Jacques Cousteau by Brad Matsen
Matsen, an environmental journalist, pays tribute to the man who pioneered modern scuba diving and inspired millions with his infectious love of the sea. A dozen years after Cousteau’s death, this engrossing biography reveals both a savvy showman and a dedicated conservationist.
WEB: Human Genre Project
If genetics strikes you as inherently impersonal, check out this online collection of poetry and short prose inspired by the human genome. Launched in July at the University of Edinburgh, its catalog of writings includes poignant words addressed to a renal stone sufferer, a rhyming tribute to telomeres, and practical advice for a couple who cannot afford to create a healthy baby under the patent laws of 2056. For those with a hankering to share their reflections on junk DNA or point mutations with the world, the site continues to accept submissions. Visit humangenreproject.com.
DVD: The Botany of Desire
In this gorgeous documentary, Michael Pollan posits that if reproduction represents the ultimate biological goal, then plants such as the apple and the potato that induce humans to cultivate them worldwide are the true victors. The film travels from Andean mountainsides to high-tech hothouses for medical marijuana, tracing how plants have threaded their roots into human history.
Filmmaker Roland Emmerich has wrought his share of destruction in movies like Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Day After Tomorrow. Still, he decided to revisit the genre one more time to cowrite and direct a movie about the greatest disaster of them all: 2012. This new apocalypse flick shows off buckling roads, burning cities, toppling buildings, and engulfing waves, all rendered in hypnotically beautiful computer graphics. Emmerich and his team have cranked up the visual effects like never before. “When we gave the script out, people said it was unfilmable,” he recalls. But working digitally, the crew was able to tweak the shattering glass and panicking crowds until perfect devastation was achieved. Emmerich does not believe in the widely repeated (and highly disputed) Mayan prophecy of impending global doom, but he saw the fun in playing along with it. “I always wanted to make a new retelling of the Noah’s ark story,” he says, “and doing Internet research, we found that a lot of people believe that the world will end in 2012. It makes the movie feel more real because it’s based on this modern myth.”