A note from Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler on the landmark publication of the 2nd edition of Birds of New Guinea

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BIRDS OF PARADISE, ASTRAPIAS. Copyrighted material from Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler (Princeton University Press)

Twenty-eight years have passed since publication of the first edition of Birds of New Guinea. In that time, big changes have taken place in this important bird region. The human population has more than doubled, economic development—particularly mining and logging—has accelerated, and the loss of habitat has increased proportionately. On the brighter side, vast tracts of wilderness remain, several international conservation organizations have joined forces with local governments to protect the forest, birding as a form of ecotourism has blossomed, and a new generation of field researchers has taken to the bush. Exciting new information on bird distribution and biology has poured in. And as if to heighten appreciation for New Guinea’s avifauna, modern molecular systematic research has revolutionized the classification of birds and pinpointed New Guinea and Australia as the motherland of the world’s most prominent bird lineage, the songbirds (oscine passerines). In light of these changes, a new edition of Birds of New Guinea is timely.

A book must suit the purposes of the people using it. In many parts of the world—Australia, Europe, North America—field guides to birds are written mainly for birders (bird-watchers). These books focus solely on how to identify birds to species, how to tell the age and sex of a bird, and how and where to find it. Readers wishing to learn more about birds can turn to other books for information on bird natural history, ecology, reproduction, evolution, geographic variation, classification, and conservation. Unfortunately, much of this information on New Guinea birds can be found only in technical literature that is not readily available.

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DOLLARBIRD, BEE-EATERS, AND LARGE KINGFISHERS. Copyrighted material from Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler (Princeton University Press)

It is our wish that readers in the field have more basic information at their fingertips. In the new edition of Birds of New Guinea, we have expanded the content of the species accounts to include more biological details—behavior, diet, nesting—than are typically covered in a field guide. As for the identification purpose of the book, we have also expanded the species accounts in this second edition to explain how to determine the sex and age of a bird, and how geographic variation is partitioned into subspecies (races). To accomplish all this, we have adopted a “handbook-style” format for the book. Rather than fitting all the information opposite the painted plates—the format typical of most recent field guides—our book presents detailed species accounts in the body of the book separate from the illustrations in the front, with abridged species accounts and maps facing the plates. We hope this additional information will be of use to birders, tour guides, biologists, and conservationists who enjoy New Guinea birds and strive to learn more about them.

Expanding the scope of the book demanded new artwork, and for that we drew up a plate plan that more than doubled the number of figures and resulted in replacing nearly all original artwork. The resulting book is as beautiful as it is informative, and we hope readers are as delighted with it as we are.


This text has been adapted from the preface of Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler.

Princeton at Heffers Bookshop

Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge (UK) is looking very “Princeton” right now. Heffers, which has been selling books in Cambridge for over 130 years, is currently displaying 7 “subject bays” of Princeton books: Economics, History, Maths, Natural History, Philosophy, Politics, and Popular Science. With 20 titles on offer per bay (and 20% off all Princeton titles), there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Princeton at Heffers_1

This display  will remain at Heffers well into October, so do pop in if you’re in the area.

Princeton at Heffers_3

Book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox


Princeton University Press senior designer Jason Alejandro created this book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox. (The catchy song in the background is the aptly named “Weekend in the City” by Silent Partner.)

8-7 Atlas of Cities Atlas of Cities
Edited by Paul Knox

 

This is how you survive the zombie apocalypse

Williams College math professor Colin Adams risks life and limb to record these survival guide videos. Ready your gear–armor, baseball bat, calculus textbook–and prepare for the onslaught.

Part 1: Why we can’t quite finish the zombies off.

Part 2: Escaping zombies in hot pursuit.

Credit: PBS’s NOVA and director Ari Daniel.
 


bookjacket Zombies and Calculus
Colin Adams

10 facts about penguins that will make you wish you were one of them

JacketIn case you haven’t noticed, penguins have become a cultural phenomenon in recent years. From “March of the Penguins” with Morgan Freeman’s narration, to Happy Feet, Surfs Up, and their respective sequels, penguins are as captivating as ever. (I myself adopted a penguin for a year from the Philadelphia Zoo) And let’s face it, being a human can be overrated and sometimes it’s fun to just imagine what life would be like as another specie. Here are 10 facts about penguins from Tui De Roy’s, Mark Jones’s, and Julie Cornthwaite’s new book Penguins: The Ultimate Guide that will make you wish you were one of them.

Pg. 173

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide, Pg. 173

 

1.    Penguins are exceptionally fast swimmers, clocking in at 22mph. Michael Phelps, in comparison, swims at just under 4.5 mph.

2.    Have you ever opened your eyes underwater and felt the sting of the salt or chlorine? Penguins haven’t! Clear nicitating membranes serve as see-through underwater goggles.

3.    Trust issues? Some species of penguins remain monogamous to their mates for more than one season. *Queue “aww”*

4.    Smaller penguin species like the Rockhoppers leave their half-grown chicks huddling together for safety while the grown-ups “grab some grub.” These are called “crèches” and the chicks are supervised by non-breeding penguin neighbors aka baby, or should we say “penguin,” sitters you can trust.

5.    Tired of hearing terrible pick-up lines or getting “poked” on Facebook? Penguins carry out exuberant courtship displays like sky-pointing and “ecstatic greetings.”

6.    They say if you’re ever stranded at sea, don’t drink the water, it’ll only dehydrate you faster, but penguins can process seawater by means of large salt-extracting glands in their foreheads.

 

Pg. 28

Pg. 28

7.    Never play hide and seek with penguins. Their binocular vision is as good as that of owls.

8.    Despite their awkward wobble, Penguins are impressively built. Dual purpose feet allow them to easily walk across wet and slippery surfaces while their surprisingly long (but mostly hidden) legs let them commute several kilometers to their nests.

9.    Wouldn’t you like to live in a world with gender-equality? Penguins do! Males and females rarely show gender differences. In fact, it is the male Emperor Penguin who incubates the egg while the female forages for food.

10.    When it comes to fashion, penguins never have to sacrifice form for function (or the other way around). Their sleek—and chic!—coats consists of around 15 feathers per square centimeter, the densest plumage of any bird.

Do not disturb

Is it really Friday again? Of course, I’m not complaining, but it feels like just yesterday we were reading about one way in which beetles protect themselves from predators. Luckily for us, Arthur V. Evans’ book Beetles of Eastern North America has enough material for Fun Facts Friday to last us a long time.

Beetles have been around for millions of years, so they must be doing something right, right? Actually, they do a lot of things right, and one of those things is mating. As Evans notes, “With relatively short lives that last only weeks or months, most beetles have little time to waste in finding mates.” How do they find mates you ask? Mating behavior varies from specie to specie, but here are two of the most interesting ones.

Biouminescence is described by Evans as “the best-known example of visual communication in beetles…” A whitish, greenish-yellow, or reddish light emanates from many eastern fireflies (Lampyridae) and adult female glowworms (Phengodidae). But what’s arguably stranger than a beetle’s glowing abdomen? How about a male death-watch beetle (Ptinidae) banging its head against the walls of its wooden galleries to “lure females into their tunnels…” (Evans 20) Hey, whatever works.

These are just two examples of beetles’ mating behaviors, but you can discover more about beetle mating, defense mechanisms, and collecting beetles in Evans’ book Beetles of Eastern North America. Hope you enjoyed this week’s Fun Fact Friday and have a great weekend!


 

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Under the knife with a zombie

Why do zombies act the way they do? Why, for instance, are they always looking to bite someone’s face off? Would a Snickers bar make them any less angry or violent? These are just some of the questions Tim Verstynen and Bradley Voytek try to answer in their new book Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain.

In the video above, Verstynen and Voytek explain the nature of the relationship between the brain and emotions, but don’t let the animation and mumbling zombie fool you! These authors provide viewers with a glimpse into the field and history of neuroscience and how studying and stimulating the brain allows us to better understand complicated emotions. If you’re interested in the science behind what makes a zombie a zombie, or if you’re a grad student willing and ready to examine a zombie brain, check out the video as well as the book, Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep.

 


bookjacket Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?
A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain
Timothy Verstynen & Bradley Voytek 


Fun Fact Friday: Hiding in Plain Sight

As my favorite dining hall employee says every Friday, “We made it!” Yes we did, and as a reward for surviving the work week, here’s your Friday fun fact from Arthur V. Evans’s new book Beetles of Eastern North America.

Beetles face a plethora of predators everyday from birds, bats, and rodents to spiders, ants, and even other beetles. In response to the constant threat of being attacked, swooped up in the air, eaten, or all of the above, beetles have developed various ways to protect themselves. The avocado weevil, Heilipus apiatus (Curculionidae), besides having an awesome name, also has a unique way of “hiding” from predators: Bird dropping mimic. These beetles, “which look very much like a bird dropping, are of no interest to predators.” Likewise, “the small, dark, and chunky warty leaf beetles Chlamisus, Exema, and Neochlamisus (Chrysomelidae) hide right out in the open and are often overlooked by predator and collector alike because of their strong resemblance to caterpillar feces.” (Evans 28)

Beetles of Eastern North America, Pg. 28

beetle 2

Pg. 28

 

Hope you enjoyed this weeks Fun Fact Friday from Beetles of Eastern North America and have a great weekend!


 

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

 

10 interesting facts about bees

8-7 Bee BookWhen I was asked to write a post about bees, I felt a lump the size of a honeycomb rise in my throat. I thought to myself,  “Bees? Like the things that ruined my 8th birthday party or every trip I’ve ever taken to Rita’s Ices? Those things?!” Yes, those things, but amazingly enough, after reading through Noah Wilson-Rich’s new book The Bee: A Natural History, I can honestly say my opinion of bees has changed, for the better. Here are 10 interesting facts about bees that will hopefully either solidify your love of these insects or foster a new appreciation for them.

1. Thousands of years ago, bees evolved from carnivores to herbivores. Maybe this explains my initial irrational fear of them!

2. There are over 20,000 species of bees who are classified in nine families and further divided by short, medium, and long tongues.

The Bee: A Natural History, Pg. 67

3. Bees can see ultra violet rays. They see the world primarily in purples and blues.

4. Bees have just ten receptors for taste, but 163 receptors for smell.

5. Honey bees communicate via dancing. The Round dance communicates the nearby presence of food. The Waggle dance is used to communicate the location of a food source more than 165ft away from the hive. The direction, distance, and quality of the food is made known through the Waggle. If a threat is detected near the food, another bee will interrupt the dancing bee with a head-butt.

6. In 2000, honey bees provided an estimated $14.6 billion to the US economy.

Pg. 49

7. Only female bees sting.

8. Queen bees and worker bees share the same genes, the only difference is future queen bees are given extra rations of royal jelly.

9. Bees pollinate over 130 fruits and vegetables.

10. Flowering plants developed attractive, scented, and brightly colored flowers once bees changed their foraging preference from animal protein to a vegetarian lifestyle.

“The numbers are so great the sky itself begins to darken,” an excerpt from The Passenger Pigeon by Errol Fuller

LBP Passenger Pigeon Flock Overhead from Lost Bird Project on Vimeo.

This video puts me in mind of the following excerpt from The Passenger Pigeon by Errol Fuller.

Imagine it is some time early in the nineteenth century. We can pick out any year, it really doesn’t matter. So let us make it 1810. And let us suppose that you, the reader, have hewn from the wilderness a small area of land. Gradually, you have tamed and cultivated it, and now you are enjoying the fruits of season after season of hard work. You grow enough food, and rear enough livestock, to feed your growing family. There is even a surplus with which you can supply the fast-increasing local community.

The scene could be anywhere in the eastern parts of North America, but let us chose a state, just at random. Let us say that you are somewhere in Pennsylvania. It is an afternoon in May, and things are looking good. Perhaps it is too early to say for certain, but the year’s harvest promises to be a splendid one.

You stand in the center of one of your fields recalling with some satisfaction, and not a little pride, the back-breaking effort that you and your family have put in during the bitter winter months and the spring that followed them. As you lean back on your spade you grow conscious of a strange, far-off, almost imperceptible sound, a sound entirely unfamiliar. Unable to decide whether it is a rustle or a buzz, you peer in the direction from which it seems to come. Your gaze passes over the fields to your small orchards, which at last begin to show signs of bearing a decent crop. Then it moves to the forests that surround the farm on all sides, but there is nothing to see; at least there is nothing out of the ordinary. So you turn your attention back to the afternoon’s work, but only for a moment. The noise continues, and it begins to distract you from the job at hand. Although still far off, it is surely getting louder, and now it seems more like a drumming than a buzzing. Louder and louder it becomes, until all your attempts to ignore it and get back to work come to a complete halt. The sound is certainly coming your way and coming fast. No longer does it sound like drumming; now it is more akin to distant thunder, but with this difference: It is a continuous wall of sound rather than something lasting for just a few seconds.

Suddenly, a few birds, pigeons, appear overhead. Your first thought is that they are fleeing before the ever-increasing racket, and you start to feel some alarm. What catastrophe could cause birds to fly so fast in a frantic attempt to escape? Then you realize that this first thought was wrong. More and more pigeons are passing overhead, and you find it is the pigeons themselves that are responsible for the noise. It becomes truly deafening. As more and more and more of them come pouring in, the numbers are so great the sky itself begins to darken. Within a minute or two it is no longer possible to pick out individual birds; the multitude forms one dark, solid block. The sun is blotted out.

The black mass wheels about. It seems to turn as one unit, not as millions of individual creatures. You have never contemplated numbers of this magnitude before. It is a numerical concept beyond your experience or imagination. And the sound! Your eardrums seem ready to burst. Perhaps the ocean roars like this during a hard storm at sea, but you don’t know. You’ve never been aboard an oceangoing vessel. Now something else happens. The great flock has circled and the pigeons are landing on trees in the forest. Those nearer are coming to rest in your orchards. There seems no end to them. More and more are coming in and landing on the overloaded branches, already packed black with squabbling birds. Droppings fall from the sky like big melting snowflakes. Some are falling on your head! A new sound trumpets across the fields, the sound of splitting timber. The weight of the massed pigeons is so great that here and there it is too much for the trees; their branches can no longer take the strain and they crash to the ground.

There is nothing to do now but retreat in despair to the shelter of the house. Fortunately, the roof holds little attraction for the pigeons, and largely speaking they avoid it. After a brief period of inaction you venture out, taking your gun with you. After all, a dozen or so cooked pigeons will provide for the family. The gunshots do nothing to scare off any birds, but at least you have a good evening meal.

Three or four days pass. Then, as suddenly as they came, the pigeons are gone. Vanished. Did they return from whence they came, or have they passed on to new pastures? You don’t know, and you don’t really care.

There are far more important things to worry about. The growing crops are destroyed, the buds are eaten or trampled, the orchards wrecked. It is too late in the year to plant again, and the harvest that promised so much will now be a disaster. There will be little to feed the family and nothing to sell to local people. Nor will there be anything left for the livestock. The well is fouled, and this will mean a long walk to the river to fetch fresh water. The damage the birds have wrought can hardly be measured. An entirely new start will be needed—if, that is, you can survive the next few months and the winter that will follow.


Excerpted from:

bookjacket The Passenger Pigeon
Errol Fuller

Two new exhibits about Albert Einstein on Google Cultural Institute

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Two new, expertly written and illustrated exhibits about Albert Einstein are now available for free on Google Cultural Institute. These archives feature information from the Einstein Papers Project and the Hebrew University archives.

Einstein’s Trip to the Far East and Palestine

In late 1922 and early 1923, Albert Einstein embarked on a five-and-a-half-month trip to the Far East, Palestine, and Spain. In September 1921, Einstein had been invited by the progressive Japanese journal Kaizo to embark on a lecture tour of Japan.   The tour would include a scientific lecture series to be delivered in Tokyo, and six popular lectures to be delivered in several other Japanese cities. An honorarium of 2,000 pounds sterling was offered and accepted.

Einstein’s motivation for accepting the invitation to Japan was threefold: to fulfil his long-term desire to visit the Far East, to enjoy two long sea voyages “far from the madding crowds” and to escape from Berlin for several months in the wake of the recent assassination of Germany’s Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, who had belonged to Einstein’s circle of friends. Rathenau had been gunned down by anti-Semitic right-wing extremists in June 1922 and there was reason to believe that Einstein’s life was also at risk.

Credit: Einstein’s Trip to the Far East and Palestine

Albert Einstein German, Swiss and American?

In a letter to his superiors, the German ambassador, Constantin von Neurath, quotes from a Copenhagen newspaper: „Although a Swiss subject by birth and supposedly of Jewish origin, Einstein’s work is nevertheless an integral part of German research“.

Von Neurath uses this flawed statement with good reason: The  Swiss Jew whom he would rather disregard, unfortunately proves to be one of the few “Germans” welcome abroad.

On April 26, 1920, for example, Albert Einstein was nominated member of the  Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.

The more appreciated Einstein becomes abroad, the greater Germany’s desire to claim him as one of their own.

Credit: Albert Einstein German, Swiss and American?

On the occasion of these exhibits, Diana K. Buchwald of the Einstein Papers Project at California Institute of Technology said, “The Einstein cultural exhibit gives us a splendid glimpse into rare documents and images that tell not only the story of Einstein’s extraordinary voyage to publicize relativity in Japan in 1922, and to lay the cornerstone of the Hebrew University in Palestine in 1923, but also the dramatic trajectory of his entire life, illustrated by his colorful passports that bear testimony to the vagaries of his personal life.”

Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, Former President, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Chair of the Albert Einstein Archives echoed her Buchwald’s enthusiasm noting, “The cooperation between the Google Cultural Institute, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Einstein Papers Project in Caltech has produced two exhibitions exploring two specific topics on Einstein’s life and personality. Thus, Google has provided an arena, accessible to all mankind, which allows the Hebrew University to share with the general public the highlights of one of its most important cultural assets–the Albert Einstein Archives, which shed light on Einstein’s scientific work, public activities and personal life.

Learn more about Princeton University Press’s Einstein-related books, including the print editions of the Einstein Papers Project, here.

 

 

We’re not the only ones obsessed with Zombies

imagesSure, we might not completely understand neuroscience, but knowing it has to do with the scientific study of the nervous system is good enough for most of us. We’re all also familiar with zombies, and I mean, how could we not be? AMC’s hit TV-show “The Walking Dead” has over 13 million viewers and countless zombie-based box office hits such as “Zombieland,” “I Am Legend,” and “World War Z,” suggest that while zombies are not taking over the world just yet, they are capturing our imagination. So what happens when we combine the field of neuroscience with the phenomenon that is “zombies?”

Enter Bradley Voytek, a UC San Diego neuroscientist whose “mutual love of zombies and brains has lead him to formalize the theoretical neuroanatomy of the zombie brain,”  according to the Zombie Research Society.

Wait a minute — zombies have a research society? Yes, it turns out the Zombie Research Society (ZRS) is an organization, founded by Matt Mogk, that dedicates itself to the “historic, cultural, and scientific study of the living dead.” On its website you will find zombie survival strategies, theories on historical outbreaks, and scientific articles on various subjects such as vaccines and Ebola. There’s even a list of the top 10 safest countries to live in during a world-wide zombie outbreak. (The US ranks 3rd just behind Canada and Australia)

Keen-eyed readers will also discover that Bradley Voytek is on the advisory board of the ZRS and that he will soon publish Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain, a popular science book that references zombie popular culture to help answer neuroscientific questions regarding brain function during sleep, the nature of sensory perception, and much more. You can sample some of this unique book here.

This is not the first zombie book we have published, nor will it be the last. You may wish to check out our other undead titles below.


 

bookjacket Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?
A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain
Timothy Verstynen & Bradley Voytek
bookjacket Zombies and Calculus
Colin Adams
bookjacket Zombie Economics:
How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us
John Quiggin
bookjacket Theories of International Politics and Zombies
Daniel W. Drezner