Read The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 by Rebecca Skloot Tim Folger Online


The Best American Series   The next edition in a series praised as “undeniably exquisite” (Maria Popova), The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 includes work from both award-winning writers and up-and-coming voices in the field. From Brooke Jarvis on deep-ocean mining to Elizabeth Kolbert on New Zealand’s unconventional conservation strategies, this is a groupThe Best American Series   The next edition in a series praised as “undeniably exquisite” (Maria Popova), The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 includes work from both award-winning writers and up-and-coming voices in the field. From Brooke Jarvis on deep-ocean mining to Elizabeth Kolbert on New Zealand’s unconventional conservation strategies, this is a group that celebrates the growing diversity in science and nature writing alike. Altogether, the writers honored in this year’s volume challenge us to consider the strains facing our planet and its many species, while never losing sight of the wonders we’re working to preserve for generations to come. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 includes Sheri Fink, Atul Gawande, Leslie Jamison, Sam Kean, Seth Mnookin, Matthew Power, Michael Specterand others  REBECCA SKLOOT's award-winning science writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and elsewhere. Her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was an instant New York Times bestseller. It was named a best book of 2010 by more than sixty media outlets, including Entertainment Weekly and NPR, and by the National Academies of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others. Skloot is currently writing a book about humans, animals, science, and ethics.   TIM FOLGER, series editor, is a contributing editor at Discover and writes about science for several magazines....

Title : The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015
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ISBN : 9780544286740
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 Reviews

  • Jim
    2018-10-13 06:31

    I read a lot of science articles, but they're a tiny percentage of those available & the idea of a good science editor picking the very best is just too good to pass up. I originally came across it because the 2013 edition was edited by Mary Roach, a favorite author. A friend gave me this edition - a great place to start. I've heard of Skloot's book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but haven't read it yet. I've heard good things, though. This also contains a piece by Atul Gwande who I've enjoyed reading.-Foreword by Tim Folger - good intro.-Introduction by Rebecca Skloot - long & didn't add much to Folger's foreword.-Waiting for light by Jake Abrahamson - paints a great picture of the problem (lack of electric, especially light) in rural India & mentions several attempted solutions. The current one sounds interesting, but why should it work when so many others have failed? How does/could it apply other places? A science author must include the economic sustainability of the technology or it's just a pipe dream. This didn't, so it is a puff piece - whining. 1 star-In deep by Burkhard Bilger - is about caving. Wow! I've read some about it before, but never has the entirety been captured so well: the people, the challenges, types of caves, equipment, & more. This has it all including antibacterial underwear & the dangers of fungus. Wow! Fantastic. 5 stars-A question of corvids by Sheila Webster Boneham - is a wandering look at the crow family. Fun, almost poetic. 3 stars-The health effects of a world without darkness by Rebecca Boyle - doesn't have a lot of hard data, but there isn't a lot apparently. Artificial light has caused changes & some aren't good. I wasn't thrilled with the overtones that the changes, unless otherwise specified, were bad, though. 3 stars-Spotted hyena by Alison Hawthorne Deming - was very short & still managed to wander aimlessly. Still, it was interesting. 3 stars-Life, death, and grim routine fill the day at a Liberian ebola clinic by Sheri Fink - was exactly that. Nothing particularly shocking or new. 2 stars-No risky chances by Atul Gawande - is a bit from his book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, a 5 star book. This piece is it in a nutshell. 5 stars-Linux for lettuce by Lisa M. Hamilton - covers the issues around patenting seeds. This is not a simple subject & there seems to be no good solution or compromise. The idea of using the Creative Commons (best known for computer Open Source code like Linux) licensing model to create a harbor for seed sharing outside the commercial sector is both. Excellent, if a bit too long. 4 stars-Down by the river by Rowan Jacobsen - is about the restoration of the native ecology along the Colorado river near Yuma. Wow!!! What a great success story. 5 stars-The empathy exams : a medical actor writes her own script by Leslie Jamison - had an interesting premise. I don't care for the style in which it was written. There were a few good points, but they were overshadowed by a lot of dreck. 2 stars-The deepest dig by Brooke Jarvis - very interesting piece about the deep ecosystem, how we're going to start mining it, & what it means to some of those nearby. I wanted more. 4 stars-Phineas Gage, neuroscience's most famous patient by Sam Kean - Interesting how one case can be so influential & yet have so few verifiable facts. There are several themes running through this. Well worth reading even though I wasn't particularly interested in the case itself. 4 stars-At risk by Jourdan Imani Keith - is about minorities in the wilderness. It's a good side of the story to read about, although her effort didn't impress me. It was short, though. 3 stars-Desegregating wilderness by Jourdan Imani Keith - didn't convince me. I understand her concerns (She's black, female, & originally from the city.) & feels white men are keeping the wilderness for themselves. I think she's right in wanting to integrate more wilderness into the cities, but I don't think any specific sex or race is to blame for not doing it. I'd love it if city people understood the wilderness & country life better. I'm disappointed that she's using her ideals to blame rather than solve in this piece. She does work hard to solve by taking kids out to camp & work in the woods in real life. I guess she does better than she writes, at least to me. 2 stars-Into the maelstrom by Eli Kintisch - was an interesting look at the scientific community grappling with one small aspect of climate change. It also shows how the popular story can change when politics gets involved. Well worth reading. 4 stars-The big kill by Elizabeth Kolbert - is about New Zealand's fight with mammals, their determination to exterminate them, & why. I thought our problems with invasive species were bad. Oy! Losing my ash trees, fighting with Japanese honeysuckle, garlic mustard, & multifloral rose are nothing compared to what they're dealing with. 5 stars-Digging through the world's oldest graveyard by Amy Maxmen - is an interesting look at the trials of archaeology. It also pushes getting the locals involved. 4 stars-One of a kind by Seth Mnookin - the power of social networking meets the genome project to figure out unique diseases. Unfortunately, it's not a miracle cure & seems to take a lot of money & stature to work it. 3 stars-A pioneer as elusive as his particle by Dennis Overbye - is an interesting look at Higgs. 3 stars-Blood in the sand by Matthew Power - conservationism isn't for wimps. This discusses the murder of one guy who tried to save leatherback turtles in Costa Rica. The economic pressures are terrible, though. 4 stars-Chasing Bayla by Sarah Schweitzer - is about the plight of whales mainly focusing on one man rescuing them from rope. Awful! 4 stars-Partial recall by Michael Specter - memory is very slippery as are the ethics surrounding healing it. 4 stars-The city and the sea by Meera Subramanian - is NYC dealing with rising waters & storms, using nature to help stave off issues like hurricane Sandy while cleaning up the environment at the same time. 4 stars-Curious by Kim Todd - what is curiosity & why does it grip us so tightly sometimes? Not enough science. 3 stars-The aftershocks by David Wolman - is about Italian scientists being criminally prosecuted for not properly warning people about earthquakes and brings up several important points from misunderstandings (scientists to reporters to population) to expectations. We can't predict earthquakes, yet still the Italian courts convicted scientists of not warning people properly. Yeah, you really need to read this - the dangers of Sunday Supplement science & the general idiocy of our litigious society. 4 stars-From billions to none by Barry Yeoman - discusses the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, a fairly well documented case that helped kick off our society's interest in conservation. It was good, but a little too one-sided for me. It briefly mentions a town covered in excrement from the passage of one flock & how they stripped fields, but glosses over these facts while concentrating on how men destroyed them out of greed. 4 starsOverall, this was a very readable collection. I'm looking forward to getting others in the series eventually.

  • Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
    2018-09-26 01:52

    Anthology season is one of my favorite times of year. It's not just the Best American Series -- there are other collections such as The Best Food Writing, The Best American Magazine Writing, Best Business Writing. And there are anthologies that only last a few years and then disappear such as Best Music Writing, Best Medical Writing, and so on.I've enjoyed the Best American Series for decades, and my favorite is almost always the Best American Essays volume. But lately I've also been looking forward to the Best American Science and Nature Writing.This year's collection is guest edited by Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It's heavy on natural sciences and light on physical sciences -- no chemistry, physics, or math here. It touches on astronomy only in passing, in an article about how artificial light is affecting our ability to see the stars (among other things), and a profile of Peter Higgs of Boson fame.That leaves a lot of room for essays about wildlife, including a fascinating article about crows and other corvids, the spotted hyena, a whale, and more. There are also essays about exploration of deep caves, fossil hunting in Ethiopia, the extinction of passenger pigeons, and a particularly captivating story about open-source seeds as a response to the patenting of some varieties of plants.My favorites were Atul Gawande's thoughts on the doctor's role in end-of-life care, Michael Specter's essay on the mysteries of memory and forgetting, and Sam Kean's original take on an old topic -- that of Phineas Gage, the man who survived a steel rod through the brain in 1848 with no effects, minor effects, or major effects, depending on who's telling the story.

  • Jude Bee
    2018-10-18 02:50

    In sharp contrast to the 2014 anthology, which gave sober and much needed critical attention to the pressing issues in the world today, with emphasis on the most pressing -- though perhaps most depressing as well -- issue of them all (climate change), Ms Skloot's edition is determinately light, uplifting, and fluffy, adjectives not quite becoming when it comes to scientific writing. Early in her Foreword, Ms Skloot puts her foot down squarely, by quoting from an email by a reader: 'It seems to me that content (of the series) has become darker and less hopeful over this time... When I marvel at what telescopes have seen... I get giddy. I suppose I would just like to see a bit more wonder -- a bit more magic -- in the content and less doom and gloom.'It does seem Ms Skloot stands by her foot, or rather, squarely on it, the foot that has been boldly thrust forth thus. In this volume you will find magic, wonder, giddy-worthy account of third-world children awe-struck in electric light brought by modern technology and uppity entrepreneurship. Human ingenuity, in that universal form called Human Adaptive Optimism ('The Collapse of Western Civilization', Oreskes & Conway), once again triumphs, over dark and menacing Reality. On paper, that is.

  • Shawn
    2018-10-10 06:48

    I don't consider myself to be a "science person", per se, but I've enjoyed reading this 'Best Of' series the past several years. Some collections are better than other, and within collections there are standout articles, and those easily forgotten. This grouping I found to have more of the "easily forgotten" than in years past. Though varied, the stories started to become indistinguishable from one another. I couldn't tell if this was because they were all similar, or because I'd lost interest in them for similar reasons. Oddly, the most powerful writing comes in two stories by the same author, Jourdan Imani Keith, and both are less than two pages long. She seemed to masterfully execute and understand what so many others in this collection did not -- the idea that less is more.

  • Dan Martin
    2018-09-24 04:37

    Okay, so as always, I love this annual collection. And there were some excellent essays in this year's group. 'The Empathy Exams' is at the top of my list for must reads, and as a result, I'll be picking up the self-titled book soon. However, this year's collection felt disjointed to me. It seems that in years past, there's a theme that arcs through the book. This year it was harder to detect, if at all. That said, this is by far my favorite collection to read every year, I'm forever surprised by the stories and find myself wanting to know more. So bravo the the editors for sifting through the thousands of essays that get whittled down to the two dozen or so that make the cut.

  • Peter Aronson
    2018-10-09 04:52

    Three and a half stars. Some good articles, but no physics or computer science or much hard science at all.

  • Jeff
    2018-10-05 03:38

    I always enjoy the Best American Series and have spaced out the reading of the collection thru the year. With one more to go I should be just about done when Amazon sets them up in the bargain bin again in December. A review of the articles in this collection includes Waiting for Light which tells of how new technology and new marketing efforts are bringing, if not electricity, at least incandescent light to parts of India that have been living sunset to sunrise in the dark even now, in the 21st century. In Deep is another excerpt from a New Yorker piece about Deep Caving that was featured in a different Best American series this year as well. A Question of Corvids centers on that species of birds that includes crows, ravens, rooks, and Magpies. Much of the information focuses on the intelligence of crows which is something that has been featured in many media formats recently. The Health Effects of a World Without Darkness is the first of the very strong articles. Going into the biology of our Circadian clocks and exploring how certain types of cancer are much more prevalent ( when removing for all other factors ) in people who work the overnight shift. An in depth study of the change to human biology from artificial light is needed to explore further. The effect on migratory birds and other members of the animal kingdom are also explored. After reading this red shifted lights become important to learn about. Spotted Hyenas are featured in a short piece which tells of their violent nature and explores how they sometimes kill for nothing more than the joy of it. Their painful birth process, which is odd indeed is featured as well. Life, Death, and Grim Routine Fill the Day at a Liberian Ebola Clinic is a featured New York Times article. It is self explanatory but is an excellent piece of writing. Atul Gawande is one of the best medical writers around. An article from him from Slate titled No Risky Chances speaks to the authors common topic of how to best help our loved ones have the death experience that they want. Very well written and thoughtful. Linux for Lettuce was a very interesting, as well as maddening article, that speaks to the issue of food and agricultural patents. We meet some academics who have run afoul of the giant food companies such as ConAgra and Momsanto who worry us about the future of food security. Down by the River addresses the attempted regeneration of the extreme Southern section of the Colorado river. Focusing on the success story of the city of Yuma. The title story of Leslie Jamison's " The Empathy Exams " was featured when her collection of stories was published. This story features the story of her experience as a medical actor at medical schools as well as her own experience with the health care system through her own abortion as well as heart surgery that no young person expects to have t go through. The Deepest Dig is a story about Deep Sea Mining and it's coming importance. The dangers to the ocean is touched on as well, dangers that appear to be the potential equivalent of oil drilling near a pristine lake. A story on Phineas Gage explores the most important person in the history of brain science research. As he survived a horrendous brain injury and thus was available to be studied by scientists no one case has taught us more about the different sections of the brain and their capabilities. Two very short articles titled " At Risk " and " Desegregating the Wilderness " both center on the need for and the efforts to bring young people from the cities and people of color in general more in contact with the parks and nature areas of the country. Into the Maelstrom is an article about the battle in the scientific community about one scientists theory of a change in the jet stream. Many of us became familiar with the term polar vortex over the last couple of winters and this article explains the theory that the the warming Arctic is changing the jet stream itself , especially how it moves weather systems across the continents. Many other scientists are in dispute of this idea and the battle has, at times, turned contentious. The Big Kill was a story about New Zealand the countries efforts to rid itself of invasive species. As no mammals were native to the country this is an attempt to save the islands natural flora and fauna as well as the hundreds of birds which have been jeopardized by small rodents such as stoats and rats. This does not even address those, which are many, that are already gone permanently. Digging Through the Worlds Oldest Graveyard centers on the efforts of archaeologists efforts in The Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia. I learned a lot and it is a marvel to see how much can be ascertained from the smallest bone fragment and how much effort it takes to extract these items. Again much of the article centers on a publicity hound scientist ruffling the feathers or his more stoic colleagues. One of a Kind is a New Yorker article that introduces us to parents dealing with the terrible effects of unknown conditions on their children and their efforts to find others with the same symptoms which could, in theory lead to advances to help their children. A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle centers on Physicist Peter Higgs as his theory of the unknown particle labeled the Higgs Bosun comes to fruition with experiments in the Hadron Collider. Some pretty heavy science here but very interesting. Blood in the Sand was a great story about a sad subject, namely the ongoing battle between scientists and nature lovers to protect the breeding grounds of the huge leatherback sea turtles from the encroaching poachers who value the eggs as a way to support themselves. A fight that has actually turned deadly at times to not just the turtles. Chasing Bayla is another story that follows a scientist trying to preserve an endangered species. Another species that finds man as the one who is threatening it. Right Whales have seen their numbers decimated by hunting but now their deaths often occur as a side effect of the huge fishing and lobstering industry in the East Coast. Known to feed with a their large mouth open they consistently get caught in wires, rope, and other hunting effluent and slowly over a period of months die from infection and or starvation. We follow a scientist who is trying to come up with a way to sedate the whales long enough to free them with mixed results Partial Recall was published I. the New Yorker and centers on the effort to find a way to reduce the effects of PTSD. Dealing with not the removal of bad memories but the different and new techniques to remove the traumatic feelings associated with said memories is, as one can imagine, a magnet for controversy. The City and the Sea tells of the harm caused by Hurricane Sandy and the efforts by some to restore the oyster beds around NYC as a way to build a natural buffer to protect from storms. The Aftershocks is the incredible story of how seismologists in Italy have been tried and convicted of manslaughter for not warning of an earthquake that destroyed a small Italian village and killed many. As one would expect scientists the world over are watching this story and hoping the appeal reverses what they feel would be an incredibly backwards precedent. From Billions to None was one of many articles written recently about Passenger Pigeons and the short distance between when billions blacked the sky to the time period less than fifty years later in the early twentieth century when the last one died. Hunted to death, habitat destroyed, an incredibly tragic story.

  • Angela
    2018-10-07 00:38

    Unfortunately this was a meh collection. It ran heavy on eco and nature, lighter on hard science. The only physics essay (that I can recall) was a bio-essay on Higgs (of particle fame). Even that article felt thin. Nothing on computers or jiggery pokery Internettery, alas. At its best, this series has blown my mind and opened up my horizons. At its worst (and this 2015 edition was pretty bad), it's just OK. I mean, it's never been BAD. But the disappointment of non-inspiration can be acute. Oh well, obviously I'll read all the other editions I can get my hands on, and I recommend you do too. :)

  • Joy Wilson
    2018-10-04 05:51

    Excellent science articles from across the boardI really enjoyed reading this collections due to its wide range of excellent articles. As a science teacher I enjoy writing that enlightens and inspires and this collection certainly does both of those well. I will consider getting each yearly edition to have timely articles for my students and myself to read, discuss, and digest.

  • Jeffrey
    2018-09-21 02:39

    I am really a sucker for nature essays. I have read this series most years since 2000. The books are curated magazine articles from the prvious year (in this case 2014). I am not sure why I enjoy them more in book form than in the magazines. I think it is because I am more focused when presented as a book. In any case, I find these essays an excellent end of day meditation on the endlessly facinating and rapidly changing developments in Science and the equally important impact on us humans. These essays are alway a riot of ideas and opening each is like unwrapping christmas gifts. This book's topics included rural solar lighting in India (cool!), light pollution, end of life care, plant patents (boo!), medical actors (who knew?) Phineas Gage and lots more. It took a while to read this one, though.

  • Alex
    2018-09-21 23:26

    I was disappointed. The books from this series which I have read before had a much stronger focus on explaining scientific facts. This edition seemed to me much more focused on human interest stories, not really explaining complex scientific observations and theories. There were a number of articles in this book which mostly were concerned about the feelings of the author or the protagonists.

  • Chunyang Ding
    2018-10-06 05:41

    Absolutely wonderful anthology. I was glad to see many stories that explored curiosities and fascinations, instead of solely reporting on the very-important-but-often-depressing news of the ways humans are destroying the world. Of special note for me were The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison and Curious by Kim Todd.

  • Valerie
    2018-10-20 01:52

    As usual, a reliable book to read to catch up on science news I would otherwise miss! Climate change, endangered animals, evolution, invasive plants in New Zealand. The rich variety of great reading about fascinating topics is enlightening and educational.

  • Jim
    2018-09-22 01:45

    The "Best American" series remains one of my "go to" series year after year. This year it was Travel and Science. But I usually dip into the different subjects depending on how I feel or what I am interested in reading, I've done Mystery, Non-Required Reading, and Essays in other years. No, you won't enjoy every article but you will, I hope, I think, enjoy many in this collection . I knowI did.

  • Karen
    2018-10-08 05:41

    I found this collection to be intelligent, thought provoking and with much insightful teaching. The subject matter is eclectic ranging from the push back of our oceans to memory to the justification of killing off species that are running rampant.....completely interesting!!!

  • Heidi
    2018-10-06 01:52

    So glad this was a book club selection. Some of the essays were depressing, some were uplifting.

  • Karla
    2018-10-21 06:30

    Interesting articles made great book club discussions.

  • Edward Nugent
    2018-10-17 01:52

    Thought reading about science was dry and boring? Guess again.

  • Esther
    2018-10-12 04:23

    Educational and inspiring writing. "In Deep" successfully provides a glimpse of caving. The challenges, the danger, the trill of exploring the our deepest caves.

  • Aaron
    2018-09-20 23:49

    I wish there was a little more variety in this collection. Based on this book alone, a reader could conclude that climate change is the only things scientists study and care about.

  • Brad Hodges
    2018-10-09 03:40

    I must say that this year's The Best American Science and Nature Writing wasn't nearly as frightening as past volumes--there were only a couple of stories about exotic diseases and few dire warnings about global warming or unavoidable earthquakes. Instead, this volume, edited by Rebecca Skloot, looked toward more of the fun or fascinating in science. There was even an article that made me think of Seinfeld. But there were articles that were steeped in sadness, such as Barry Yeoman's "From Billions to None," which was about the extinction of the once plentiful passenger pigeon. And in "The Aftershocks" by David Wolman, there is discussion of earthquakes in Italy, and the admonition, "As scientists and engineers repeat almost like a rosary: earthquakes don’t kill people; buildings kill people."Matthew Power, whose article on the poaching of sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica, "Blood in the Sand," has since died, and his participation in this article shows he lived a dangerous life. (He died of heatstroke in Uganda). Seth Mnookin in "One of a Kind" writes about a rare genetic disorder, and how parents of children who suffered from it came to find each other on social media. And Sheri Fink writes of "Life, Death, and Grim Routine Fill the Day at a Liberian Ebola Clinic." Rough stuff.I found the stories about what we don't know fascinating. There are two articles about the human brain that are interesting. One is about memory: Michael Specter's "Partial Recall." I found it interesting that different memories are housed in different parts of the brain, and it is not really possible to erase bad memories. "These days we tend to think of memory as a camera or a video recorder, filming, storing, and recycling the vast troves of data we accumulate throughout our lives. In practise, though, every memory we retain depends upon a chain of chemical interactions that connect millions of neurons to one another. Those neurons never touch; instead, they communicate through tiny gaps, or synapses, that surround each of them."Another is about curiosity, in the appropriately titled "Curious" by Kim Todd. What drives curiosity? "One of the things that makes us most curious is the suggestion that the world isn’t how we think it is, that our categories are the wrong ones, and the promise is that the answer to our questions will give us a different, fuller, better view."There are several articles about animals: Sheila Webster Boneham;s "A Question of Corvids," concerning the increasing belief that crows are more intelligent than thought. "Crows. If gulls are the berserkers of birdkind, swooping and screaming and plundering, then corvids, including crows, are the strategists. They watch." "Spotted Hyena," by Alison Hawthorne Deming, is about the feared, vilified, and fascinating scavengers, while Elizabeth Kolbert's "The Big Kill" is about New Zealand's attempt to rid itself of feral mammals--they are not indigenous and cause havoc to bird life. Sarah Schweitzer's "Chasing Bayla" is a sad story about a whale that gets entangles in a fishing line, which happens all too frequently, and usually leads to the whale's death. Two stories really stood out for me. One is Sam Kean's "Phineas Gage, Neuroscience's Most Famous Patient," which is about a man who, in 1848, had a steel rod go through his head. He lived, miraculously, but exhibited personality changes. "Most of us first encountered Gage in a neuroscience or psychology course, and the lesson of his story was both straightforward and stark: the frontal lobes house our highest faculties; they’re the essence of our humanity, the physical incarnation of our highest cognitive powers." The other is the one that reminded me of Seinfeld. There was an episode in which Kramer and his friend Mickey work as actors for medical students. They act out symptoms and such. I never knew this was real until I read "The Empathy Exams," by Lisa Jamison, in which she recounts her time as a "Medical Actor," She intercuts her experiences as "Stephanie Phillips," who is suffering mysterious seizures, with her own experience of having an abortion. It's a powerful essay.There are also articles about living with no light, living with too much light, exploring the sea floor, and our approach toward death. All in all, a fairly engaging volume this year.

  • Alan
    2018-10-17 00:48

    I have been reading anthologies from this series for at least 10 years and this volume was one of the 2 or 3 best of them. Nearly every piece began in an captivating way, addressed an important scientific problem, included relevant biographical description of the scientist(s), and was written as a story instead of as an argument. Here are short descriptions of my favorite pieces:Alison Deming’s story, Spotted Hyena, discussed aggression and overkill in the animal kingdom, busting a myth that animals only kill as much as they can eat. Sheri Fink wrote a short, eye-opening and painful description of an Ebola treatment clinic in Liberia. Atul Gawande had an excerpt from his book on mortality that discussed the case of a woman who didn’t want to take risks with the last days of her life. Lisa Hamilton wrote, Linux for Lettuce, which told the story of Monsanto’s seed patents and how independent seed producers and researchers are fighting Monsanto. Rowan Jacobsen wrote Down by the River, a terrific discussion of restoring plant and animal life to riverbeds along the Colorado river. The Deepest Dig was about Cindy Lee Vandover learning to pilot the Alvin sub to the deepest ocean underground vents to study life then becoming a consultant to mining companies. In Phineas Gage, Sam Keen wrote a book about how Gage had a mining spike go through his head without killing him then became a famous medical case about how injuries to the frontal lobe caused personality disorders, which was probably not true for Gage. Into the Maelstrom was about how Jennifer Francis became famous (and infamous) for saying on television that climate change effects on the arctic has affected the weather in the US but many scientists think more research is needed to say that. The Big Kill was about how scientists in New Zealand have created ways to eradicate rats from thousands of square miles. The World’s Oldest Graveyard is a terrific story about Ethiopian research digs in dangerous territory where the oldest homo sapiens bones (Lucy) were found. The controversy in the piece focused on stone tools that date back 1 million years before Lucy, whose people supposedly invented the first ones. One of a Kind was a heart-wrenching story about a boy born with the rarest of genetic diseases but his parents had money and used it to find other people with a similar disease then financed a research program. Dennis Overbye (a former editor of the series) wrote a good story about Peter Higgs. Blood in the Sand is another heart-breaking story about a conservationist trying to preserve large turtles in Costa Rica but narco-criminals killed him.

  • Crosby
    2018-09-24 22:32

    As always, the most recent issue of this series is a good item to have on plane trips for a reader who enjoys science and nature articles because each chapter is usually just long enough and interesting enough to ease the monotony of flights. The articles in this issue were well written but were heavily slanted toward topics emphasizing the conservation and appreciation of nature. I have always enjoyed those types of articles more when they are interspersed between science essays. There were very few of the latter included in this edition. As an example, I especially enjoyed the "One of a Kind" article by S. Mnookin. Its description of the experiences of a family with a child having an almost unique genetic disease was uniformly interesting. The parents sought professional genetic help to explain their child's problem and finally ended up at Duke University where using exome sequencing they discovered a mutation likely involved in the problem. That is where the story becomes interesting because it represented a single case study and most journals will not accept this as proof of cause. The family felt the need to learn more so they entered their family history online and soon a few other families began responding that they had children with symptoms that sounded the same. The genetics groups at Stanford University and Baylor College of Medicine got involved with their patients and eliminated mitochondrial problems as a cause before they all found evidence of the same nuclear mutation that the Duke group had found. It was interesting to see how the researchers finally realized they would have a stronger publication if they worked together than to wait and try to find more patients of their own to publish on. It was the "One of a Kind" family, using the internet to find similarly affected children in the U.S. as well as overseas that finally enabled the origin of this medical problem to be solved. Inclusion of these types of stories are what I enjoy most about the "Best American Science and Nature Writing" series. Such articles are easy to follow, have a strong human interest component and yet, include descriptions of up-to-date experimental approaches to solving scientific problems.

  • Jan Priddy
    2018-10-13 23:27

    These are fascinating essays covering a tremendous range of topics including passenger pigeons, the impact of scientific seismic predictions, rare disease, and deep-sea mining. Not every essay is brilliantly written, though the research seems to be consistently impeccable. Most of the titles provide little clue about the thesis except in the abstract, so I had to go back to find the ones I loved best. Their titles are pretty clear. "Waiting for Light" by Jake Abrahamson investigates issues related to light pollution. I have researched this myself, and I found both new ideas Abrahamson unearthed as well as a few issues he did not give space. Clearing New Zealand of all mammals (all invasive species), "The Big Kill" by Elizabeth Kolbert, is thought provoking both for the cruelty of the process and the implications if it succeeds. My favorite essays were two very brief pieces, "At Risk" and "Desegregating the Wilderness" by Jourdan Imani Kieth. I was impressed by the diversity represented by both authors and their subjects. It was refreshing.

  • Matt
    2018-09-21 22:23

    "Curiosity is the spiritual adultery of the soul. Curiosity is spiritual drunkenness."I found this quote in one of the works included in this book. It appears in a piece about curiosity - a piece about the varying cultural approach to curiosity through the ages, the soft and hard science efforts that have focused on this topic, and the author's own relation to this facet of life. This particular piece starts off by describing a surprising animal and cleanly crosses over into discussing how and why curiosity piques our attention. What a wonderful way of presenting the topic of an article with both the content andthe its form.Each essay in this collection is an example of clear and interesting writing. Despite the fact that none of the articles presented are about the discipline closest to my heart, each one sucked me in and gave me a glimpse into other dimensions of science. Each one, also, showed me that it is possible to make complex subjects easy to follow for a layman.

  • Colleen
    2018-09-26 04:24

    I love these Best of the Year series; in a fantasy world I would subscribe to tons of magazines and read them all cover to cover. But obviously there's no time for that and I don't even like the physical format of magazines. The 2015 Nature and Science didn't disappoint; it includes stories on: Deep caving, corvids, getting light to rural India without electricity, why darkness (the natural light cycle) is good for our health, the shitty, shitty genitalia situation of female hyenas and the also unfortunate reproduction methods of the Surinam toad, curiosity, the dumbass law suit against the Italian scientists who were unable to predict the earthquake in L'Aquila (because earthquakes are not predictable), and reconsolidation in memory. Overall, a good read.Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016: Book about science

  • E.p.
    2018-10-08 02:52

    The 2015 Best American Science and Nature Writing was a much needed dose of inspiration. Skloot collected an anthology of inspiring stories that encourage the reader to think about the future and where we are going as a society. Of course, climate change was a re-occuring theme, but it should be if we are going to discuss the future of the planet and scientific research. I enjoyed The Empathy Exams for the perspective of a medical script actor and how medical professionals interact with people. The Deepest dig was also wonderful as a marine biologist and researcher joins a review panel for industry wanting to mine the bottom of the ocean. The perspective that if we want to be successful in the future, we need to incorporate scientists, law makers, and industry as a united front was great to hear in a very polarized time, instead of viewing these sectors as competing forces.

  • Heather VanWaldick
    2018-09-26 23:42

    Great collection of articles from a variety of sources, covering everything from cave explorers to gene patenting to passenger pigeons. There are SO many science articles published every year, wading through them is nearly impossible unless you know what you're looking for, so this was good for me. One article in particular, about right whales that get caught in fishing lines and are slowly sliced up and exhausted until they drown, kindled an ember of rage in my chest, and has given me a cause I would like to throw my money towards; if you're interested in marine conservation, it's well worth a read. Some of it was not my cup of tea, and some of it was awesome, but I learned something from all of these articles, and I can't ask for more than that.

  • Lisa
    2018-09-26 04:49

    The Best Science and Nature Writing series is always one of my favorite reads of the year, and this edition was no exception. Highly recommended, as usual. Some of my favorites: -In Deep, about deep cave expeditions. I never, never want to experience it for myself. Reading about it made me claustrophobic enough!-The Aftershocks tells of seismologists in Italy criminally prosecuted for their earthquake predictions. -Linux for Lettuce is a must-read for those interested in the policy implications of patents on plant seeds.-Chasing Bayla is a sad but important read on how modern fishing is injuring whales. -The Health Effects of a World Without Darkness made me turn off the hallway light at night, to the consternation of my young kids. If you haven't read this series, do it!

  • Maurio
    2018-10-04 03:53

    Could barely even get into it. Last years was all about personal stories with little science. This one is more of the same. You won't learn anything. There are some stories but science and nature re not the focus.To see what this anthology could be read the 2010 version with Freemon Dyson as editor. There used to be, at a minimum some good layman articles on the current state of science and a mix of hopeful and grim outlooks on humanities future. This year is odd rambling scare tactic articles and pull at the heart string stories. Where did the science and nature go? I used to enjoy learning something new through these collections and this anthology was the best of them. Here is to next year, may the next editor be an objective, rational scientist.