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Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts
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Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  863 ratings  ·  155 reviews
For centuries, we've toyed with our creature companions, breeding dogs that herd and hunt, housecats that look like tigers, and teacup pigs that fit snugly in our handbags. But what happens when we take animal alteration a step further, engineering a cat that glows green under ultraviolet light or cloning the beloved family Labrador? Science has given us a whole new toolbo ...more
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  863 ratings  ·  155 reviews

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Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pop science survey for voters, consumers, and parents of future scientists. Not technical, no charts or illustrations or bibliography. Thorough notes and index. A quick and fascinating read. I had some idea of some of what's been going on, but there was plenty of new information, too.

One thing I should have known but didn't is that wolves weren't reintroduced to Yellowstone just for their own sake. The elk were overpopulating the park, eating the trees... now that the wolves are back
Camille McCarthy
Jun 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
I really disliked this book because it was mostly about a subject I detest (messing with nature through genetic engineering and other types of engineering) but also because it was written in a really irritating style full of cliches and words that annoy me such as "pooches" and "critters". I disliked the way the author tried to put a positive slant on genetic engineering because she did not come across as much of an authority on anything in this book and personally if one does research in the fi ...more
Dec 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
**3.5 Stars**

Ok, I wasn't sure about this book because I hated the first chapter, so let me break it down by chapter:

Go Fish - I found it a horrible idea and concept that we could eventually get to the point where we were ordering designer pets; pets displaying our team colors or that glow in the dark.

Got Milk? - Phasinating. I really liked reading about Pharming and all the benefits there are to adding antibodies into goat and cow milk. The medical application can become limitless
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is popular science writing at its best. Anthes takes us on a journey of where life meets the cutting edge of technology, from genetically engineered pets like glo-fish to cloned cats to bionic rats. We learn about deep sea creatures tagged with sensors to give us information about the ocean floor, cryonic tanks full of endangered species DNA, a make-your-own robo-roach kit, and a rescued dolphin with a prosthetic tail.

Antes brings up ethical questions about whether we should or shouldn't m
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, adult, science
"For centuries, we’ve toyed with our creature companions, breeding dogs that herd and hunt, housecats that look like tigers, and teacup pigs that fit snugly in our handbags. But what happens when we take animal alteration a step further, engineering a cat that glows green under ultraviolet light or cloning the beloved family Labrador? Science has given us a whole new toolbox for tinkering with life. How are we using it? In Frankenstein’s Cat, the journalist Emily Anthes takes us from petri dish ...more
Brian Clegg
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my experience, more scientists like dogs than cats (a dangerous assertion, I admit), which is why, perhaps, a cat ended up on the receiving end of the most famous thought experiment in history, Schrödinger’s Cat. Although the cat in Emily Anthes’ title obviously owes its existence to its hypothetical quantum cousin, though, this isn’t a book about thought experiments, but the real things. From fluorescent fish to cyborg animals, this is the story of what we are really doing – or planning to d ...more
Georg Gerstenfeld
Aug 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Despite mediocre writing and a muddle of anecdotes, this book is worth reading. What science can do and is doing to animals needs to be debated in a much more public way. Some of the examples are disturbing, especially the way companies exploit genetic modification to create designer pets that glow in the dark. In the absence of public debate and intelligent discourse, emotional responses by government regulators and their constituents often lead to these genetic engineering technologies migrati ...more
Ralph McEwen
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful but quick read. The touches on the good and bad in today's technology and looks hopefully at what the future may hold.
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Before officially cracking open the pages, my first impressions were that I would (1) hopefully enjoy this book and (2) learn something new. As a person who works with genetically engineered organisms, I’ve never taken a step back to see what the layman viewed my work as and this book hopefully is an eye opener - both in terms of bioethics and scientific discovery. Right from the bat, I can tell that it’s referencing heavily to science fiction tropes: Frankenstein’s “cat” and Brave New “Beasts”. ...more
Alyssa Goss
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book is readable but not very informative. The author tends to gloss over how the processes she's describing work in favor of waxing poetic about the possibilities such procedures might create. She's also incredibly biased, making a cursory show of trying to argue both sides but not hiding her blind enthusiasm. She ignores arguments that might force her to present an actual case for say genetic engineering of food, such as the fact that genetically engineered plants have already turned up i ...more
Apr 29, 2014 rated it liked it
I found this book a shocking read. Against the backdrop of an industry continuing to regard animals as tools for human betterment (Chinese factories mass-producing lab-mice with specific abnormalities?), this messenger has a disturbingly breezy apathy. The author's tone lacks the substance or balance you'd expect from an MIT graduate. Although she touches on some ethical issues, her voice is clear : the new frontier in animal manipulation is both fun and exciting. A rather flippant delivery unde ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. It taught me so much about the rapidly evolving world of genetics & was written so this layperson could understand the science. I do have to tell you that some of what is done is horrifying...and I get that research has its "costs". But I'm uncomfortable with the tradeoffs yet have no satisfying alternative to offer.

No matter what your interest in science...this book is a must read just so you'll be in the "know" for what's happening. And definitely be m
Mark Pepp
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Good book that discusses many of the scientific and technological advances that are creating new breeds of living organisms never found in nature... a lot of interesting stuff, but I gotta admit I felt the author comes across as biased in favor of genetically modifying organisms despite the lack of long-term scientific study of consequences thereof
I thought this book was amazing. It was well researched and written in a style that was easy to understand but not dumbed down enough that a little kid could read it. Definitely a book I would like to own.
May 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Some years ago, I read a fascinating book by paleontologist Jack Horner, titled How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution. Since science has proven it is patently impossible to bring back dinosaurs using their DNA (ala Jurassic Park), Horner instead proposes an intriguing alternative: reverse-engineering dinosaurs from birds. The entire book explains how, through evolutionary development (or "evo-devo," as Horner calls it), scientists may genetically manipulate a chicken so that when it hatc ...more
Midu Hadi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a whirlwind trip through the emerging realm of biological tinkering, particularly of animals. The book breathlessly divides it time partly in the science of how genetic modification is performed, but also delves into some of the ethical considerations.

To start with it was interesting. After the first chapter (on fish bread to fluoresce day-glow colours), the book for me lost steam. It felt like a bullet pointed list of all that was being done, and all that the mad scientists wanted to b
D DePalma
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I suppose this book is decent enough if you don't know much about biotechnology; it's relatively informative and most of the research is well-done. But the author's bias towards the subject is painfully obvious, even toward the end of the book when she gets into subjects that are less palatable, and there are times when her narrative is downright childish. I understand the assumption that your reader doesn't understand any of the science, but this book is (presumably) written for adults. She cou ...more
Adam Tash
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thought-provoking and very interesting as a survey of the inevitable and ongoing integration of tech and biology. Takes readers into real-life applications of these ideas - each chapter goes in-depth about a sub-topic and generally involves a visit to a specific expert (s). As a total outsider and novice many were totally new to me. Personally not interested in the author's thoughts about the topic and often found myself on a different wavelength from her personal views. She is very trusting and ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: genetics, science
Okay - good. The author will occasionally give in to the very tabloid journalism she claims to despise but this seems more out of a misunderstanding than out of a need for sensationalism. After all, it is easier to speculate when you know less on the topic.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was filled with TERRIBLE puns and about ten pages discussing prosthetic animal balls. Don't worry she made puns about that too. This was painstaking for me to read but I have to admit some of the topics were pretty interesting. Other ideas really creeped me out.
Kell Cowley
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Perfect for my research! Chapters 8 and 9 especially. And as a bio-hacking layman I appreciated the cute conversational tone. It helped the science go down easier.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Do you like animals? Genetic engineering? Biotechnology? Bioethics? Bio-bio? Could be your book. Also has my favorite book cover ever.
Daniel Hutt
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book on the current affairs in neuroscience, prosthetics, and our relationship with animals as it pertains to both.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
so much fun! I wish I've stuck with my early childhood interest in Biology a bit more, now they are doing all the things that I dreamed about doing when I was a kid
Yvonne Taylor
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not very engaging. Expected more from a young adult non-fiction
Becky B
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Emily Anthes does a superb job of giving us a tour of the weird and wonderful (and sometimes sad and freaky) world where the animal kingdom meets biotechnology. She covers topics as varied as playing around with genomes, cloning, sensor implantation and tracking devices, prosthesis, and cyborg experiments. She explains the science behind the technology in easy to understand language (I think...I admit I'm not the best judge of how well it explained it for someone with no science background since ...more
DeLene Beeland
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Frankenstein’s Cat is written in an entirely accessible manner. It’s sometimes whimsical, sometimes humorous, deepy informing—and always understandable. Anthes’ love of alliteration is sprinkled throughout the text with cheeky phrases such as “creature copies, cloned kittens, feathered fowl, and robo rats.” She clearly explains scientific and technical processes while also probing what biotech experiments and applications mean in philosophical, moral, ethical and ecological frameworks.
Kasey Jane
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although every situation is different, if I had to choose a side I suppose I would be pro-biotechnology. While there are legitimate reasons to invoke the precautionary principle over, say, genetic modification, there is so much fearmongering in news and politics that it drowns out the real good that can be done. Frankenstein's Cat responds to the fear with facts in a nice summary of the intersection between technology and the animals in our lives.

This is pop sci, and like the best pop s
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
The introduction to Frankenstein’s Cat is frightening to all of those who hold life sacred. It tells of a laboratory in China that is mass producing mutant mice, each with different variants of mutated genes. Some of these manipulations are physical, with tumors or male-pattern baldness, and some are neurological. And just when all of the anti-scientific crowds have gathered to use this book as their creed, Anthes delivers a much different viewpoint on biotechnology in the animal kingdom.
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Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her work has appeared in Wired, Scientific American Mind, Psychology Today, Seed, Discover, Slate, Good, New York, Popular Mechanics, Foreign Policy, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere.

Her book, Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, will be published in March 2013 by Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ...more
“Humans are a force of nature—we are, in some senses, THE force of nature—and we influence animals whether we intend to or not. So the real question, going forward, is not WHETHER we should shape animals’ bodies and lives, but HOW we should do so—with what tools, under what circumstances, and to what end… Unless we plan to move all humanity to Mars and leave Earth to rewild itself, we may need to help our furry and feathered friends survive in a world that has us in it. As Kraemer puts it: ‘I’m of the persuasion that we are changing the habitat of wildlife so rapidly that we may have to help those species evolve.” 4 likes
“The troubled middle is…a place where it’s possible to truly love animals and still accept their occasional role as resources, objects, and tools. Those of us in the troubled middle believe that animals deserve to be treated well, but we don’t want to ban their use in medical research. We care enough to want livestock to be raised humanely, but don’t want to abandon meat-eating altogether. ‘Some argue that we are fence-sitters, moral wimps,’ Herzog, himself a resident of the troubled middle, writes. ‘I believe, however, that the troubled middle makes perfect sense because moral quagmires are inevitable in a species with a huge brain and a big heart. They come with the territory.” 3 likes
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