Full Disclosure: I received a free galley from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.
I want to mention the positive things about Scatter, A...moreFull Disclosure: I received a free galley from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.
I want to mention the positive things about Scatter, Adapt, and Remember before I get to the problems with it. Here they are:
1. This is an awesome subject, that of future human evolution and radical approaches to sustaining human life on this planet and beyond. I was nominally interested in this type of futurism before reading SAR, but now I'm ready to attack the Canon.
2. Newitz is a great writer: lively and informative.
3. Newitz is also has a very fascinating thesis: humanity survived past catastrophes and will survive future catastrophes by 1) Scattering to distant and more hospitable locales or possibly planets, 2) Adapting to their new environments and 3) Preserving their symbolic culture for future generations.
4. DINOSAURS! PRE=HISTORIC HUMANS! They are covered here
5. For bibliophiles who all of a sudden found themselves VERY interested in mass extinctions and futurism, the notes are a treasure trove of references to books and articles. My to-read list just kept growing and growing.
6. Fascinating discussion of how science fiction might teach us how to survive the apocalypse.
That's done, now here's the bad part. The two-star part:
This book is too damn short.
It's a common complaint I read in reviews on goodreads and amazon: this book could have used a better editor. This book might have been better with out one. You can practically see the red ink on the page here. So much is missing, the culprit completely obvious from the perfectly palatable-to-hoi-polloi 300 pages here. The chapters so formulaic, like a sixth grader's book report. Say what you're going to say. Say it. Say what you said. Book profiles come with lots of statistics: page length, date of publication, weight, dimensions. There should be an additional: Optimal page length. This is an 800 page book squeezed into 300 pages. Entire arguments are gutted to fit each chapter section into a neat three paragraphs, leading the reader to have to make the logical leaps necessary to complete them. A subject as complex as the evolutionary advantage of diaspora is given a single example from human history. The chapter on adaptations covers one that is still in R&D - more of a potential future adaptation. On the whole, the subject matter hinted at in the title gets three sections out of six: You had no idea you were reading a book about space elevators, did you?!
I would gladly have read five hundred more pages of this in exchange for more examples and completed arguments. This really could have been a three book trilogy: 1) How mass exticntions have gone down in the past: 2) Ways organisms have survived them 3) space elevators will solve everything. I anticipate with glee wasting hours on io9.com, based on the strength of Newitz's writing. I will read her next book. I just hope that someone will lay off of the red pen next time. (less)
My first introduction to HeLa was sometime my senior year in high school during an AP Biology class. Except we were told they originated with a w...moreWow.
My first introduction to HeLa was sometime my senior year in high school during an AP Biology class. Except we were told they originated with a woman named Helen Lazarus, a housewife from St. Louis, that the cells were from a uterine tumor, and that she was still alive.
None of it is true.
This is the story of Henrietta Lacks, a patient in the free hospital at Johns Hopkins who was treated for a cervical tumor that wouldn't quit. (It still hasn't.) She was a tobacco sharecropper, then a slag-heap workers wife, a devoted mother of five and a great dancer. At the author's last count, over 60,000 research papers have been published using Mrs. Lacks' cells, and until now it seems, no one knew a thing about her.
Rebecca Skloot became fascinated with Henrietta Lacks, whom her high school biology teacher named Helen Lawrence (the doctor's at Johns Hopkins who initally cultured Mrs. Lacks' cells gave the press the wrong name for decades to protect her family's privacy and to keep her family from finding out they'd taken them in the first place). In 1999, at the age of 27, she started out to write a book - by trying to contact Mrs. Lacks' family. They wanted nothing to do with her. The Lacks' family had been exploited by scientists and reporters for years, and, as Ms. Skloot was warned - they didn't trust her. She spent ten years trying to get Mrs. Lacks' story down. What has emerged after she finally earned Mrs. Lacks' family's trust is a marvel. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a moving work; I found the reading of it to be - dare I say it and lose any scientific credibility - a deeply spiritual experience.
Don't expect a whole lot of science in this work - Ms. Skloot has a bachelor's in Biology, but she doesn't concern herself with the biology of HeLa, more than giving a few examples of how the cells have been used, and the problems that they have caused (they're troublemakers) in labs around the world. This is the story of the Lacks' family and how their lives were affected by the discovery that their wife's/mothers cells were still alive. This is also a story of the terrible abuses that African-Americans have unwillingly suffered for the cause of medicine in this country and the horrible effects those abuses have had on public health.
Don't expect this journalist to distance herself from her subject at all, either - Ms. Skloot practically moved in with the Lacks family and developed a remarkable relationship with Mrs. Lack's daughter, Deborah. She also started a scholarship fund for the descendants of Henrietta Lacks.
I can't say enough to recommend this excellent book. After all of the positive press that I've seen and the indipensible book that she has written, I hope that Ms. Skloot is rewarded for this. (less)
An excellent introduction to the life of Isaac Newton. Too short to go into depth on any time period of Newton's life, Gleick chooses to focus on Newt...moreAn excellent introduction to the life of Isaac Newton. Too short to go into depth on any time period of Newton's life, Gleick chooses to focus on Newton's personality and world view, which he rigorously developed over the course of his life, and how these gave rise to his great discoveries in physics and mathmatics, pausing for a moment everyso often to comment on Newton's influence on the way that we interact with our world.
This is far from a comprehensive biography (for that, you'll need to look to Westfall's Never at Rest, on my 'to read' list, up there with Ulysses and Shelby Foote's history of the Civil War) but entertaining and enlightening none the less.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in scientific history. (less)
This is a good introduction to rational design of biological systems, but its target audience appears to be investors in biotech, with scientists work...moreThis is a good introduction to rational design of biological systems, but its target audience appears to be investors in biotech, with scientists working in the field only of secondary interest.
Carlson is an engineer with a background in aeronautical engineering. He is currently the CSO of biodesic, a company working on bacterial production of biodiesel suitable for fuel. His belief in the power of engineering principles as applied to biological systems is infectious, one would hardly expect less, but he goes overboard in his insistence that rational design of complex biological systems is possible NOW, if only biologists were replaced by engineers.
*Must go to work, but will finish review later*(less)
Really one of the best books that I read all year. Inspiring. Holmes, in his conclusion, hits the nail on its head - science is best taught and scient...moreReally one of the best books that I read all year. Inspiring. Holmes, in his conclusion, hits the nail on its head - science is best taught and scientific understanding would be brought to the general public in a much more facile manner, through instruction in its history.
Someone mentioned this in a previous review, but whoever MADE this book deserves an A+. They rarely make even pricey hardcovers this well anymore and this book, aside from being a transcendant reading experience was a pleasure to read from. (less)