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Cosmic Adventure: A Renegade Astronomer's Guide to Our World and Beyond--Bob Berman. So, who is responsible for naming new stars? Why are we afraid of the dark? Berman, who writes a regular astronomy feature for DISCOVER magazine, toys with these ideas in this wide-ranging and infinitely amusing collection of essays. He also considers why water is not a gas at room temperature and what is the only truly original concept in cosmology. Morrow, 1998, 255 p., illus., hardcover, $25.00.

Dreams and Nightmares: The New Theory on the Origin and Meaning of Dreams--Ernest Hartmann. Some great inventions and stirring works of fiction have emerged from dreams. But how does this happen? Hartmann deviates from common theories to forge an idea based on emotional coping mechanisms. He believes that dreams put emotions in context and make "a pictured metaphor." Dreams cross-connect new material that aids in adapting to future trauma and stress, says Hartmann. His extensive study of the nightmares and dreams of individuals traumatized by crime and war supports his hypothesis. Plenum, 1998, 315 p., hardcover, $27.95.

The Family Encyclopedia of Disease: A Complete and Concise Guide to Illnesses and Symptoms--Bryan Bunch, ed. A basic understanding of how healthy organs should function provides the backbone of this guide. This mission shapes many of the alphabetical entries covering a wide scope of diseases and irritations. Entries include cause, incidence, symptoms noticeable to the patient, symptoms noticeable to a physician, treatment options, and preventive measures. Each passage is cross-referenced. WH Freeman, 1999, 600 p., color illus., hardcover, $29.95.

Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind--Hans Moravec. Utility robots that vacuum or protect our homes seem plausible enough, and Moravec anticipates their arrival in the marketplace by 2005. But ultimately, he sees robots as pioneers of outer space. Moravec details the path leading to self replicating, self-sufficient robots. He explains how machine intelligence will first replicate existing biological capacities, such as those for cooking or for flying an airplane. His future vision for humans is rosy. He sees these machines as our providers and protectors. As founder of the robotics program at Carnegie Mellon University, Moravec's forecast is well informed and energetic. …