David Attenborough

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pages: 478 words: 142,608

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

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Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Brownian motion, cosmological principle, David Attenborough, Desert Island Discs, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, invisible hand, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, unbiased observer

Every year on 15 February his followers assemble for a religious ceremony to welcome him. So far he has not returned, but they are not downhearted. David Attenborough said to one cult devotee, called Sam: ‘But, Sam, it is nineteen years since John say that the cargo will come. He promise and he promise, but still the cargo does not come. Isn’t nineteen years a long time to wait?’ Sam lifted his eyes from the ground and looked at me. ‘If you can wait two thousand years for Jesus Christ to come an’ ’e no come, then I can wait more than nineteen years for John.’ Robert Buckman’s book Can We Be Good Without God? quotes the same admirable retort by a John Frum disciple, this time to a Canadian journalist some forty years after David Attenborough’s encounter. The Queen and Prince Philip visited the area in 1974, and the Prince subsequently became deified in a rerun of a John-Frum-type cult (once again, note how rapidly the details in religious evolution can change).

, with no named author but published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in sixteen languages and eleven million copies, is obviously a firm favourite because no fewer than six of those eleven million copies have been sent to me as unsolicited gifts by well-wishers from around the world. Picking a page at random from this anonymous and lavishly distributed work, we find the sponge known as Venus’ Flower Basket (Euplectella), accompanied by a quotation from Sir David Attenborough, no less: ‘When you look at a complex sponge skeleton such as that made of silica spicules which is known as Venus’ Flower Basket, the imagination is baffled. How could quasi-independent microscopic cells collaborate to secrete a million glassy splinters and construct such an intricate and beautiful lattice? We do not know.’ The Watchtower authors lose no time in adding their own punchline: ‘But one thing we do know: Chance is not the likely designer.’

Unlike the cult of Jesus, the origins of which are not reliably attested, we can see the whole course of events laid out before our eyes (and even here, as we shall see, some details are now lost). It is fascinating to guess that the cult of Christianity almost certainly began in very much the same way, and spread initially at the same high speed. My main authority for the cargo cults is David Attenborough’s Quest in Paradise, which he very kindly presented to me. The pattern is the same for all of them, from the earliest cults in the nineteenth century to the more famous ones that grew up in the aftermath of the Second World War. It seems that in every case the islanders were bowled over by the wondrous possessions of the white immigrants to their islands, including administrators, soldiers and missionaries.


pages: 239 words: 68,598

The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning by James E. Lovelock

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Ada Lovelace, butterfly effect, carbon footprint, Clapham omnibus, cognitive dissonance, continuous integration, David Attenborough, decarbonisation, discovery of DNA, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Henri Poincaré, mandelbrot fractal, megacity, Northern Rock, oil shale / tar sands, phenotype, planetary scale, short selling, Stewart Brand, University of East Anglia

I would be glad to know if anyone used the word ‘green’ in the older naturalist sense before it became a word denoting such anthropocentric environmentalism. Before she wrote her book, did Carson think of herself as ‘green’? In the 1970s we ceased to be illuminated by the qualities of the natural world and began to see and hear nature through televisual images; often what we saw was filtered or distorted by the thoughts of the presenter. Sometimes we were lucky and saw the real world of nature through the eyes of Sir David Attenborough, but too often it was a politicized account of pollution from industry. Those who were green this way had feelings of guilt and regret; increasing knowledge that once brought wisdom, joy and understanding now confirmed that our carbon footprints were blacker than sin. From childhood on I have thought of myself as someone who wanted to live naturally and respect wildlife and wilderness. This made me spend much of my free time in the English countryside, and I grew to love it.

., London, 2008) Kendal McGuffie and Ann Henderson‐Sellers, A Climate Modelling Primer (Wiley, Chichester, 2005) Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump, Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming (DK Publishing, Inc., New York, 2008) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report (Island Press, Washington, DC, 2005) Sir Crispin Tickell, Climate Change and World Affairs (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1986) 3 Consequences and Survival Sir David Attenborough, Life on Earth (HarperCollins, London, 1979) Richard Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype (W. H. Freeman, Oxford and San Francisco, 1982) Brian Fagan, The Long Summer (Granta, London, 2005) Richard Fortey, The Earth (Harper Collins, London, 2004) Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth (Bloomsbury, London, 2006) Tim Lenton and W. von Bloh, ‘Biotic Feedback Extends Lifespan of Biosphere’, Geophysical Research Letters (2001) James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia (Allen Lane/Penguin, London, 2006) Fred Pearce, When the Rivers Run Dry (Transworld, London, 2006) H.


pages: 306 words: 94,204

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter

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back-to-the-land, crack epidemic, David Attenborough, dumpster diving, Golden Gate Park, haute cuisine, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Mason jar, McMansion, New Urbanism, Port of Oakland, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Silicon Valley, urban decay, urban renewal, Whole Earth Catalog

Propelled by the weight of the manure, we swooped down the concrete mainline of Highway 24 back into Oakland with a fine dusting of horseshit trailing behind us. My melancholy mood was replaced by a wave of love toward my adopted city. With its late-night newsstands and rowdy bars, a city meant I would never be lonely. When we turned down our street, Bobby was there, guarding the gates. Bill and I met on an elevator, fell in love because of cats, and lasted because of bees. In 1997, I was headed to a class to show David Attenborough’s The Private Life of Plants to a group of Ecology 101 students. While finishing up my degrees in English and biology at the University of Washington, I worked as a projectionist, paid $3.85 an hour to hit PLAY on a VCR and then sit back in the AV booth and do my homework. Classroom Support Services, my employer, had recently hired a skinny new guy who wore an ugly red wool hat and a too-short sweatshirt.

“Um, excuse me,” the man stammered. He had cotton balls stuffed in his ears. Later I would find out he had problems with his ears, especially in the cold wet of Seattle. The cotton balls kept out the elements, as did the red hat. He handed me a folded sheet of yellow paper. I glanced at it—The Speckled Pig Zine, it said. The doors closed, and I walked to my class. A few minutes later, while David Attenborough’s British-accented voice filled the auditorium, I looked through the zine in the booth. Some funny poems, a story about a lost dog, and a questionnaire mostly about cats. (You see a cat. Do you, a. kiss its head? b. kiss its paws? c. kiss it on the lips?) I find men who have felines impossibly sexy. On our first date, he gave me a ridiculous pair of rabbit-fur gloves he had found on the bus.


pages: 133 words: 36,528

Peak Car: The Future of Travel by David Metz

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autonomous vehicles, bike sharing scheme, Clayton Christensen, congestion charging, crowdsourcing, David Attenborough, decarbonisation, edge city, Edward Glaeser, Just-in-time delivery, Network effects, Richard Florida, Robert Gordon, Silicon Valley, Skype, urban sprawl, yield management, young professional

Even if classical travel writing is nowadays constrained by the possibility of tourists reaching the same places as the intrepid author, technology developments in the second half of the twentieth century permitted the return of travellers with their tales in the form of documentary film and video, particularly of rare animal, bird and fish species in hard‑to‑reach habitats. While we tourists might go whale‑watching and, if lucky, catch a fleeting sight of perhaps a minke whale or a basking shark, we know that David Attenborough, to mention only the best‑known television naturalist, will bring us awesome images of creatures that we could never glimpse. So we can enlarge our experience of the world in which we live from our armchair, through books, television and video. To what extent does this substitute for actual long distance trips? For those who are too frail, too poor or even too nervous to travel, the armchair experience is a boon.


pages: 436 words: 125,809

The Way of the Gun: A Bloody Journey Into the World of Firearms by Iain Overton

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air freight, airport security, back-to-the-land, British Empire, Chelsea Manning, clean water, Columbine, David Attenborough, Etonian, Ferguson, Missouri, gender pay gap, gun show loophole, illegal immigration, interchangeable parts, Julian Assange, knowledge economy, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, More Guns, Less Crime, offshore financial centre, Ronald Reagan, Y2K, Yom Kippur War

The ground floor was devoted to thick shirts and jackets that were a frenzy of buckles and pockets. The top floor was filled with shotguns whose price tags you had to look at twice to make sure you had not misread them. But it was the middle floor, the walls filled with monochrome pictures of Africa and bookshelves heavy with coffee-table hunting books, that caught my attention. Because there stood a line of DVDs, and one leaped out. Boddington on Cheetahs, it read. But this was no David Attenborough–style film; rather it was highlights of the fastest animal on earth being taken down by a hunting rifle. Others stood beside it: Boddington on Lions, Boddington on Leopards. What Boddington had done was strictly legal, but the images on the back cover felt like the sort of footage, as an investigative journalist, I would have wanted for a film about the ugly world of animal abuse. It seemed unnecessary and cruel.

Hunter-gatherers still exist: in the Amazon (Aché); Africa (the San people and the Hadza of Tanzania); New Guinea (the Fayu); Thailand and Laos (the Mlabri); and Sri Lanka (the Vedda); not to mention a handful of uncontacted peoples. 5. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2508209/Winchester-Deadly-Passion-presenter-Melissa-Bachman-sparks-outrage-posing-lion-shot-dead.html 6. The possible caveat is that a hunted animal might be shot and injured and not killed outright by a huntsman’s bullet. But then again many animals may sense their looming death when they are herded into an abattoir. 7. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/04/daily-chart-17 8. http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2011/dec/01/nature-urbanisation-david-attenborough 9. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26140827 10. http://dianamandache.com/auction-shotgun-king-of-romania/ 11. http://www.face.eu/sites/default/files/documents/english/face_annual_report_2013_en.pdf 12. http://www.face.eu/sites/default/files/documents/english/position_paper_hunttour_-_en.pdf 13. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2007/11/packing_heat_in_helsinki.html 14. http://www.face.eu/sites/default/files/attachments/data_hunters-region_sept_2010.pdf 15. http://www.conservationforce.org/role4.html; http://www.nssf.org/PDF/research/HuntingInAmerica_EconomicForceForConservation.pdf 16. http://www.gallup.com/poll/20098/gun-ownership-use-america.aspx 17.


pages: 230 words: 72,642

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams, Mark Carwardine

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David Attenborough, Isaac Newton, out of africa, South China Sea

“Scorpion fish, stonefish, sea snakes. Much more poisonous than anything on land. Get stung by a stonefish and the pain alone can kill you. People drown themselves just to stop the pain.” “Where are all these things?” “Oh, just in the sea. Tons of them. I wouldn’t go near it if I were you. Full of poisonous animals. Hate them.” “Is there anything you do like?” “Yes,” he said. “Hydroponics.” We flew to Bali. David Attenborough has said that Bali is the most beautiful place in the world, but he must have been there longer than we were, and seen different bits, because most of what we saw in the couple of days we were there sorting out our travel arrangements was awful. It was just the tourist area, i.e., that part of Bali which has been made almost exactly the same as everywhere else in the world for the sake of people who have come all this way to see Bali.


pages: 273 words: 83,186

The botany of desire: a plant's-eye view of the world by Michael Pollan

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back-to-the-land, clean water, David Attenborough, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Francisco Pizarro, invention of agriculture, Joseph Schumpeter, Maui Hawaii, means of production, paper trading, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Steven Pinker

Chapman’s craft, his example, invites us to imagine a very different kind of story about Man and Nature, one that shrinks the distance between the two, so that we might again begin to see them for what they are and in spite of everything will always be, which is in this boat together. SOURCES Listed below, by chapter, are the principal works referred to in the text, as well as others that supplied me with facts or influenced my thinking. INTRODUCTION: THE HUMAN BUMBLEBEE David Attenborough’s 1995 public television series The Private Life of Plants probably did more than any book to open my eyes to the natural and human world as seen from the plant’s point of view. The series’ brilliant time-lapse photography immediately makes you realize that our sense of plants as passive objects is a failure of imagination, rooted in the fact that plants occupy what amounts to a different dimension.


pages: 228 words: 69,642

Among the Islands by Tim Flannery

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British Empire, colonial rule, David Attenborough, European colonialism, Kula ring

From 2007 to 2010 he chaired the Copenhagen Climate Council, and in 2011 he was appointed chief commissioner of the Climate Commission. Tim lives on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author. PRAISE FOR TIM FLANNERY ‘A great zoologist … an irresistible author.’ Jared Diamond ‘Tim Flannery is in the league of the all-time great explorers like Dr David Livingstone.’ Sir David Attenborough ‘One of the world’s greatest zoologists … who’s probably discovered more new species than Darwin. He’s a remarkable man.’ Redmond O’Hanlon ‘Absorbing, funny and wondrously learned.’ Bill Bryson ‘A rollicking adventure … surprisingly funny.’ Bookseller+Publisher ‘Flannery is perhaps the most gifted describer of the natural sciences writing today.’ Weekend Australian ‘Think Indiana Jones crossed with Charles Darwin.’


pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Brownian motion, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, clean water, Copley Medal, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

And what effect might all this have had on life beneath the seas? Well, little, we hope, but we actually have no idea. We are astoundingly, sumptuously, radiantly ignorant of life beneath the seas. Even the most substantial ocean creatures are often remarkably little known to us—including the most mighty of them all, the great blue whale, a creature of such leviathan proportions that (to quote David Attenborough) its “tongue weighs as much as an elephant, its heart is the size of a car and some of its blood vessels are so wide that you could swim down them.” It is the most gargantuan beast that Earth has yet produced, bigger even than the most cumbrous dinosaurs. Yet the lives of blue whales are largely a mystery to us. Much of the time we have no idea where they are—where they go to breed, for instance, or what routes they follow to get there.

The fungi excrete acids that dissolve the surface of the rock, freeing minerals that the algae convert into food sufficient to sustain both. It is not a very exciting arrangement, but it is a conspicuously successful one. The world has more than twenty thousand species of lichens. Like most things that thrive in harsh environments, lichens are slow-growing. It may take a lichen more than half a century to attain the dimensions of a shirt button. Those the size of dinner plates, writes David Attenborough, are therefore “likely to be hundreds if not thousands of years old.” It would be hard to imagine a less fulfilling existence. “They simply exist,” Attenborough adds, “testifying to the moving fact that life even at its simplest level occurs, apparently, just for its own sake.” It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point.


pages: 743 words: 201,651

Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World by Timothy Garton Ash

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Andrew Keen, Apple II, Ayatollah Khomeini, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, Clapham omnibus, colonial rule, crowdsourcing, David Attenborough, don't be evil, Edward Snowden, Etonian, European colonialism, eurozone crisis, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Ferguson, Missouri, Filter Bubble, financial independence, Firefox, Galaxy Zoo, global village, index card, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of writing, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Julian Assange, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, mutually assured destruction, national security letter, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, profit motive, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, Snapchat, social graph, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, WikiLeaks, World Values Survey, Yom Kippur War

Kanzi has reportedly learned to ‘say’ some 500 words and understand as many as 3,000. Yet, even leaving aside the fact that his chest and vocal tract do not allow him to produce sustained sequences of recognisable sounds as humans do, there is still a qualitative gulf between what Kanzi has achieved and what most human beings can express.2 Towards the end of a lifetime spent studying the animal kingdom, the broadcaster David Attenborough was asked what he found the most astonishing creature on earth. He replied: ‘The only creature that really makes my jaw sag so much that I find it hard to stop looking is a nine-month-old human baby. The rate at which it grows. The rate at which it learns. The rate at which it acquires nerves. It is the most complex and the most extraordinary of all creatures. Nothing compares to it’.3 Amongst the things it learns, like no other animal, is language.

See Dunbar 2014, esp. 234–44 and Dunbar 1996. For other views, see Diamond 1993, 54–56 and 141–47 and Lieberman 2007 2. see, for example, IowaPrimate, ‘Kanzi and Novel Sentences’, 9 January 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Dhc2zePJFE&noredirect=1. Kanzi’s level of linguistic competence is the result of dedicated work by Sue Savage-Rambaugh 3. quoted in Sarah Knapton, ‘Which Creature Makes Sir David Attenborough’s Jaw Drop? It’s Not What You’d Expect’, Daily Telegraph, 27 January 2015, http://perma.cc/4H5R-F6HW 4. Dunbar 1996, 3 5. I quote from a personal conversation with him. See also Judt 2010, chapter 17 6. Brown 1991, 130–34 7. on cave paintings and musical instruments, see Werner Herzog’s fine film ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’. Shells and beads with holes pierced through them, presumably so they could be worn as a necklace or bracelet, found on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel, have been dated to 100,000 years ago; see Wilkins et al. 2012 8.


pages: 339 words: 112,979

Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Mahatma Gandhi, music of the spheres, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steven Pinker, Zipf's Law

Kung San tracker, who has only to read footprints in the Kalahari dirt to reconstruct a detailed pattern, description, or model of animal behaviour in the recent past? Properly read, such spoors amount to maps and pictures, and it seems to me plausible that the ability to read such maps and pictures might have arisen in our ancestors before the origin of speech in words. Suppose that a band of Homo habilis hunters needed to plan a cooperative hunt. In a remarkable and chilling 1992 television film, Too Close for Comfort, David Attenborough shows modern chimpanzees executing what seems to be a carefully planned and successful drive and ambush of a colobus monkey, which they then tear to pieces and eat. There is no reason to think that the chimpanzees communicated any detailed plan to each other before beginning the hunt, but every reason to think that habilis might have benefited from some such communication if it could have been achieved.

Racing With Death by Beau Riffenburgh

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British Empire, David Attenborough, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society

Because even when Mawson was not in the far south, he seemed to be planning his next journey there, raising the required funds for such massive undertakings, working up his scientific results, or being involved in major governmental, scientific, or policy decisions about the Antarctic. Eventually, he became recognised as perhaps the world’s most eminent authority on Antarctica. Today, scientists, adventurers, and even tourists travel almost at will through the Antarctic continent. It is a part of the planet that David Attenborough, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and others have, each in his own way, made familiar to much of the Western world. This book, however, goes back to a time when people knew far less about this region, and when it was almost unimaginably remote. As much as anybody in history, it was Douglas Mawson who opened up these hostile lands to scientific and geographical experts, to governments, and to the public.


pages: 292 words: 97,911

Truths, Half Truths and Little White Lies by Nick Frost

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call centre, David Attenborough, hive mind, impulse control, job-hopping

Even during the darkest, poorest, shitest, hardest times, what got me through that bleakness was laughter and time, lots of time. With enough of both of these things I reckon you could get over just about anything. Just about. It was a difficult decision to write this though. Am I willing to lay out my total being in all its ugliness for the potential of selling 1,500 hardbacks? Do I just want to produce another ‘celeb’ autobiography, written by a ghost, telling you about the time I met David Attenborough? (He was lovely.) No, I didn’t want to do that. If you’re going to tell the story of a life, my life, tell it warts and all. That, to me, is a better reflection of a person. If the tale you tell is too saccharine sweet what can the reader take away from it? What do they learn about you? About a life? Fuck all. Write everything down. The shit, the death, fun, naughtiness, addiction, laughter, laughter, laughter, tears and lots of love and happiness.


pages: 417 words: 109,367

The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century by Ronald Bailey

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, autonomous vehicles, Cass Sunstein, Climatic Research Unit, Commodity Super-Cycle, conceptual framework, corporate governance, credit crunch, David Attenborough, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic transition, diversified portfolio, double helix, energy security, failed state, financial independence, Gary Taubes, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, invisible hand, knowledge economy, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Naomi Klein, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, pattern recognition, peak oil, phenotype, planetary scale, price stability, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Stewart Brand, Tesla Model S, trade liberalization, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, women in the workforce, yield curve

Even now the Ehrlichs are far from alone in propagating forecasts of overpopulation doom. “The world faces a serious overpopulation problem,” asserted Cornell University researcher David Pimentel in his 2011 article “World Overpopulation.” “The world’s biggest problem?” asks a 2011 op-ed by researchers Mary Ellen Harte and Anne Ehrlich in the Los Angeles Times. “Too many people,” they answer. “We are a plague upon the earth,” declared nature documentarian Sir David Attenborough. “Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us.” Attenborough expressed these dour sentiments in The Telegraph in January 2013. In his 2013 rant Ten Billion, Microsoft Research computer scientist Stephen Emmott argued that humanity’s growing population constitutes “an unprecedented planetary emergency.” Emmott asserts, “As the population continues to grow, our problems will increase.


pages: 385 words: 105,627

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom by Simon Winchester

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Berlin Wall, British Empire, David Attenborough, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, Etonian, Fellow of the Royal Society, index card, invention of gunpowder, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, New Urbanism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, stakhanovite, Stephen Hawking, Ted Kaczynski, trade route

After a pause following the Korean War—in the mid-1950s he had felt that further trips to China would make his situation at home intolerable—he started going to China again. He was now one of the founding leaders of the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU), which he, the Bryans, and others had formed after their Britain-China Friendship Association collapsed in a welter of Stalinist recrimination. In the late 1960s, a visa obtained through SACU was just about the only way for a Briton to gain access to China; the young filmmaker David Attenborough was one of the first to do so. Needham remained its president for thirty-five years, and was able to get visas to China with ease—so long, his later critics pointed out, as he remained staunchly uncritical of the regime’s excesses. He flew back to China first in 1964, and found to his delight that he was to be greeted officially by the government, and by no less than Zhou Enlai, who treated him like an old friend.


pages: 661 words: 187,613

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker

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Albert Einstein, cloud computing, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, elephant in my pajamas, finite state, illegal immigration, Loebner Prize, Maui Hawaii, meta analysis, meta-analysis, natural language processing, out of africa, P = NP, phenotype, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, Turing test, Yogi Berra

—Scientific American “His own use of language is a powerful advertisement for this human ability, as he lays his stall out with clarity and candor…. Darwin…would surely be impressed by the way in which Pinker sheds light on these questions…. A superb book, simply at the level of being a good read: it is packed with fascinating facts and information…. Pinker debunks with panache, cuts through the confusion of jargon, and tells a mean anecdote. He does for language what David Attenborough does for animals, explaining difficult scientific concepts so easily that they are indeed absorbed as a transparent stream of words…. I will be astonished if a better science book of any kind, let alone one accessible to the general reader, comes along this year…. His book is groundbreaking, exhilarating, fun, and almost certainly correct. Do yourself a favor and read it.” —Sunday Times (London) “A brilliant study of language….


pages: 551 words: 174,280

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Bonfire of the Vanities, conceptual framework, cosmological principle, dark matter, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, first-past-the-post, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, illegal immigration, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John Conway, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Review, William of Occam

But he persevered because those distinctive statues were the perfect setting for him to deliver the central message of his series – which is also a theme of this book – that our civilization is unique in history for its capacity to make progress. He wanted to celebrate its values and achievements, and to attribute the latter to the former, and to contrast our civilization with the alternative as epitomized by ancient Easter Island. The Ascent of Man had been commissioned by the naturalist David Attenborough, then controller of the British television channel BBC2. A quarter of a century later Attenborough – who had by then become the doyen of natural-history film-making – led another film crew to Easter Island, to film another television series, The State of the Planet. He too chose those grim-faced statues as a backdrop, for his closing scene. Alas, his message was almost exactly the opposite of Bronowski’s.

England by David Else

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active transport: walking or cycling, Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, British Empire, call centre, car-free, carbon footprint, colonial rule, Columbine, congestion charging, David Attenborough, David Brooks, Etonian, food miles, glass ceiling, haute cuisine, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Mahatma Gandhi, new economy, New Urbanism, out of africa, place-making, Skype, South of Market, San Francisco, Stephen Hawking, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, unbiased observer, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent

Known for their intricate plots, film homages and amazingly realistic animation, the Wallace and Gromit films scooped Nick Park four Oscars. Aardman Animations has also produced two successful animated features, Chicken Run (2000) and Flushed Away (2006), in partnership with Hollywood’s DreamWorks studios. * * * The BBC is famous for its news and natural-history programming, symbolised by landmark series such as Planet Earth and The Blue Planet (helmed by the reassuring presence of David Attenborough, a national institution on British screens since the 1970s). The big-budget costume drama is another Sunday-night staple; British viewers have been treated to adaptations of practically every Dickens, Austen and Thackeray novel in the canon over the last decade. More recently ITV has been making inroads into costume-drama territory, notably with Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey.

The honour roll of famous Cambridge graduates reads like an international who’s who of high achievers: 81 Nobel Prize winners (more than any other institution in the world), 13 British prime ministers, nine archbishops of Canterbury, an immense number of scientists, and a healthy host of poets and authors. Crick and Watson discovered DNA here, Isaac Newton used Cambridge to work on his theory of gravity, Stephen Hawking is a professor of mathematics here, and Charles Darwin, William Wordsworth, Vladimir Nabokov, David Attenborough and John Cleese all studied here. Today the university remains one of the top three for research worldwide, and international academics have polled it as the top university in the world for science. Thanks to some of the earth-shaking discoveries made here, Cambridge is inextricably linked to the history of mankind. The university celebrates its 800th birthday in 2009; look out for special events, lectures and concerts to mark its intriguing eight centuries.


pages: 1,263 words: 371,402

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois

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augmented reality, clean water, computer age, cosmological constant, David Attenborough, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, financial independence, game design, gravity well, jitney, John Harrison: Longitude, Kuiper Belt, Mahatma Gandhi, Paul Graham, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Skype, stem cell, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, urban renewal, Wall-E

Fans may also be interested in an examination of superhero science, Superheroes! (I. B. Tauris), by Roz Kaveney, and by more bitching about how we don’t have those flying cars yet (following several similar volumes last year), You Call This the Future? (Chicago Review Press), by Nick Sagan, Mark Frary, and Andrew Wacker. There’s no direct genre connection for mentioning Life in Cold Blood (Princeton University Press), by David Attenborough, but SF writers looking to score ideas about really alien creatures and lifeways could do a lot worse than look down into the bogs and swamps where the coldblooded creatures described herein dwell. There were lots of genre movies that did big box-office business this year, although few critical darlings or films thought of as “serious” movies. According to the Box Office Mojo site (boxofficemojo.com), nine out of ten of the year’s top-earning movies were genre films of one sort or another (counting in stuff like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as fantasy/SF—Hell, it’s even got aliens!

Great Britain by David Else, Fionn Davenport

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active transport: walking or cycling, Albert Einstein, Beeching cuts, British Empire, call centre, car-free, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, Columbine, congestion charging, credit crunch, David Attenborough, Etonian, food miles, glass ceiling, global village, haute cuisine, illegal immigration, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, land reform, Livingstone, I presume, Mahatma Gandhi, new economy, North Sea oil, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, place-making, Skype, South of Market, San Francisco, Stephen Hawking, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent

The honour roll of famous Cambridge graduates reads like an international who’s who of high achievers: 81 Nobel Prize winners (more than any other institution in the world), 13 British prime ministers, nine archbishops of Canterbury, an immense number of scientists, and a healthy host of poets and authors. Crick and Watson discovered DNA here, Isaac Newton used Cambridge to work on his theory of gravity, Stephen Hawking is a professor of mathematics here, and Charles Darwin, William Wordsworth, Vladimir Nabokov, David Attenborough and John Cleese all studied here. The university celebrates its 800th birthday in 2009; look out for special events, lectures and concerts to mark its intriguing eight centuries. Orientation The colleges and university buildings comprise the centre of the city. The central area, lying in a wide bend of the River Cam, is easy to get around on foot or by bike. The best-known section of the Cam is the Backs, which combines lush river scenery with superb views of six colleges, and King’s College Chapel.