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Search tags: non-fic-that-makes-learning-fun
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review 2015-10-20 06:19
what happens when you put lots of drunk male fruit flies together?
Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior - Jonathan Weiner

Gay fruit fly sex, of course.  Enjoyable, well written, thought provoking with many details that I will probably forget.

This history of behavioral genetics is primarily presented as professional biography Seymour Benzer, a scientist who rejected the more lucrative field of solid state electronics to study the behavior of fruit flies. Benzer comes off as a part quirky professor, part inventive genius, and truly driven by the love (?, is that right) of his chosen field. The title comes from reducing behavioral genetics into three essential components - time, love and memory.


Time - we learn how the notion of clocks are built into our DNA
Love - more like mating patterns, but ok.
Memory - not just memory, but the ability to learn and change behavior because of it

Behavior is complex and understanding it is difficult. There is quite a bit written about the experimental approaches used and how behavior was broken down. Aside from the science, you learn some charming quirks that brings back memories of reading The Double Helix in high school (man those guys played a lot of tennis!). There are many featured players, including Watson and Crick of DNA structure fame.

Most important, it dances around the question of nature versus nurture. No conclusions are given, and as this was written 15 years ago, if any were they would probably be OBE by now.

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review 2014-04-09 07:13
I read a book about boobs
Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History - Florence Williams

Breasts, I got a pair! I pretty much know their purpose: they turn men in to babies and help babies grow into toddlers. I also know they need to be squished between two metal plates once a year to screen for breast cancer. Other than that, what’s to know? Apparently lots of scary facts about how our breasts are ultra-sensitive to chemicals, pollutants and other environmental factors, and how this makes us susceptible to disease. Even worse, it raises the question that just maybe _gasp_ breast may not be best for baby. Add that that the mix of confusing information – pregnancy and nursing help protect against breast cancer, but only if you have your children young. Sheesh, what’s a girl to do? 

All scariness aside, Breasts is informative and quite readable, excellent medical journalism. It covers most everything to do with breasts including implants, fertility, nursing, development, how girls are developing at earlier and earlier ages, breasts in other mammals, hormones, breast cancer and male breast cancer (rare, but it happens, and oddly enough it may the key to understanding the role of environmental factors in the disease). She even explained why we still use 50 year old boob-smashing mammography technology today, surprise 

insurance companies!

(spoiler show)


The only topic that she did not cover, and why I am rating this book four instead of five stars – bras! With all the scary medical related information, learning some brassiere fun facts might have been a nice respite. Do bras play any role in the long term heath of our breasts? Or is just a comfort thing? Why can women with implants go braless where naturally endowed women need support? How did cave women go about hunting and gathering braless when I can’t go running without wearing two sports bras?

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review 2014-04-04 04:10
such a simple idea
Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World - Malcolm Potts,Thomas Hayden

A long and thoughtful book with the takeaway that giving women control over their reproductive choices will solve more world problems than pretty much anything else. Yes, that simple.

Other things I learned:
* War, terrorism and chimpanzee attacks are all basically the same thing and are called "team aggression against an outgroup"
* Believing your own BS is an evolved trait in males, the benefit being that it makes you a more convincing leader, and thus increased success in your team aggression against outgroups
* We probably have more to fear from a nuclear armed Pakistan than a nuclear armed Iran.
* Unfettered access to birth control reduces birth rates (straight from the department of obvious facts)


ETA: I found this interesting article about Iran's initiative to curb their population growth, and really reinforces the author's thesis that voluntary population control.  I can't say many good things about Iran, but on their approach to population control, I think they got it right.  http://io9.com/how-iran-became-one-of-the-worlds-most-futuristic-count-1570438769/+Jessica


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