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Shifting Sands

Peter Lipton: How nature works, 3 September 1998

How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organised Criticality 
by Per Bak.
Oxford, 212 pp., £18.99, June 1997, 0 19 850164 1
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... over the place. It is supposed to characterise earthquakes, the ‘punctuated equilibrium’ that Stephen JayGould and Niles Eldridge claim for biological evolution, stock prices, neural activity, and the movement of cars on the M25. In 1987, along with Chao Tang and Kurt Wiesenfeld, Bak published a technical account ...

Mares and Stallions

Tom Wilkie, 18 May 1989

Games, Sex and Evolution 
by John Maynard Smith.
Harvester, 264 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 7108 1216 7
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... well about their subject? Apart from Professor Maynard Smith himself, there are only a handful. Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, has remained in the best-seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic for months. Stephen JayGould, the American evolutionary ...

What do you mean by a lie?

Steven Shapin: Haeckel’s Embryos, 5 May 2016

Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud 
by Nick Hopwood.
Chicago, 388 pp., £31.50, May 2015, 978 0 226 04694 5
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... persuasion strikes even closer than words to the core of our being,’ the evolutionary biologist Stephen JayGould once said. Scientists use pictures more than most academics, but ‘somewhere along the way’, he cautioned, they have lost the sense that it’s wrong to identify pictures with the realities they ...

Suppose the Archduke had ducked

Andrew Berry: Game theory and human evolution, 7 September 2000

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny 
by Robert Wright.
Little, Brown, 435 pp., £22.50, March 2000, 0 316 64485 4
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... multifarious products, and not in any general sense ‘better’ than even the lowliest bacterium. Stephen JayGould, in particular, has insisted that the anthropocentric Victorian perspective was fuelled more by theology than by sound biology. Like his pet theme, Spencer’s reputation, too, has been eclipsed. In the ...

Life in the Colonies

Steven Rose, 20 July 1995

Naturalist 
by Edward O.Wilson.
Allen Lane, 380 pp., £20, August 1995, 0 7139 9141 0
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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration 
by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson.
Harvard, 228 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 674 48525 4
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... the second of the remarkable triumvirate who inhabit the Museum (the third, in the basement, is Stephen JayGould). Lewontin claims that when the conflict between them was at its most intense, Wilson wouldn’t even get into the lift between the museum floors if he (Lewontin) was already inside (an idiosyncrasy ...

Vlad the Impaler

Inga Clendinnen: Hairy Humbert, 10 August 2000

Nabokov’s Butterflies: Unpublished and Uncollected Writings 
edited by Brian Boyd and Michael Pyle.
Allen Lane, 783 pp., £25, March 2000, 0 7139 9380 4
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Nabokov’s Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius 
by Kurt Johnson and Steve Coates.
Zoland, 372 pp., £18, October 1999, 1 58195 009 8
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... in art. Both were a form of magic, both were a game of infinite enchantment and deception.’ Stephen JayGould chivalrously insists that in Nabokov’s lepidopteral heyday of the 1940s, ‘the modern Darwinian orthodoxy had not yet congealed [sic] ... a Nabokovian style of doubt remained quite common among ...

Was it hayfever?

Henry Gee, 3 July 1997

T. Rex and the Crater of Doom 
by Walter Alvarez.
Princeton, 236 pp., £18.95, May 1997, 0 691 01630 5
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... not occurred, the dinosaurs might still be here. Under the influence of palaeontologists such as Stephen JayGould, the notion of progressive evolution has given way to a more makeshift world view, in which circumstances play as great a part as natural selection in shaping the history of life. In this view, chance ...

Our Cyborg Progeny

Meehan Crist: Gaia will save us. Sort of, 7 January 2021

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence 
by James Lovelock.
Allen Lane, 160 pp., £9.99, July 2020, 978 0 14 199079 8
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... took root in the public imagination. But it also set some eyes rolling. Richard Dawkins and Stephen JayGould were critical, and scientists across the board argued that Gaia smacked of teleology or even new-age mysticism. Can we really say a planet is an organism? What if life just evolves and there’s nothing ...

Genetic Mountaineering

Adrian Woolfson: The evolution of evolvability, 6 February 2003

A New Kind of Science 
by Stephen Wolfram.
Wolfram Media, 1197 pp., £40, May 2002, 1 57955 008 8
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... were easily built on to accommodate genes and mutations, recent work has been more challenging. Stephen JayGould and Richard Lewontin, for example, used the spandrels of St Mark’s in Venice, which exist as a necessary by-product of the process of mounting a dome on rounded arches, as a way of illustrating the ...

Did Darwin get it right?

John Maynard Smith, 18 June 1981

... rejected by the modern synthesis. These quotations come from a recent paper in Palaeobiology by Stephen JayGould. What is the new theory? Is it indeed likely to replace the currently orthodox ‘neo-Darwinian’ view? Proponents of the new view make a minimum and a maximum claim. The minimum claim is an empirical ...

Give Pot a Chance

Roy Porter, 8 June 1995

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine 
by Lester Grinspoon, edited by James Bakalar.
Yale, 184 pp., £7.95, April 1995, 0 300 05994 9
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... and Bakalar’s evidence comes from impeccable professional sources. The Harvard biologist, Stephen JayGould, is a rare survivor from a generally lethal form of cancer. Chemotherapy induced in him ‘long periods of intense and uncontrollable nausea’ which only smoking joints alleviated. ...

Even more immortal

Paul Driver, 8 April 1993

Memories of Beethoven: From the House of the Black-Robed Spaniards 
by Gerhard von Breuning, edited by Maynard Solomon, translated by Henry Mins and Maynard Solomon.
Cambridge, 154 pp., £15.95, November 1992, 0 521 41710 4
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Beethoven: Studies in the Creative Process 
by Lewis Lockwood.
Harvard, 283 pp., £31.95, July 1992, 0 674 06362 7
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... from the ‘Sehnsucht’ sketchbook in 1887, and sustained by such unlikely commentators as Stephen Spender (whom Lockwood quotes), that Beethoven’s first ideas were clumsy and could be refined into masterpieces only by a generalised sort of titanic struggle. Instead of losing himself in pious admiration of Beethoven’s persistence in building ...
African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity 
by Chris Stringer and Robin McKie.
Cape, 267 pp., £18.99, March 1996, 0 224 03771 4
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Humans before Humanity 
by Robert Foley.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £25, December 1995, 0 631 17087 1
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The Day before Yesterday: Five Million Years of Human History 
by Colin Tudge.
Cape, 390 pp., £18.99, January 1996, 0 224 03772 2
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The Wisdom of Bones: In Search of Human Origins 
by Alan Walker and Pat Shipman.
Weidenfeld, 270 pp., £18.99, April 1996, 0 297 81670 5
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The Neanderthal Enigma: Solving the Mystery of Modern Human Origins 
by James Shreeve.
Viking, 369 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 670 86638 5
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... inevitable link in the chain between apes and angels. Evolution is often seen as progression – Stephen JayGould has assembled a collection of advertisements in which the advanced state of some product or other is compared with humanity’s relentless progression from the apes, by way of a number of missing ...

It’s life but not as we know it

Tim Radford, 3 July 1997

... planets are single-celled microbes. These are beginning to look like the masters of creation. Stephen JayGould points out that the first two billion years of life on Earth was the age of bacteria, and nothing much has changed since. Taxonomists used to think of evolution as a ladder, from microbes to us, and then ...

Tick-Tock

Malcolm Bull: Three Cheers for Apocalypse, 9 December 1999

Conversations about the End of Time 
by Umberto Eco and Stephen JayGould.
Allen Lane, 228 pp., £14.99, September 1999, 0 7139 9363 4
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Apocalypses: Prophesies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs throughout the Ages 
by Eugen Weber.
Hutchinson, 294 pp., £18.99, July 1999, 0 09 180134 6
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Messianic Revolution: Radical Religious Politics to the End of the Second Millennium 
by Richard Popkin and David Katz.
Allen Lane, 303 pp., £18.99, October 1999, 0 7139 9383 9
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... It was in 1982 that the artist then still known as Prince first invited us to ‘party like it’s 1999’, and in those days everyone quickly grasped what he meant. The Cold War made people edgy (‘Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?’) and it seemed quite possible that we might wake up one morning and find that we were ‘out of time’. But now? Well, ‘it’s here and I like it,’ as Will Smith says in his greeting card to the new year ‘Will 2K ...

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