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Books in brief

Nature volume 491, page 37 (01 November 2012) | Download Citation

The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix

James D. Watson, Alexander Gann and Jan Witkowski. Simon & Schuster 368 pp. £19.99, $30 (2012)

Few tales of modern science thrill as much as the race to discover DNA's double-helical structure. Fifty years after James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins won a Nobel prize for their sprint to the finish, Alexander Gann and Jan Witkowski have crafted a new edition of Watson's behind-the-scenes account, The Double Helix (1968). Annotated to clear up abiding mysteries; adorned with lab notes, sketches and photos; and beefed up with extras by Rosalind Franklin and other major players, this is a sampler of rare treats.

The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy

Philip Zimbardo, Richard Sword and Rosemary Sword. Jossey-Bass 336 pp. £17.99 (2012)

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo has long probed the nature of trauma — notably in his 1971 Stanford prison study — and how orientation towards the past or future affects mental well-being. Now, with therapists Richard and Rosemary Sword, he suggests these findings can guide treatment for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, who suffer harrowing flashbacks. A treatment plan (being tested by the US military), quantitative data and case studies are on offer.

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

By

Viking Books 352 pp. $27.95 (2012)

In The Singularity Is Near (Viking, 2005), Ray Kurzweil imagined a near future in which medical nanotechnology would allow us to decant copies of our brains into hyper-intelligent machines — and effectively live forever. Now the bestselling futurist and pioneering inventor explores a prime arena for today's big science: reverse engineering the brain. Using the brain's pattern-recognition capacity as a springboard, Kurzweil leaps from the physical brain and the processes of creativity to the debatable idea that, given the correct software, digital entities are effectively conscious.

Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World

By

Yale University Press 264 pp. $32.50 (2012)

With his sometime-collaborator E. O. Wilson, social ecologist Stephen Kellert has asserted that biophilia — affinity for nature — is central to health, emotional well-being and much more. Here, Kellert challenges our “adversarial” approach to nature with an exploration of eight ways in which we derive meaning from it, from attraction to exploitation. He argues that, even in cities, natural complexity and dynamism are central to children's cognitive development, as they recognize, identify and evaluate rocks, clouds, trees and insects. This is a nuanced analysis punctuated with insightful personal narratives.

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

By

Farrar, Straus and Giroux 320 pp. $27 (2012)

Vast intersections, pin-thin pavements, kilometres of concrete: many US city centres were built for cars, not feet. City planner Jeff Speck, working with scores of mayors, concluded that urban liveability demands walkability. He identifies the benefits of well-designed density, such as increased physical fitness, lower fuel use and higher productivity. His 'Ten Steps of Walkability', from well-shaped spaces to curbs on cars, are a blueprint for reclaiming downtown America.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/491037a

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