SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, & SOCIETY:
The following is a list of the best-selling science and nature books in 2001:
The Botany of Desire: A Plants-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan (Random House). Pollan examines the evolution of domesticated plants, ranging from crops to drugs to decorative flowers, and comes to the conclusion that plants use humans for their own gain as much as humans use plants. The book focuses on the history and ramifications of four common domesticated plants: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes.
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steven Johnson (Scribner). Johnson, a founder of the now-defunct Web site Feed, examines how units that engage in only simple behaviors, such as the neurons found in the brain, can nonetheless work together in a system to create complex behaviors such as thinking and feeling. Johnson believes that the Internet is beginning to become such a system.
The Essential John Nash, by John Nash, Jr. (Princeton University Press). A collection of the nine most influential papers by John Nash, Jr., a mathematician who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994 for his contributions to game theory. The collection includes not only Nash’s work on game theory but also his major contributions to pure mathematics.
Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William J. Broad (Simon & Schuster). Three New York Times reporters investigate the recent history of biological weapons and find much that is worrying. An international treaty, the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, was supposed to put an end to germ warfare, but it was routinely violated by the Soviet Union and Iraq, which produced biological weapons on a large scale. In addition, an Oregon cult was able to sicken 1000 people with Salmonella the cultists obtained legally.
Lichens of North America, by Irwin M.Brodo et al. (Yale University Press). There are thousands of species of lichen—a combination of a fungus and an alga—in North America alone. Although often overlooked, lichen grow in a wide variety of colors and play an important role in many ecosystems. This book provides a comprehensive guide, complete with color photographs by National Geographic photographers Sylvia and Stephen Sharnoff, to some 1500 lichen species.
The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, by Simon Winchester (HarperCollins). This is the story of William Smith, a self-educated ditchdigger who realized that he could create the first geological map of England, which detailed what minerals and rocks lay underground. After years of labor, Smith finished his map in 1815, only to see it plagiarized and have credit for the map denied to him for years afterward.
A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, by David M.Friedman (Free Press). Friedman, a journalist, examines how the penis has defined masculinity and manhood. Its role as a reproductive organ was not fully understood until the Renaissance, and the penis has been the subject of centuries of debate over such things as the exact nature of semen and the possible effects of masturbation.