Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild”

Posted 29 Jan 2012 / 0

I just finished reading Jon Krakauer’s classic 1996 book Into the Wild. The book chronicles the adventures and eventual demise of Christopher McCandless, a young man who reinvented himself as “Alexander Supertramp” and spent two years wandering the United States before embarking on a final trip into the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless was experimenting with dropping Read More

Books, Cultural Evolution, Evolutionary Psychology, Subsistence, Survival, Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield’s “SuperCooperators”

Posted 03 Nov 2011 / 0

Martin Nowak has accomplished a lot for a mid-career scientist. His theoretical work exploring how cooperation evolves has illuminated the importance of a great number of evolutionary mechanisms. He has also been unafraid to tackle real-life problems of cooperation, including questions like “why do we get cancer?” and “how did language evolve?”. Nowak likes to Read More

Altruism, Books, Cooperation, Cultural Evolution, Ethics, Evolutionary Modeling, Game Theory, Group Selection, History, Human Evolution, Human Nature, Kin Selection, Language Evolution, Multilevel Selection, Mutualism, Punishment, Reciprocity, Religion, Superorganisms, Sustainability

Science in Art & Design: Justin Taylor’s “The Gospel of Anarchy”

Posted 07 Oct 2011 / 0

There are so many science books that I want to read that I frequently neglect to read fiction. This is too bad, because good fiction can be as rich with interesting hypotheses about human nature and evolution as any book illuminating evolutionary theory. Towards the end of thinking about how my field informs and can Read More

Books, Cooperation, Cultural Evolution, Evolutionary Psychology, Fiction, Group Selection, Happiness, Human Evolution, Human Nature, Multilevel Selection, Pratt Institute, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Science in Art & Design, Superorganisms

“DNA” by James D. Watson

Posted 10 May 2011 / 1

I just finished reading James Watson’s 2003 book “DNA”. Throughout the Spring semester I have been working with Mishele Lesser, a graduate MFA student here at Pratt, on an independent study focused on what produces human phenotypes. We both read the book as part of our collaboration. As one of the two people credited with Read More

Books, DNA Barcoding, Gene by Environment Interactions, Genetics, Homo species, Human Evolution, Phylogenetics

“A Paradise Built in Hell” by Rebecca Solnit

Posted 23 Mar 2011 / 0

Rebecca Solnit’s 2009 book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster is a book about recent human history. But for those interested in human evolution, this history is essential reading. The primary idea of the book is that our dramatic portrayals of how people react to disaster are wrong: rather Read More

Altruism, Books, Cooperation, Cultural Evolution, Ethics, Evolutionary Psychology, History, Human Evolution, Human Nature, Mismatch theory, Reciprocity

“The Evolution of Cooperation” by Robert Axelrod

Posted 10 Jan 2011 / 0

I just finished reading Robert Axelrod’s seminal book entitled The Evolution of Cooperation. Although I had read a lot about Axelrod’s work and am quite familiar with the body of literature that it inspired, I had never actually read his book cover to cover. Going in, my expectation was of finding a rather primitive treatment Read More

Altruism, Behavioral Ecology, Books, Coevolution, Cooperation, Cultural Evolution, Evolution, Evolutionary Modeling, Game Theory, Human Evolution, Individual-based Models, Interdisciplinarity, Multilevel Selection, Mutualism, Political Science, Public Policy, Reciprocity, Sociology, Spatially Explicit Modeling

The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution

Posted 03 Oct 2010 / 0

I am on the lookout for a new textbook for my non-majors Evolution course, so I was excited to check out Carl Zimmer’s new book “The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution”, published this year by Roberts and Company. For those of you who are not familiar with Carl Zimmer’s work, he is a prolific Read More

Adaptation, Animal Domestication, Books, Coevolution, DNA Barcoding, Evolution, Evolution Education, Evolutionary Modeling, Evolutionary Psychology, Human Evolution, MSCI-260, Evolution, Multilevel Selection, Phylogenetics

The Quest for the Perfect Hive

Posted 07 Jun 2010 / 0

Gene Kritsky is a renowned bee biologist, so when I learned that he had written The Quest for the Perfect Hive: A History of Innovation in Bee Culture, I rushed to get ahold of it. I am very interested in species that form superorganisms (bees, wasps, ants, naked mole-rats, humans), and I have been slowly Read More

Animal Domestication, Books, Coevolution, Cultural Evolution, Reviews, Superorganisms


Posted 03 Jun 2010 / 0

I just read E.O. Wilson’s Consilience for the first time. Published in 1998, Consilience represents Wilson’s attempt to bridge the gap between the natural and social sciences. Given my interests, it is pretty ridiculous that I had not read this book earlier. Although I do research that sits firmly within the realm of natural science, Read More

A Major Post, Books, Consciousness, Human Evolution, Human Nature, Interdisciplinarity, Reviews, Social Science


Posted 03 Jan 2010 / 0

I just finished re-reading William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s book “Cradle to Cradle”. For those not familiar with the 2002 book, it has become the “go-to” spiritual reference for sustainable design. I say “spiritual” because the book reads more like a manifesto than a set of instructions; if you are looking for a how-to guide Read More

A Major Post, Books, Closed Loop Systems, Life Cycle Analysis, Resource Consumption, Reviews, Sustainability