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SuperCooperators: altruism, evolution and mathematics (or, why we need each other to succeed)

Roger Highfield and Martin Nowak

Darwin’s theory of evolution is infamous but it has one major chink. If life is all about survival of the fittest, then why do people risk their lives to save strangers? And what about charity and fairness? Why do we cooperate?

Evolutionary scientists have struggled with this problem since the days of Darwin. Now Harvard’s celebrated evolutionary biologist Martin Nowak has built on previous efforts, and his own research over two decades, to come up with five laws of cooperation, revealing how this very human characteristic is as fundamental as gravity. With the editor of New Scientist, Roger Highfield, he explains in this groundbreaking book that cooperation is central to the four-billion-year-old puzzle of life—how molecules in the primordial soup first crossed the watershed that separates dead chemistry from biochemistry.

In SuperCooperators Nowak and Highfield deftly unpack the basic laws of cooperation to explain the most fundamental mechanics of everyday life.

Listen to Nowak and Highfiled discuss their work on ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live.

About the Authors
Roger Highfield

Roger Highfield, PhD, is the editor of New Scientist magazine. He has written or coauthored

six popular science books, two of which have been bestsellers.

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Martin Nowak

Martin Nowak is Professor of Biology and Mathematics at Harvard University and

the recipient of a raft of international prizes. He has held major research posts at the

University of Vienna, Oxford University, Princeton and now Harvard. He has published

over 300 papers and has been widely praised for revolutionising the mathematical

approach to...

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400 pp
Text publication date:
30 May 2011
AU Price:
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Praise for Roger Highfield and Martin Nowak

“SuperCooperators” (written with Roger Highfield, editor of New Scientist magazine) is an absorbing, accessible book about the power of mathematics. Unlike Darwin with his brine bottles and pigeon coops, Nowak aims to tackle the mysteries of nature with paper, pencil and computer. Read the full review.

This is frontier mathematics, and it is very exciting…I fell in love with this book

somewhere in the first 20 pages, and although it was not the simplest relationship

to maintain, I remained enamoured to the final page.

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