Everything you wanted to know about microbes but were afraid to ask.

10% HUMAN

HOW YOUR BODY'S MICROBES HOLD THE KEY TO HEALTH AND HAPPINESS

This state-of-the-science survey explores and explains what is known about the microbial community that lives within us and what we have yet to learn.

In a welcome antidote to the simplistic “boost your health with probiotics” books and articles posing as science (but serving mostly commerce), Collen dares to tell the messy truth about what science knows—and doesn’t know—about the microbes that live in us, live with us, and in some ways even become us. An evolutionary biologist with several degrees, the author is clearly an expert in the field. Happily for readers, she’s also an experienced science writer who is equally at ease offering firsthand tales from her rain-forest expeditions and parsing complex laboratory experiments. She balances these nicely, though her overall emphasis is on the science. What makes even a step-by-step explanation of experimental protocol fascinating here, though, is twofold. First, Collen always brings the story back to the human level, telling, for instance, the tale of a courageous mother who tracked down a possible bacterial precursor to autism. Second, she never stops at simply reporting the outcome of a given experiment or data set. For example, instead of jumping to the logical conclusion that higher worldwide fat and sugar consumption have led directly to the obesity crisis, she steps outside the box and asks whether the trouble is what we’re eating or what we’re not eating. If fat and sugar calories have displaced microbe-friendly foods like high-fiber vegetables, she notes, the body’s biome has likely also changed. What impact would that have on our collective weight? Collen never claims that she has uncovered the answers to modern health woes, but she points out the markers that may one day lead to such answers.

Everything you wanted to know about microbes but were afraid to ask.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0062345981

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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