Of all the many things humans rely on plants for, surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate, calm, or completely alter the qualities of our mental experience. In this book, Michael Pollan explores three very different drugs – opium, caffeine and mescaline – and throws the fundamental strangeness of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs, while consuming (or in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants, and the equally powerful taboos.
In June 1925, 23-year-old Werner Heisenberg, suffering from hay fever, retreated to a small, treeless island in the North Sea called Helgoland. It was there that he came up with one of the most transformative scientific concepts: quantum theory. Almost a century later, quantum physics has given us many startling ideas: ghost waves, distant objects that seem magically connected to each other, cats that are both dead and alive. Countless experiments have led to practical applications that shape our daily lives. Today our understanding of the world around us is based on this theory. And yet it is still profoundly mysterious. Here, Carlo Rovelli tells the extraordinary story of quantum physics and reveals its deep meaning: a world made of substances is replaced by a world made of relations, each particle responding to another in a never ending game of mirrors.
At home and in government, contemporary America finds itself riven by a culture war in which aggression and defensiveness alike are on the rise. It is not alone. In such partisan conditions, how can humans best approach one another across our differences? Taking the study of whiteness and white supremacy as a guiding light, Claudia Rankine explores a series of real encounters with friends and strangers – each disrupting the false comfort of spaces where our public and private lives intersect, like the airport, the theatre, the dinner party and the voting booth – and urges us to enter into the conversations which could offer the only humane pathways through this moment of division.
As a boy, James Rebanks’s grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song. ‘English Pastoral’ is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost.