From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes more incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA.
In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In THE VIOLINIST’S THUMB, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.
There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK’s bronze skin (it wasn’t a tan) to Einstein’s genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.
Kean’s vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species’ future.
About Sam Kean
Sam Kean is a writer in Washington, D.C. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Disappearing Spoon and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, the New York Post, and New Scientist. In 2009 he was a runner-up for the National Association of Science Writers’ Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for best science writer under the age of thirty, and he was a Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.
The author examines numerous discoveries in more than a century of DNA and genetics research, including such familiar touchstones as Gregor Mendel’s pea-plant experiments and the double-helix model of Watson and Crick. Kean also explores less-well-known territory, deftly using his stories as jumping-off points to unpack specific scientific concepts. He discusses how DNA discoveries led not only to medical breakthroughs, but also to new ways of looking at the past; they “remade the very study of human beings.” Kean delves into theories regarding possible genetic diseases of Charles Darwin, French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and ancient Egyptian King Tut, among others, and how their ailments may have subtly affected developments in scientific, artistic and even royal history. Some stories edge into more bizarre areas, such as one Soviet scientist’s dream to create a human-chimpanzee hybrid, but Kean also tells the moving story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, “perhaps the most unlucky man of the twentieth century,” who was near both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 when the nuclear bombs were dropped—and who, despite almost certainly suffering DNA damage from radiation, lived into his 90s. At his best, Kean brings relatively obscure historical figures to life—particularly Niccolò Paganini, the titular violinist who wowed early-19th-century audiences with his virtuosity, aided by finger flexibility that may have been due to the genetic disease Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Kean’s talent also shines in the sections on scientific rivalries, such as that between biologist Craig Venter’s private company Celera and the government-funded Human Genome Project, both of which are racing to sequence all human DNA. – Kirkus Reviews
A ‘Thumb’ On The Pulse Of What Makes Us Human
NPR Book Review – July 17, 2012 (Excerpt)
The discovery in early July of a subatomic particle that may be the Higgs boson — also known as the God particle — puts physicists one step closer to unlocking the secrets of the universe around us. Sam Kean’s dynamic, brainy new book, The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code, tells a story that’s no less profound: how geneticists strive to unlock the secrets of the universe within us.
Silly to compare the two? Consider this: According to Kean, there’s “enough DNA in one human body to stretch roughly from Pluto to the sun and back.” That DNA “endowed us with imagination,” which we use to dream of “remaking life as we know it.” So, if DNA hadn’t shaped us the way it has, maybe we never would have asked the questions the Higgs boson promises to answer.
The Violinist’s Thumb inherits all the traits of its predecessor,The Disappearing Spoon, in which Kean somehow made the periodic table of elements exciting. Fans of that book will be happy to know that the authoragain employs an able, lively hand to unpack the story of DNA and genetics through nimble lessons in history and science, along with an assortment of colorful anecdotes and striking trivia. [Read the full article...]
Unraveling The Genetic Code That Makes Us Human
NPR Book Review – July 23, 2012 (Excerpt)
There’s enough DNA in the human body to stretch from the sun to Pluto and back. But don’t confuse DNA with your genes, says writer Sam Kean.
“They are sort of conflated in most people’s minds today but they really are distinct things,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “Genes are like the story and DNA is the language that the story is written in.”
In The Violinist’s Thumb, Kean goes inside our genetic code, looking at the stories written by the fundamental building blocks within us. The book explains things like why some people can’t handle drinking coffee and why some human babies are born with tails. It also delves into the history and science of the story of DNA, a nucleic acid which contains the genetic instructions that form the basis for all living organisms.
Among the stories Kean shares is that of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who survived the bombing of Hiroshima, took a train home that evening to Nagasaki and then survived a second atomic bomb blast.
“He ended up surviving for an amazingly long time, despite being close to both nuclear bombs,” says Kean. “He actually lived until 2010. So he must have had inside his cells a very efficient way to repair DNA and to make sure any mutations he might have had got patched up.” [Read the full article...]
“The Violinist’s Thumb : And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code” by Sam Kean
The Washington Post Book Review – August 10, 2012 (Excerpt)
Here’s an astonishing story: On Aug. 6, 1945, a man named Tsutomu Yamaguchi was running late to his job at the Mitsubishi headquarters in Hiroshima. When the bomb hit, he was far enough away to survive the blast but not far enough to escape immediate radiation burns. Somehow he found his way on board a train that would get him out of town and back to his family in Nagasaki. He made it home the morning of Aug. 8, just in time — well, you guessed it. He survived both bombings. Remarkably, he recovered, returned to work and went on to father two children. He lived to the age of 93.
Science writer Sam Kean uses Yamaguchi’s story to illustrate the complicated interplay between radiation and DNA. His new book, “The Violinist’s Thumb,” takes the same approach to our genetic code that his previous one, “The Disappearing Spoon,” took to the periodic table of elements. In both books, Kean finds a way to frame complex and terribly important fields of science on a human scale, making them relatable and meaningful. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
FrogenYozurt.com may generate ad income and accept advertising/ads and links. Paid entries are marked as “Paid Articles.” Entries describing a product (book reviews, etc.) may contain descriptions provided by the manufacturer or other sources (Amazon.Com, etc.).
All entries marked as "Satire" may refer to actual persons or events, however, the content is of a satirical nature based on the writers' personal views and should not be taken seriously. All other entries reflect personal opinions on various topics.
All content on this website has been posted under the impression that they do not infringe any copyrights. However, if this site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Should you suspect a copyright infringement or any other legal issues with posts on this website, please contact the editor through the contact form as indicated on the top navigation bar, and we will remove the post immediately. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.