Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


You Review: How to Make a Human Being – Christopher Potter

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Reviewed by David Young

How to Make a Human Being has to be the most interesting and challenging book I’ve ever reviewed. No information about the author (I discover he is a publisher with a well-received “pop science” book to his name) or an introduction explaining the purpose of the book – no, the reader is plunged straight into the famous 18th century “Materialism” versus “Idealism” controversy stimulated by Bishop Berkeley. And it doesn’t get less challenging….

The book is divided into 3 sections: the first covers our physical environment (cosmology, physics, mathematics, philosophy), the second where we come from (genetics, psychology, more philosophy) and the third how we relate to the world around us (psychology, neurology, sociology). The author is an amazingly well-read polymath, but he wears his learning very lightly and is capable of explaining highly complex topics in a very comprehensible fashion – this is the nearest I’ve ever come to understanding Quantum Mechanics, for instance.

I recommend reading this book in small chunks, as every chapter is really full of meaty stuff which needs some absorbing. On the plus side the author occasionally drops in a delightful insight of his own which will certainly make you think, and there are some nuggets with which you can impress your dinner party guests (did you know that humans share 50% of their genes with bananas?).

Overall Christopher Potter has succeeded in presenting a remarkably comprehensive summary of the Human Condition, one from which I learnt a great deal and will return to in the future with enormous pleasure.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Pulitzer Prize Winners 2014

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Congratulation to everyone who won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize last night!  The full list can be found here; the winners in the Letters and Drama categories are:

Fiction: The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt *
Drama: The Flick – Annie Baker
History:  The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 – Alan Taylor
Biography or Autobiography:  Margaret Fuller: A New American Life – Megan Marshall
Poetry: 3 Sections – Vijay Seshadri
General Nonfiction: Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation – Dan Fagin

* True story:  I saw my very first goldfinch yesterday morning as I was on a run!  I should have kept running to the nearest bookie, obviously.  :-)  Very pretty and quick bird, and very striking, too.

ABC’s Gift Ideas: Science, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Self-Published Books, Spanish Fiction

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

The gift-giving season is upon us – hooray!

The ABC Staff has rummaged through their sections and order lists, and come up with another year’s worth of wonderful gift ideas for you: from fiction to history to cookbooks to children’s books to travel to non-books and onwards.

In a series of blog posts and recommendation lists throughout the coming month, you will find what we think will make great gifts, whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Christmas or just like giving books to people. And since we’re a bookstore, these posts will be alphabetical by subject. :-)

Today you’ll find gift ideas for Science, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Self-Published Books (on ABC’s Espresso Book Machine) and Spanish Fiction, as picked out by section buyers Tom, Tiemen, JeroenW, Joe and Steven. Bear in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg – come to either one of our stores to browse many, many more titles in any of these subjects.

We are ready as ever to be your personal shoppers again this year, and hope you will find our selections useful and inspiring!

You can find our gift ideas from previous years here (scroll down a bit pas 2013), and be sure to have a look at our ABC Favorites, too.

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Ecocide is the Missing 5th Crime against Peace: An Interview with Polly Higgins

Friday, July 12th, 2013

“Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime against Peace”

- an interview with author and Earth’s Lawyer Polly Higgins by Femke Wijdekop, ABC’s former Consciousness buyer.  She interviewed Polly for AmsterdamFM, and we are very happy to be allowed to share it here with you.

Polly Higgins is an environmental activist, an international lawyer and the award-winning author of Eradicating Ecocide (eBook available here) and Earth is Our Business. In April 2010 she proposed to the United Nations to make Ecocide – the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems in a given territory – the 5th Crime Against Peace. Since that moment, she has been traveling around the world non-stop as “Earth’s Lawyer”, speaking at the International Criminal Court, the European Parliament, World Climate Summits and many other venues. On June 30th she visited Amsterdam to give an Earth Guardian Training organized by Rishis. Polly has also inspired the launch of the European Citizen’s Initiative to End Ecocide, which proposes to make Ecocide a crime in Europe and which needs 1 million signatures before 2014 in order to be tabled by the European Commission.

Polly and I talked on Skype and had a most inspiring conversation about the biggest challenge of our time, Ecocide, her own journey to become a spokeswoman for the rights of the Earth, and how each and everyone of us can be a ‘trim-tab’: a catalyst in the creation of a better world.

You can listen to the entire interview on our SoundCloud account, or via the player at the bottom of the interview.

Seven years ago something happened when you were representing a case at the Royal Courts of Justice in London that completely changed your life. What happened there?

Yes. Well occasionally in our lives we end up at a moment where we come to a junction. I didn’t actually realize that at the time, but I see now looking back, that I had reached one of those junctions in my life. And the challenge was, “which direction was I going to go”. What happened was I found myself at the very end of a three-year long case. And we were literally waiting for judgement – it was judgement day, we were waiting for the judges to return. This was at the Royal Courts of Justice in the center of London at the Court of Appeal, and there was a delay. I found myself looking out of the window, waiting for the judges to come in, thinking about how I had been, for the last three years, the voice on behalf of my client, who had been very badly injured and harmed in the workplace. And I looked out of the window and I thought “you know it’s not just my client that has been badly injured and harmed, so is the Earth. Something needs to be done about that.” And I found myself thinking after that, “The Earth is in need of a good lawyer” (laughs).

It was one of those thoughts that just wouldn’t leave me alone, it stayed with me. And as a barrister, as a court advocate, I was looking for the tools that I could use, the laws, quite literally, that could be used to stop this mass damage and destruction. And it really bothered me, that actually they didn’t exist. The existing environmental laws, as far as I could see, were not fit for purpose. You just have to look at the Amazon, and what’s happening there, to know that. And so I looked around to see what lawyers were creating, the international laws, to stop damage and destruction. I couldn’t find them. It actually came back to me and I realized then that maybe I need to put my head to this. Which is precisely what I did (laughs).

The most important thing that came out of your research into ways to defend the rights of the Earth, was the concept of Ecocide. What is Ecocide?

Ecocide is a word that has been around since the 1970s. I didn’t actually know that at that time – I subsequently found that out. What I have done is, I’ve given a legal definition to it. So I basically created a legislative framework in which we can prosecute those who have caused mass damage and destruction to a lot of ecosystems. But there’s more than that. It’s about creating a legal duty of care, and that’s very important here. Because it’s not just human-caused ecocide, largely corporate ecocide, but it’s also about creating a legal duty of care on those who are in positions of what is known in international criminal law as a position of superior responsibility. So those who made the decisions at the very top end, that can have an adverse impact on many millions of people – and not just people, but other inhabitants of ecosystems, too. We are widening our ambit of concern here. It’s not just human engagement, but also non-human engagement. We are imposing a legal duty of care on those who must make decisions that do not cause mass damage and destruction. We have to draw a line somewhere, and say ‘no longer can we do this’, because the often unintended consequences of such business decisions have huge adverse impacts, way into the future.

In Eradicating Ecocide you say that Law has caused the problem of the massive environmental damage and destruction we’re seeing. How has Law caused the problem, and how can a Law of Ecocide now be the solution to the problem?

The irony is that we have created laws over time without looking to the consequences. It is the law for a CEO and directors to put the interest of their shareholders first. Which means maximizing profits for big transnational corporations. This has become a real problem. It is fine when you start out small, but when your operations become so large that they have huge unintended consequences, and those companies are hidebound by those laws that insist that profits are put first, then we have really a huge problem on our hands, where you externalize or actually just ignore the consequences. When profit is the number one driver, it means that communities aren’t actually looked after.

So the Law of Ecocide is legislation that will actually assist corporations – this is really about making the problem into the solution! Corporations actually work very well with international legislative frameworks because they have very sure indicators of what you can and cannot do, and it also means that they can finance their change in policy and gain subsidies from government to create the innovation in the other direction. So this is very much about creating the green economy, but also about creating resilient long term economies as well. And creating jobs, and preventing resource-wars. So you could say it’s just a win-win all round. The environment benefits, humanity benefits and business benefits.

You say that Laws can be “Consciousness Shaping Tools” because Laws can trigger a change in mindset and change the ruling paradigm. Can you give a historical example of a Law that has done just that?

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Gift Ideas: Philosophy, Science, Business, Social Science

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Let us be your personal shoppers!

ABC’s booksellers don’t just sell books: as well as being voracious readers, almost all ABC staff members are personally responsible for buying the books for one or more sections in the stores. That means you’ll always find someone who can put exactly the right book in your hands when you need it. We asked our buyers for their tips for the best gifts for the upcoming holiday season, and they came up with some great ones: new books, classic books, magazines, games, merchandise, and stationery.

Today you’ll find gift ideas for Philosophy, Business, Science, and Social Science as supplied by Ester, Tom, Sigrid, Jouke, Agnes, Martijn, Jeroen and Femke.

Even more gift ideas can be found here and here!

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