DiscoverNew Books in Science, Technology, and Society
New Books in Science, Technology, and Society
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New Books in Science, Technology, and Society

Author: Marshall Poe

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Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books
512 Episodes
Matthew James talks about the 1905 Galapagos Expedition organized by the California Academy of Sciences. James is a professor of geology at Sonoma State University. He is the author of Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin (Oxford University Press, 2017).In 1905, eight men from the California Academy of Sciences set sail from San Francisco for a scientific collection expedition in the Galapagos Islands, and by the time they were finished in 1906, they had completed one of the most important expeditions in the history of both evolutionary and conservation science. These scientists collected over 78,000 specimens during their time on the islands, validating the work of Charles Darwin and laying the groundwork for foundational evolution texts like Darwin's Finches. Despite its significance, almost nothing has been written on this voyage, lost amongst discussion of Darwin's trip on the Beagle and the writing of David Lack.Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Cars promise freedom, autonomy, and above all, movement but leave whole cities stuck in traffic, breathing polluted air, exposed of deadly crashes, and dependent on vast the vast infrastructures of road networks, and oil production. Postcolonial Automobility: Car Culture in West Africa (University of Minnesota Press, 2019) examines the paradoxes and ambivalences of automobility through the lens of West African films, novels, plays, and poems. From the melodramas of Nollywood to the socialist realism of Ousmane Semebene, African artists have delved into the pleasures and anxieties of the road to theorize capitalist development, globalization, patriarchy, and the ethics of accumulation. In this episode of New Books in Anthropology, Lindsey Green-Simms joins host Jacob Doherty to discuss how West African entrepreneurs appropriated colonial technologies, how stalled cars embodied the crises of structural adjustment, and what new, feminist, mobilities and imaginaries emerge from the pages, screens, and stages of West African popular and literary culture.Lindsey Green-Simms is an associate professor of Literature at American University with a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Minnesota. She specializes in post-colonial film and literature with particular emphasis on issues of gender, sexuality, globalization, and mobility. Her work has appeared in Transition, Journal of African Cinemas, Camera Obscura, and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. She is currently working on a project on African queer cinema.Jacob Doherty is a research associate in urban mobility at the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford, and, most recently, the co-editor Labor Laid Waste, a special issue of International Labor and Working Class History.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this episode of New Books in Buddhist Studies, I am joined by Daniel Veidlinger to discuss his exciting new book From Indra’s Net to Internet: Communication, Technology, and the Evolution of Buddhist Ideas (University of Hawaii Press, 2018), which offers a theoretically compelling exploration of the types communicative “ecosystems” in which Buddhist ideas have flourished throughout history. Drawing inspiration from evolutionary biology and media theory, Veidlinger’s book begins by isolating some particular traits that were unique to (or at least most well-developed in) early Buddhism, and then tracing how these traits were particular well-suited for transmission in two specific historical, cultural, and communicative contexts: namely, communities in early India and along the Silk Road in the first centuries of the Common Era. His book concludes with a lengthy exploration of the ways that the Internet Age represents a third such epoch, and propounds the provocative theory that the technological, discursive and affective aspects of internet use can make frequent users more receptive to Buddhist ideas. Given this contemporary focus, we conclude our interview by considering the way(s) that Veidlinger’s theory can accommodate, and even respond to, the fact that the internet has also been used to foment hatred and divisiveness in the last three years of American history.Christopher Jensen teaches Buddhism and Chinese Religions at Carleton University. He can be reached at: christopher.jensen@carleton.caLearn more about your ad choices. Visit
For all of his fame as one of the seminal figures of the Industrial Revolution, James Watt is a person around whom many misconceptions congregate. In The Life and Legend of James Watt: Collaboration, Natural Philosophy, and the Improvement of the Steam Engine (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), David Philip Miller separates the man from the myth by detailing his numerous accomplishments and showing how the misconceptions formed. The son of a Scottish ships’ chandler, Watt demonstrated interest in both mathematics and technology at an early age. Trained in London as an instrument maker, Watt progressed into civil engineering after his return to Glasgow before turning his attention to improving the efficiency of the steam engines then in existence. His famous innovations proved enormously successful, and Watt’s development of the enhanced engines in partnership with Matthew Boulton made him wealthy enough to devote more time to scientific experimentation. As Miller demonstrates, many of Watt’s achievements were the product of collaboration rather than of a lone genius, a fact that was overshadowed by Watt’s growing reputation in his later years and the veneration of his memory after his death in 1819.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Once upon a time, or so we’ve been told, medical ethics were confined to the patient-doctor relationship. As long as doctors were true to their Hippocratic oaths, as long as they acted with compassion and wisdom, then all expectations were met.Life is more complicated today, and so is healthcare: an undertaking, like all others, that is influenced by social, political, legal and cultural factors.Nothing is value-free.In Bioethics and Biopolitics in Israel: Socio-legal, Political and Empirical Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Professor Shai Lavi and his colleagues have produced a groundbreaking work that offers a novel understanding of Israeli bioethics. It is a milestone in the comparative literature of bioethics.Bringing together a range of experts, the book's interdisciplinary structure employs a contemporary, sociopolitical-oriented approach to bioethics issues, with an emphasis on empirical analysis, that will appeal not only to scholars of bioethics, but also to students of law, medicine, humanities, and social sciences around the world. Its focus on the development of bioethics in Israel serves as a template for cross-cultural and transcultural research into the moral, ethical, political and social aspects of bioethics.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Andrew Wright Hurley talks about the life and afterlife of the Prussian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, a man whose reputation has shifted to reflect the changing cultures of Australia and Germany over the past 160 years. Hurley is an associate professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney. He’s the author of Ludwig Leichhardt’s Ghosts: The Strange Career of a Traveling Myth (Camden House, 2018).After the renowned Prussian scientist and explorer Ludwig Leichhardt left the Australian frontier in 1848 on an expedition to cross the continent, he disappeared without a trace. Andrew Hurley's book complicates that view by undertaking an afterlife biography of "the Humboldt of Australia." Although Leichhardt's remains were never located, he has been sought and textually "found" many times over, particularly in Australia and Germany. He remains a significant presence, a highly productive ghost who continues to "haunt" culture.Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The clerk attended his desk and counter at the intersection of two great themes of modern historical experience: the development of a market economy and of a society governed from below. Who better illustrates the daily practice and production of this modernity than someone of no particular account assigned with overseeing all the new buying and selling? In Accounting for Capitalism: The World the Clerk Made (U Chicago Press, 2018), Michael Zakim has written their story, a social history of capital that seeks to explain how the “bottom line” became a synonym for truth in an age shorn of absolutes, grafted onto our very sense of reason and trust.This is a big story, told through an ostensibly marginal event: the birth of a class of “merchant clerks” in the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. The personal trajectory of these young men from farm to metropolis, homestead to boarding house, and, most significantly, from growing things to selling them exemplified the enormous social effort required to domesticate the profit motive and turn it into the practical foundation of civic life. As Zakim reveals in his highly original study, there was nothing natural or preordained about the stunning ascendance of this capitalism and its radical transformation of the relationship between “Man and Mammon.”Lukas Rieppel teaches history at Brown University. His new book, Assembling the Dinosaur, has recently been published by Harvard University press. You can find him online at or on twitter @lrieppel. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Video games are a significant part of popular entertainment in the twenty-first century. From Words with Friends to Grand Theft Auto, most people spend at least some of their leisure time with video games. In his book, Unlimited Replays: Video Games and Classical Music (Oxford University Press, 2018), William Gibbons examines the intersection between video games and classical music. From close readings of the scores of specific games to an analysis of games with characters related to classical music, Gibbons asks what happens when highbrow art meets lowbrow entertainment. Often classical music enhances the visual and storytelling elements of a game by sonically marking characters or situations as wealthy or sophisticated, as also happens in film and TV scores. Gibbons finds unexpected connections and layering of signification as video game scores exploit musical references from sources as far flung as Stanley Kubrick’s films to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin. He ends the book with an account of how orchestras are trying to use the immense popularity of gaming to raise money and attract new audiences by playing concerts of video game music.William Gibbons is an associate professor of musicology and Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Texas Christian University. His research centers on how canonical classical music repertoires function outside their initial time of compositions. In addition to his first book, Building the Operatic Music (University of Rochester Press), he has published numerous journal articles including in American Music, 19th-Century Music Review, and Opera Quarterly, and has co-edited a volume on video game music published in 2014 and another forthcoming later this year both from Routledge Press.Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Stefan Al, PhD, is a native of the Netherlands, a low-lying county that would not exist without flood protection, is an architect, urban designer, and infrastructure expert at global design at Kohn Pedersen Fox in New York. He has served as a TED resident, advisor to the United Nations High Level Political Forum on sustainable development and Professor of urban design at the University of Pennsylvania.Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise: Green and Gray Strategies(Island Press, 2018) is a tool kit for adapting and managing sea level rise and storm events for metropolitan cities and smaller communities. It’s a “how to” guide to create better comprehensive strategies and ideas for implementation. The beautiful and simple diagrams illustrate the difference responses possible for cities and the pros and cons of each. The book makes the argument that collaboration is the key to finding successful solutions for all stakeholders.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In 1978, doctors in Denver, Colorado observed several healthy children who suddenly and mysteriously developed a serious, life-threatening illness with no visible source. Their condition, which doctors dubbed ‘toxic shock syndrome’ (TSS) was rare, but observed with increasing frequency over the next few years in young women, and was soon learned to be associated with a bacterium and the use of high-absorbency tampons that had only recently gone on the market. In 1980, the Centers for Disease Control identified Rely tampons, produced by Procter & Gamble, as having the greatest association with TSS over every other tampon, and the company withdrew them from the market. To this day, however, women are frequently warned about contracting TSS through tampon use, even though very few cases are diagnosed each year.Historian Sharra Vostral’s Toxic Shock: A Social History (NYU Press, 2018) is the first and definitive history of TSS. Vostral shows how commercial interests negatively affected women’s health outcomes; the insufficient testing of the first super-absorbency tampon; how TSS became a ‘women’s disease,’ for which women must constantly monitor their own bodies. Further, Vostral discusses the awkward, veiled and vague ways public health officials and the media discussed the risks of contracting TSS through tampon use because of social taboos around discussing menstruation, and how this has hampered regulatory actions and health communication around TSS, tampon use, and product safety.A study at the intersection of public health and social history, Toxic Shock brings to light the complexities behind a stigmatized and under-discussed issue in women’s reproductive health. Importantly, Vostral warns that as we move forward with more and more joint replacements, implants, and internal medical devices, we must understand the relationship of technology to bacteria and recognize that both can be active agents within the human body. In other words, unexpected consequences and risks of bacteria and technology interacting with each other remain.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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