There are close to just under 900 species of bird in Australia, and The Australian Bird Guide by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack, and Kim Franklin covers just over 900 of them. Where do the extras come from? Sea birds in the nearby oceans, I think.
This is an excellent bird book that all Australian birders simply need to have. Holiday season is just around the corner. Get one of these for your favoriate Australian!
This is not exactly a pocket guide. It is more of a car guide, and you better have a big glove box. The 6.8 x 9.7 inch format is hefty, and there are over 550 pages of high quality thickish paper.
There are some 30 pages of excellent front matter giving all the usual contextual information any bird guide gives. Then, the species are laid out taxonomically with color coded bleeds grouping major taxa. Each spread of pages has information on the left and pictures, which are excellent Peterson style drawings, on the right.
The typical spread has four species, but many have three. A species will be represented by several drawings showing the different morphs (by age status and sex, typically) as well as other features, such as what a wing looks like in flight, or a close up of a tail’s markings, etc. The authors were very thoughtful in this aspect of the layout. The book is designed to help you identify the bird. Information needed to address subspecies or hybrids, etc. is provided. There are range maps for everything on the same page layout.
There is a checklist, glossary, and index.
The Australian Bird Guide has spread the 900 birds across 4,000 images divied up on 249 plates (with, as mentioned, three or four bird species per plate).
A very notable feature of The Australian Bird Guide is what appears to be a very extensive coverage of the elusive sea birds in the region. Distribution and status of the bird species is very up to date as well.
Peter Menkhorst is a principal scientist with the Victorian government and has forty years’ experience in ecological research and the survey and management of Australian mammals and birds. He is the author of A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Danny Rogers is an ornithologist specializing in shorebird ecology and patterns of feather molt in birds, and works for the Victorian government environment department. Rohan Clarke is a lecturer in vertebrate ecology at the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University. Jeff Davies is a Melbourne-based artist who specializes in portraits of Australian birds and their environments. Peter Marsack is an award-winning wildlife artist based in Canberra. Kim Franklin is a freelance artist and illustrator who has exhibited worldwide and is based in Adelaide.
In Tooth and Claw, Season 2 Episode 2 of Doctor Who 2.0, we see the formation of The Torchwood Institute and the banishing of The Doctor (and Rose) from the United Kingdom. Fat lot that does. Anyway, we also see Queen Victoria make mention of the multiple attempts at her assassination. I suppose it is understandable that some eight or nine (nine if you count the werewolf) attempts were made on her life. She was a women in charge of men in the most patriarchal culture ever (the White West generally, not just UK). They also said “Lock her up!” All the time, and there was a never ending investigation of her use of postage stamps, which by the way she freakin’ invented.
Anyway, I’ve been rewatching the new series, and saw that episode just today. I did not know about all those attempts on Her Majesty’s person, but by the way the fact was written into the script in DWS2E2, I suspected it was for real. So I looked it up. And, I cam across a book on it that was marked down to two bucks in Kindle form!
During Queen Victoria’s sixty-four years on the British throne, no fewer than eight attempts were made on her life. Seven teenage boys and one man attempted to kill her. Far from letting it inhibit her reign over the empire, Victoria used the notoriety of the attacks to her advantage. Regardless of the traitorous motives—delusions of grandeur, revenge, paranoia, petty grievances, or a preference of prison to the streets—they were a golden opportunity for the queen to revitalize the British crown, strengthen the monarchy, push through favored acts of legislation, and prove her pluck in the face of newfound public support. “It is worth being shot at,” she said, “to see how much one is loved.”
Recounting what Elizabeth Barrett marveled at as “this strange mania of queen-shooting,” and the punishments, unprecedented trials, and fate of these malcontents who were more pitiable than dangerous, Paul Thomas Murphy explores the realities of life in nineteenth-century England—for both the privileged and the impoverished. From these cloak-and-dagger plots of “regicide” to Victoria’s steadfast courage, Shooting Victoria is thrilling, insightful, and, at times, completely mad historical narrative.
For two bucks, we also have Thinking Machines: The Quest for Artificial Intelligence–and Where It’s Taking Us Next by Luke Dormehl.
When most of us think about Artificial Intelligence, our minds go straight to cyborgs, robots, and sci-fi thrillers where machines take over the world. But the truth is that Artificial Intelligence is already among us. It exists in our smartphones, fitness trackers, and refrigerators that tell us when the milk will expire. In some ways, the future people dreamed of at the World’s Fair in the 1960s is already here. We’re teaching our machines how to think like humans, and they’re learning at an incredible rate.
In Thinking Machines, technology journalist Luke Dormehl takes you through the history of AI and how it makes up the foundations of the machines that think for us today. Furthermore, Dormehl speculates on the incredible–and possibly terrifying–future that’s much closer than many would imagine. This remarkable book will invite you to marvel at what now seems commonplace and to dream about a future in which the scope of humanity may need to broaden itself to include intelligent machines.
CheMystery authored by C. Al Preece is a graphic superhero novel, drawn by Josh Reynolds, that teaches — wait for it — Chemistry!
A radiation accident transforms two youngsters into superheros, and simultaneously creates an evil villain for them to fight. The graphic novel covers that story and is indurated with frequent cleverly placed molecule size chemistry lessons.
Teachers need to know that this book complies with Next Gen science standards and is very classroom friendly. Indeed, author Preece is a chemistry and physical science teacher (and a trained chemist).
It is a great read, an engaging story, and the lessons are informative and easy on the eyes. I recommend it for the youth in your life who is into science. Teachers should have a look at it!
Telling people that they are doing statistics wrong is a cottage industry that I usually want nothing to do with, for various reasons including the fact that the naysayers are often blindly repeating stuff they heard but do not understand. But, Alex Reinhart, in Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide, does not do that, and this is a book that is worth reading for anyone who either generates or needs to interpret statistics.
Most of the 10 chapters that address specific technical problems with statistics, where they are misused or misinterpreted, are very helpful in guiding a reader in how to think about statistics, and certain fallacies or common errors may well apply to a particular person’s work on a regular basis. I’ve put the table of contents below so you can see how this may apply to you. This is a worthy addition to the bookshelf. Get this book and stop doing your stats wrong!
The author is a grad student and physical scientist at Carnegie Mellon.
Here’s the table of contents:
Chapter 1: An Introduction to Statistical Significance
Chapter 2: Statistical Power and Underpowered Statistics
Chapter 3: Pseudoreplication: Choose Your Data Wisely
Chapter 4: The p Value and the Base Rate Fallacy
Chapter 5: Bad Judges of Significance
Chapter 6: Double-Dipping in the Data
Chapter 7: Continuity Errors
Chapter 8: Model Abuse
Chapter 9: Researcher Freedom:Good Vibrations?
Chapter 10: Everybody Makes Mistakes
Chapter 11: Hiding the Data
Chapter 12: What Can Be Done?
Wildlife of Ecuador: A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians by naturalist Andrés Vásquez Noboa, witih photography byablo Cervantes Daza, covers mainland Ecuador (but by “mainland” we also mean ocean mammals). Focusing only on non-piscine verts, you will need to go elsewhere for your inverts and plants and such. But you get the point. This book covers most of what you are looking for when you are out in the wild looking for animals.
This is not a comprehensive guide, but covers the most frequently seen animals, totaling to 350 distributed across over 400 plates.
There is a good chance that if you are an American or European going to Ecuador, you are visiting the Galapagos, in which you will want to check outg Wildlife of the Galápagos: Second Edition. A rather broad gulf of evolutionary change and outlandish biogeography separates Ecuador from its famous island possessions. But there is a good chance that if you are going to teh Galapagos, you are making at lease one nature related stop, so this is the book for you.
This is a well done nicely bound standard field guide of field guide size and format with animal info and excellent photos on the same pages, and organized by taxonomic category (not all field guides are!). You might think a tiny country like Ecuador does not need range maps, but the topography is highly variable with conditions running from lowland moist to alpin-ish and from wet to dry, so there are, indeed, range maps as needed. And, that ecological diversity is explained in the preface material.
I highly recommend this book for travelers to the region.
If you want more ecology and evoluitonary biology with your field guides, check out my review of the Neotropical Companion, here.
Before discussing What Happened by Hillary Clinton, the nature of the political conversation demands that I preface this review with some context.
First, about me.
I supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election because I did not want Donald Trump to be president.
During the primary, which was not the 2016 election, I seriously had a hard time deciding between the various candidates (Clinton and Sanders). On an issue by issue basis, I preferred Sanders’ position over Clinton. However, on the issues about which I have an informed view (climate change and energy related, and education) by view was different from both, and the difference between Sanders and Clinton was smaller than the difference between either of them and me.
I decided early on during the primary to support the candidate that was likely to win the nomination as soon as I was pretty sure who that was. In order to facilitate that, I developed a model predicting the primary outcome. At the very outset, Clinton was predicted to win, but we needed to pass through several actual primaries to have confidence in that. In the end, it turns out that my model predicted almost every primary outcome to within a few percentage points, often getting the outcome exactly correct, and predicted the winners very well (when a primary is a half point difference, the difference between a very good prediction and the actual outcome is literally a coin toss). A very small number of primaries were different from what I predicted in magnitude, and I never made predictions using my model for Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and the various territories (the model could not work in those areas). (I made predictions, but not based on my model.)
It became clear to me that Clinton was going to win the primary long before I openly stated that. I avoided stating it because I knew that would cause an unfair and obnoxious reaction from many Sanders supporters. So I waited until a blueberry muffin would have the brains to see who was going to win. In retrospect that was a mistake because none of those folks I was worried about ever got smarter than a blueberry muffin anyway.
So, to summarize, I supported Sanders and Clinton both, liked them both, avoided being mean to either one of them, attended fundraisers for both, attended rallies by both, but all along I knew Clinton was the more likely nominee.
I want to add something else about Sanders vs. Clinton. I regarded Sanders non-incrementalism as better than Clinton’s incrementalism for many but not all issues. I Think both candidates were flawed in having one or the other of a strategy. I know because I’m much smarter than a blueberry muffin that there are times for incrementalism and times for revolution. I also knew it was time for more revolution in two or three areas (such as the energy transition and health care). That’s why I leaned more towards Sanders than Clinton with respect to that philosophy.
Having said that, I felt that Clinton was the more competent and more likely to simply do a good job as president, and I had no sense whatsoever as to how Sanders would do with foreign policy. I did, however, have confidence and reason to believe that Sanders would have come up to the challenge of foreign policy excellence, and Clinton have put the hammer down on certain issues, casting aside the incrementalism.
Now, a quick word about Hillary Clinton.
Clinton was a gubernatorial first lady, and a presidential first lady. She was a trained lawyer and political activist fighting hard fights. She brought the whole idea of public preschool to the US and did more for health care reform, including and especially for children than any other individual until Obamcare. Then, she was an effective and much liked Senator and an excellent Secretary of State. She then became the first woman to win a major party nomination for president, won the popular vote, and probably would have won the election were it not for Russian meddling.
After her loss, she withdrew from public view for over half a year.
Then she wrote a book, What Happened, expressing her point of view.
Then, a lot of people felt compelled to tell this woman to shut her pie hole based on this book.
Finally, my review of the book:
I don’t have one. The book is not published yet. I don’t intend to say anything about the book until I’ve read it (I pre-ordered it). And, if I hate it, I will tell you what I did not like about it, and I’ll even tell Clinton if I get a chance, but I will not tell this woman that she should not have written it. She gets to do that, and all those people telling us that the book that is not yet published is terrible and that Secretary Clinton should not have written it, are deeply embarrassing themselves.
Disagree with the contents of this book you haven’t read, if you can manage to eventually read it and be fair and not a cherry picker with your opinion. But do not, I repeat, do not, tell her to shut up. That’s what Republicans do, that’s what dictators do. That’s what the original American Patriots did, who burned literature they didn’t like and physically assaulted the authors, and burned their homes, back before we got civilization.
I’ll tell you this: I am very interested in what happened during the last election. I’ve written quite a bit about it, I’m writing more about it. Why would I not want Clinton’s point of view?
Stay tuned for Part II of this review, in which I … actually review What Happened after I have actually read it!
Over the years, the field guide and the coffee table book have merged, and we now have coffee table-ish books (but serious books) that include a species description of every critter in a certain clade. In the case of Horses of the World by Élise Rousseau (Author), Yann Le Bris (Illustrator), Teresa Lavender Fagan (Translator), while every living species of horse is in fact covered, the book is a comprehensive guide to breeds of horses.
Of which there are 570.
A horse is horse, of course, but but is a donkey or an ass? What about zebras?
Horse people are very picky about what they call a horse. It is generally thought that there are onlly three living or recent species of horse. The Prewalski’s horse (Equus ferus prezewalski), which lives in Asia, the tarpan (Equus ferus ferus) which is the European version of this animal, and went extinct when the last zoo inmate of this species died in 1909, and the modern horse, Equus ferus caballus. But if you think of a horse as a member of the genus Equus, there are more, including the donkey/ass and three species of zebra, the Kiang (a Tibetan ass), and another Asian ass called the Onager. And, since when speaking of horses, the extinct European wild horse is generally mentioned, we will add the Quagga, the half horse-half zebra (in appearance) African equid that went extinct in 1984 (having disappeared from the wild in 1883).
Since “horses” (as in Mr. Ed and friends) and Zebras can interbreed successfully, and some of these other forms can as well to varying degrees, we need to think of Equus as a close knit genus and not be exclusionary in disregarding the Zebra and Donkey.
Anyway, that is not what this book is about. As noted, there are some 570 or possibly more varieties of horse (no two experts will likely agree on that number) and Horses of the World covers them all. There is introductory material about horses, breeds, how we tell them apart, conservation status, etc. Each horse breed is then given one half of a page on each of two folios, so you see overleaf some illustrated text on one side, and a fuller and very official illustration on the other, for most breeds, with some variation.
This is one of the few books that comes with a movie, compete with some rather galloping music:
Élise Rousseau is the author of numerous books on horses. Illustrator Yann Le Bris has illustrated numerous books.
Let’s start with CheMystery.
This is a fun graphic novel mystery book by C.A. Preece and Josh Reynolds. Two cousins experience an incident that would make a physicist cry, but that works in a chemistry book because they now have the ability to observe and change matter. So this is a superhero book, designed to teach chemistry. The story is great, the science is great, and the pedagogy is well suited for kids and adults that like graphic novels.
Preece is the chem teacher (high school) and Reynolds is the artist.
This is written for grades 7 through 10 (ages 8-12) but some younger kids will do fine with it.
This book is pretty new, but I think it is available.
Here are some books that are currently available cheap on Kindle, for anywhere from free to two bucks, that are either science or otherwise, I suspect, of interest to readers of this blog:
Tom Levenson is a professor, a teacher of journalism and science journalism, and an Einstein scholar. He also knows a thing or two about Isaac Newton.
One of my favorite non fiction books of all time is Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist. One of the reasons this book is so good is because the author is an expert on the subject and a great writer. These are not necessary or sufficient conditions to make a book good, but probabilistically, if you’ve got both you’ll probably be spending your book money well most of the time.
Anyway, the purpose of this post is to inform you that Levenson’s The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe is currently on sale, in Kindle form, for two bucks!
The Hunt For Vulcan brings together Levenson’s Einstein expertise and his Newton expertise and his expertise on other things to look at this interesting historical thread whereby Newton predicted the existence of Planet Vulcan, everybody looked for it but did not find it, and Einstein ultimately explains it all.
Little did any of them know that Vulcan does actually exist. In a galaxy far far away accessible only with a five year voyage …
To help you make your decision about spending this $1.99, here’s the publisher’s blurb. I do not know how long this deal will last so act before midnight!
The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed
For more than fifty years, the world’s top scientists searched for the “missing” planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era’s most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it.
There was just one problem: It was never there.
In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton’s theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan.
It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton’s theory of gravity itself. Einstein’s general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the “discovery” of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein’s monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century.
A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we’re taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist’s sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science.
Today is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Harry Potter phenomenon.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published on this day in 1997, and Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) were produced with regularity afterwards, eventually in some degree of step with the movies.
Author J. K. Rowling was to produce a number of Harry Potter related things later, but she also started a series that we hope continues about something unrelated to the world of wizardry and witchcraft, with the production of a series of books starting with The Casual Vacancy about a British detective and his very interesting assistant.
If you have not read these, read them now. If you have read the Harry Potter series, red it again now.
Without delay, here are four five star choices and four four star choices:
The Emperor’s New Clothes, the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated for the modern retro child by Virginia Lee Burton.
You know the story, so I won’t give you a summary, and the whole point is the illustrations so you should just click through to see. (The graphic at the top of the post is from within the book, illustrating the overall reading level and quality).
So Few of Me by Peter Reynolds.
Alternate title: Calming the helicopter parent.
Leo’s list of things to do keeps growing, until one day he wishes, “If only there were two of me.” Just as the words are out of his mouth, poof! Another Leo appears! Two Leos become three, three become four, and four become more . . . but Leo can’t help but notice that he has even more to do than before. As he struggles to deal with his overcomplicated life, Leo realizes that there may be a simpler solution to his overscheduling woes. Peter H. Reynolds, the award-winning author-illustrator of THE DOT and ISH, returns with an important message for readers of all ages: stop and take a little time to dream.
I’m Here a second installment by Peter Reynolds
And you’re there.
And that’s okay.
maybe there will be a gentle wind that pulls us together.
And then I’ll be here and you’ll be here, too.
Pure, powerful and deceptively simple, bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds reminds us that children—and the friendships they make—can take flight in unexpected ways.
Other books (not reviewed her) by Peter Reynolds, including a box set:
Ish (Creatrilogy), a third suggestion by Peter Reynolds
Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.
Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin (Author) and Betsyh Lewin (Illustrator)
New York Times bestselling duo Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s Caldecott Honor–winning book is now available as a Level 2 Ready-to-Read!
Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long he hears:
Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.
But Farmer Brown’s problems REALLY begin when his cows start leaving him notes! Come join the fun as a bunch of literate cows turn Farmer Brown’s farm upside-down!
I Stink! by Kate McMullan and Jim McMujllan
For fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train comes a noisy addition to the hilarious read-aloud series from Kate and Jim McMullan, the popular creators of I’m Bad! and I’m Dirty!
“Know what I do at night while you’re asleep? Eat your trash, that’s what!”
With ten wide tires, one really big appetite, and an even bigger smell, this garbage truck’s got it all. His job? Eating your garbage and loving every stinky second of it! And you thought nighttime was just for sleeping.
The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing.
Introduce kids to the planets and solar system in this fractured fairy tale retelling of the classic The Three Little Pigs. Parents and children alike will adore this out-of-this-world story, which is set in outer space!
GREEP BOINK MEEP! The three little aliens are happily settling into their new homes when the Big Bad Robot flies in to crack and smack and whack their houses down! A chase across the solar system follows in this humorous and visually stunning book from Margaret McNamara (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?) and Mark Fearing (The Book that Eats People). The endpapers even include a labeled diagram of all the planets.
Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt.
Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It’s way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he’s well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel’s emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute.
Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day … his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk.
But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting …
From John Peters at Booklist:
Gr. 1-3. In a tongue-in-cheek tale that may help to prod anxious readers out of their hidebound routines, a squirrel discovers the pleasures of leaping into the unknown. As the world’s a scary place, what with the killer bees, green Martians, tarantulas, germs, and sharks that might be lurking about, Scaredy Squirrel keeps to his tree, and to a precise, minute-by-minute daily schedule–until a supposed “killer bee” actually wanders by, causing Squirrel to dislodge his suitcase-size emergency kit. A wild lunge to rescue it turns into a long glide (portrayed in a gatefold), as Squirrel discovers to his astonishment that he is a flying squirrel. Eventually, Squirrel returns in triumph to his tree and from then on adds a daily glide to his accustomed rounds. Despite the simply drawn cartoons and brief text, this is more sophisticated in tone than Martin Waddell’s Tiny’s Big Adventure (2004), though the message is similar.
Have a look at the list of books, below.
Would you like a subset, or all, of these books, in electronic format, for very cheap? There is a way to do that. Note: This is time sensitive, the offer running for just about two weeks and it started yesterday.
I’ve reviewed several of these books on this blog, and have recommended them. I’m going through Python Crash Course right now, and we’ve found the various kids programming books to be helpful, for instance. I’ve not looked at the grey hat or black hat books, but I’m sure they are fine.
The publisher, No Starch Press, has created one of those deals where you give them a small amount of money and they give you a pile of books. Since I review a lot of books, esp. computer related books, the publishers sent me the info on this, asking if I would pass it on. See the site for details, but you can have have the firs three for $1+, those plus the next three for $8, and those plus the bottom three for $15+. In addition, if you get the first bundle (or more) you get a “sampler,” which is probably a big pamphlet for their other books, not sure.
Here is something really important, to some of you, about these eBooks: They come in multiple formats and are DRM free. So this is not as restrictive as, say, getting a book from Amazon or B&N. They are in PDF, MOBI, ePUB so they’ll work on pretty much any reader.
There is also an option for donating so a charity, including the Python Foundation, but also, pretty much any charity you can think of, while you buy the books. You can divide your payment between the publisher, the charity, and a tip jar. I’m not sure who gets the tip!
Any on of these books costs more than all of them, in any format, so if there is any single book on this list that you were going to get anyway, in electronic form, now’s your chance to get a whole big pile of them. With books, that is always a good things. And, since they are electronic, when you move, they add hardly any weight to your stuff! Electrons are light!
Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners
Doing Math with Python: Use Programming to Explore Algebra, Statistics, Calculus, and More!
Teach Your Kids to Code: A Parent-Friendly Guide to Python Programming
Gray Hat Python: Python Programming for Hackers and Reverse Engineers
Python Playground: Geeky Projects for the Curious Programmer
Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming
Black Hat Python: Python Programming for Hackers and Pentesters
Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python
Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming
The Neotropical Companion by John Kricher came out years ago, in the late 80s if I recall correctly. I’ve got a copy of it around somewhere.
I loved that book because it did a great job integrating all the things in one place: animals, plants, habitats, evolution, etc. Even though I was working in the paleotropics at the time, I found it informative.
Then, more recently, I got a revised version of the same book. I’ve got it around somewhere. It is from the 1990s, I think. Great book, same idea as the first one, but with more in it, and a somewhat larger format. This dates to after my fieldwork in the rainforests, but overlapped with visits to arid regions in the tropics, though again, I’m paleo and the book is neo, but still great.
This is a serious book. To a large extent, the intended audience is folks who plan to travel in the neotropics and want a strong background in areas of evolutionary biology and conservation. But the book is very high level in terms of the material covered, the range of facts and scope of theoretical work brought to bear, and so on. It is easy to read, even engaging to read, but it is very very rich in content.
So, the book includes information on traveling, and seeing nature on your trip. But then it includes all that information on the nature itself. It is not a small book, not a field guide format (as the first version was), but it is worth lugging around if you are doing some serious visiting.
And, it should be in school libraries, and on the shelves of biology teachers. There are many well developed examples of wildlife and evolution in here, that can be expand on with further literature review (and the book provides a handle on that) for developing in class projects.
I’ve put the table of contents below. As you can see, the book is well organized and covers a lot of material. Also, it is a well produced (as is typical for this publisher, Princeton) and nice looking.
The author, John Kricher, is a biology professor at Wheaton. He’s also written: Galápagos: A Natural History, Tropical Ecology, A Field Guide to California and Pacific Northwest Forests (Peterson Field Guides), By John Kricher – The Balance of Nature: Ecology’s Enduring Myth, and a couple of book on tape thingies such as Ecological Planet – An Introduction to Earth’s Major Ecosystems: The Modern Scholar (well, not really tape, of course).
How to Use This Book 12
1 Welcome to the Torrid Zone 15
2 Why It Is Hot, Humid, and Rainy in the Tropics 29
3 Rain Forest: The Realm of the Plants 39
4 Finding Animals in Rain Forest 58
5 Sun Plus Rain Equals Rain Forest 73
6 Essential Dirt: Soils and Cycling 81
7 If a Tree Falls . . . Rain Forest Disturbance Dynamics 95
8 Evolutionary Cornucopia 113
9 Why Are There So Many Species? 134
10 Tropical Intimacy: Mutualism and Coevolution 155
11 Evolutionary Arms Races: More Coevolution, More Complexity 181
12 Cruising the Rivers to the Sea 205
13 Scaling the Andes 235
14 Don’t Miss the Savannas and Dry Forests 250
15 Neotropical Birds: The Bustling Crowd 262
16 From Monkeys to Tarantulas: Endless Eccentricities 319
17 Human Ecology in the Tropics 365
18 The Future of the Neotropics 377
Appendix Words of Caution: Be Sure to Read This 389
Further Reading 392
Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution by Anurag Agrawal is a fantastic, readable, scientifically rich, detailed monograph about – you guessed it – the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant.
The monarch butterfly begins a springtime northward migration by flying a good ways north, where females lay eggs and die. Then the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed and metamorphose, and the newly minted butterflies then fly further north, and this cycle happens again. This happens a few times. The southward migration is different. The butterflies, which are across large areas of temperate North America, fly all the way south to their Mexican wintering grounds.
It is a widespread belief in America that monarchs rely on milkweed plants, and that the decline of milkweed explains an alarming decrease in monarch butterfly numbers over recent decades. That first belief is true: The monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed, and the caterpillars feed on that plant. But it may not be true that a decline in milkweed is a problem for the monarchs. Agrawal makes a very good case that milkweed is not connected to monarch decline, and suggests but does not pin down other explanations.
Monarchs are bitter tasting and, actually, toxic. They are toxic because the caterpillars take in and sequester, and pass on to subsequent morphs, a specific toxin in milkweed. You probably knew that. But, did you know that there was a very clever and rather complicated experiment conducted in the 1960s that established this fact?
We often hear that there are two kinds of milkweed. There is the kind that monarchs lay their eggs on, and the kind that they don’t. We know this because, according to the Internet, some people, in an effort to save the monarch, planted the incorrect species instead of the correct species.
But did you know that there are 37 species of milkweed? Monarchs uses several species, but may prefer some. There are other butterflies that also rely on the milkweed (they are known as the “milkweed butterflies”).
The milkweed and the monarch have a tight and long term evolutionary relationship, both having adapted to the other’s adaptations, in a co-evolutionary story of epic proportions. But, this is not one of those stories of mutual benefit or cooperation. The monarchs exploit the milkweed, and the milkweed tries to defend itself, with only limited success. It is not a pretty picture, but it is a very interesting one.
Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution is to date the coolest nature or science book I’ve seen so far this year. The year is young, but this book is fantastic, so I expect to see it finish in the top two or three, at least. Increasingly, I’m enjoying books written simultaneously for the general public as well as scientists, by scientists who know the material because they are among the contributors to the base of knowledge being expounded upon. This is an example; Anurag Agrawal is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Entomology at Cornell University. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
I highly recommend this book.
(By the way, if you’ve not read Flight Behavior: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver, about monarchs, climate change, an interesting family living in Appalachia and an interesting monarch butterfly research, you should!)
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations vii
1 Welcome to the Monarchy 1
2 The Arms Race 22
3 The Chemistry of Medicine and Poison 43
4 Waiting, Mating, and Migrating 63
5 Hatching and Defending 90
6 Saving Up to Raise a Family 119
7 The Milkweed Village 148
8 The Autumn Migration 178
9 Long Live the Monarchy! 210
Image Credits 271