The Albatross revealed!

October 1, 2014 • 9:04 am

I discovered—from Matthew Cobb!—that the Albatross, under its real name, has now appeared on Amazon. Here it is (note that the publication date of May 19 is provisional):

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 7.21.45 AM

You will note that the name “Richard Dawson” is in the blurb on the site; it will be changed to “Richard Dawkins” ASAP.

I like the cover (that was Viking’s doing), and I should note that the bar between the title and my name will be made out of matte gold foil, which is quite classy. You can pre-order it if you want (a bargain at $22.40 in hardcover!), and I’ll divulge more details as they become available.

p.s. Do not mistake this for another book by a Jerry Coyne, though I doubt they’ll be confused!

h/t: Merilee


213 thoughts on “The Albatross revealed!

  1. Congratulations! (But what’s the matter with Richard Dawson? He was my favorite on “Hogan’s Heroes.”)

    1. Actually – Richard Dawson may be correct! I imagine a few family feuds spawning from the book.

      (Queue Monty Python Albatross sketch…)

      Congratulations, Jerry!

    2. Nothing against Richard Dawkins, but if Richard Dawson had actually written a blurb on this book, that would’ve been absolutely, unbelievably incredible. I would have to reconsider everything I think I know to be true from the bottom up, all over again.

  2. Excellent, and I suspect pretty much what we all hoped/expected?

    Can you yet say whether we will get wafers with it?

    Is the matte gold foil wafer thin?

    1. Well, but the e-version will not come with a handy rope to hang it about ones’ neck. Or maybe that was only Jerry’s proof copy…

    2. Paper – How can Jerry draw an Albatross on a eBook? Jerry, you are practicing drawing an Albatross aren’t you?

  3. Excellent title! I also love the quasi-religious (well, maybe not quasi) calligraphy of “Faith” set against the hard type of “Fact.” Very good.

    Oh, and contrary to another commenter here, I will purchase the paper edition.


        1. Totally agree. Who designed this anyway? Seems so obviously incongruous to me. Can’t be too late to fix.

          1. OTOH, now the word “science” is right beneath “FACT”–I like that proximity; it might tend to work on some subliminal level, too.

        1. I look forward to bookstore clerks glancing at the title and mis-shelving it under religion, next to “Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions”.

          Interestingly, I see that JBS Haldane wrote a book that was called either “Faith and Fact” or “Fact and Faith”, I can’t yet figure out which version is correct…

            1. Don’t trust L of C to have it under Haldane’s actual title! Amurcan publishers don’t think they’re doing their job properly if they don’t make up a new and stupider title for books from the UK. (‘…Sorcerer’s Stone’, anyone?)

              1. Ha! SPOILER ALERT. The US edition of Brian Aldiss’s _Non-Stop_, in which the hero eventually discovers that his world is a generation starship, was retitled _Starship_ …


    1. I also love the quasi-religious (well, maybe not quasi) calligraphy of “Faith” set against the hard type of “Fact.” Very good.

      Funny, but that same thing bothers me visually. The typefaces clash.

  4. The subtitle is killer. Like Hitchens’ proposition, religion poisons everything, the incompatibility of science with religion is one of the most important themes of our lifetimes.

      1. It will show up. We got lots of time before May. I’m still going to buy from Chapters though and they usually get it about the same time.

        1. Nope – cannot agree there – with this one 🙂

          I hate the US rough cut book edges by the way! You cannot flick through…

          1. For everyone’s information, here’s Wikipedia on the subject of rough cut edges…

            “Paper with a feathered edge is described as having a “deckle edge”, in contrast with a cut edge.[2] Machine-made paper may artificially have its edges produced to resemble a deckle edge.[3]

            Prior to the 19th century, the deckle edge was unavoidable, a natural artifact of the paper making process in which sheets of paper were made individually on a deckle.[2] The deckle could not make a perfect seal against the screen at the edges and the paper slurry would seep under creating a rough edge to the paper.[2] The deckle edge could be trimmed off, but this extra step would add to the cost of the book.[2] Beginning in the early 1800s with the invention of the Fourdrinier machine, paper was produced in long rolls and the deckle edge became mostly obsolete: although there was some deckle on the ends of the rolls, it was cut off, and the individual sheets cut out from the roll would have no deckle in any case.[2]

            With the appearance of smooth edges in the 19th century, the deckle edge slowly emerged as a status symbol.[2] Many 19th century presses advertised two versions of the same book with a smooth and a higher priced deckle version, it suggested the book was made with higher quality paper, or more refined methods.[2] This tradition carried forward into the 20th and 21st centuries. Today modern deckle is created by a purpose-built machine to create the appearance of a true deckle edge by cutting a smooth edge into patterns.[2] Many modern readers are unfamiliar with the deckle edge and may see it as a defect; for example, has left notes to buyers that the deckle is not a flaw in the product.[2]”

            1. Exactly as I expected–book snobbery.

              If it weren’t possible to produce even-edged books, this snobbery would probably still exist–publishers making a virtue out of technological necessity…

            2. Today modern deckle is created by a purpose-built machine to create the appearance of a true deckle edge by cutting a smooth edge into patterns.

              Only if you’re lazy. If you want something indistinguishable from a true deckle edge, lightly wet the line you want to give the edge to, tear the paper on the line, let the paper dry, and then work with a bit of sandpaper to taper the edge. It helps greatly if you’ve got some true deckle edge paper to compare it against — check your local artist supply store for some very expensive watercolor paper, for example.



          2. Hey, everyone: the edges will not be rough cut as far as I know. I used a screenshot from Amazon, which may have given that impression. It will just be a normal book, but with some matte gold foil, of which I have a sample. The cover band is just a representation of the foil, which looks much better.

  5. The gradient looks more like an abstract representation of NOMA than the incompability between faith and science.

    1. I don’t think it’s a gradient. It’s just a representation of how light might reflect off the gold leaf.

      1. Yes, you’re right. It’s just a mockup with a light gradient that’s suppose to suggest how it will look. But I have a sample of the gold foil, and it’s really pretty. The final cover will look a lot nicer than the representation I’ve shown.

        1. Metals are notoriously difficult to photograph, and creating a digital simulation like this is at least as hard. “FPO,” or, “For Position Only,” is the way to think of this.


          1. In heraldic art, some “artists” will try to simulate real gold for /or/, gold or (orangey) yellow, which usually ends up looking dirty brown, destroying the contrast with neighbouring colours (such contrast being an important principle in heraldry: the rule of tinctures). (Lincoln Is guilty of this on its municipal vehicles, &c.) In real life, gold leaf works fine when new, but discolours over time. The mediæval artists stuck to yellow, with “gold” being used only poetically (or metaphorically/allegorically!), and good modern artists should take a leaf out of their book.


              1. Well, the inkjet prints of that beetle that I made look even closer to the original, and a competent watercolor artist (such as Kelly herself) can do anything with a brush that an inkjet printer can…again, depending on how much work you’re willing to put into it.

                But you’re certainly not going to do it with a solid color…with anything with that much specularity, what you’re really looking at are the light sources, not the object itself, and the trick is to represent how the object distorts the reflections of the light sources as opposed to trying to represent some idealized non-reflective version of the object.

                For example, in this beetle, you’ll notice that the center right is very light in color — basically just an off-white — while the lower left is very dark. Further, that same contrast is repeated on very small scales throughout the whole image; compare where the front left leg joins the body with where the front right leg does. Kelly didn’t do anything different with the gold foil; that’s all lighting…and it’s that sort of thing you have to capture if you want a realistic reproduction.


              2. Oh, sorry, I missed that Kelly had done this as a water-colour.

                Maybe that just says that their are few good heraldic artists that can achieve a realistic effect which preserves the contrast with colours. Bad examples abound where the “artist” has just used gold paint. The best use yellows and oranges; e..g, by Marco Foppoli.


              3. I think I might have given a worng impression.

                The body of the beetle is gold leaf; the legs and antennae are watercolor. But I’m sure Kelly could make a watercolor copy of the photograph I made of it, and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two.

                The example you give is a good one. It makes effective use of shading and contrast to portray dimensionality. Though the impression is that, say, the legs are solid and made from a surface with uniform properties, the actual paint on the page goes from near-white to light yellow to medium yellow-orange to dark orange-red. Solid gold paint would not work, but gold leaf applied with the same dimensionality as Kelly used (really, it’s more of a bas-relief than anything else) would work.

                As to the amounts of oranges and reds to mix in with the yellow…it depends on which gold alloy you’re trying to represent. Not all golds are the same color, and it doesn’t take much to change the color…Wikipedia, as usual, has a not-bad introduction:


                The example you posted is a good representation of 18K gold/copper alloy, a favorite for decorative uses, especially if a bit of durability is desired.


    1. I read your book, “The Undefeated Mind”, last summer, Dr. Lickerman.

      I’ve always meant to tell you, if you posted here again, that I thought it was really good. Lovely, in fact. The earnest good will you feel for the reader is evident on every page.

        1. I read it as slowly and carefully as I could, taking many notes along the way. It was what it was advertised to be: insightful and helpful, generous and kind. It was a genuinely good and useful book.

          Do write another.

  6. Congrats! I will probably purchase from Chapters-Indigo in Canada because I try to reward them for being so good about moving religious books out of the science sections of their brick & mortar stores.

    1. Now if they would just move them to Fiction (or better yet to those bins out back) and lengthen the science shelves accordingly…

  7. Excellent, Congratulations Prof CC!

    Should we run a sweepstake on how many references to cats, owls and foxes turn up?

  8. Why does it take nearly eight months between finishing a book and its release? That strikes me as ridiculous. I assume a kindle edition could be released nearly immediately. Maybe it’s all about marketing?

    1. I used to be in the printing business and commercial presses can turn out millions of books nowadays in a matter of a few days, so it must be a timing/marketing issue.

    2. Maybe the problem is similar to journal publications? I.e., the publisher always has a backlog of things ready to roll out, and when you get approved, you go to the back of the line.

        1. Even those took around 6 months to get from “I’ve finished” tweets from Rowling to paper on bookshelves.

    3. Making it readable and look nice can take its time, too. They could have done the macro-typography in advance, but micro-typography needs the finished text and has thousands of rules to apply at the correct places by someone with an eye for the smallest detail. Despite some automation, you’d want someone who goes through the whole book to make sure there aren’t widows and orphans, just two of the thousand rules to apply correctly.

  9. Excellent title. I’m looking forward to it.

    I hope it covers Biologos – that place is fascinatingly messed up.

  10. Just saw your post and immediately went to amazon. I have now pre-ordered “the albatross”. Now I have to wait with bated breath until May. Oy vey! My cat Attacus also sends his wishes for success with a great big yowling meow.

  11. Congratulations! That’s going straight to the top of the stack of things I want to read. I am a bit relieved that it comes out only next year, I can make some room till then 😀

    You will note that the name “Richard Dawson” is in the blurb on the site; it will be changed to “Richard Dawkins” ASAP.

    Perhaps your publisher found a way to contact him at his current abode and he did contribute a joke how faith in afterlives is complete hokum?

  12. Congratulations! But do I really have to wait till May? That’s too long!

    On your subtitle : isn’t it reality that is incompatible with religion? Science is a way of revealing reality.

  13. Congrats!!

    Also, that is spooky–just a day or two ago I thought to check Amazon to see if pre-orders were available–nada. Guess I should have been checking every day…or hour. 🙂

    I did, of course, come across that book by the other Jerry Coyne…that’s kind of spooky, too. 😀

    Off to Amazon…

    PS: Always cool when you can have, “Author of The New York Times bestseller…” on the cover!

  14. From Amazon:

    ” Extending the bestselling works of Richard Dawson [sic], Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens…”

    It’s official–the new Horseman has been declared. (Big shoes to fill, but who could better do so?)

      1. Big shoes – or hooves.

        So, you think that the Horsemen of the apocalypse are centaurs, and so need shoeing regularly?
        It’s a possible interpretation, but not really how I’d envisaged the phrase being incorporated.

        1. As I said above (or below), it’ll be cowboy boots for Jerry. (Which hide would be most befitting, d’you think?)

          I imagine Richard wearing proper riding boots and jodhpurs.

          But I’m not sure what would suit Sam or Dan.


          1. I was wondering more about the eschatology of the Four Horsepeople. White horseman (Pestilence) has a bow and a crown ; red horseman (War) has a great sword ; black horseman (Famine) has a pair of scales ; pale horseman (Death) has just his good self. But what implements to assign to the Four Horsepeople (and who’s who?) … is a topic best discussed over a beer or five.

        2. I considered that after my wise ass post but I actually did as a kid. My exposure to Christianity was Xmas, Easter and the apocalypse. I would have had only the treats of Easter and Xmas but I went to a public school that forced the rest on me (yes, I said public; I’m still bitter). I thought horsemen were centaurs because English can be tricky or maybe it was the translation from all those languages to English. My dad told me he thought the “Christian soldiers” in his Baptist Sunday school were the Romans they showed as the bad guys in the Jesus pictures so I guess it runs in the family. Oh and I thought the Lord’s Prayer was about our dads because I thought it said “our fathers who aren’t in heaven” so to my thinking it was our dads on earth.

          This is probably why I wasn’t indoctrinated. I wasn’t really clever, I just misheard things. 🙂

          1. I’d like to see the whole of the Lord’s Prayer similarly mondegreened!

            It reminds me of Dave Allen’s “In the name of the Father, and the Son, into the whole he goes”!


  15. Smart cover design, one I like and one which makes me again realize I’ll never be a designer! But I can be an appreciator.

    For some reason, I recall an essay of the late Stephen Jay Gould (or perhaps it was in an introduction to one of his collection) in which he referred to his grandmother’s use of “auf Schwarz”, as in there it is in black and white.

    Sure both words are in black but the bold, crisp lines of “Fact” are far different than the near ethereal outlines of “Faith,” which makes the point as well as anticipates the content of the book.

    Albatrosses should be free to fly and glide. I’m glad this one has been released to do just that.

          1. Oh, man…what I would do for a consistent, reliable, neutral, dark black….

            (To be fair, my Canon iPF8100 is a spectacular printer with which I have no complaints…but, even with it, “black” can change quite radically depending on the paper you’re printing on. Which is just one of the many reasons I have a spectrophotometer….)


            1. a consistent, reliable, neutral, dark black….

              You need to talk to Hotblack Desiato’s spaceship paint shop.

              1. You jest…but I actually did get a small sample of super-black carbon nanotubes affixed to plastic for an experiment for a photographic target for building ICC camera profiles. Alas, it was way too fragile. Turned out to be okay, though; I was already using a light trap, and that was plenty adequate.

                NASA has some sort of fancy black coating that they use for lining the optics of space telescopes. I tried to see if it was available to mere mortals without luck….


              2. Try contacting less esoteric telescope makers – the back pages of “Sky and Telescope” should give lots of options. Baffling and catching stray light inside telescope optical tube assemblies, so OTA builders have their own tricks for coating the insides. you might even find out who supplies NASA. (Other astronomy publications are available.)

              3. I was going to suggest the same. You can build your own scopes (typically Dobsonians) so you should be able to find access to such things.

              4. Amateur telescope makers have a long and justifiably proud tradition of “string and sealing wax” constructions where ingenuity and re-purposing are used as substitutes for cash.

              5. The ones I remember finding at the time were variations on the same type of small-nap flocking common lining camera lens hoods. I made a bunch of black flock velvet drapes to put up and take down for my studio, to be able to control the light however I want, and the fabric is substantially blacker than what I’ve seen in consumer optics…and, as it turns out, plenty “good enough” for a simple light trap for ICC camera profiling.

                There’re some interesting geometries, including a cornucopia-shaped one, that would also make an effective light trap, but a simple closed box with a small hole cut in it is astonishingly effective even with a white interior, so long as the illuminant isn’t shining directly on the part of the inside you’re observing. Make the interior black — and especially if you make the interior super-black — and you’ve got something that emits no photons detectable above your sensor’s (or eye’s) noise floor.

                …at least, as long as you’re working with consumer-level devices, like digital cameras. This is fortunate, because, if you’re working with devices that can detect photons from such a light trap, you’re also working with a budget that you can afford fancy NASA materials….


  16. I would like to commend whoever Coyned the codename ‘albatross’ for their percipience… This book clearly looks capable of sustained long-range flight.

            1. Muhahahaha! I’m already cursed. I had a 5 hour root canal (supposed to be one hour) then the next day went to an appointment that was an hour drive away to find out they screwed up and I had to drive an hour back.

            1. PS My former bf and his kids got stuck on that ride at Disney World for about an hour. He almost strangled somebody. Fortunately I was not along…

              1. For some insane reason, many many moons ago, when I went to Disney World, whoever I was with talked me into going on that ride. And, of course, it got stuck. From the numbers of people with similar experiences, I tend to think it’s deliberate on the part of Disney.

                That there haven’t been any mass murders there is utterly beyond my comprehension.


  17. Congratulations Jerry!

    I like the cover, but may I suggest that for your next book you chose a subject that allows you to put a cat (preferably Hili) on the cover? 🙂

  18. Congrats Professor! Hey just an FYI, i was just reading your post from back in 2012 about the evolutionary development of kidneys. The link about the lanugo appears to have hijacked by another blogger called SITE REDACTED? Again, just an FYI.

  19. Congratulations, Prof CC.
    I note that Amazon does not yet allow reviews, otherwise I predict the reviews graph would soon be filled with “5”s and “1”s by people who have yet to read it and have completely opposing views on the subject regardless of the quality of the writing.

    1. I note that Amazon does not yet allow reviews,

      [reviews] … by people who have yet to read it

      I suspect that those two facts are not unrelated.

  20. Congratulations Jerry, I’ll look forward to reading it, I do so love your posts on faith & fact. I usually get ebooks these days, but for special books, like this, I’ll get the hard copy. I’ll join with Diana McPherson and get it from Chapters/Indigo.

    Great work!

        1. Thanks Diana, I do know how important the correct spelling of names can be, though I am never concerned with my own.

          I have a friend named MacLeod who states his name as “Ma Cloud, that’s MAC”

          Mc, Mac and even M’ have the same origin, I believe, for both the Irish and the Scots. My own family name had an O’ which was dropped about 200 years ago. Some have put it back in, my branch has not. My son when at university used the Irish form and signed his name as Ui Rathaille, of course in Irish script!


            1. Hi Ant, good guess, but no …
              My R is Rahilly, family name used to be O’Rahilly, not to be confused with O’Reilly or any of its variations. Likely some Rahilly’s did become Reilly or Riley in North America, pronunciation was easier.
              The family home for O’Rahilly was Kerry, though my father’s family came from Limerick. O’Reillys are from further north. The Gaelic forms of both names are different too.


          1. Yes the Scots Irish – all pretty much the same. I think the MacPhersons got booted out of Scotland and sent to Ireland by the English then booted out of Ireland and came to the new world.

  21. Congratulations! I’ll wait for the library copy, being a person of minimal funds. I’m really, really looking forward to reading it.

  22. Totally OT, but just saw a delightful hour and a half of Stephen Fry, live from London, at my local cinema. Maybe there will be reruns. He talks about his newest book, More Fool Me, and tells some hilarious stories, including one in which his good buddy Penn Gilette kowtows to Prince Charles after going on about how we ‘Muricans don’t do that;-)

  23. Congratulations Prof Coyne. The cover looks good, bold, a touch of gold, I’d pray for it’s success but I’ll wish you all the best.. instead.
    Cheers and all the best with the new book.

            1. What theory — that cats have tails? No, I’m positive that cats have tails. I can see a cat from where I’m sitting — he’s laying in a splash of sunlight through the window — and he most assuredly has a tail.


  24. Huzzah Jerry! You must be wondering what to do with yourself now!

    I hope the Kindle option goes up soon. It’s important to get as many pre-orders as possible to get the highest best seller rating when it debuts. This generates more publicity, more sales etc.

  25. Thanks for this! Pre-ordered it now! I fundamentally disagree with you about the nature of science and religion, but I am looking forward to reading your book and the opportunity to challenge and refine my own beliefs.

    1. Chris:

      I would invite you to expand on this:

      I fundamentally disagree with you about the nature of science and religion

      Jerry’s ideas on the nature of science (for sure) and religion* seem very well informed (he is a well-trained and practiced scientist afterall) and well aligned with the generally-accepted features of these subjects.

      Please explain where you think is going wrong. Cheers,

      * More controversially, although no one seems to agree about religion anyway, including believers, even within (for instance) Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, which have all splintered into sects opposed to one another.

  26. Congrats to Professor Ceiling Cat! I haven’t pre-ordered, but will certainly be purchasing a paper copy. Can’t wait to read it!

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