The Vision Revolution

Primates are set apart from most mammals in their greater reliance on vision and a correspondingly reduced sense of smell. This trait is so extreme in humans that nearly half of our oversized brains are dedicated to processing visual information. As Mark Changizi explains in the introduction to The Vision Revolution, the visual system is perhaps the best-understood part of the human brain -- but, while researchers have mapped out how, few have provided satisfactory explanations for why we see the world the way we do. As a theoretical neuroscientist, Changizi focuses on why humans have evolved such visual "superpowers" as color vision and binocularity. His answers are surprising, overturning theories that have dominated primatology since the 1970s. For example, Changizi argues that (despite what many textbooks say) color vision did not evolve to help our arboreal ancestors locate fruit in the jungle canopy but rather to help them read the social cues found in subtle changes in skin tone. (Or not so subtle, if you think of a baboon's behind.) Readers, however, need not be well versed in academic debates to enjoy Changizi's lucid explanations. Filled with optical illusions and simple experiments for the reader to perform, this book may be the most fun you'll have learning about human cognition and evolution.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.