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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-11-03 07:21
Bring Back the King by Helen Pilcher
Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-extinction - Helen Pilcher

TITLE:  Bring Back the King:  The New Science of De-Extinction

 

AUTHOR:  Helen Pilcher

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2016

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:   978-1-4729-1228-2

 

_______________________

 

 

In this book, Helen Pilcher takes an introductory look at the science of de-extinction, covering such topics as the de-extinction of dinosaurs, neanderthals, mammoths, a variety of extinct birds, the thylacine, Elvis Presley, as well as some other random questions, ethics and concerns.

 

The book reads more like a collection of excessively padded magazine articles stuffed into one package. There is also an excessive amount of "cutsie" humour (also bad jokes) in this book which simply falls flat; as well as too many personal intrusions from the author. The discussions of the actual de-extinction science are uneven - some animals are lucky enough to get their situation and the science explained in a fair amount of detail, others will get an over-simplified explanation. The ethics, challenges and if the whole things is a good idea is glossed over in one chapter.

 

For example:
The majority of the chapter on Neanderthals involves too much author speculation and personal emotion in her speculative story of a neanderthal baby. The chapter on Elvis is just silly and self-indulgent. Pilcher could have found a better way to discuss general genetics and epigenetics, and she oversimplifies what she does write about the topic. The chapter about the white rhino gastric brooding frog are informative, and better written than the others.

 

This book is easy to read, funny (to other people) and would probably make a good introduction to the subject for people who aren't too particular about the amount of hard science in their popular science books. Teenagers might like it too.

 

Otherwise, there are a selection of other books on the same topic that are better written:

 

-Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things by M.R. O'Connor [Deals more with the conservation angle]

 

-How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro [Includes more physical science involved in de-extinction and all the ethics and possibilities]

 

-Rise of the Necrofauna: A Provocative Look at the Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction by Britt Wray [Focus on the ethics, risks and possibilities of de-extinction science]


- How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution by Jack Horner & James Gorman

 

 

For those interested in epigenetics:

 

-The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey

 

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review 2017-10-27 15:09
Rise of the Necrofauna by Britt Wray
Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction - Britt Wray

 

TITLE:  Rise of the Necrofauna:  The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction

 

AUTHOR:  Britt Wray

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  September 2017

 

FORMAT: epub

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-77164-163-0

 

_______________________________

 

 

Rise of the Necrofauna is a wonderfully clearly written, enjoyable, extremely interesting, informative and engaging book that takes a broad look at the science, uses, ethics, and risks of de-extinction technology and organisms. Britt Wray provides a nice summary of the current status of the handful of de-extinction projects currently in existence, as well as providing interesting interviews with the scientists currently involved in these projects.

 

Chapter one provides a summary of the scientific methods involved in the various de-extinction efforts.  I would have preferred more details of the actual methods involved, such as is covered in How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro.  However, what the author does write about the science involved is clear and easily understandable. 

 

The remainder of the book covers topics on the ethics and uses of this technology, such as: why de-extinction is important; what species are good contenders and why; woolly mammoths and passenger pigeons; possible regulations for de-extinct species; uses of this technology in conservation efforts; and the risks involved.  A great many perspectives are investigated, but what is interesting is that the majority of scientific techniques developed for de-extinction projects has helped other scientific fields as well, and that their may be more than one way to bring back an extinct species or help an endangered species.

 

Most of the information and examples covered in this book is discussed (in one way or another) in How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro, however, this book is better written even though it doesn't emphasize the science as much.  So, if you have read How to Clone a Mammoth you will probably not gain much more information from this book.  On the other hand, this is a lovely introduction to the concept and reality of de-extinction and its possibilities.

 

 

Other Recommended Books:

 

-Resurrection Science:  Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things by M.R. O'Connor  (well written book that deals more with using de-extinction techniques in conservation efforts).

 

-How to Clone a Mammoth:  The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro (includes more about the actual science methods involved)

 

-Once & Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us about the Fate of Earth's Largest Animals by Sharon Levy  (on rewilding)

 

-Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators by William Stolzenburg (on rewilding)

 

Interesting Websites

  

http://all-that-is-interesting.com/de-extinction#1

  

http://reviverestore.org/

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review 2017-10-23 10:28
Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction by Chris D. Thomas
Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction - Chris D. Thomas

TITLE:  Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction 

 

AUTHOR:  Chris D. Thomas

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:   9781610397278

 

__________________________________

 

This is an interesting and decently written book that takes a look at the not so doom-and-gloom effects of man's impact on the environment and the ever changing nature of the environment.

 

The author points out that man is part of nature and man's activities are no different from any other animal, we just use different means to accomplish out goals. He also points out that nature, evolution and the environment are dynamic and ever changing and that conservation efforts that assume nature is static are doomed to failure and go against the natural order of "how things work". Thomas makes use of many examples to make his points, but I felt his chapter arguments could have been more focused. While I don't agree 100% with everything he writes, I felt this book is important in terms of providing food for thought and in shaking up the conservation/environmental people to take a good look at what they are actually trying to accomplish and if the current methods are working.

 

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review 2017-08-10 07:47
The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen
The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions - Peter Brannen

TITLE:  The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses

 

AUTHOR:  Peter Brannen

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  June 2017

 

FORMAT:  e-book

 

ISBN-13:  9780062364821

 

_________________________________________________

 

Peter Brannen explores the 5 great extinction events, and in the process offers the reader a glimpse of our future.  Everything from striking meteors, supervolcanoes, anoxic oceans, ice-ages, heat-waves, plate tectonics, supercontinents, too many trees, and the role of carbon dioxide are discussed.  This is ultimately a climate change book, with the author continually bashing the reader over the head with how destructive humans are.  The author manages to discuss the science aspects of the 5 great extinction events in a reasonably decent manner considering that this is a popular science book and doesn’t include many technical details.  However, the exaggerated “evil humans / climate change” diatribe inserted approximately every 4th paragraph is annoying and detracts from the extinction story of the earth.  He could have included those sections in a separate chapter or even at the end of each chapter if he felt that strongly about the matter.  In addition, when the author does include numbers, he often doesn’t tell us where he comes up with them and I find his maths a bit off.  The book includes photographs but it could have done with a geological timeline.  This isn’t a bad book; it is certainly interesting and reads like a mystery novel if you ignore the anthropogenic global warming hysterics.  I found this book to be an interesting and useful summary of the possible causes of the 5 great extinctions that this planet has experienced. 

 

NOTE:  The footnotes of the e-book don’t link up to the notes section. 

 

 

OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS:

 

  • -The Goldilocks Planet: The 4 Billion Year Story of Earth’s Climate by Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams
  • -The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth’s History by David Beerling
  • -When Life nearly Died by Michael J Benton
  • -The Worst of Times by Paul B. Wignall
  • -Under a Green Sky by Peter D. Ward
  • -Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane
  • -Extinction by Douglas H. Erwin

 

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review 2017-07-31 09:29
The Amoeba in the Room by Nicholas P. Money
The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes - Nicholas P. Money

TITLE:  The Amoeba in the Room - Lives of the Microbes

 

AUTHOR:  Nicholas P. Money

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2014

 

FORMAT:  Hardback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-19-966593-8

 

 

REVIEW:

 

The Amoeba in the Room is a lovely high-level overview and review of microbes (viruses, fungi, bacteria, archae, protists) and their importance in the biosphere. 

 

The author does include some scientific terminology, but nothing that is too complicated with a bit of grey-matter application.  Professor Money’s love of nature and microbes shines through in the text, with the addition of humorous and interesting ways of looking at the mundane.

 

“To approach a meaningful picture of marine biology, we need to put aside the things studied by zoologists.  A sushi bar to end all sushi bars will foster the necessary thought experiment.  Every morsel of marine muscle must be eaten in the last supper:  all the hagfish, lampreys, sharks, rays and bony fish are diced, rolled in sticky rice, wrapped in seaweed, kissed with soy sauce, and swallowed; the red meat from whales, dolphins, manatees, and walruses works well as sashimi and sea turtles make soup; all the oysters slip down with the assistance of cold white wine, all the squid are crunched calamaried; orange sea urchin gonads make a sloppy topping for sushi rolls and jellyfish can be fried.  Crabs ad lobsters are dispatched after boiling, along with the related sea spiders, barnacles, and fish lice.  This is a lot of food:  fish, great whales, and Antarctic krill alone weigh more than 1 000 million tons.  That leaves the sponges and comb jellies, penis worms and other worms, and exotics like mud dragons, but most the gustatory labor is over and the ocean is much clearer for it.  Now we can turn our full attention to the 90% of living things in the sea that cannot be seen without a microscope.”

 

 

The book is organized by environment, with chapters examining marine microbes, other water and soil microbes, airborne microbes, extreme-living microbes and those microbes that make the human body their home.  The author makes the case that the biological action of the earth is not in the visible fauna but in the microbes.  He also suggests that conservation should focus on habitats rather than a collection of animals.  Professor Money argues for nothing less than a revolution in our perception of the living world:  the animals and plants we see are just froth on a vast ocean of single-celled protists, bacteria, and viruses that constitute most of life on earth.

 

Professor Money’s book was an enjoyable and informative exploration of the astonishing extent of the microbial world and the vast swathes of biological diversity that are now becoming recognized using molecular methods.  

 

 

 

OTHER RECOMMENDED MICROBIAL BOOKS:

 

  • -March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen by John L. Ingraham, Roberto Kolter

 

  • -The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery, Anne Biklé

 

  • -I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

 

  • -Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane

 

  • -Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy

 

  • -The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn

 

  • -Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna

 

  • -The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds by John Tyler Bonner

 

  • -Life's Engines: How Microbes made the Earth Habitable by Paul G. Falkowski

 

  • -Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today by David P. Clark

 

  • -Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life by David W. Wolfe

 

  • -Spillover: Emerging Diseases, Animal Hosts, and the Future of Human Health by David Quammen

 

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

 

  • -The New Killer Diseases: How the Alarming Evolution of Germs Threatens Us All by Elinor Levy, Mark Fischetti

 

  • -An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections by Ron Barrett, George Armelagos
  • Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Trudy M. Wassenaar

 

  • -Virolution by Frank Ryan

 

  • -Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer

 

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

 

 

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