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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


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Plants As Persons: A Philosophical Botany by Matthew Hall and Harold Coward (SUNY Series on Religion and the Environment: State University of New York, SUNY) Plants are people too? Not exactly, but in this work of philosophical botany Matthew Hall challenges readers to reconsider the moral standing of plants, arguing that they are other-than-human persons. Plants constitute the bulk of our visible biomass, underpin all natural ecosystems, and make life on Earth possible. Yet plants are considered passive and insensitive beings rightly placed outside moral consideration. As the human assault on nature continues, more ethical behavior toward plants is needed. Hall surveys Western, Eastern, Pagan, and Indigenous thought, as well as modern science and botanical history, for attitudes toward plants, noting the particular resources for plant personhood and those modes of thought which most exclude plants. The most hierarchical systems typically put plants at the bottom, but Hall finds much to support a more positive view of plants. Indeed, some Indigenous animisms actually recognize plants as relational, intelligent beings who are the appropriate recipients of care and respect. New scientific findings encourage this perspective, revealing that plants possess many of the capacities of sentience and mentality traditionally denied them. More

Archetypal Cosmos: Rediscovering the Gods in Myth, Science, and Astrology by Keiron Le Grice (Floris Books) The modern world is passing through a period of critical change on many levels: cultural, political, ecological and spiritual. We are witnessing the decline and dissolution of the old order, the tumult and uncertainty of a new birth. Against this background, Keiron Le Grice argues that the developing insights of a new cosmology could provide a coherent framework of meaning to lead us beyond the growing fragmentation of culture, belief and personal identity.
In a compelling synthesis of the ideas of seminal thinkers from depth psychology and new paradigm science, Le Grice positions the new discipline of archetypal astrology at the centre of an emerging world view that reunifies psyche and cosmos, spirituality and science, mythology and metaphysics, enabling us to see mythic gods, heroes and themes in a fresh light.
Heralding a 'rediscovery of the gods' and the passage into a new spiritual era, The Archetypal Cosmos presents a new understanding of the role of myth and archetypal principles in our lives, one that could give a cosmic perspective and deeper meaning to our personal experience.

Keiron Le Grice, Ph.D., is founder and co-editor of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology. He is adjunct faculty in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness programme at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. More 

The Fallen Sky by Christopher Cokinos (Tarcher) In this acclaimed volume, prizewinning poet and nature writer Christopher Cokinos takes us on an epic journey from Antarctica to outer space, weaving together natural history, memoir, and in-depth profiles of amateur researchers, rogue scientists, and stargazing dreamers to tell the riveting tale of how the study of meteorites became a modern science. In 1894, fifteen years before his storied expedition to the North Pole, Robert Peary crossed a treacherous expanse of ice in Greenland in search of another prize: a massive meteorite laden with rare metals from outer space. In this hefty, industrious book, Cokinos retraces Peary’s steps, and those of other meteor “obsessives,” in an idiosyncratic hunt of his own. The book pairs, sometimes awkwardly, exciting tales of scientific adventure and unself-conscious rumination—particularly on the subject of the author’s failed first marriage, the pain of which, he insists, is “part and parcel of the hunt, my hunt, for the meteorite hunters.” As often as not, though, the original meteorite hunters had a more prosaic view of their quests. Peary, for instance, had a simple desire for glory and riches; when he finally found that meteorite, which the local Inuits had dubbed Woman (another, nearby, they called Dog), he called it “the brown mass.” More

Horizons: Exploring the Universe, 11th Edition by Michael A. Seeds, and Dana Backman (Brooks Cole) This newly revised and updated Edition of HORIZONS shows readers their place in the universe, not just their location, but also their role as planet dwellers in an evolving universe. Fascinating and engaging, the book illustrates how science works, and how scientists depend on evidence to test hypotheses. Students will learn to focus on the scientific method through the strong central questioning themes of "What are we?" and "How do we know?" More

In the Path of the Moon: Babylonian Celestial Divination and Its Legacyby Francesca Rochberg (Studies in Ancient Magic and Divination: Brill Academic Publishers) Celestial divination, in the form of omens from lunar, planetary, astral, and meteorological phenomena, was central to Mesopotamian cuneiform scholarship and science from the late second millennium BCE into the Hellenistic period. Beyond the boundaries of ancient Mesopotamia, the ideas, texts, and traditions of Babylonian celestial divination are traceable in Hellenistic sciences and philosophies. This collection of essays investigates features of Babylonian celestial divination with special focus on those aspects that influenced later Greco-Roman astronomy, astrology, and theories of signs. A multifaceted collection of philological, historical, and philosophical investigations, In the Path of the Moon offers Assyriologists, classicists, and historians of ancient science a wide-ranging series of studies unified around the theme of Babylonian celestial divination's legacy. More
The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture by Francesca Rochberg (Cambridge University Press, 2004).Celestial phenomena in ancient Mesopotamia was observed and interpreted as signs from the gods as well as physical phenomena. Relating the various ways the heavens were contemplated and understood, this study traces the emergence of personal astrology from the tradition of celestial divination and how astronomical methodology developed for horoscopes. Its importance lies in its treatment of Babylonian celestial sciences (celestial divination, horoscopy, and astronomy) as subjects relevant to the history of science and culture. More

Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Sourcebook Containing "The Constellations" of Pseudo-Eratosthenes and the "Poetic Astronomy" of Hyginus translated by Theony Condos (Phanes) THE NIGHTLY APPEARANCE of the stars, their arrangement in the sky, their regular risings and settings through the course of the year, have been a source of endless wonder and speculation. But where did the constellations come from and what are the myths associated with them?
Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans is the most comprehensive work ever published on the forty-eight classical constellations. Included in this handbook are the only surviving works on the constellation myths that have come down to us from antiquity: an epitome of The Constellations of Eratosthenes—never before translated into English—and The Poetic Astronomy of Hyginus. Also provided are accurate and detailed commentaries on each constellation myth, and complete references for those who wish to dig deeper. This book is a comprehensive sourcework for anyone interested in astronomy or mythology—and an ideal resource for the occasional stargazer. More

Star Lore: Myths, Legends, and Facts by William Tyler Olcott (Dover Books on Astronomy: Dover Publications) unabridged republication of Star Lore of All Ages pub­lished by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1911. New introduction by Fred Schaaf. 58 black-and-white illustrations. 56 unnumbered plates. Generations of readers, stargazers, and fireside dreamers have delighted in this guide to the myths and legends surrounding the stars and constellations. Originally published in 1911, William Tyler Olcott's beloved classic offers captivating retellings of ancient celestial lore from around the world. 

Star Lore recounts the origins and histories of star groups as well as the stories of individual constellations: Pegasus, the winged horse; Ursa Major, the Greater Bear; the seven daughters of Atlas known as the Pleiades; the hunter Orion, accompanied by his faithful dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor; the signs of the Zodiac; and minor constellations such as the ship Argo, the Giraffe, and the Unicorn. 

Fifty-eight black-and-white images include photographs of the actual stars as well as scenes from their related myths portrayed by Michelangelo, Rubens, Veronese, and other artists. This edition features a new introduction by astronomer Fred Schaaf, in addition to an extensive appendix and index. More

Matrix of Creation: Sacred Geometry in the Realm of the Planets by Richard Heath (Inner Traditions International) Reveals the ancient mathematical principles refuting the notion of the solar system as an accidental creation.

  1. Reveals how ancient civilizations encoded their secret knowledge of the sky in mythology, music, and sacred measures.
  2. Shows how modern culture can benefit from the ancient astronomical and astrological worldview based on number.
  3. Shows the role of ratio and harmonic proportions in the creation of the material world.

Humanity's understanding of number was deeper and richer when the concept of creation was rooted in direct experience. But modern sensibility favors knowledge based exclusively on physical laws. We have forgotten what our ancestors once knew: that numbers and their properties create the forms of the world. Ancient units of measurement held within them the secrets of cosmic proportion and alignment that are hidden by the arbitrary decimal units of modern mathematical thinking.

Sacred numbers arose from ancient man's observations of the heavens. Just as base ten numbers relate to the fingers and toes in terms of counting, each celestial period divides into the others like fingers revealing the base numbers of planetary creation. This ancient system made the art of counting a sacramental art, its units being given spiritual meanings beyond just measurement. The imperial yard, for example, retains a direct relationship to the Equator, the length of a day and a year, and the angular values of Earth, Moon, and Jupiter.

The ancients encoded their secret knowledge of the skies within mythology, music, monuments, and units of sacred measurement. They understood that the ripeness of the natural world is the perfection of ratio and realized that the planetary environment--and time itself--was a creation of number.

Cosmic Discoveries: The Wonders of Astronomy by David H. Levy (Prometheus) who felt the exhilaration of discovering a breathtakingly beautiful comet that would make history -- guides the reader through pivotal moments in astronomy that forever changed our conception of the universe and humanity's place within it.

Levy, who made one of the most startling celestial discoveries since the start of recorded history, writes from the unique vantage point of a discoverer of comets. With infectious enthusiasm, he and his wife, Wendee Wallach-Levy, give the reader a glimpse of the enthralling adventure of cosmic discovery through stories of the most famous and brilliant astronomers.

For example, Tycho Brahe's discovery of a supernova in 1572 planted the seeds of a new understanding of the universe as a changing realm. A generation later, Galileo's discovery of the moons of Jupiter, new worlds that refused to orbit the Sun, challenged the whole doctrine of the Earth as the center of the universe. In the twentieth century, Harlow Shapley pushed back the envelope opened by Galileo: If the Earth was not the center of the universe, neither was the Sun -- the center of our galaxy was much farther away. Edwin Hubble further proved that our galaxy was but a tiny part of an expanding universe.

Through the centuries, astronomical discoveries have streamlined our understanding of the fundamentals of the development of life here and perhaps elsewhere in the universe. The crash of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 drove home the point that comets not only carry the basic ingredients for life, they deposit those building blocks during collisions with the planets, including Earth, "once again forcing humanity to reassess its notions about how life began and if it has seeded itself elsewhere."

This fascinating book will excite and inspire all who have stared at the sky in awe and amazement

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Universe by Ian Ridpath (Watson-Guptill) offers a complete guide to our discovery and understanding of the Universe, exploring all the facets that make up this fascinating but complex Subject.

Beginning with a History of Astronomy, it traces  the growth of the science from earliest times to the present day The essential ingredients to understanding the way everything in the Universe works-from the very large to the inconceivably small-are explained in The Laws of Physics and In Search of Quantum Reality. The birth of the Universe in the Big Bang is traced back to the first few seconds in The Universe: Past, Present and Future, which also looks at its evolution and raises the question Where will it all end. Contents of the Cosmos examines the phenomenon of this vast and mysterious World, the factors we understand and some that still defy explanation, from stars and galaxies to black holes. Horning in on our own small corner of the Universe, Our Solar System looks at the Sun and each of the planets. An introduction to professional and amateur astronomy is followed by a series of star charts, opening up the night sky to the reader, in Watching the Sky. The encyclopedia concludes with a comprehensive survey of the advances made in Space Exploration, from the first crude    - rockets, through the drama of the Space Race and the Moon landing, to the plans for a mission to Mars. In addition, six themes run throughout the book, covering key people and milestone events, dealing with major concepts and theories, and offering practical information on astronomy. More


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