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review 2018-01-08 00:00
The Gene: An Intimate History
The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee If you are a seeker of the ultimate truths then this a book to read.

It is a detailed history of the understanding of how the machinery of life and reproduction works, from the ideas of the ancient philosophers through to Darwin, Mendal, Watson & Crick and on to the scary world of re-programming the human genome. The genetic system of DNA to RNA to Protein to Organism is so simple in principle yet so complex in practice. It is fascinating to read how progress in unpicking this story was made by slow and difficult steps with many blind alleys. You realise that from a genetic point of view everything is just variation, and the idea of "normal" is simply a human construct. The burning question is, how far are we a machine programmed by our chemistry? What choices do we really have? The author envisages an experiment in which 100,000 babies from across the world have their genetic codes sequenced and stored and then tracked through their lives to see how the 100,000 selves develop in terms of all their physical, mental, emotional and cultural attibutes. Once the results of such an experiment were know how much of the "me" in me would be left? One thing genetic research has already made clear in the "nature v nurture" debate, is that "nature" is by far the most important factor in making us who we are.
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review 2018-01-07 16:00
The Gene
The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee

The book is subtitled "An Intimate History" and this is what Siddharta Mukherjee provides with this book: a comprehensive overview of genetics and the discovery of the human gene. Starting with Gregor Mendel and his experiments with peas and up to the modern day and its use of the genetic knowledge that mankind has aquired over the last 200 years, there is a lot of information in this book.


Almost to much information. I have to admit, I felt a sense of fatigue towards the end of it, because Mukherjee included certain topics in his narrative that I haven´t been particularly interested in (could we alter the gender of a child by manipulating DNA?). Another point of critisism for me is that Mukherjee (who is a medical doctor) only focuses on the medical site of genetics and he doesn´t go into other topics, such as genetic engineering of food. Which is a shame, I would have loved to read about other things than diseases and medicin in general.


I´m glad that I read this book, because the topic is incredibly interesting and fascinating, but it is not without its flaws. Especially the second half of the book kept me from enjoying it to the fullest. 



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review 2017-12-01 17:35
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse

I finally finished my first read for the 16 festive tasks! Yea! And even better, I loved it. If it'd been a bit longer I probably would have given it the full five-stars.


Siddhartha is about a man who's searching for enlightenment, or a peaceful existance, and goes on a pilgrimage to find it.


You will, he spoke, go into the forest and be a Samana. When you have found blissfulness in the forest, then come back and teach me to be blissful.


I've always been interested in spirituality, moreso of late, so was naturally inclined towards this book. It's written in a very simple style which works perfectly as a reflection of the simplicity of life that Siddhartha seeks.


Initially Siddhartha plans to find enlightenement in the teachings of others, but quickly finds this unsatisfactory.


...nobody will obtain salvation by means of teachings! You will not be able to convey and say to anybody, oh venerable one, in words and through teachings what has happened to you in the hour of enlightenment


This is very true and something I've recenly discovered for myself; you have to find the answers on your own. Others can guide you, but ultimately it's up to you.


From this point Siddhartha goes off on his own to find peace and dabbles in the life of riches in his quest.


He had been captured by the world, by lust, covetousness, sloth and finally also by that vice which he had used to despise and mock the most of all vices: greed.


He abandons this life and goes to live with a ferryman he'd met at an earlier pont, but does he at last find enlightenment? I'd recommend you read it and find out because it's only roughly 100 pages long and well worth your time.


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text 2017-11-26 19:45
Reading progress update: I've read 160 out of 495 pages.
The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee

They have the original Watson and Crick DNA Model on display in the Science Museum in London. Why didn´t I know about this? I have to go back!




I really enjoy this book. Besides the history of genetics Mukherjee starts to delve into the science behind the DNA. Since I studied phamacy, I´m not unfamiliar with this subject. And yet it remains a topic I´m incredibly fascinated by.


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text 2017-11-26 08:10
Reading progress update: I've read 88 out of 495 pages.
The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee

So far this is an interesting read. Part one of the book deals primarily with the discovery of genetics and one of its key figures, Gregor Johann Mendel, a monk who crossbred peas (and crossbreeding the offspring) and thus discovered that hereditary traits by both parents gets passed on to the offspring. HIs work was groundbreaking, but unfortunately everyone forgot his paper until it was rediscovered in the beginning of the 1900s. From then on discussion about genetics and eugenetics, the notion that it is possible to alter humans to become better and to erase bad traits in humanity, kicked into full gear. The fact that scientist almost instantaneously went for the dark side of the discovery of the genes is deeply disturbing.


Mendel isn´t the only famous person mentioned in this first part. Mukherjee explaines the theories of the greeks, Pythagoras and Aristhoteles, he talks about Charles Darwin and his theories and he takes a look at the man who coined the term eugenetics, Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin.


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