THE SCIENCE OF DESIRE

THE SEARCH FOR THE GAY GENE AND THE BIOLOGY OF BEHAVIOR

An informal, first-person account of the discovery of a genetic link to male homosexuality by a scientist who has given thought to the ramifications of his findings. With the help of Scripps-Howard journalist Copeland, Hamer, a molecular geneticist who heads the National Cancer Institute's section on gene structure and regulation, describes in just the right amount of detail how he put together his research project on homosexuality. He relates how he obtained approval, funding, a research team, and a place to work; how he found the volunteers he needed (gay brothers willing to give blood samples and answer a lot of very personal questions); and what he learned from them and their family trees. Genetics being a statistical science, there's a fair amount of discussion of statistical techniques, but happily this is mostly presented with the general reader in mind. Hamer's account offers a glimpse into both the collegiality and the politics of science, and there's a delightful chapter on a confrontation he had at Harvard with critics of his research. The final portion of his book presents theories about how genes may influence sexual behavior and other human attributes and speculation about the implication of his research. In July 1993, in the midst of intense public debate over gays in the military, the journal Science published Hamer's paper, ``A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation.'' Tabloids and TV talk shows took it from there. Hamer does not dwell on his time in the spotlight, but the experience evidently sharpened his awareness of public concerns and misconceptions. After noting the possible misuses of genetic research, Hamer concludes that the real danger lies in not studying sex at all. Appendixes include the Science article (not seen) and the interview questionnaire used with research participants. Nothing to titillate, but plenty to think about. (Illustrations, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-88724-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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