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Buzzwords: A Scientist Muses On Sex, Bugs, And Rock 'n' Roll
by By May R. Berenbaum; A Joseph Henry Press Book
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From Publishers Weekly
This fourth collection of essays from University of Illinois professor Berenbaum (Bugs in the System, etc.) offers 42 informal, informative and often amusing pieces about insects and the people who study them. (Most of the essays originated as columns in American Entomologist.) Berenbaum treats the bugs, ants and beetles themselves; their images in society; the folkways of entomologists; and the place of science in American culture. One piece considers whether the methane in cockroach farts contributes to global warming. The next jumps from high school sex-ed films to dragonfly species whose females eat males as they mate, and thence to the (human) fetishists called "crush freaks," who find bug squashing erotically exciting. A column on comic books explains that "arthropod-based superheroes are easily placed in well-defined taxa.... Running a close second to the arachnids [like Spiderman] are hymenopterans: Ant Boy, Ant Man, the Green Hornet.... " And then there is the mysterious frequency with which cockroaches appear in supermarket tabloids; the best way to get a roach out of a child's ear; the insects in the songs of Weird Al Yankovic; correct usage for the technical term "humbug"; and the "infield flies" (swarms of mosquitoes) who disrupted a 1982 White Sox game. Berenbaum's digressive, whimsical musings are rarely laugh-out-loud hilarious; they are, however, consistent, low-key fun. Nonspecialists may not realize till they've finished the book how much they've learned about the lives of bugsAnot to mention bug experts. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This collection of essays, containing some new material, comes from a long-running humor column in the American Entomologist written by Berenbaum (entomology, Univ. of Illinois; Bugs in the System; Herbivores.) The author has become a keen observer of how insects, those who study them, and the rest of the world all interact in the arena of popular culture. Though the writing is cleverDthere's at least one chuckle per essayDthe material is not enough for an entire book, so Berenbaum is forced to reword and repeat herself. The repetition becomes annoying, though perhaps it would be less apparent if the reader were to dip into the collection, rather like a bee going from flower to flower. Part rumination on the depiction of insects and entomologists in TV, movies, and music and part autobiography, Berenbaum's fluffy essay collection is a marginal purchase for most libraries.DAnn Forister, Roseville P.L., CA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The Washington Post Book World
"Besides possessing a wry humor, Berenbaum knows everything about insects."
Who would have thought insects could be so entertaining? Berenbaum, the Illinois entomologist who wrote the "Buzzwords" column for American Entomologist magazine for nearly a decade, here collects 42 of those short essays and tells us more about bugs than we ever thought we'd want to know. Did you know, for instance, that if all the offspring of a single pair of fruit flies were to survive and reproduce, there would be, in the space of about five months, enough fruit flies to cover Germany in a layer 47 feet deep? Like Stephen Jay Gould, Berenbaum spotlights the unusual side of the natural world, though his approach is a bit lighter than Gould's. ("Buzzwords" was in many ways a humor column that just happened to be about science.) Not for all tastes, to be sure (those who really hate insects should stay away), but a definite must-read for fans of user-friendly popular science. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"If there is a funnier book written by an entomologist, then I, personally, am not aware of it!"
The New York Times
"Arguably the most relentlessly creative insect advocate in the world "
Brent Karner, Insect Zoo Coordinator, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
"The 'buzz' on the street is that serious science and humor are not mutually exclusive! This collection is like a formal version of 'The Far Side!'"
Nathan Erwin, Manager of the Smithsonian Institution's Insect Zoo
"Berenbaum once again bridges that gap between readers and the natural world. A must read for anyone interested in the world around them."
E.O. Wilson, Harvard University
"No one in recent years has written on insects with more learning, passion, and disarming humor than May Berenbaum.
Sharron Quisenberry, President, Entomological Society of America
"An entertaining look at the wonderful world of insects. Readers will delight in Berenbaum's sense of humor when addressing six-legged friends.
Tom Eisner, Professor of Biology, Cornell University
"A brilliant book on insects by one of the foremost (and funniest!) entomologists of our time. Informative, insightful, and lighthearted.
Best Sci-Tech Books of 2000
Suite101.com, December 2001
"Berenbaum a renowned entomologist, successfully lured me into a world which was all at once creepy, humorous and extremely interesting."
Booklist, August 2000
"Who would have thought insects could be so entertaining?...a definite must-read for fans of user-friendly popular science.
Buzzwords showcases the Best of Berenbaum, a selection from her humor column in the American Entomologist professional journal, accompanied by a number of original pieces written for this book. The book comes in four parts: how entomologists see insects, including their view of a U.S. government plan to eradicate illicit coca fields by dropping caterpillars from airplanes; how the rest of the world sees insects, with Berenbaum's proposed classificatory scheme for placing Spider Man, Firefly, and other cartoon superheroes into well-defined taxa; how entomologists view themselves--featuring Bambi Berenbaum, a gorgeous entomologist created for an episode of TV's popular "The X- Files," whose character was inspired when the scriptwriter consulted Berenbaum's books; how entomologists see their colleagues, with various views on scholarly citation, motion sickness, and more. Along the way are some thought-provoking observations--for example, about the impact of television on public knowledge of science. In one poll, Berenbaum writes, 35% of adults said they believed that prehistoric humans coexisted with dinosaurs, la the Flintstones. Although you'll chuckle all the way, Berenbaum has the last laugh, giving powerful lessons in the spectacular diversity of the insect world and the nature of scientific discovery, cleverly packaged as witty observations on subjects far and wide.
From the Inside Flap
"May Berenbaum entices readers to consider and take a closer look at a big part of our own world-the world of insects-with accessible, current, and punfully playful prose. Berenbaum once again bridges that gap between readers and the natural world. A must read for anyone interested in the world around them."
-- Nathan Erwin, Manager of the Smithsonian Institution's Insect Zoo
What sort of person devotes their life to the study of bugs? How do you picture your average, everyday entomologist? In Buzzwords, May Berenbaum blows away any stereotypes you might have with wild and witty short-takes on all things entomological.
One of the nation's leading entomologists, Berenbaum is not only fascinated by insects, but she shares her long-standing enthusiasm with a brand of humor rarely encountered in a serious scientist. She'll have you laughing out loud - and nervously checking for bugs crawling up your sleeve!
Whether discussing the longevity of ants (the oldest one on record is 15 years old), the sexual habits of dragonflies (the whole thing is often so brutal that it leaves the female disfigured and the male clinging to life), termite flatulence (cows can't - and shouldn't - hold a candle to these bugs when it comes to methane production), or how best to remove a cockroach from the ear canal (two schools of thought: freeze 'em versus flood 'em), Berenbaum's delightful new book is equal parts funny and informative.
Berenbaum, a noted scientist in a field that doesn't always gets the respect it deserves, shows us that there's a fun and even freaky side of life with insects. From the role that insects play in popular culture to the creepier, crawlier bits of insect lore, you'll chuckle all the way to the last page. But Berenbaum has the last laugh, giving powerful lessons in the spectacular diversity of the insect world and the nature of scientific discovery, cleverly packaged as amusing observations on subjects far and wide. This is science with flair and humor!
While her professional accomplishments have earned top scientific awards, she has also wond the admiration of people who've read her books: Ninety-Nine Gnats, Nits, and Nibblers; Ninty-Nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers, and most recently, Bugs in the System.
Berenbaum also helps organize the annual Insect Fear Festival at the University of Illinois.
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