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review 2018-04-07 18:26
Furry Logic by Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani,Liz Kalaugher

TITLE:  Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life


AUTHOR:  Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  978-1-4729-1411-8



Furry Logic is an interesting book that takes a look at the physics concepts used by a  large variety of animal life for survival.  The writing style is informal, chatty and whitty. Some of the puns and jokes were just awful, but most led to snickers or laughs, so I can't complain about them too much.  While the authors do not go into a great deal of depth with their scientific explanations, the explanations are comprehensive enough to understand the concept.  This is a fun, fast paced, fascinating and informative book, especially for the non-physicist and non-biologist.  This book is divided into 6 chapters that show how animals make use of physics in terms of heat, forces, fluids, sound, electricity, magnetis and light.  


The book covers such topics as flight, how cats drink, heat detection in snakes, the Komodo Dragon's bite, the electric field of flowers and how they attract bees, the sounds of peacocks and how elephants detect sound through the ground, how some animals use polarized light or magnetic fields to determine direction, how electric eels produce their electricity, how pondskaters skate on water, how geckos walk on ceilings, how the Harlequin Mantis Shrimp punches through crap shells (and aquarium tanks), how well mosquitos fly in the rain, why dogs shake themselves dry, why giant squid have such large eyes, and many more. 


The book includes a section of colour photographs and has a few illustrations to explain concepts spread throughout the book.  Unfortunately, the book did not contain a list of references or a bibliography, which is a bit strange for a science book!



Furry Logic Website


Internet Review and Excerpts





-Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski

-Restless Creatures: The Story of Life in Ten Movements by Matt Wilkinson

-The Gecko’s Foot: How Scientists are Taking a Leaf from Nature's Book by Peter Forbes

-What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe

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review 2018-03-18 11:28
The Rise of Yeast by Nicholas P. Money
The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization - Nicholas P. Money

TITLE:   The Rise of Yeast:  How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization


AUTHOR:  Nicholas P. Money




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9780190270711


I love this book.  It has actual science for intelligent people in it, with witty and amusing observations.  This book takes a look at man's ancient co-dependence with yeast (the sugar fungus) and how that relationship is still going strong in the 21st century. 


The author first starts off with "Yeasty Basics" - a bit of yeast biology, biochemistry and history.  The role of yeast in ancient and modern alcoholic beverages (beer, wine) and food (bread, marmite) is examined.  True to the subtitle, the author explains how yeast's ability to ferment sugars cultivated the beginnings of civilization.  The author also expands of the role of yeast beyond just brewing and baking - yeast is also been used extensively in biologicaly research and biotechnology, such as biofuel production, synthetic silk production, and the production of some medicines (e.g. insulin, blood products, vaccines, ocriplasmin).  In a chapter title "Yeasts of Wrath", the role of  yeasts in human health and disease has been explored.  A chapter is also dedicated to different types of yeast in the wild.


I found this book wildly entertaining, extremely interesting, educational and a joy to read. 


In the author's own words:

 "Yeast come in many species, but the sugar fungus reigns supreme as our partner in civilization.  We would not be here without her.  Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Homo sapiens have been inseparable for thousands of years.  We are reflections of each other, our genetic similarities reflecting the deep ancestral root from which our common cellular machinery arose.  Matched expressions of these genomes allow the fungus to ferment alcohol and us to digest it.  This metabolic coordination, spread over a few thousand generations of human pleasure and pain - alcohol delivering both - developed in the rainforests from which apes with an upright gait migrated to the savannah.  Our complex relationship with alcohol, and later with leavened bread, drove agriculture and settlement.  From these splendors came civilization, political organization, militarization, and mass starvation.  Later fruits of our yeast-driven civilization included science and technology, engineering and medicine, exponential population growth, and the attendant destruction of the biosphere.  And in this time of considerable climatic peril, industrial applications of yeast promise major advance in biotechnology and offer some hope - perhaps our only hope - of powering a carbon neutral economy.  The future of humanity depends more on this bug than on any farm animal or crop plant.


In short order, science has transformed the mysterious agent of fermentation into a living factory known inside and out, scrutinized in all its molecular splendor, and manipulated gene by gene to perform astounding feats of biotechnology.  this inspiring microbe, the sugar fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a secular deity, something to be revered as much as the warmth of the sun."






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review 2018-03-15 11:14
Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser
Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues - Martin Blaser

TITLE:   Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues


AUTHOR:  Martin J. Blaser




FORMAT:  ebook


ISBN-13:  978 1443420259



From the blurb:


"Tracing one scientist’s journey toward understanding the crucial importance of the microbiome, this revolutionary book will take readers to the forefront of trail-blazing research while revealing the damage that overuse of antibiotics is doing to our health: contributing to the rise of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. In Missing Microbes, Dr. Martin Blaser invites us into the wilds of the human microbiome where for hundreds of thousands of years bacterial and human cells have existed in a peaceful symbiosis that is responsible for the health and equilibrium of our body. Now, this invisible eden is being irrevocably damaged by some of our most revered medical advances—antibiotics—threatening the extinction of our irreplaceable microbes with terrible health consequences. Taking us into both the lab and deep into the fields where these troubling effects can be witnessed firsthand, Blaser not only provides cutting edge evidence for the adverse effects of antibiotics, he tells us what we can do to avoid even more catastrophic health problems in the future."


I found this book to contain a great deal of well researched, interesting information about the effects of antibiotics (and their overuse) on our microbiome and how this impacts on our health.  I do think the author needs to consider other aspects of our environment (e.g. pollution, endocrine disruptors, pesticides etc) than just antibiotics and the microbiome, but this does not seem to be part of the scope for this book.  The writing is fast paced, and personable without irrelevant extraneous material.  The science is easy to understand and summarised fairly well, however, I would have like more in-depth details.




~ The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Michael Shnayerson, Mark J. Plotkin

~  Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, John Peterson Myers

~ Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna

~The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery & Anne Biklé

~ Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Russell L. Blaylock

~ This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society by Kathleen McAuliffe

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review 2018-03-05 05:23
Planet of Microbes by Ted Anton
Planet of Microbes: The Perils and Potential of Earth's Essential Life Forms - Ted Anton


TITLE:  Planet of Microbes: The Perils and Potential of Earth's Essential Life Forms


AUTHOR: Ted Anton 




FORMAT: Hardcover


ISBN-13: 9780226353944



This book is supposed to be about the recent discoveries that have to do with microbes.  In fact, it ends up being a long-winded, somewhat disorganised, poorly written biography of the scientists involved in those discoveries.  There is minimal actual science in this book (none of which is explained properly) and even the discoveries are given highly superficial treatment, thus providing a vague idea of the importance of microbes but not explaining how they do what they do.  There were also many repetitions and what I assume are editing oversights (left out words and nonsense sentences), as well as some oddball choices, such as describing Lynne Margulis by her maiden surname (Alexander) then in the same paragraph referring to her by her second marriage surname (Margulis), while discussing her first marriage to Carl Sagan; or discussing one scientist and then jumping around to other scientists and different topics before randomly jumping back to the first scientist.  Nothing in this book is new.  The topics covered in this book are discussed more successfully in other books.   The most exciting thing about this book is the cover.


-I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
-Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes by Nicholas P. Money
-The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery
-March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen by John L. Ingraham
-Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna
-The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Michael Shnayerson, Mark J. Plotkin
-Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane

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review 2018-02-26 09:28
The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts
The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us - Alice Roberts

TITLE:  The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being:  Evolution and the Making of Us


AUTHOR:  Alice Roberts




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9781848664791



From the blurb:

"Alice Roberts takes you on the most incredible journey, revealing your path from a single cell to a complex embryo to a living, breathing, thinking person. It's a story that connects us with our distant ancestors and an extraordinary, unlikely chain of events that shaped human development and left a mark on all of us. Alice Roberts uses the latest research to uncover the evolutionary history hidden in all of us, from the secrets found only in our embryos and genes - including why as embryos we have what look like gills - to those visible in your anatomy. This is a tale of discovery, exploring why and how we have developed as we have. This is your story, told as never before."


This book covers the fascinating story of how a human body develops, from gametes to fully formed baby.  Each chapter covers a specific segment of the body, explaining how it forms (in terms of genes and structure) and gives an evolutionary background for why it developed like that and not some other way, and also sometimes how that particular body part works (especially in terms of feet and hands).  Roberts has a lovely writing style and clearly explains what happens when; with minimal intrusions of personal anecdotes.  The book contains a large number of diagrams to help explain some of the technical physiological terminology, and there is a great deal of it.  Each piece of anatomy is usually referred to by its proper name, which might make the book too complicated for some readers?  Personally I enjoyed the lesson in embryology, anthropology and evolution, and appreciated the scientific details and lack of vagueness.

Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin  is an easier (and simpler) book to read, but the The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts provides more specific embryological details.



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