The First Word

Cover story

Nicholas Blechman and Greg Mollica, who created the cover for "The First Word," get their due in "Penguin 75." A wonderful book celebrating Penguin's 3/4 century, it features 75 of the best and worst covers from the past decade with commentary from the designers, authors, artists, editors and agents. Here, too, a great blog post on the book that excerpts the commentary on The First Word.


More on less uniqueness

Now that we're shaking off the old-fashioned idea of human uniqueness, we must be wary of any suggestion that what makes humans human can be explained by a single thing. If that 'thing' feels intuitively right, we must be doubly suspicious. The one conclusion we can safely consider unequivocal in all of our observations of gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, crows, dolphins, monkeys and humans is that our basic intuitions in this matter are not just bad, they are wrong. A follow-up on some of the experiments from The First Word in this week's New Scientist cover story.

Human uniqueness is not what it used to be

Ever since Galileo argued that the sun was the center of the solar system, the idea of Earth as the universal hub has been the classic example of scientific arrogance. It's certainly a foolproof example of the way humans consider themselves the rule by which everything else should be measured, but when we use it, there's a sense that we don't make that kind of mistake anymore. Yet even today scientists are swayed by the notion that humans stand at the center of the biological universe, especially when it comes to what we care about most: our minds.