October Update

Bought a standard poodle puppy.  Bringing him home October 5, so October will be full of housebreaking, and FUN.

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Julie's Science Store

These are some fascinating books about DNA, heredity, and evolution!

  • Chance in the House of Fate: A Natural History of Heredity
    by Jennifer Ackerman
    In this very personal book, Jennifer Ackerman weaves tales of the people she loves together with her awe over genetics.  Her tone is warmly conversational as she tells us about DNA: what is known, becoming known, and being wondered about now, so as to become known tomorrow.
     
  • The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma
    by Dr. Marc W. Kirschner, John C. Gerhart
    What makes life itself fit to survive?  Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhart organize what we know about genetic history and about the workings of organisms, to explain how the life forms whose descendants are around today were “fit,” precisely because they possessed qualities that prepared the way for evolution.  Organisms are “ready” to change, so that, while environmental changes may be random, the responses of organisms are not.
     
  • Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo
    by Sean Carroll
    For a large part of the 20th century, zoologists thought every type of animal had a unique set of genes, the genes that made rabbits give birth to baby rabbits, or that made grasshopper eggs hatch grasshopper nymphs. Instead, Sean B. Carroll tells us, in his charmingly offhand style, animals turn out to share great numbers of genes.  In particular, we share master genes, the ones responsible for controlling embryological development.  These master genes have been highly conserved for hundreds of millions of years, have passed into both great branches of animals, and have been central to the evolution of what Darwin called, “endless forms most beautiful.”
     
  • Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
    by Stephen Jay Gould
    Beloved, clear, boundlessly enthusiastic Stephen Jay Gould tells us about the 570-million-years-old fossils of the Burgess Shale.  This book is a mystery-adventure.  The clues are a treasure trove of animal types: misunderstood, misnamed, dismissed—until a group of dedicated detectives reexamined the evidence.  Their findings remind Gould of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, for they offer the opportunity to imagine what life on earth might have been like, had our ancestors not survived the various extinctions since the Cambrian Explosion.
     
  • Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension
    by Stephen S. Hall
    Scientists, politicians, business people, and reporters are the protagonists and supporting characters in Stephen S. Hall’s true tales of discovery, intrigue, pathos, wealth, and power.  Who could have expected biology to become a field of such struggle and promise?  Chromosomes, stem cells, cloning, national and international law, bioethics…this book is a page-turner.
     
  • The Life of the Cosmos
    by Lee Smolin
    This book is so understandable, as you follow Lee Smolin’s tale of the cosmos, that all sorts of phenomena about atoms and physics and stars and the astonishing presence of life itself, become enchantingly clear.  And this clarity is merely a side effect of Smolin’s awesome and wonderful hypothesis that, like us, our starry universe is a result of a process of natural selection among universes.
     
  • The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
    by Sean B. Carroll

    Charles Darwin would be thrilled with this book. In it, Carroll corroborates evolution by natural selection. The process Darwin described in The Origin of Species is written in the fossil record of genes and genomes. Carroll explains and describes this fossil record with clear, understandable, remarkable examples: a fish with no scales and no red blood cells, a bird that seems colored to human vision in visible light, but that glows for species able to see with UV light, special gut characteristics for primates with special diets. Fascinating.