Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Spotlight On... Darwin & Evolution

--by Hanje Richards

Charles Darwin and Evolution (Steve Parker). An illustrated biography of Darwin features paintings, photographs, and prints and discusses Darwin's shy boyhood in Shrewsbury, England, his voyages to South America, and his revolutionary evolutionary theories. Includes painstaking observations made on his around-the-world voyage on the HMS Beagle and the writings of thinkers such as Thomas Malthus. Parker relates Darwin's work to that of other naturalists in the main text and places it in the context of other scientific, political, and artistic events and explorations in his lifetime through the use of a time line.

Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution (Rebecca Stefoff). Budding evolutionary biologists will welcome this thoroughly researched biography, which emphasizes Darwin's tremendous influence in scientific, social, and political spheres. Sidebars offer concise, helpful summaries of important concepts, such as extinction and Mendelian genetics. Extensive photos of Darwin and his family, friends, and colleagues, as well as reproductions of public notices and cartoons, are handsome additions to the nicely laid-out text. There are no footnotes, but the solid bibliography cites many academic works and some children's biographies. The book offers generally thorough, clear explanations of Darwin's scientific theories and sheds light on his personality.

Evolution (Linda Gamlin). Explore the world of living things, and trace the discoveries that explain the amazing diversity of life on Earth. The theory of evolution changed our understanding of the natural world – and here’s the perfect way to learn more about it! Discover what life was like millions of years ago; how new species develop; and learn why pandas have false thumbs and penguins stand upright. Superb full-color photographs of animals, plants and fossils make this book a compelling look at evolution.

Evolution (Andres Llamas Ruiz). Through bold, colorful illustrations and lively, entertaining text, kids will learn about the wondrous cycles of the natural world. Travel back in time 4,500 million years to when the earth was just a big ball of gas. About 1,500 million years later, the first sign of life appeared on the planet, in the form of a single cell. See for yourself how that organism eventually developed into what we are today.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Jacqueline Kelly). The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia’s sleepy Texas town, and there aren’t a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine, but instead, Callie’s contemplating cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She’s also spending a lot of time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. But just when Callie and her grandfather are about to make an amazing discovery, the reality of Callie’s situation catches up with her. She’s a girl at the turn of the century, expected to cook and clean and sew. What a waste of time! Will Callie ever find a way to take control of her own destiny?

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World - The inspiration for Darwin's theory of evolution, the Galapagos Islands are a living laboratory, a geological conveyor belt that has given birth to and seen the death of many species of plants and animals. As the western islands rise up from the sea offering a chance of life, the eastern islands sink back beneath the waves guaranteeing only death. Between the two are the middle islands; fertile, lush land in its prime that contains an incredible diversity of life. Nowhere else on the Earth are the twin processes of creation and extinction of species so starkly apparent... see it all unfold before your eyes in this stunning series filmed entirely in high definition from the BBC and the National Geographic Channel. [DVD]

Inherit The Wind - Spencer Tracy and Fredric March go toe-to-toe in this thrilling re-creation of the most titanic courtroom battle of the century. Garnering four Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor (Tracy), and featuring Gene Kelly in a rare, critically-acclaimed dramatic role, this is powerful, provocative cinema. The controversial subject of evolution versus creation causes two polar opposites to engage in one explosive battle of beliefs. Attorney Clarence Darrow (Tracy) faces off against fundamentalist leader William Jennings Bryan (March) in a small Tennessee town where a teacher has been brought to trial for teaching Darwinism. Let the trial begin... and watch the sparks fly! [DVD]

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution - Who would have predicted that a hot spot left over from the Big Bang would eventually lead to our galaxy, the solar system, the Earth – and to us? Origins explores how the universe and our planet began amid chaos and eventually gave birth to the first stirrings of life. Join cutting-edge scientists on a voyage deep into the Earth to find analogs to the earliest life on our planet, and travel a million miles from Earth with a space probe designed to capture the earliest observable "snapshot" of the Big Bang. Then, watch as astronomers test an ingenious new way to detect distant planets that may harbor life, and discover that every atom in our bodies, and practically every bit of matter in the Earth, was made in the heart of stars. Hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, Origins presents startling new findings that attempt to explain just how Earth, life, and the universe all began. [DVD]

Prehistoric Life (William Lindsay). Explore the origins of life on Earth, from the first algae to the first humans; why life began in the sea, not on land; why dinosaurs ruled the Earth for millions of years and then disappeared; and how mammals – and then humans – took over.
The Scopes Trial (Don Nardo). This book is an excellent summary of the famous Scopes trial of 1925, in which the fundamentalists who wanted to keep Darwin's theory of evolution out of the schools went up against the great Clarence Darrow, who embarrassed the opposing lawyer, William Jennings Bryan. The book is solidly researched and well written and also features some nice pictures of the courtroom proceedings.