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New book from NJIT professor focuses on art, science and evolution

NJIT Professor David Rothenberg's newest book "Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution" (Bloomsbury Press) will be released at the end of this month. Advance reviewers have called the book a freewheeling discussion of the role of aesthetics in evolution and a celebration of the beauty to be found in the great diversity of life.

Taking inspiration from Darwin's observations that animals have a natural aesthetic sense, Rothenberg probes why animals, humans included, have an innate appreciation for beauty -- and why nature is beautiful.

Sexual selection may explain why animals desire, but it says very little about what they desire, says Rothenberg. Questions the book raises include the following: Why will a bowerbird literally murder another bird to decorate its bower with the victim's blue feathers? Why do butterfly wings boast such brilliantly varied patterns?

The beauty of nature is not arbitrary, even if random mutation has played a role in evolution. What we can learn from the amazing range of animal aesthetic behavior -- about animals, and about ourselves -- are just a few of the many questions the book raises.

Rothenberg teaches philosophy and music at NJIT. His most recent book, "Thousand Mile Song: Whale Music in a Sea of Sound" (Basic Books, 2008), and the same-named CD, chronicled the rich, underwater universe of whale sound. To produce the material, Rothenberg traveled from Hawaii to Russia to play his bass clarinet while recording the sounds of whales in their native habitats. Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association, named the text one of the ten best science and technology books for 2008.

"Why Birds Sing" (Basic Books, 2005) was Rothenberg's first general interest book to examine bird song from the combined perspectives of science, music, and poetry and the culmination of his interdisciplinary work since he began teaching at NJIT in 1992. Why Birds Sing has been published in the U.S., England, Australia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Korea, China, and Taiwan as both a book and compact disc.

Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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