Book Review – The Dragons of Eden

Until now, my coverage of Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden has been on a chapter to chapter basis presented in the “Read Along” section of the blog. As mentioned in my last post,  I will be scrapping this in favor of exclusive reviews on selective books I wish to discuss, henceforth. So, without further delay, let’s bring the curtains down on The Dragons of Eden.

Carl Sagan, noted astronomer, science communicator, and author of The Dragons of Eden.

The premise of the book is clearly stated in the subtitle: “Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.” Sagan wishes to explore the various facets of human intelligence by calling to motion a simple question: why are humans, humans? He attempts to investigate, in what has been a shared effort by the academic community, a conclusive answer to this question from a purely scientific viewpoint while entertaining “occasional excursions into myths, ancient and modern.” The title of the book supports Sagan’s approach in a compilation of ideas on the “unexpected aptness” of various different myths when compared to scientific theories.

Beginning with time immemorial at the Big Bang, we ride the waves of time flowing toward the current epoch of human civilization. Human evolution is often described in the form of a metaphor, an “abstraction of beasts,” as Sagan uses various comparative arguments to build the foundation of his work in the earlier chapters, particularly in Chapter 2 – Genes and Brains (which I provided a full summary of in the Read Along), before settling into the pivotal point of his work which focuses on the evolution of human intelligence in the subsequent chapters describing the characteristics of the human brain and its evolutionary growth.

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Very old are we men; our dreams re tales told in dim Eden… – Walter De La Mare “All That’s Past”

Following the footsteps of his predecessor in Jacob Bronowski, whose work in The Ascent of Man is an account of how human beings and human brains evolved, Sagan has presented his own unique approach to the same subject in his book.  While we don’t necessarily discover an absolute answer on the origin of human intelligence, Sagan’s book is nevertheless an exhilarating journey that offers his insight into the brains of man and beast, the plethora of recent discoveries in science supporting the theory of human evolution, and most interestingly how they serve to be the function of our most familiar myths, and legends. 

Sagan’s work doesn’t end there. His arguments and words serve as microphone toward the need for intellectual rigor, and a rejection of the absent skepticism prevalent in modern-day society. Altogether, The Dragons of Eden is an excellent book that talks about all kinds of things, from the reasons for sleeping and dreaming to the definition of death in what is a fascinating and delightfully short compendium of knowledge that should be read by everyone alike. Sagan was an influential science communicator (one of my favorites), if not one of the best; his works are well worth the effort of reading for anyone interested with or without a scientific background.

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A New Adventure…

I was hoping to have this post up last weekend but unfortunately, I couldn’t get down to it. As a good friend of mine would often say,

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On the heels of a cumulative three-year journey of writing and publishing my second book A Little Bit Of Everything, as well as the completion of my Masters degree and transition to my doctoral studies, it was inevitable that at some point I was going to burn out. That is indeed what happened over the last two weeks where I got lost on the path of life, all the while feeling apathetic on just about everything.

Thankfully enough, a refreshing long-weekend trip to the nearby dino-town of Drumheller followed by a boat load of procrastination mixed in with a vicious cycle of apartment shopping, movies, anime, and Age of Empires have got me back on track. All of which leads me back to where I’m right now.

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I’m up for a long haul of work over the next four to five years comprising my doctoral studies. Being one to never look too far ahead into the future, for now, I intend to begin my grand plans on expanding this blog. While I’m still juggling various ideas on how to organize the content that I post on this blog (for example, I intend to scrape the idea of  “Read Along With Me” exclusively in favor of book reviews), as well as setting up an author page, I will begin with going back to my regular routines of posts as usual.

For this week, I would like to lay down the hatchet by completing what has been a long overdue review of Carl Sagan’s Dragons of Eden. This will be followed by a discussion of my experiences with Amazon Kindle, and self-publishing. For those among my readers who aspire to become independent writers in their own stead, I’m hoping to share the resources I have used to find a measure of success in independent publishing.

The posts will be out by this weekend. Meanwhile, I will be continuing to run promotions on A Little Bit Of Everything, while setting the stage for the next triad of writing projects I have planned to develop over the course of my PhD studies. For all my readers who have had a chance to read my book, I really hope you enjoyed it.

I will see you all very soon with my next post!

Get your e-book signed!

Hi everyone,

Just a quick update!

My book sales have going quite well so far, and I’m really thankful to all of my readers who jumped on the opportunity to get a free copy of the e-book version available on Kindle. Do spread the word to your friends! While the free sale may have ended, the book is still available on Kindle and Paperback via Amazon (Amazon.Com; also available on .ca/.uk/.de/.fr/.es/.it/.jp/.nl/.br/.mx/.in/.au/) and my Createspace E-store at ALBOECreatespace.

I also made a small change on the blog. I’ve set up an Authorgraph widget on the right-hand side corner of the webpage (located right above the Calendar).

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Authorgraph makes it possible for authors to sign e-books for their readers. Just click on the link and it should take you to Authorgraph, where you can search or browse my books.

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You should find something like this once you get to the website. “Locke” is my pseudonym, as well as my Twitter handle.

You can then click “Request Authorgraph” for your selection, and if you would like, include a short message to me, so you can get your e-book signed! You will receive an email once I have signed your Authorgraph.

I will be posting more updates on further sales and promotions to come in the near future. I have been quite busy hitting a small bump of writer’s block as well as getting ready for the start of a new school year as I begin my PhD. But do not fear, come this weekend, I shall soon continue with the general regiment of posts (apart from book promotions) planned beforehand.

I hope you are all enjoying the book so far! Do provide a rating on Amazon whenever you get the chance! I’ll see you all again this weekend. Toodles!

Free book sale ends tonight!

Hi everyone,

Just a quick reminder that the free book sale of my newly released work “A Little Bit Of Everything” ends midnight Pacific time today. Get your free copy now on Amazon!

Here’s the link: Grab a copy!

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Get my book for free on Amazon!

Hi everyone!

So going with the flow of promotions and marketing I have planned for my newly released book A Little Bit Of Everything, I will begin with the free promotion of my book on Amazon over the next four days (Tue-Friday).

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Limited time free e-book distribution from Tuesday – Friday! Get your copy when you can!

During this period, my book will be offered for free worldwide on all Amazon websites. This promotion applies specifically to the e-book version of A Little Bit Of Everything. All you have to do to get a free copy is to go to your preferred Amazon platform, and download the book!

If you do chance upon this opportunity, and read my book, I would be highly grateful if you could leave a short review, and rate the book on Amazon! As a budding writer, what matters to me most is that my work is read; my readers’ opinions matter to me as your reviews are valuable in getting my book out there by spreading the word as well as providing a source of constructive criticism that I can build on during the course of my journey as a writer.

The start and end times of the promotion will be approximately midnight Pacific time Tuesday and midnight Pacific Time Thursday. So, if you would like to catch a read on an adventurous short story about love, friendship, family, dreams, and a tad zesty slice of life this summer’s end,  A Little Bit Of Everything is every little bit the book to check out.

Thank you all, once again, for your support! Here is the link to start you up:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0753YXRSN

 

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Presenting “A Little Bit Of Everything”

After three years of hard work, words cannot express how happy I am in making this announcement today on the publication, and official release of my book, A Little Bit of Everything. It has been a long journey leading up to this moment, and I’m glad that the final product turned out to be exactly what I wished for.

While the tale to be read is fictional in nature, the book is a spiritual successor to my first work in Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir. The foundation of the plot is in fact inspired from very real events in my personal life involving an assortment of themes from love, hope, and dreams to personal identity, friendship, and family. An author’s copy of the book now rests in my bookshelf alongside a massive binder consisting of three different drafts of the work through the years.

One aspect that sets apart A Little Bit of Everything from Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir involves the illustrations that accompany the story. A picture is worth a thousand words or so they say; I decided to roll with this philosophy in expressing the ideas and emotions of various scenarios through the drawings that span the book’s pages.

Having published the book, I’m both happy, and sad. I’m happy in that I succeeded in bringing to life a story that had resided in my heart for many years; sad in that this wonderful journey has come to an end. Moving onward, I relish in the joy of being able to share my story with all of you!

A Little Bit of Everything is now available through Amazon (Amazon.Com; it’s also available on amazon.ca/.uk/.de/.fr/.es/.it/.jp/.nl/.br/.mx/.in/.au/) as a Kindle e-book. Similarly, the book is also available in paperback format on most of the aforementioned links (a few more days before it will be available on all of them). The paperback format is also distributed through my Createspace E-store (ALBOECreatespace), and will be distributed (within 6 weeks from publication) through online and offline retailers such as Barnes & Noble and to distributors such as Ingram, NACSCORP, Baker & Taylor (which distributes to libraries).

Over the days to follow, I will consistently provide promotions, and updates that would allow me to talk more in-depth about the book as well as my journey towards publication of the work. I’m thankful to my dedicated audience of readers on this blog. I hope you all get a chance to read the book, and most importantly, enjoy it!

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Catching Meteors

Meteors or “falling stars” are an annual visual treat for casual observers and amateur astronomers alike, all around the world. I had my first experience of observing a meteor shower with the Perseids last weekend.

In what turned out to be an unforgettable experience, my girlfriend Leina, and I took a late-night road trip to Prairie Gardens, located near Bon Accord, a small town in central Alberta and an International Dark Sky community.

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A sample picture of the night sky at Prairie Gardens.

As a waning gibbous moon rose prominently above the distant horizon, we alighted upon a parking spot near an open field watching the night sky gradually come alive with the familiar band of the Milky Way Galaxy, and the luminous freckles of innumerable stars. Grabbing some popcorn, we would spend the next few hours watching a wonderful show of celestial beauty.

Of course, the night wasn’t complete without a short monologue (thanks to my background in astrophysics) on the phenomenon itself, before the show got underway. I will be treating you, my fellow readers, to the same today while providing further information and resources for all who are interested in catching the next similar astronomical event.

What are meteors?

Meteors are bits of interplanetary material falling through the Earth’s atmosphere. The same objects are also identified as meteoroids while they are hurtling through space, becoming meteors for the few seconds they streak across the sky and create glowing trails. Meteorite essentially refers to the same phenomenon, the major distinction being it is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and impacts the planet’s surface.

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It is estimated that about 44,000 kilograms of meteoritic material falls on the Earth every day. Several meteors per hour can be observed on any given night. It is when the number increases dramatically that these events are termed meteor showers.

What causes a meteor shower?

Taking the Perseid meteor shower as an example, the phenomenon we are observing is caused by the Earth’s motion through the dust and debris left behind by the comet Swift-Turtle, the largest object known to repeatedly pass the Earth. The comet last passed our planet during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and its next visit will be in 2126 (I should be 135 years old then, but don’t worry, I will give you all a heads-up). It is Earth’s passage through the leftover comet debris that results in meteor showers. The Perseid meteor shower is particularly popular, and peaks around August 12 every year. Most of the meteors in the Perseids are about the size of a grain of sand, and rarely make it all the way to the Earth’s surface.

Are there others?

Other meteor showers and their associated comets include the Leonids (Tempel-Tuttle), the Aquarids and Orionids (Halley), and the Taurids (Encke), most of which are modest showers. The Geminids, coming up on December 13, are typically one of the best and most reliable of the annual meteor showers with peak rates of about 120-200 (at best) meteors per hour.

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Photo by David Kingham of the Perseid meteor shower, awarded Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year award in 2013,  combining 23 individual stills over several hours.

What do you need to see them?

Very simple. All you need to catch the show is darkness, somewhere comfortable to sit, and a bit of patience. The best thing to do is drive away from the city lights, and go to a nice dark place by the suburbs or countryside. Prepare to sit outside for a few hours, and bring some snacks and bug spray. Finally, let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and enjoy the show!

Where can I follow up on all of this?

The World Wide Web is a wonderful resource. Space or Astronomy, and even more obviously, NASA, all provide wonderful updates and articles on the various astronomical events throughout the year. So, whenever you feel like indulging in your inner astronomer, and something out of this world, just check out these resources.

In that vein, I leave you all with a reminder that we do have a solar eclipse coming up tomorrow. The eclipse will primarily be featured across America where people will have the chance to observe a total solar eclipse, while Canada will see a partial solar eclipse. To all my readers in America and Canada, have your eclipse glasses ready for this! To all my readers elsewhere around the world, for more information and live streams, you can always check out: Solar Eclipse!

Happy observing everyone!