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PIECES OF THE PLAINS addresses the questions: Why do people decide to study nature? What do we learn from nature? How does our understanding of nature develop? And finally, what does a scientist’s lifetime of interaction with our planet, and especially with the multitude of organisms that share Earth with us, tell us about our future? The setting is America’s heartland, our literal geographic center: the prairie landscape from Oklahoma to Nebraska. Characters range from a dying grandmother, to a father passing a beloved childhood toy to his son, to world-renowned scientists, to a horse in the Sandhills. As readers, we contemplate life from an intensive care unit, play the role of professional photographer, look through a microscope to see the world in a unique way, join a rogue prospector looking for uranium in unlikely places, participate in a branding, and step into the rarified atmosphere of Ivory Tower politics. In the end, this experience leads us to ask: What is a human being? and What will human life be like in two thousand years? Indeed, these questions are the last two chapters, the “predictions” of the book’s title. PIECES OF THE PLAINS can be considered a scientist’s memoir because it draws on a lifetime’s worth of Janovy’s teaching, research, and writing, but throughout the book he steps back from the personal history in order to place his experiences into a global context. Original drawings accompany each chapter.

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