An important book and impressive piece of science writing.

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THE SECOND CREATION

DOLLY AND THE AGE OF BIOLOGICAL CONTROL

When Dolly, the cloned sheep, met the media in 1997, she unleashed a torrent of headlines, articles, editorials, and at least one book (Clone ,by Gina Kolata). Another after three years seems superfluous, but it’s the one to read.

Dolly was not the first cloned animal, the first cloned sheep, or even the first cloned sheep at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. She was, however, the first mammal cloned from an adult of her species: a dazzling accomplishment, which provoked tabloid fantasies about human cloning. In fact, cloning was not the researchers’ goal—it was merely a step toward creating an animal genetically transformed in a useful manner. Dolly got the headlines, but Polly, born a year later, is more useful: not only is Polly a clone, but she is fitted with a human gene for anti-hemophilic factor, which she secretes into her milk. These sheep symbolize the roaring triumph of a late 20th–century revolution less publicized than the computer revolution but actually more important, for cloning and genetic engineering will allow us control over elements in our lives from food to medicine to aging. Even more significant, they are teaching us precisely how living things grow and function (we learned how nonliving things function early this century with relativity and quantum mechanics). Wilmut and Campbell are the scientists most responsible for Dolly, but the book is actually written by veteran British science writer Tudge (The Engineer in the Garden, 1994). A thorough professional, Tudge immersed himself in the subject for two years, picked the brains of Wilmut and Campbell, and understood the implications of their work. With their help, he begins at the beginning with Mendel and Darwin, and in lucid prose he describes the scientists, the experiments, and the growth of knowledge that accelerated after the discovery of DNA structure in 1953 and exploded a generation later. By the time he explains how Dolly’s cloning was achieved, readers will understand the details and appreciate the accomplishment.

An important book and impressive piece of science writing.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-14123-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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