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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Popular Science At Its Best

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived - Adam Rutherford

Adam Rutherford's survey of our current understanding of genomics ought to be required reading for policy-makers, educationalists and anyone else who thinks they might know what is best for society, because, as the author repeatedly demonstrates, almost everything we believe we instinctively understand about the heritability of those characteristics we either aspire to, or seek to eliminate, turns out to be wrong.

 

The architecture of the human genome, the subtle interactions between genotype and environment, and the enigmatic role played by epigenetics combine to make genomics one of the most fascinating areas of contemporary science, and one in which the landscape is constantly shifting as technology makes larger sets of data available to us. Rutherford attempts to fill us in on the latest developments and explains why the apparently common-sense responses that so many of us have to news of genetic breakthroughs turn out to be entirely misguided

 

In the process he manages to incorporate plenty of amusing anecdotes. He is particularly entertaining when demolishing the myths peddled by those who have enthusiastically misinterpreted genetic information to further political or commercial interests. The half-truths of racists, ancestry-merchants, creationists and scientifically illiterate journalists are mercilessly exposed. Accessible, absorbing and informative, this is popular science at its best.