BOOKS: Science
African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design
Ron Eglash

Fractals are characterized by the repetition of similar patterns at ever-diminishing scales. Fractal geometry has emerged as one of the most exciting frontiers on the border between mathematics and information technology and can be seen in many of the swirling patterns produced by computer graphics. It has become a new tool for modeling in biology, geology, and other natural sciences. Anthropologists have observed that the patterns produced in different cultures can be characterized by specific design themes. In Europe and America, we often see cities laid out in a grid pattern of straight streets and right-angle corners. In contrast, traditional African settlements tend to use fractal structure–circles of circles of circular dwellings, rectangular walls enclosing ever-smaller rectangles, and streets in which broad avenues branch down to tiny footpaths with striking geometric repetition. These indigenous fractals are not limited to architecture; their recursive patterns echo throughout many disparate African designs and knowledge systems. Drawing on interviews with African designers, artists, and scientists, Ron Eglash investigates fractals in African architecture, traditional hairstyling, textiles, sculpture, painting, carving, metalwork, religion, games, practical craft, quantitative technologies, and symbolic systems. He also examines the political and social implications of the existence of African fractal geometry. His book makes a unique contribution to the study of mathematics, African culture, anthropology, and computer simulations.

The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
Spencer Wells

In this book, British geneticist Wells sets out to answer long-standing anthropological questions of where humans came from, how we migrated and when we arrived in such places as Europe and North America. To trace the migration of human beings from our earliest homes in Africa to the farthest reaches of the globe, Wells calls on recent DNA research for support.

The Official Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind: Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs World Heritage Site
Brett Hilton-Barber and Lee Berger

Who were the original people that occupied South Africa, and how far back do we go to find out? Beneath the dolomitic outcrops and the grasslands of an area in the north east of South Africa known as the "cradle of humankind", lies an extensive series of underground caverns that have preserved clues of our most ancient past. Research in the area has shaped much of our thinking about the development of Homo sapiens, and fossil finds have proved beyond doubt that humanity originated in Africa.

In the Footsteps of Eve: The Mystery of Human Origins
Lee Berger and Brett Hilton Barber

Where did we come from? Though it's been fairly well settled that our species was born in Africa, the debate still rages over our hometown. In the Footsteps of Eve: The Mystery of Human Origins is a beautifully written argument in favor of the southern end of the continent rather than the eastern locations more popular among paleoanthropologists. Author Lee R. Berger's discovery and analysis of 117,000-year-old fossilized footprints of modern humans in South Africa, as well as a wealth of other fossils and artifacts, point to a speciation event in the unique ecosystem found along the Cape.