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From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond

When did the “silent deeps” become cacophonous and galaxies begin to swim in a sea of cosmic noise? Why do we think that noises have colors and that colors can be loud? How loud is too loud, and says who? Attending, as ears do, to a surround of sounds at once physical and political, Hillel Schwartz listens across millennia for changes in the Western experience and understanding of noise.

A Landscape History of New England takes a view of New England’s landscapes that goes beyond picture postcard-ready vistas of white-steepled churches, open pastures, and tree-covered mountains. Its chapters describe, for example, the Native American presence in the Maine Woods; offer a history of agriculture told through stone walls, woodlands, and farm buildings; report on the fragile ecology of tourist-friendly Cape Cod beaches; and reveal the ethnic stereotypes informing Colonial Revivalism.

Diseases and Economic Development

In Parasites, Pathogens, and Progress, Robert McGuire and Philip Coelho integrate biological and economic perspectives into an explanation of the historical development of humanity and the economy, paying particular attention to the American experience, its history and development. In their path-breaking examination of the impact of population growth and parasitic diseases, they contend that interpretations of history that minimize or ignore the physical environment are incomplete or wrong.

Israeli Intellectuals and the Nationalist Myth

The idea of the Jewish nation was conceived before the organization of the Zionist movement in the nineteenth century and continued long after the creation of the state of Israel. In The Words and the Land, post-Zionist Israeli historian Shlomo Sand examines how both Jewish and Israeli intellectuals contributed to this process. One by one, he identifies and calls into question the foundation myths of the Israeli state, beginning with the myth of a people forcibly uprooted, a people-race that began to wander the world in search of a land of asylum.

An Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe

In the period between 1150 and 1550, an increasing number of Christians in western Europe made pilgrimage to places where material objects—among them paintings, statues, relics, pieces of wood, earth, stones, and Eucharistic wafers—allegedly erupted into life by such activities as bleeding, weeping, and walking about. Challenging Christians both to seek ever more frequent encounter with miraculous matter and to turn to an inward piety that rejected material objects of devotion, such phenomena were by the fifteenth century at the heart of religious practice and polemic.

Fashioning Apollo

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface in July of 1969, they wore spacesuits made by Playtex: twenty-one layers of fabric, each with a distinct yet interrelated function, custom-sewn for them by seamstresses whose usual work was fashioning bras and girdles. This book is the story of those spacesuits. It is a story of the triumph over the military-industrial complex by the International Latex Corporation, best known by its consumer brand of "Playtex"—a victory of elegant softness over engineered hardness, of adaptation over cybernetics.

A History of Modern Aurality

Hearing has traditionally been regarded as the second sense—as somehow less rational and less modern than the first sense, sight. Reason and Resonance explodes this myth by reconstructing the process through which the ear came to play a central role in modern culture and rationality.

Reproduction and Human Agency in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900

This pioneering study reconceptualizes the impact of social organizations, economic conditions, and human agency on human reproduction in preindustrial communities in Europe and Asia. Unlike previous studies, in which Asia is measured by European standards, Prudence and Pressure develops a Eurasian perspective.

A History of Blackouts in America

Where were you when the lights went out? At home during a thunderstorm? Preparing for an air attack during World War II? During the Great Northeastern Blackout of 1965? In New York City during a similar but more frightening blackout in 1977? In California when rolling blackouts hit in 2000? In 2003, when a cascading power failure left fifty million people without electricity? We often remember vividly our time in the dark.

America’s post–Cold War strategic dominance and its pre-recession affluence inspired pundits to make celebratory comparisons to ancient Rome at its most powerful. Now, with America no longer perceived as invulnerable, engaged in protracted fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, comparisons are to the bloated, decadent, ineffectual later Empire. In Why America Is Not a New Rome, Vaclav Smil looks at these comparisons in detail, going deeper than the facile analogy-making of talk shows and glossy magazine articles.

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