The Dinosaur Heresies    Robert T. Bakker
The World We Live In    Lincoln Barnett and the Life Editorial Staff
The Meme Machine        Susan Blackmore
The Web of Life              Fritjof Capra
Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed   Jared Diamond
The Third Chimpanzee   Jared Diamond
Darwin                            Niles Eldredge
The Fossils of Florissant   Herbert W. Meyer
Prehistoric Mammals        Alan Turner, illustrated by Maurico Antón
The Protein Power Lifeplan     Michael and Mary Dan Eades, MDs

The Dinosaur Heresies   Robert T. Bakker

Given that this is 2005, this book is somewhat old.  Published in 1986, Bakker is stating his then controversial opinion.  At that time his hypothesis was certainly unusual and controversial.  Now it is pretty much accepted and the major questions are when, why, and how – just tidying up the details.  It definitely chronicles a paradigm shift.

C1  When the first dinosaur remains were reported in the scientific literature in the 1820’s, it was realized that they were very different from the ancient reptiles that had preceded them.  It wasn’t until much later that the “progress” movement relegated dinosaurs to the same slow moving cold blooded category as the reptiles.

C2  Wyoming and Montana contain an almost unbroken sample of rocks from all of the ages of the dinosaurs.  Some of the finest examples of many species can be found in these rocks.

C3  The “Lower Species” of animals are actually doing very well thank you.  The reptiles, fishes, snakes, and amphibians are very numerous and fill very many ecological niches.  It just happens that most of them live somewhere else than where most modern day biologists live.  Warm blooded mammals and birds do much better in northern areas.

C4  Heat means speed.  Warm-blooded animals are faster than cold-blooded animals.  This is especially important for big animals on land.  Not so important for small land living animals or freshwater animals.  Dinosaurs were large land animals and they suppressed big mammals for 130 million years.

C5  Brontosaurus fossils are found primarily on usually dry floodplains, not in swampy deltas.  They preferred dry land.

C6  There is evidence that suggests that some plant eating dinosaurs had gizzards stones, thus improving the efficiency of their digestion and providing more energy for movement.

C7  The footpads of some duckbill dino’s which were once thought to be webbed now seem to be cushioning pads similar to camel foot pads.

C8  Some herbivorous dino’s like duckbills probably grazed like buffalo’s, some horned dino’s probably sliced off tall leaves and fronds.

C9  Plants and dinosaurs evolved together, but not in a friendly manner.  Plants evolved to discourage being eaten.  They developed poisons, thorns, tissues hardened with cellulose, silica, and phytoliths, and began bearing new leaves in the spring.  Flowering plants (angiosperms) originated at the beginning of the Cretaceous just as the low feeding dinosaurs were replacing the high feeders.  Flowering plants could reproduce quickly after the land was ravaged by dinosaurs.

C10  The early (American) discoverers of large dinosaurs (diplococus) mounted tem with vertical legs.  Later mounters, led by the Germans, portrayed them with sprawling legs like alligators and lizards.  The evidence from joints and fossil footprints shows that their legs were vertical.  Many other lines of evidence support this and suggest that many dinosaurs were swift and powerful runners.

C11  Many plant eating dinosaurs evolved fantastic defense weapons like tail spikes and clubs, body armor with spikes, bony heads, head and neck spikes and big horned beaks.

C12  Other dinosaurs developed whiplike tails, sharp teeth in big jaws, and sharp claws.

C13  A lengthy discussion of the many types of flying dinosaurs.

C14  Archaeopteryx, Hesperornis, and other feathered toothed birds were originally described as descendents of dinosaurs.  Then in 1925 it was pointed out that the bird collarbones (wishbone) were more like early reptile collarbones than dinosaur collarbones.  In 1964 it was discovered that a 200 lb. Dinosaur had feet and joints remarkably similar to modern birds (the hoatzin especially) and archaeopteryx.  Recently the discovery of suppressor genes would seem to answer the problems of the collar bone discrepancy.

C15  Many lines of evidence support the hypothesis that many of the strange shapes of animals, all the way from early amphibians to the most recent mammals, are strongly effected by reproductive or sexual displays and head butting.

C16  The cold-blooded lifestyle of amphibians and reptiles is very efficient but slow, warm-blooded is inefficient, perhaps requiring 10 times as much energy (food) but produces a very rapid growh.  Evidence such as growth rings in teeth and bones and Hoversian canals supports warm-bloodedness in dinosaurs.  Humans and other primates are a notable exception to this.  Big brains take a lot of energy and time to mature.

C17  Dinosaur hearts and lungs (based on chest size) were very large and suited for warm-blooded life.  Brain size of dinosaurs was similar to modern mammals and birds and was slowly enlarging.  Brains evidently evolved very slowly, primates being a major exception.

C18  Predator to prey ratios (based on body mass):  Modern cold-blooded animals (spiders) and early reptiles have ratios around 25%, early proto-mammals and crimson croc’s (relatives of early dinosaurs) had ratios had ratios around 10%.  Later dinosaurs and mammals have ratios between 1% and 5%, depending on conditions.  Walking speed of dinosaurs is comparable to modern mammals and much higher than reptiles.

C19  Fast (warm-blooded) metabolism yields fast evolution.  Dinosaurs and mammals species usually last only 5 million years before extinction.  Reptile species last 30 million years or longer.

C20  4 great megadynasties have populated the land.  1 - primitive reptiles and amphibians, 2 – proto-mammals, 3 – dinosaurs, and 4 – true mammals.  The crimson croc’s outcompeted the proto mammals leaving only small sized ecological niches open.  When the true dinosaurs out competed the crimson croc dynasty, the mammals remained as small creatures until the dinosaurs died off about 65 mya.

C21  Why did the dinosaurs die off?  There are many possibilities, climate changes, mountain building – destruction, new plants, insects, mammals volcanoes, comet, supernova, death star, etc.  Bakker belives (c. 1985) that as land bridges opened up and migrations occurred, many species became extinct.  As shallow seas contracted the same thing happened.  This reduced the total number of species, which makes the entire ecosystem more fragile.  Any disastrous event, volcanoes, bacterial pandemic, meteor, etc. is much more likely to destroy major parts of the ecosystem causing a weakened population to become extinct.

C22  A minor rant about naming conventions regarding dinosaurs.  I say minor because at least for me it is obvious that in light of new advances in data analysis and genetics, our entire scientific nomenclature in biology needs to be revised and this is a continuing process.  In contrast to this you can’t go around changing the names every year or so.  That is to wasteful in users new names and the continual process of trying to discover what are the “right” relationships between species, etc.  It should be understood that this is an ongoing process, it is subjective, and there will never be a final answer.  We should just do it periodically, accept the answers, and agree to come back in 10-15-20 years and do it over again with our new knowledge.

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The World We Live In    Lincoln Barnett and the Life Editorial Staff

A book version of the series, The World We Live In, that appeared in Life magazine from Dec. 8, 1952 through Dec. 20, 1954.  It consists of 13 chapters: The Earth is Born, The Miracle of the Sea, The Face of the Land, The Canopy of Air, The Pageant of Life, The Age of Mammals, Creatures of the Sea, The Coral Reef, The Land of the Sun, The Arctic Barrens, The Rain Forest, The Woods of Home, and The Starry Universe.  A good book, wonderful illustrations, it has held up very well, being over 50 years old.  Many areas are quite dated but it is still worth reading and looking at the pictures.  Unfortunately it is only 300 pages long.  My interest was in the plants and animals of 50 mya, it probably would have needed 6,000 pages to get everything in.

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The Meme Machine   Susan Blackmore

Forward   A long section by Richard Dawkins

C1  Strange Creatures  What makes humans different from other animals?  “The thesis of this is that what makes us different is our ability to imitate.”  What is this thing that is imitated, both Blackmore and Dawkins would call this a meme.  A workable definition of a meme is that it is a unit of imitation.  A couple of personal comments:  Memes spread by Lamarkian evolution, memes evolve much faster than genes, memes have a higher incidence of propogation errors, and meme evolution is a much stronger influence on human existence than gene evolution since the last Ice Age.  The idea of a meme is slowly becoming accepted in general culture but it is still meeting a lot of resistence in the academic community.  It is meeting the same sort of resistance that the solar centric theory and evolution did in their early years.

C2  Universal Darwinism
  A brief review of evolution, comparison between genes and memes, relationship between them and computer viruses.

C3  The Evolution of Culture  A short review of prior theories that have attempted to explain the spread of culture.  They all seem to be precursors to the idea of the meme.

C4  Taking the Meme’s Eye View  The brain is always active.  The weed theory, an unused mind is a fertile plowed field and memes will quckly take root and grow.   Classical conditioning and Skinnerian learning are not memetic.   Memes are created in new minds by imitation and are contageous.
C5  Three problems with memes  We cannot specify the unit of a meme, we do not know the mechanism for copying and storing memes, and memetic evolution is ‘Lamarkian’.  The terminology surrounding this area is still in flux.

C6  The big brain  Why do humans have such a huge brain?  A brief review of the evidence for the evolution of the brain over the last 6my and some of the theories of why the size of the brain has increased.  Her question, did memes drive brain size.  She presents some evidence but admits that evidence will be hard to come by.

C7  The origins of language  Talking is energy intensive, why do we talk to much?  Memes are selected on the basis of their survival, not how much energy is consumed.  Memes must have been involved in the creation of language.

C8  Meme-gene coevolution  What is language for?  Her first proposal is that it was primarily for increasing social  interaction, for gossip.

C9  The limits of sociobiology  Gene-gene interactions and meme-gene interactions and how they define form and behavior.  Early psychological theories were  of the “tabula rosa” type.  Later theories stress the importance of “built in” abilitlies.  Once genetic evolution created the capability for memetic imitation then 1) memetic selection, 2) genetic selection for memetic abilities, and 3) genetic selection for mating with the best imitators.  Memes and genes act in concert to increase survivability.

C10  Sex 1  Sexual selection, vertical transmission of genes.
C11  Sex 2  Memetic selection and horizontal transmission of memes
C12  A memetic theory of alturism  There is a good mathematical basis of the genetic theory of altruism.  Memetic selection augments this theory.

C13  The altruism trick  Memes increase social connectivity, group survival is increased by group connectivity.  Considerable discussion of different aspects of altruistic activities.

C14  Memes of the new age  Relationships between memes and various new age belief systems.  Young humans come equipped with credualism built in.  They will believe almost anything.  Memes enter easily and without evaluation, the same occurs with many people who “willl believe anything”.

C15  Religions as memeplexes  The more popular religions of the world are composed of many interrelated memes.  Many of these are empiricaly beneficial for people living in groups.  Examples of how memes have been incorporated within religions.  Religious memes have played an important role in the creation of societies.  There is evidence to suggest that a tendency towards religious belief is inherited.  Memes that emphasice in-group behavior can cause neighboring groups to diverge and if there is some selection encountered then one group may prosper or fail compared to the other group, a group selection may occur.  Science is a set of methods for trying to distinguish true memes from false memes.  Religion tends to build theories about the world and then preventing them from being tested.

C16  Into the internet  Are papers, books, fax, internet, etc. examples of spreading memes?  She thinks so.  How writing and other forms of communication dramatically increased the spread of memes.  The advantages of copying the instructions instead of the product, just like genes do it.  Why the World Wide Web is such a perfect medium for meme expansion.

C17  The Ultimate Memeplex  Who or what am I?  Descarte came up with “I think, therefore I am”.  Unfortunately we have not yet been able to come up with the thinking part.  Many other more recent authors haven’t been able to do much better.  The best we can come up with seems to be somewhere in the brain.  She suggests that self is a large collection of our memes, we could call it a selfplex.  Memes survive because they all mutually support each other in the selfplex.  An all for one response.

C18  Out of the meme race  She tries to explain just what the self is.  She considers such things as free will, consciousness, creativity, and human foresight.  How can we relieve ourselves of the tyranny of our collecive memes?  She tries to explain this process but there is no straight forward algorithm.

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The Web of Life  Fritjof Capra

A somewhat old book, published in 1996 and definitely out of the main stream.

C1  Deep Ecology  Science is undergoing a paradigm shift.  Science grew up with the determinism of Copernicus, Newton, and Descartes.  Now it is moving into an era of quantum mechanics, ecology, and statistical laws.  He makes a distinction between Shallow Ecology - anthropocentric use of the natural world and Deep Ecology - a network of interconnected and interdependent objects including humans.  I had previously thought that the difference was self interest and ecology.

C2  From the parts to the whole  Capra traces the major highlights from the history of scientific philosophy.  He discusses cartesian mechanism, romanticism, nineteenth-century mechanism, vialism, organismic biology, systems thinking, quantum physics, gestalt psychology, and ecology.

C3 Systems Theories  Key elements of systems thinking:  the shift from parts to the whole, ability to shift back and forth between systems levels, emergent properties, the world is a network of relationships, most knowledge is composed of successive approximations, and thinking in terms of process.  A Russian, Alexander Bugdanov, developed a general systems theory which he called Tektology.  It was published betweem 1912 and 1917 in Russia and republished in Germany in 1928.  Can you imagine someone having a better sense of timing and place?  Ludwig von Bertalanffy published his General System Theory in 1968.  Most modern systems thinking dates from this book.

C4  The Logic of the Mind  The term Cybernetics was first used by Norbert Wiener.  John von Nermann was another early contributer.  Some of the first terms were feedback (especially negative feedback), homeostasis, and information theory.

C5  Models of Self-Organization  Terms used in this chapter include systems analysis, cost-benefit analysis, systems dynamics, molecular biology, and networks.  Others are the creation of novel structures and forms of behavior, open systems acting far from equilibrium, nonlinear interconnectedness, Humberto Maturana's term Autopoiesis, for self making, James Lovelock's term Gaia, for the earth as a self-regulating system.  This term, Gaia, has received much criticism because of its use of the name of a Greek goddess and the mistaken idea that the proposal was implying that the earty was a teleological or self-aware organism.  Lovelock was later joined in theorizing by Lynn Margulis.  The early whole earth models of Daisyworld.

C6  The Mathematics of Complexity  Some of the names used for this are systems dynamics and dynamic systems theory.  Early mathematics was defined by geometry, later algebra became more important.  Calculus was invented by both Newton and Leibniz.  By the time we get to James Clerk Maxwell and his laws of gasses these exact methods cannot be used and statistical laws must be used.  Both of these techniques, deterministic for the analytical methods and statistical for complex systems, use linear equations.  Often the phenomena were not ameanable to analysis and so the equations were linearized.  Once many of the simpler problems were solved it was realized that the underlying reality was non-linear.  In efforts to attack these problems new non-linear methods were developed.  Some of the new terms are feedback, iterations, Chaos Theory, Fractal Geometry, and complex numbers.

C7   New Synthesis  The three criteria of living systems:  a pattern of organization, a structure, and a life process.  He discusses these with respect to a plant cell

C8  Dissipative Structures  Bertalanffy used the phrase, flowing balance, to describe life processes.  A typical food cycle is described.  Some of the follow-on terms are nonequilibrium and nonlinearity, irreversable processes, order and disorder, and points of instability.  Notice all the negative definitions.

C9  Self-Making  He discusses cellular automata (the game of life?), binary networks, and bounces around a number of other concepts.

C10  The Unfolding of Life  Brief discussions of Lamark, Darwin, Mendel, and neo-darwinism.  Is puncuated equilibria a new concept or a straight-forward application of evolution?  He covers some of the major facts and problems surrounding the existence of life on earth over the last 4 billion years.  He breaks the timeline down into three ages: Prebiotic age, 4.5 bya from the formation of the earth through 3.8 bya with the formation of the first carbon-based compounds, catalytic loops, and membranes.  Microcosm, 3.5 bya with the first cell or cell-like organisms until 1.5 bya with the establishment of the essentially modern atmosphere and earth surface.  There is some fossil evidence of cellular organisms at this stage.  Macrocosm, 1.2 bya with the first cells or organisms exhibiting locomotion and sexual reproduction until the present day.  He goes into more details with the evolution of plants and animals starting at 700 mya and the evolution of humans starting about 4 mya.

C11  Bringing Forth a World  A recap with a few added comments.  He calls it "the emerging theory of living systems".

C12  Knowing That We Know  Communication, language, consciousness, these are some of the continuing problems.

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Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed   Jared Diamond

If you read Guns, Germs, and Steel you know how many of our successful cultures became successful – and who they stepped on along the way.  This is sort of the other half of the story.  This book tells how a number of cultures managed to kill themselves off – or at least give it the old college try.  It also describes how several cultures, when faced with many of the same problems as their contemporaries managed to survive.  

Causes of Collapse

Four Possibly Contributing Factors
  1. Environmental Damage
  2. Climate Change
  3. Hostile Neighbors
  4. Friendly Trade Partners
One always significant factor

The societies response to the contributing factors

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The Third Chimpanzee   Jared Diamond

C1  Three Chimps  It has long been known that humans, the apes, and monkeys were closely related.  Molecular DNA dating starting in the 1980’s, has fairly well pinned down the family tree.  About 30 mya old world monkeys split off from the original primate stock.  About 20 mya the gibbons split off.  They later divided into two groups about 10 mya.  The orangutans split off about 15 mya.  The gorillas split from the chimp group about 10 mya.  Humans split from the chimp group about 5-7 mya and the chimps separated into common and pigmy (bonobo?) about 2 to 3 mya.  Next question, “How should we treat chimps (and gorillas)?”  Are there any valid and consistent ethical and logical reasons why chimps should (should not) be subjected to medical experimentation, etc.  Somewhere between bacteria and humans we need to decide where killing becomes murder and eating becomes canabalism.

C2  The Great Leap Forward  Starting about 6 mya, human ancestors split from the chimp line.  There were a number of intermediaries and side branches culminating in the Neanderthal about 150-130 kya.  Neanderthals can be characterized as “making a few primitive stone tools in a very accomplished manner”.  Anatomically modern humans first appeared about 100 kya but no evidence of new tool making appeared until about 40 kya with the Cro-Magnon.  At this time advanced tool making and other signs of human culture started appearing and spreading.

C3  Human Sexuality  Human children mature slowly, they require extended parental support.  Humans have the largest penises and breasts, chimps have the largest testes, gorillas and orangutans have the smallest penises, testes, and breasts.  Why do humans have sex privately?  He lists six theories.

C4  Adultry  In the 1940’s, a scientist was exploring the genetics of blood groups, sampled blood groups in newborns and parents.  He found that about 10% of all babies born were the fruits of adultry.  The actual amount of adultry was almost certainly higher as DNA and many other blood group factors hadn’t been discovered yet and other men who matched the reputed fathers blood group would not have been caught.  Other studies have shown rates of 5% to 30%.  Why do “married” people/animals seek or avoid adultry?  Benefits (costs) vary between species and between sexes within a species.  In humans, men are less selective in taking casual partners than women.  Typically adultry laws are much more punative towards women than men.

C5  Choosing mates and sex partners  Humans tend to choose mates/partners who are similar to their parents/siblings.  There is also evidence that if children are raised together up to 6 or 7 years old they will not choose each other as sex partners, the incest taboo.

C6  Sexual Selection and Human Races  Diamond agrees with Darwin.  Human races were created primarily due to sexual selection.  There is a gradient, dark races in warm areas and lighter races in cold areas, but there are enough counter examples to demonstrate that this is not a causal relationship.

C7  Why do we age and die?  The Neanderthal life span was about 40 years, Cro-Magnon was 60 years or more.  Adult life span in the US is about 78 for men and 83 for women.  It is basically a cost-benefit calculation.  It costs to build and maintain a long lasting machine.  The benefits of long life is measured by the evolutionary criterion of survival of descendants.  The requirement here is that we must first bear and then raise children.  Humans (alone) have hit upon a strategy of utilizing grandparents to assist in the raising and educating of grandchildren.  To aid in this human females have menopause around the time that grandchildren are being born.  This does not happen to males because childbirth is not a threat to their health.  Presumably assisting in the raising of great-grandchildren is not that useful.

C8  Language  Many anaimals vocalize.  The vervets of East Africa have at least 10 recognizable calls for dangerous predators and other significant events.  More “advanced” apes such as chimps have not been studied in depth because of technical and financial problems.  Captive chimps have learned over 200 symbols and understand (but not speak) a good deal of spoken English.  There is no evidence of syntax in monkey, chimp, etc.  All existing or written human languages are equally complex.

A pidgin is a language used by 2 (or more) groups to speak with each other while both (or more) groups retain their own languages to use within their group.  They remain at this level while only adults of each group speak it.  When a pidgin is spoken by members of the next generation using it as their primary language it turns into a creole.  Pidgins are very simple, often the more powerful group furnishes more of the vocabulary, and have difficulty in expressing complex ideas or complex grammar.  Creoles are more complex and have fairly regular grammar.  Most have a subject-verb-object order.  Some think that this is a genetically determined order.

C9  Art  Art can be observed in many species.  A female bower bird knows that if male is strong enough to build a bower and smart enough to arrange the materials in a pleasing manner to her, he would make a good mate.  “The parallel between bowerbirds and humans may be even closer, if as friends of mine who are into sports cars assure me, duller young men tend to decorate themselves with fancier sports cars.”  Art is widespread in nature and it confers benefits of increasing reproductive success.

C10  Agriculture  Agriculture is a mixed blessing.  You can get more calories out of an acre of soil but you have to put in more work.  The Kalahari Desert Bushmen spent only 12 to 19 hours per week on gathering food.  They averaged 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, utilizing 85 wild plants.  Skeletal remains of late Ice Age hunter-gathers in Greece and Turkey averaged 5’10” for men and 5’6” for women.  By 4000 BC it was 5’3” for men and 5’1” for women.  Corn arrived in Illinois and Ohio about 1000 AD.  Before this there was less than 1 cavity in the adult mouth, after this there was about 7, tooth loss and abcesses were rampant.  Enamel defects in milk teeth imply that pregnant and nursing women were malnurished.  Anemia quadrupled in frequency, TB became established as an endemic, 1/2 the population had yaws or syphilis, and 2/3 had osteoarthritis and other degenerative diseases.  Before 1000 AD 5% survived past 50, afterwards only 1% survived past 50.

1/5 of the population died between 1 and 4.  Why?  1) Hunter-gatherers have enough proteins, vitamins, and minerals while farmers have mostly carbos.  2) Hunter-gatherers use up to 150 sources of food, farmers depend on only 1 or 2 species.  A local crop failure can cause starvation.  3)  Most infectious diseases and parasites can only become established in dense sedentary populations with poor sanitation.  Farming also created class divisions and exacerbated sexual inequality.  With farming, art and armies became institutionalized.  With farming, the elite became healthier, the people became sicker.  Sedentary farmers can produce a child every 2 years, hunter-gatherers must wait at least 4 years.

C11  Smoking, drink, drugs  The use of smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs may be seen as behavior designed to perform dangerous acts to demonstrate physical superiority.  Perhaps similar to bowerbirds and birds of paradise.  They persist because of chemical addiction.

C12  Alone  What is the liklihood that we are alone.  A discussion of the Green Bank Formula (the Drake equation?).    He then discusses woodpeckers.  It would seem that “woodpeckering” has evolved only once in the history of the earth.  (Observation:  eyes have evolved between 40 and 60 times.)  These last two chapters are not well focused.

C13  First Contact  Most animals occur only in fairly small habitat areas, not humans.  While humans ranged over the entire earth, until recently travel was probably difficult because tribal identification may have made travel beyond normal tribal boundaries dangerous.  This resulting isolation generated experiments in language and lifestyle that may have had advantages that we are losing with the “westernization” of the world.

C14  Conquerors  Why were some people (cultures) more successful than others in developing civilizations and conquering other peoples.  The main reason is the accidental availability of domesticatable plants and animals and ease of geographical movement of these species to surrounding areas.  A precursor to “Guns, Germs, and Steel”.

C15  Language  A description of language spread.  Mainly how Proto-Indo-European.  PIE originated and spread through Europe and the Mediteranian and eastern Asia.

C16  Race Relations - Genocide  A brief survey of our sorry history of the last 500 years.  Includes a few examples before 1492 and some animal parallels.

C17  Golden Ages  A quick tour of a number of mass extinction events around the recent world.  There is extremely good evidence that humans cause the extinction of numerous groups of animals (and plants) in many locations around the world.  Many of these were caused when humans moved into an area for the first time.  Other causal agents are centralized governments whose leaders are remote and do not have first hand knowledge of the environment and the fact that some environments are more fragile than others and degrade much faster.  At least many of these people had the excuse that they were preliterate and could not read about similar events in the past.  We no longer have this excuse.

C18  Blitzkreig  Diamond compares the arrival of the first humans into the Americas as a Blitzkreig.  Within about 1500 years humans had traveled from NW Canada to the southern tip of South America.  During this period of time 73% of all  their genera of large mammals in North America became extinct and 80% from those in South America.  He does get a little cynical, “ . . . they all chose to drop dead simultaneously at just the right instant to deceive some twentieth-century scientists into blaming Clovis hunters.”  There are many excuses why the “noble savages” did not cause these extinctions, he doesn’t believe any of them.

C19 The Second Cloud  Before the 1950’s no one ever had grounds to worry about whether the next human generation would survive.  Nuclear weapons made that worry become real.  Now we have a new factor to consider, environmental catastrophy.  In recent years the number of plant and animal extinctions has been growing exponentially.  There are four main mechanisms: overhunting, species introduction, habitat destruction, and ripple effects.  So far we have been able to compensate by using other species, soon this will become impossible.

Epilogue  A brief review of the book.  It’s fairly depressing.  However even a country as corrupt and poor as Indonesia is beginning to see the advantages in preserving the environment.  The book ends with a very good reading list,  In 2005 it is a little dated but it is still a good start.

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Darwin  -  Discovering the Tree of Life    Niles Eldredge

C1  Charles Darwin  Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln - Both were born on Feb. 12, 1809, both detested slavery, both are on popular bills (Lincon on the 5 dollar bill, Darwin on the 10-pound note) and both remain as important figures almost 200 years after their birth.  Eldredge devotes the first 11 pages to describing why Darwin remains so important to us today.  The remainder of the chapter is a brief biographical sketch of his life.

C2  Darwin on the Sandwalk  In 1836 Darwin returned to England on the Beagle, between 1837 and 1842 he developed most of his theory of evolution.  In 1842 he moved to a new home, called Down House and retired to a life of writing.  The Sandwalk was a path that he had constructed where he took his almost daily walks and thought.  Between 1842 and 1858 he worked on many publications and very gradually worked on preparing a book on his evolutionary theories.  In June of 1858 he received a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace which contained many of his ideas.  Darwin dropped his slow preparation of his massive book, published a paper with Wallace which outlined the theory, and published his much smaller Origin of Species in 1859.  

C3  Darwin's Evolution: Issues, Contexts, and the Red and Transmutation Notebooks  A discussion of many of the concepts and issues involved in evolution.  Darwin was very much a creationist when he set sail on the Beagle.  Over the years of the voyage he gradually came to realize that evolution had occurred.  Shortly after he returned he began writing a series of notebooks laying out his ideas on evolution.  He showed them to no one other than a few close friends and his wife.  He gave her instructions and money to have them published on the event that he died before they were formally published.  He describes the notebooks in rather excruciating detail.

C4  Darwin's Evolution:  The Manuscripts and Books  In 1842 Darwin wrote a Sketch (of 42 pages in a later printed edition) which puts together many of the ideas contained in the notebooks.  In 1844 he wrote a much longer Essay (of 164 pages in a later printed edition) expanding greatly on the Sketch.  He did no more work on this subject until the middle 1850's when he started work on a much longer book, entitled Natural Selection, which he never finished.  Not much changed with Origin until the 6th edition in 1872 and the only major new work on evolution was his Decent of Man in 1871.

C5  Evolution after Darwin  Some people accepted evolution immediatly but many never did.  It wasn't until a new generation arose that there was general acceptance.  Eldredge goes on to list the various branches of science that created supporting documentation for evolution.  These are:  Comparative Anatomy and Systematics, Paleontology, Embryology, Ecololgy, Micro-Biogeography, and Modern Genetics.

C6  Darwin as Anti-Christ:  Creationism in the Twenty-first Century  In 1809, creationism was the dogma of the Church of England and very few disagreed.  The new sciences of Astronomy, Physics, and Chemistry were making inroads on the thought of churches but nothing had changed with the biological sciences.  Most mainstream Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish people have no problems with the concept of evolution.  Almost all of the opposition comes from fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants who insist on blind acceptance of their version of what the Bible says.  Eldredge briefly discusses creationism and refutes their arguments.  He then discusses Intelligent Design, compares it to the old concept of William Paley, the blind watchmaker, and refutes their arguments.  He concludes with a bibliography and index.

An interesting book filled with many pictures and illustrations, many taken from Darwin's original works and other contemporary sources.

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The Fossils of Florissant   Herbert W. Meyer

Intro  The Florissant fossil beds in Colorado are one of the best preserved records of life in the Americas of 34 million years ago.

C1  The fossil beds were discovered in the 1860's and soon became a tourist attraction, unfortunately many of the larger petrified trees were destroyed by collectors.  The first scientific study was the Hayden Survey which arrived in 1873.  The first paleological study was started in 1877.  Over the years there have been many studies and commercial ventures.  A part was designated as a National Monument in 1969.

C2  Geology  The bedrock is the Pikes Peak Granite, 1.04 billion years old.  By about 37 mya it had uplifted and eroded down to a low relief landscape.  Shortly therafter volcanic activity started and much of the area was covered by pyroclastic flows.  About 35 mya the Guffey volcano formed beside the Florissant valley and repeated mud flows created periodic lakes and then buried them.  Several of these events created the Florissant fossil beds.

C3  Reconstructing the Ecosystem  Florissant of 34 mya was an upland site with many modern species, a few extinct species, and some that are only found in isolated spots in the world like the tsetse fly, sequoia, golden-rain tree, etc.  There were many flowering trees and shrubs more suited to the mild, damp climate.  The estimates of the rainfall were 50-80 cm and mean temp of 11-13 deg C with a dry season (current rain is 38 cm and temp of 4 deg C).  The Florissant beds record species while the temperature was lowering and drying out.  Earlier fossils in the west were from warmer wetter times and later were from colder dryer periods.  Elevation also plays a major role.  He discusses insect damage and distrobution of species with respect to the deposition of material which will become fossils.

C4  Plants  The fossil redwood stumps at Florissant are among the largest ever found.  Many trees have been found, including broad leaved varieties and conifers, many pines.  Some of the species found include: sequoia, golden-rain tree, locust, elm, cypress, fir, spruce, pine, yew, oregon grape, beech, oak, birch, hickory, willow, poplar, mulberry, hops (marijuana family), grapes, currant, rose family, ocean spray, apple, prune, blackberry, legumes, hydrangea, elderberry, cattails, water lily, and palm.

C5 Invertebrates  Spiders, millipedes, dragonfly, grasshopper, katydid, cricket, mantis, cockroaches, termites, earwigs, water strider, beetles, crane fly, bee fly, hover fly, moth, butterfly, bee, ant.

C6  Vertebrates  opossum, fish, birds (plover?), mammals.

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Prehistoric Mammals     Alan Turner, illustrated by Maurico Antón

A nice coffee table book if you want your guests to get lost in a book or get frustrated because they would rather be looking at it instead of visiting.  After some introductory pages the book is organized by order and family with many omissions because of space.  Each entry is described briefly and one or two species are described in more detail including when the species existed.  More than half of the book is taken up with illustrations including in some cases photos of existing fossil skeletons.  My only real problem with the book is that I wanted to see the origin of each entry and how the group diverged and spread through time and space and when the orders and families became extinct (perhaps even some speculation as to why).  What is your problem with another 6,000 page book?

 Just for reference for those who haven't retained the full Linnaeus classification scheme using the lion as an example.
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The Protein Power Lifeplan     Michael and Mary Dan  Eades, MDs

This book and its predecessor (Protein Power) are somewhat controversial.  I can’t claim any scientific knowledge that I can cite to prove their conclusions are either true or not true.  I have only one fact that I can cite.  For many years I have been an EMT with volunteer ambulance groups.  One of the most feared calls is when you are called to the residence of a neighbor and friend.  One night I got one of these calls, shortness of breath, crushing chest pain, pallor, sweating:  classic symptoms of a heart attack.  Luckily he was able to come home, although that was about the last time he was able to hold down a full time job.  After several years, a couple more heart attacks, and multiple heart surgeries his cardiologist finally came out and told him, “Jim, I have done just about everything I can, the next time I will be bringing flowers to your funeral.  About the only thing I can say is that you need to read and follow the advice given in this book”.  The cardiologist handed Jim a copy of Protein Power by the Eades.  That was about 15 years ago.  Jim and his wife have since built a new house, are again moving, and thoroughly enjoying life as an ex-cardiac patient.  Sort of convinced me.

This is going to be longer than most because I want a reference to many of the details.  

This is a considerably different book than their earlier book, Protein Power.  There is much less emphasis on food preparation and specific foods and more emphasis on the scientific basis of human nutrition.  In other words, less picky details and more general knowledge.  They break their nutritional plan into three general levels.

Chapter 1  Straw Men:

The Chinese have very little cardiovascular disease because they eat very little fat and protein and lots of carbos.  Fact:  Chinese and US males have almost the same levels of cardiovascular disease.  Chinese females have higher death rates than US females.  Chinese female deaths are mostly by stroke, US females mostly from heart attacks.

Low fat – high carb (complex or not) diets are good for you.  Fact:  Between 1958 and 1993, the percent of fat in the US has gone down from 42% to 35% and the percent of overweight people has gone up from 23% to 34%.  I doubt that the trends have ceased.  Walter Willett, MD, PhD, Chair, Harvard School of Public Health, “Low fat has been like a religion.  But it was just a hypothesis to begin with.”

The Spanish Paradox (Amer. J. Clinical Nutrition 61-6[June 1955] p 1351s-1359s)  Over a period of 25 years, roughly between l970 and 1995 the Spanish reduced their bread, fruit and vegetables, and olive oil consumption.  The increased their consumption of dairy products and meat.  Contrary to the normal expectations, the rates of death from heart disease declined dramatically.  Since the results did not meet the researchers expectation, they analyzed the results on a region by region basis.  Again they found that the regions with the highest levels of meat consumption had the greatest declines in rates of death from heart disease.

Our human ancestors were vegetarian hunter-gatherers whose meat consisted mainly of small amounts scavenged from the kills of large carnivores.  Fact:  There are many types of evidence that shows that our ancestors hunted and ate large amounts of meat.  The earliest known evidence dates back at least 2.6 million years.  Of course our ancestors also ate a large variety of fruits and nuts.

A major, and often quoted, paper published in 1968 stated that hunter-gatherer societies obtained 65% of their calories from plants and only 35% from animals.  Fact:  Dr. Loren Cordain, Colorado State University, reanalyzed this data and found that only about 1/3 of the raw data was used, calories from shellfish, fish, and small animals were ascribed to the “gathering” or plant related calories.  He then used the most recent available data and came up with a reversed figure of 65% animal based calories and 35% plant based calories.

Interesting Fact:  Cereal grains, like wheat, maize, and barley contain opioid substances called exorphins.  These stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain are to varying degrees addictive.  When you eat grains you are getting just a little bit high.  And you wonder why they are called “comfort” foods.

Chapter 2 Insulin

What are the problems?  The Deadly Quartet, composed of hypertension, diabetes, elevated triglycerides, and obesity.  This should be modified to The Deadly Big Band, because many more problems are now recognized as being related to excess insulin.  Excess insulin contributes to the narrowing of coronary arteries in at least 5 ways.  In determining excess insulin they recommend 1) Fasting insulin level, 2) 2-hour post fast insulin test, and 3) insulin challenge test.  They list 7 methods of reversing insulin resistance with their major recommendation being decreasing carbo intake.

Their recommended dietary supplements are:
Chapter 3 Fats

Types: Saturated (butter, lard, coconut, palm)  monounsaturated (olive oil, avocado, nuts, lard, poultry), polyunsaturated ( 2 or more double bonds, tend to be liquids at room temp, tend to turn rancid upon exposure to air.  Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats are very important.  Our ancestors ate a diet containing an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of about 2/1, the current US diet has a ratio of between 20/1 and 50/1. Omega 6 fatty acids are associated with pain receptors, inflammation, smooth muscle contractions, blood clotting, etc.  Omega 3 fatty acids act as blood thinners, reduce pain, slow cell growth, relax smooth muscle cells, etc.  

Good sources of Omega 3’s are sardines packed in sardine oil or a second choice is packed in olive oil or water.  Carlsons Cod Liver Oil, it has a lemony taste is also good.  Fish oil capsules are also good however they very easily turn rancid.  Rancid fats are quite harmful.

Another type of fat is a trans fat.  These are normal straight chain saturated fats that have been heated with a nickel catalyst.  The result is a straight chain polyunsaturated fat that is solid, has a very long shelf life, and a biochemistry that causes many biological problems.  They lower levels of HDL, raise LDL, decrease testosterone in males, decrease cream in breast milk, weaken the immune response, and increase insulin resistance.  Food manufactures have increased shelf life while reducing human life.  If vegetable oil doesn’t have a dark bottle or doesn’t require refrigeration it has trans fat.  70% of soybean oil has been hydrogenated to a trans fat.

Chapter 4 Cholesterol
(a waxy alcohol)

Subtypes, HDL – High Density Lipoprotein, LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein, IDL – Intermediate Density Lipoprotein, and VLDL – Very Low Density Lipoprotein.  Chemically HDL is scavenged cholesterol plus protein, more and more triglycerides are added for each step in the series from LDL to IDL and then to VLDL.  When they are spun out in a centrifuge the final fraction in this series are individual triglyceride molecules.  Molecules of this series leave the liver as VLDL.  As they travel through the body they drop off triglyceride molecules as fuel.  Then the molecules drop of cholesterol the body cells.  Then they pick up excess cholesterol and deliver it to the liver for recycling or elimination in the bile.  The subtypes can themselves be broken into sub-subtypes.  LDL is essential to proper cell functioning and it only becomes a problem when it is oxidized or caramelized (glycolated) by blood sugar.  The more LDL that is present the more likely that it will become damaged.  Damage can be reduced by keeping blood sugar stable and by eating sufficient antioxidants.

LDL it typically calculated by the Friedenwald equation, LDL = total cholesterol – HDL – triglycerides/5.  Types of LDL, type A (large fluffy particles) and type B (small dense particles).  Type a tends to resist oxidation but type B is prone to oxidation and is prone to enter artery walls creating atherosclerotic plaque.  Low fat, high carbo diets seem to produce type B particles and high fat, low carbo diets seem to produce type A particles, especially in men.  You can directly test for Type A vs. B by using a LDL gradient-gel electrophoresis (LGL-GGE) test.  When the body has excess triglycerides the proportion of type B increases, when triglycerides are low, type A predominates.  The Eades prefer triglycerides lower than 100 mg/dl.  They recommend using a ratio of triglycerides over HDL – See J. Michael Graziene.  The level of Lp(a) should be around 4 mg/dl.  Lp(a) is thought to reduce clot dissolving and it can be reduced by eating saturated fats.

Fibrinogen levels should be low; anything over 335 microM/l is cause for alarm.  Low carbos, moderate alcohol, and exercise can reduce fibrinogen.  They recommend 100 micrograms of B12 to metabolize homocysteine and keep it lower than 10 microM/l.

The “normal” cholesterol vs. death graphs show deaths increasing directly as cholesterol levels rise from 200 mg/dl past 400.   However a more complete database shows that deaths decrease as cholesterol levels rise from 50 to about 200 and then rise above 200.  The best range seems to be in the 160-220 range.  No study has ever shown a direct link between cholesterol level and deaths from heart disease.  If you are taking statin drugs you should take 300 mg of oil based coQ10 every day.

Chapter 5  Antioxidants

Our ancestors ate roughly 100 to 150 different foods.  In the US we typically eat 15 to 25 different foods.  We should eat as many different foods as possible and get most of our antioxidants from them.  Researchers at the Texas Health Sciences Center in San Anntonio found that lipid peroxides, not cholesterol, caused membranes to stiffen as we age.  A lipid peroxide is a rancid fat.  Vitamin E is the best antioxidant for protecting LDL particles.  It seems that some cells in the immune system can immobilize intruders (cancer cells, bacteria, and viruses) and kill them by flooding them with free radicals, then other immune system cells come and consume the dead cells.  If you take too much pure antioxidants you may suppress this effect and allow cancer, bacteria, and viruses to grow unhindered.

The best solution is to eat the raw materials and let your body produce its own antioxidants.

ORAC:  Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity – the ability of a food to absorb oxygen free radicals in a test tube.  Some of the foods highest in ORAC values are prunes, raisins, berries, plus, oranges, grapes (red), cherries, colored veggies, onion, corn, eggplant (table on page 122).  Glutathione should be the most abundant antioxidant in the body.  It can be injected (painful!) but it cannot be taken as a pill as it is broken down during digestion.  However the body can make its own given the proper raw materials such as meat or other animal protein, alpha-lipoic acid, and selenium.  Avoid lipid and cholesterol peroxides.  These are produced when egg yolks are heated in air, such as scrambled eggs and powdered eggs.  Occasionally is OK – just not too often.  Avoid excessive exercise without periods of rest and recuperation.  The nutritional supplements that the Eades recommend are:
Chapter 6  Leaky Gut and related problems

Many of us are gluten intolerant to lessor or greater degree.  Approximately 2/3 of the immune-defense activity occurs in the intestinal tract.  This is essential because of the large amount of harmful material that we ingest, fecal material, bacteria, viruses, poisons, etc.  Many plants, including grains, contain toxins and other substances that are produced to protect the plant from animals that eat the plant, for example, us.  Cooking destroys some of these toxins but not all.  Often wen you ingest more starch and sugar than can be digested in the small intestine, these pass along to the colon in an undigested state.  The resident bacteria there break this undigested starch and sugar into alcohols and gas and this material is forced back into the small intestine where the material damages the intestinal lining.  Sort of a “heartburn of the small intestine.”  This inflammation can permanently sensitize the body to some of the plant proteins that have remained undigested.  The immune system “remembers” these proteins and unfortunately some proteins found in the human body are very similar to these “remembered” plant proteins.  Many serious autoimmune diseases can result from this.  Some examples are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, type I diabetes, MS, etc.

Chapter 7  Sweets

In 1900 the US ate approximately 2 lbs. of sugar per person per year, in 1970 it was 126 lbs./person/year, and in 1993 it was 150 lbs./person/year.  Compare this to the rise in obesity and diabetes.  White powders are addictive and bad for your health (sugar, flour, crystalline fructose, cocaine, and heroin).  All carbos are sugars.  Complex carbos are just several sugars linked together.

Glycemic Index.  How quickly and how much various sugars and carbos raise the blood sugar level.  It takes no account of other foods in the diet, nutritional values, or ripeness.  Also foods containing fructose are misleading because fructose does not stay in the blood very long, it passes directly into the cells of the body.  Fructose also causes insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and reacts with some bodily proteins to form a substance similar to caramel.

Artificial sweeteners:  Most are probably OK in moderation.  Not aspartame, it has the capability to kill certain brain cells, especially in the hippocampal area, which is involved in memory.  Aspartame should never be used.

Chapter 8  Iron

Iron is absolutely essential for living organisms.  One of the strategies that many animals (including humans) use to fight infections (rapidly growing cells such as bacteria, virus, cancer, or parasites) is to pull iron out of circulation and hide it away so that these cells cannot access the iron in the body.  A tragic consequence of this is the giving of iron to underfed and disease ridden people (mainly children) in third world countries who apparently are suffering from iron-deficiency anemia.  The standard treatment is iron injections.  If this is done before the infections are cleared up the excess iron can allow the bacteria and parasites to multiply rapidly and cause an overwhelming infection that is often life threatening.  Iron is a double-edged sword.  We need it to live but in excess it can be deadly.

Iron is a very powerful pro-oxidant.  Iron is stored in the body inside of ferritin molecules.  When blood flow ceased for a while, as in a heart attack, stroke, or the application of a tourniquet, cells (and ferritin molecules) break down and the contained iron – a free radical – damages the surrounding tissurs.  This is called reperfusion injury.  It can be deadly.

There are sources of evidence that many conditions and products that protect against heart disease are associated with reduction of bodily iron.  As a pro-oxidant, iron can cause the type of DNA damage that results in cancer.  Then the excess iron allows cancer cells to multiply rapidly.  Iron may be stored in and cause problems with the thyroid, pancreas, gonads, and pituitary.

The Eades recommended test for iron levels in the body is a serum ferritin test.  The recommended ferritin level is between 10 and 50 micrograms per liter.

Chapter 9  Magnesium

The Eades estimate that our ancestors consumed between 800 and 1,500 mg of magnesium per day, for a calcium to magnesium ratio of about 1/1.  The current US diet has a calcium to magnesium ratio of between 1/5 and 1/15.  They recommend that most people take a magnesium supplement of 300 to 600 mg/day of magnesium as a malate, citrate, or aspartate.

Chapter 10  Sunshine

Sunlight converts cholesterol in skin cells to a precursor of Vitamin D, which is then converted in several steps to active Vitamin D. They recommend that you sunbathe until your skin just starts to get pink, when it feels warm and tingly.  Do not let your skin burn.

Chapter 11  Brains

Fathead is a compliment.  More than 60% of the brain is composed of a variety of fats.  For good brain function you need a diet rich in fats, especially omega-3 and cholesterol.  Mental exercise and continued learning are also very good for you.

Chapter 12  Exercise

They recommend stretching every morning and before exercise.  They also suggest brief sessions of high intensity exercise of varying types (cross training) followed by periods of relaxation and possibly meditation.  They recommend against long hours of workouts.

Chapter 13  Nutrition Plan

This chapter is filled with tables of protein requirements, protein portions, fats to use and not use, carbo portions and content, carbo intake guidelines, food selection guidelines, and vitamin and mineral contents of foods.  It cannot be summarized.

Chapter 14  Handy supplies and other practical things

They list items to be kept in the pantry, the freezer, and in the fridge.  They have cooking and meal preparation tips, lunches, snacks, dinners, salads, salad dressings, and soups.

1 specific recipe:  Punch
1/2 cup each of frozen blueberries, raspberries, and sliced strawberries
1/2 to 1 cup water
1 tsp. Honey (optional)
Process in blender until smooth and thick
Yield:  2 portions, each with 7.5 g of carbos

Chapter 15  Sample menus and foods


Recommended Stretches  and Exercises

Stretches  (hold means maintain position for up to 30 seconds max and breathe)


Begin at a slow pace (jog, walk) until you are warmed up, then sprint for 10 to 30 seconds, return to slow pace.  Repeat up to 5-6 times, stop, stretch by bending at waist and reach for ground.  Slowly build up stamina until you can sprint for 1-minute periods.


Stand relaxed, arms at sides, swinging your arms up leap as high as you can.  Repeat for 3 to 5 leaps.  Rest for 30 seconds, 3 – 5 more leaps.  Repeat the leaping – rest cycle  4 or 5 times.  Stretch by reaching for sky and then reach for toes.


Stand relaxed; jump forward as far as you can, landing on right foot, quickly jump again landing on left foot.  Jump about 6 times, landing 3 times on the right foot and 3 times on the left.  Rest about 30 seconds and repeat.  Perform the same set of 6 jumps and a rest about 4 times.

Moving Weights
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