Life Explained (An Editions Odile Jacob Book)

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Life Explained. Michel Morange.

Books in brief | Nature

Fifty years ago Francis Crick and James D. Watson proposed the double helix model for the DNA molecule.

They believed they had, as Crick put it, discovered the secret of life, and many agreed. But that doesn't explain why the things that one culture or individual finds repulsive — such as sea-urchin sushi or horror films — are delightful to another.

In her lively tour of vileness, Herz argues that disgust is in the mind of the beholder, and explains how studies of Huntington's disease pinpointed the brain areas involved in this emotion. Alain Berthoz translated by Giselle Weiss. Living things navigate their complex worlds superbly, making tasks such as walking — which thwart the most sophisticated machines — look like child's play.

Simplexity, says physiologist Alain Berthoz, allows life to achieve such feats. Berthoz uses examples from perception, locomotion and neuroscience, but argues that simplexity is at work on all levels, from cells to societies and even in love.

By Alec Wilkinson. Wilkinson shows how science and exploration went hand in hand, and how Arctic explorers were celebrities, with the balloonists meriting waxworks in Madame Tussauds museum. By David Weinberger. Once, says philosopher David Weinberger, experts mastered knowledge and controlled what the rest of us made of it. Now, disciplines such as climate science and molecular biology contain too much data for humans to parse or for theories to explain.

An Editions Odile Jacob Book

Instead, the network is the expert, and anyone can join in. This is creating new forms of communication for science, both educating more people and enabling us to be more emphatically wrong. By Richard Sennett. Societies are increasingly complex. Yet we stall at mingling with other 'tribes', a trend exacerbated by politicians calling for cultural homogenization. Sociologist Richard Sennett says that the key is learning how to cooperate.

In the second of his trio on constructive living, case studies reveal how the upheavals of the early modern era and unethical work practices have broken down cooperation.

Books in brief

As a route to remaking it, Sennett advocates 'everyday diplomacy', an essential craft that could heal societal rifts from the inside out. To obtain permission to re-use content from this article visit RightsLink. By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines.

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