Mr. Lewis does indeed address the psychological and social relationship that exists between plants and people, citing examples of co-transformation of the cityscape and the inhabitants of Chicago, New York and Boston as a result of a growing relationship between plants and people. He documents the advent of community gardens in the inner cities, and then correlates the clean-up of these neighborhoods with the presence of plants, or green nature, against the concrete backdrop. However, he achieves this in an anecdotal manner that is a "straightforward catalog of well-documented and tangible benefits...." Moreover, Mr. Lewis appears to have two voices: one is inspired by his own emotional connection with landscapes and plants in general; the other is dry, reediting an inventory of the various forms of plant therapy. Unfortunately for the reader, there is no integration of these voices.
He writes with inspired passion about the gardens and grounds of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. He worked there for many years studying the human perception of landscapes. His prose is quite lyrical at times, perhaps too lyrical as it gets in the way of his overall message that plants and people have an intricate relationship, and that, ultimately, we are dependent upon them for more than just food. The green "background" has been an important force in the evolution of our perception, and the manner in which we respond to our visual environment is inextricably linked to our biology as a result. Lewis is very convincing in this regard, citing his own research into the connection between the perception of landscapes and the emotional response of the study subjects. He covers this in Chapter Two, which is the best chapter in the book.
I had hoped that this book would explore the intangible relationship that exists between man and plants in a manner that would elucidate the mystery, not deepen it. Ultimately, this book remains a catalog of the many ways in which human life is touched by and improved upon during interactions with the plant kingdom. - Pati Vitt, Dept. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, U-43, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269
An Introduction to the Mathematics
of Biology. Edward K. Yeargers,
Ronald W. Shonkwiler, and James V. Herod, eds. 1996. ISBN 0-81763809-1
(cloth US$64.50) 417 pp. Birkhäuser, Boston Box 19386, Newark
An Introduction to the Mathematics of Biology. Edward K. Yeargers, Ronald W. Shonkwiler, and James V. Herod, eds. 1996. ISBN 0-81763809-1 (cloth US$64.50) 417 pp. Birkhäuser, Boston Box 19386, Newark NJ 07195-9386- Mathematics is a critical tool for understanding modern biological science. And, both students and experienced researchers are finding that the level of mathematical sophistication being used in all fields of biological science is growing explosively. Part of this increase in both the depth of use of mathematics and the level of sophistication of that use is the result of the power of modern desk top computers. And, computer algebra systems such as Mathematica, Maple, and S-Plus allow biologists to rapidly solve and graph the solutions to mathematical models which were once accessible only to specialists.
The authors of An Introduction to the Mathematics of Biology have exploited the Maple system in an effort to present some important mathematical models in biology and their solutions. The selection and organization of topics is generally good. The book begins with a description of the mathematical tools, including discussion of matrices, differential equations, statistics, and probability. The authors don't discuss difference equations, and, in relying on the mathematics of differential equations, fail to discuss some important topics such as oscillations and chaos in population growth. The description of exponential and logistic growth covers topics often omitted from other treatments, including error analysis in fitting data to an exponential.
After a chapter on "Age-Dependent Population Structures", the authors discuss random movements, including molecular diffusion and the spread of disease. The following chapter, "The Biological Disposition of Drugs and Inorganic Toxins" highlights one of the flaws of the book. This chapter begins with a textual description of embryogenesis and organ formation, gas exchange, the digestive system, the skin, the circulatory system, and the kidneys. At the end of the chapter, the authors present the mathematical model. Perhaps it is an equally effective method of presentation as my own, but I prefer greater integration of the biology with the mathematical model. In my own course in mathematical biology, the model is built up in parallel with the discussion of the biological principles. This book takes quite a different approach, usually placing most of the textual discussion at the front of each chapter, followed by a detailed mathematical model.
The chapter on neurophysiology and the following chapter on the biochemistry of cells builds on this approach by presenting fundamental biological concepts at the beginning of the beginning of the discussion. I especially liked the discussion of enzyme kinetics which goes well beyond the usual treatment of the Michaelis-Menten steady state equations. The use of a computer algebra system permits demonstration of the phenomena such as load-up of the enzyme with substrate and the approach to the steady state. In light of the treatment of how to fit data to an exponential, I expected to find some discussion of how to fit data to the model to obtain the Michaelis constant and maximum reaction velocity. I was disappointed not to find it.
An Introduction to the Mathematics of Biology" ends with a chapter on AIDS, including an extensive model, and one on genetics. The chapter on genetics applies some straightforward probability theory to the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and "The Fixation of a Beneficial Mutation". I was left with the feeling that this chapter should appear closer to other uses of probability in the text and that some additional topics, such as genetic drift, were needed to round out the treatment of genetics.
According to the authors, this text is written for use by undergraduate students of either mathematics or biology and a course using this text would requires only one year of calculus. While in theory a year of calculus should provide an adequate background, I suspect that most undergraduate students of biology would have a difficult time with the mathematics. Most students of biology never quite develop the level of fluency in mathematics required for effective use of this text and the text might overwhelm the student before he or she developed the necessary fluency.
I was also disappointed that the authors did not include an introduction to the Maple language or a commentary on the programs. The Maple programs are listed but neither their development nor their structure are described. There are no comment lines in the listings. One of the advantages of a computer algebra system is that the programs can be modified as the user is working and new ideas and modifications can be tried, making mathematical biology a truly exciting and creative experience. "An Introduction to the Mathematics of Biology" does not encourage an interactive experience, either by explaining the development and structure of the computer algebra programs or by building up the mathematical models in slow, careful steps.
I strongly recommend this book for faculty who are searching for ideas to incorporate in their courses. I cannot recommend it for most undergraduate students, particularly in the biological sciences. - Thomas J. Herbert, Department of Biology, University of Miami, Coral Gables FL 33124