In 1994 Bryan Sykes was called in as an expert to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy for over 5000 years--the Ice Man. Sykes succeeded in extracting DNA from the Ice Man, but even more important, writes Science News, was his "ability to directly link that DNA to Europeans living today." In this groundbreaking book, Sykes reveals how the identification of a particular strand of DNA that passes unbroken through the maternal line allows scientists to trace our genetic makeup all the way back to prehistoric times--to seven primeval women, the "seven daughters of Eve."
The burgeoning new science of epigenetics offers a cornucopia of insights--some comforting, some frightening. For example, the male fetus may be especially vulnerable to certain common chemicals in our environment, in ways that damage not only his own sperm but also the sperm of his sons. And it's epigenetics that causes identical twins to vary widely in their susceptibility to dementia and cancer. But here's the good news: unlike mutations, epigenetic effects are reversible. Indeed, epigenetic engineering is the future of medicine.
"Passionate, succinct, chilling, closely argued, sometimes hilarious, touchingly well-intentioned, and essential." --Margaret Atwood, The New York Review of Books
Nearly fifteen years ago, in The End of Nature, Bill McKibben demonstrated that humanity had begun to irrevocably alter and endanger our environment on a global scale. Now he turns his eye to an array of technologies that could change our relationship not with the rest of nature but with ourselves. He explores the frontiers of genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology--all of which we are approaching with astonishing speed--and shows that each threatens to take us past a point of no return. We now stand, in Michael Pollan's words, "on a moral and existential threshold," poised between the human past and a post-human future. McKibben offers a celebration of what it means to be human, and a warning that we risk the loss of all meaning if we step across the threshold. Instantly acclaimed for its passion and insight, this wise and eloquent book argues that we cannot forever grow in reach and power--that we must at last learn how to say, "Enough."
The recent discovery of the diminutive Homo floresiensis (nicknamed "the Hobbit") in Indonesia has sparked new interest in the study of human evolution. In this Very Short Introduction, renowned evolutionary scholar Bernard Wood traces the history of paleoanthropology from its beginnings in the eighteenth century to today's latest fossil finds. Along the way we are introduced to the lively cast of characters, past and present, involved in evolutionary research. Although concentrating on the fossil evidence for human evolution, the book also covers the latest genetic evidence about regional variations in the modern human genome that relate to our evolutionary history. Wood draws on over thirty years of experience to provide an insiders view of the field, and demonstrates that our understanding of human evolution is critically dependent on advances in related sciences such as paleoclimatology, geochronology, systematics, genetics, and developmental biology. This is an ideal introduction for anyone interested in the origins and development of humankind.
An illustrated introduction to genetics.
The Secret Life of Genes is the story of genetic science and how it makes each of us unique. It spans the discovery of the gene and the all-encompassing role it plays in biology: from controlling the inner workings of cells and the development of embryos, through patterns of inheritance, to the evolution of new forms of life. From there developed the vast and boundless field of genetic science and research.
Readers will get a sneak peek into the Human Genome Project, the international scientific research project with the goal of determining the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that make up human DNA. From this, scientists identified and mapped all of the genes of the human genome from both a physical and a functional standpoint, and opened a Pandora's box of secrets: the hidden workings of the human genome; how gene switching, junk DNA, and genetic mutation might be affecting our everyday lives; and why patents are soaring for genetic inventions.
The Secret Life of Genes is written in accessible language and organized for easy comprehension. It opens with the basics and the key theories, goes on to describe DNA sequencing and what we can do with it. It then looks at the history of the world's DNA and gives readers an exciting glimpse of the future of the field.
Oliver Sacks travels once again in search of human diversity, to the South Pacific atoll of Pingelap, where he finds that a high proportion of the population is colourblind and investigates the causes and effects of that condition. This book explores the islands, the people and their case studies.
DNA, the genetic blueprint of all creatures, is a stunningly rich and detailed record of evolution. Every change or new trait, from the gaudy colors of tropical birds to our color vision with which we admire them, is due to changes in DNA that leave a record and can be traced. Just as importantly, the DNA evidence has revealed several profound surprises about how evolution actually works.