultural bombshell served as a harbinger of modernist revolution in all the arts, from abstraction in visual art to atonality in music.


What We Are Reading Today: An Invitation to Modern Number Theory

What We Are Reading Today: An Invitation to Modern  Number Theory
Updated 01 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: An Invitation to Modern Number Theory

What We Are Reading Today: An Invitation to Modern  Number Theory

Authors: Steven J. Miller & Ramin Takloo-Bighash

In a manner accessible to beginning undergraduates, An Invitation to Modern Number Theory introduces many of the central problems, conjectures, results, and techniques of the field, such as the Riemann Hypothesis, Roth’s Theorem, the Circle Method, and Random Matrix Theory.

Showing how experiments are used to test conjectures and prove theorems, the book allows students to do original work on such problems, often using little more than calculus (though there are numerous remarks for those with deeper backgrounds).

It shows students what number theory theorems are used for and what led to them and suggests problems for further research.