The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012

Dan Ariely, Editor, Tim Folger, Editor
Edited by Dan Ariely. HMH, $14.95 trade paper (325p) ISBN 978-0-547-79953-7
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Guest editor Ariely's selections the latest series installment intrigue and electrify, and the collection, arranged in six parts—Bacteria and Microorganisms, Animals, Humans (good and bad), Society and Environment, and Technology—intermixes contemporary concerns with futuristic possibilities. Essays such as Jerome Groopman's "The Peanut Puzzle," Sy Montgomery's "Deep intellect," and Michael Behar's "Faster. Higher. Squeakier." explore topics present in the national discourse, like the cause of allergies and their remediation, the extent of animal intelligence, and the role of performance enhancing drugs. Alongside these timely essays sit prescient pieces about cryptography and virtual-but-veritable currencies, the reach of artificial intelligence, and the underexplored microbial world. Collectively, this year's selections present existential questions and ethical dilemmas without moralizing or answering the queries: Are we smarter than machines? What is unique about human intelligence? Can we feed burgeoning populations with lab-grown meat? Unfortunately, Ariely selected writing by three times as many men as women, which calls into question not the quality and quantity of science and nature writing by women today, but the objectivity of those in power in the field to publish and commend the best of it. Nevertheless, this strong collection invites awe, begets wonder, and stimulates contemplation. (Oct.)
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