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Guns, Germs and Steel Review
NewsPosted by Hemos on Sunday May 03, @07:12AM
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
reviewed by hemos

Chosen by Phi Beta Kappa as their science book of the year, Jared Diamond's take on world history has an unique point of view. Rather then looking at technology and society from the traditional mindset, he redirects it, effectively choosing to look at the rise of civilization from the point of view of some rather unlikely folks--like those of the New Guinea, amongst others. These basic frame shift greatly alters and upsets some of the basic assumptions that Western history has based itself on.

One of the most interesting portions of the book is its' postulation about why the West and East diverged, and what each respective area's advantage was. A large portion of the argument is that it was actually the West's ability to resist disease and infection that gave the West much of its' strength. An odd argument, considering that it was the East that had actually achieved urbanization earlier, but he does a credible job of defending his argument. As while, Diamond also considers one of the West's main advantages being diversity: diversity of geography, and hence of plants, lfe, resources--the whole thing. The advantage of Eurasia shows in the ability to grow more grain, support more people-who are more resistant to disease, and that the geography is better suited to communication and the spread of ideas.

The book obviously has some weight to it, considering the endorsements it has gained from groups like Phi Beta Kappa. It also does have some innovative arguments, ones that will stimulate and cause debate. If a bit overwhemingly, he does this area of study a service by focusing completly on provable scientific phenomena, beyond the theorizing that this particular field has often been victim to. Check it out at Amazon.

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In 1991, future coverstar Linus Torvalds released a little kernel which has ended up working in synchrony with GNU utilities and various other software projects to live happily on millions of computers worldwide. Read about the beginnings of the Linux kernel peppered with anecdotes about growing up Finnish, straight from the horse's mouth, with Linus's book Just For Fun, coauthored by David Diamond. This makes a lighthearted companion piece to the slighly-more-serious effort from Pekka Himanen, The Hacker Ethic.

On the (wacky, speculative) Science Fiction front, you may enjoy Hemos' reviews of Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time.

And for your more serious moments, we've run reviews lately of the sobering Hack Attacks Revealed and the very informative Digital Copyright by noted authority in the field Jessica Litman. There's also the hard-to-categorize work from Ian Stewart called Flatterland, a modern update to the classic Flatland.

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Update: 6/08 12:39 by timothy

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