Bookbeat

Book Beat: February 2001

Recent publications from CLAS faculty.

Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century

Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth CenturyRichard C. Foltz, Department of Religion
(St. Martin's Griffin, 2000)
Available through Amazon

Ever since the label was coined in the late nineteenth century, the idea of the Silk Road has captivated the Western imagination with images of fabled cities and exotic peoples. Religions of the Silk Road looks behind the romantic notions of the colonial era and tells the story of how cultural traditions, especially in the form of religious ideas, accompanied merchants and their goods along the overland Asian trade routes in pre-modern times. As early as three thousand years ago Hebraic and Iranian religious ideas and practices traveled eastwards in this way, to be followed centuries later by the great missionary traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam. But the Silk Road was more than just a conduit along which these religions hitched rides East; it was a formative and transformative rite of passage, and no religion emerged unchanged at the end of the journey.

- Publisher

Excerpt

Religions are not monolithic, fixed institutions existing each in their own realm of dominance, although we often speak of "Christendom," "the Islamic World," and so on. In reality, religions are like organisms: They are born into this world at a point in time, they grow, develop, undergo diverse influences, and adapt to their environment. They quibble with their neighbors, experience periods of painful soul-searching, have good days and bad. At some point they may split like cells, each taking on a new life. Over time, having proven themselves, they may settle into the self-confident stasis of maturity. Sometimes, eventually, they die. Nothing could better illustrate the organic nature of religious traditions than the example of their experiences along the Silk Road.

Journeys Beyond the Standard Model

Journeys Beyond the Standard ModelPierre Ramond, Department of Physics
(Perseus Books, 2000)
Available through Amazon

Journeys Beyond the Standard Model starts with a detailed and modern account of the Standard Model of elementary particle physics, the paradigm of particle physics for the last twenty years. Its timely release coincides with the recent dramatic discovery that the neutrino has a finite mass, which is the first indication that the Standard Model is an incomplete description of fundamental physics at short distances. This book presents in detail three possible generalizations of the standard model: its extension to accommodate neutrino masses; its extension to avoid CP violation in the strong interactions by introducing a new particle, the axion; and finally, its generalization to low-energy supersymmetry, which provides a link between the Standard Model and Einstein's theory of general relativity.

- Publisher

Excerpt

Our presentation of the standard model does not follow historical lines, since its starting point is the standard model Lagrangian. Yet, its final form is the result of the inspired work of many experimentalists and theorists, over a period of seventy years or so. It is not possible to do justice to their contributions in the short description that follows.... Suffice it to say that the history of the standard model is remarkably rich as it mirrors the scientific effervescence of the natural sciences in this century. The first third of the XXth century witnessed unparalleled scientific activities, spurred on by the dramatic experimental discoveries which resulted in the establishment of quantum mechanics, and general relativity. These set the stage for the intense bursts of experimental and theoretical breakthroughs, that led five decades later to the formulation of the standard model of the fundamental interactions.

Designing Families: The Search for Self and Community in the Information Age

Designing Families: The Search for Self and Community in the Information AgeJohn Scanzoni, Department of Sociology
(Pine Forge Press, 2000)
Available through Barnes and Nobles

"Does the nuclear family style fit with the information age? That is the question that drives this thought-provoking book.... Scanzoni exhorts us to be innovated in creating family life for the future rather than trying to revert to ways that appeared successful in the past.... This book is a catalyst to thinking more creatively about the never-ending family revolution." Marilyn J. Coleman, University of Missouri, Columbia

- book jacket

Excerpt

[T]he principal reason [the family revolution] is ceaseless is that the revolution reflects struggle—the battle to be emancipated from the domination of others. First, it was the nuclear family (husband, wife, children) seeking freedom from the unwanted control of blood kin. In the West, at least, that is now pretty much an accomplished fact. It is analogous to the independence that the United States wrested from England in the 1780s. That was and is an unquestioned reality. But ever since that time, citizens inside the United States have been struggling for greater freedom. Those who have struggled include less-advantaged white men, women, blacks, and immigrants—first European and now Latino and Asian. Because of their past, present, and future battles to participate in the American Dream, our democracy is in continual flux, or nonviolent revolution.

Similarly, although the nuclear family has been liberated from kin domination, a great deal of struggle has been occurring inside the family itself. The principal battle, of course, is between women and men. This ancient struggle predates the nuclear family's liberation and will persist no matter what styles of family the citizens of the 21st century somehow manage to devise.

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