The Violinist's Thumb
by Sam Kean
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Did the human race almost go extinct? Can genetics explain a cat lady's love for felines? How does DNA lead to people with no fingerprints or humans born with tails? And how did the right combination of genes create the exceptionally flexible thumbs and fingers of a truly singular violinist? Unravelling the genetic code hasn't always been easy - from its earliest days, genetics has been rife with infighting, backstabbing and controversial theories - but scientists can now finally read the astounding stories inscribed in our DNA. As we make advances into DNA mapping and modification, genetics will continue to be the hottest topic in science, shaping the very make-up of our bodies and the world around us. With the same masterful combination of science, history and culture he brought to The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean untangles the secrets of our genetic code, explaining how genetics has shaped our past and how DNA will determine humankind's future.

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1
Kin YipKin Yip wrote a review
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Spoiler Alert
I knew about the existence of this book because I heard in National Public Radio about the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi who suffered from both atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and survived ! But this turns out to be only a small part of this book ("Chapter 3"). The other most interesting story in this book is probably the description of the Human Genome Project(s) [HGP], especially how Craig Venter's company "Celera" has made the 15-year HGP project shortened to almost just a couple years, simply due to competition. Probably a prejudice of mine, something that I have worried and have had in mind: the author is not an expert scientist in the field of genetics or DNA, I don't feel that he's given me sharp and illuminative insights into the subject(s) in question. Or, when the author tried to say something profound, I would doubt whether he's got the necessary depth of knowledge or expertise to say what he has said. Another "complaint" is that at times I felt that the author is holding a thesaurus when he wrote this book. Probably it's related to my poor reservoir of English vocabularies, I'm amazed to the end of the books that the author has written so many words that I either simply don't know or don't remember the meanings of. Sometimes or often, I have wondered why he couldn't another more commonly used word with the same meaning. At times, there are abbreviations that aren't obvious. For example, on p.111, "home ec" on the 3rd line means "home economics" and on the 17th line, "Ag scientists" means "Agricultural scientists" ?! They're not obvious and I could figure out only after some googling or thinking very hard about it :-( Moreover, sometimes acronyms may not explained either. For example, on p.156 (11th line from the bottom), there is the unexplained acronym "STDs". After I google-d, I realized that it must be "sexually transmitted diseases". Though as an afterthought, I could have realized without resorting to Google search, it's not really that obvious. The author should have explained this acronym. All in all, I think the book is too long for what it's worth. Though I may have read and come across a lot of new information and knowledge that I didn't know, I haven't really come across real moments of profound enlightenment. Instead, it's probably more like a compilation of scientific stories and facts that the author has tried hard to present in some entertaining and colloquial manner. The writer is probably the strongest in writing anecdotes and gossips. Nevertheless, though I have enjoyed reading all the intriguing anecdotes and gossips related to a lot of scientists, I don't enjoy the writer's semi-colloquial and semi-official style of writing. This certainly doesn't give me the appeal or impulse to find this author's other books to read.