A well-written and cohesive treatment of the fundamentals of genetics, as revealed through its favorite experimental subject.

FLY

THE UNSUNG HERO OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE

How genetics, with the help of the humble fruit fly, moved into the forefront of modern science.

Brookes (Get a Grip on Genetics, not reviewed) begins where modern biology begins: with Darwin. But the father of evolution was, like his naturalist predecessors, an observer and collector rather than an experimenter. As the 19th century came to a close, a new generation of scientists champed at the bit, anxious to test their theories in the laboratory. As Thomas Hunt Morgan of Columbia University discovered, the fruit fly—short-lived, prolific, easy to raise in a bottle—was an ideal experimental subject. A few years later, his student Herman Muller learned that exposure to X-rays would bring about a rash of bizarre mutations in the flies: legs growing where antennae ought to, or doubled body segments. By the 1930s, this discovery had opened the door to the study of the individual genes responsible for the mutations, and new insight into the developmental patterns of growing organisms. The saliva glands of the fly contain oversized chromosomes that allow scientists to observe individual genes directly. The connection between genetics and evolution was reestablished by Theodosius Dobzhansky, whose studies of wild-fruit-fly populations pointed up the genetic diversity within a single species that is the raw material of evolutionary development. Later experiments with “jumping” genes led to the discovery of a rudimentary form of genetic engineering, of the genetic foundations of behavior, and hints of the secrets of longevity. Brookes gives enough detail of the various experiments to give the layperson a grasp of their significance, and provides an entertaining glimpse of the daily workings of a genetics lab.

A well-written and cohesive treatment of the fundamentals of genetics, as revealed through its favorite experimental subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-621251-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

THE ORDER OF TIME

Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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