Welcome back to the Skepchick Book Club! This week we’re discussing The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean. If you’ve read the book or you happen to know a lot about the history of genetics, please join us in the comments to discuss.
A few interesting stories that I learned from this book are:
- How the original fruit fly lab was set up (and the womanizer behind it)
- The only officially recognized survivor of both WWII nuclear attacks (both the luckiest and unluckiest man in the world)
- Badass scientist Lynn Margulis and her quest to convince other biologists of the theory of endosymbiosis
- Hox genes that account for why animals have the same basic body plan (you mean it wasn’t this?)
- Why eating polar bear liver will make your skin fall off
- How to eat fried chicken when you’re a cat hoarder
- The disgusting attempts to make a human-chimp hybrid
- How the amount of food your dad and grandpa ate affected your current life expectancy
Below the fold are links to interviews with the author, interesting extras from the book (including pictures and more thumb notes), and this month’s recipe, in which I try to relate whatever I felt like making to the theme of the book. Also, at the bottom of the post is next month’s book and meeting time! And if you have a suggestion for a future book club, please leave it in the comments.
Even though I am a scientist, I am not a geneticist, so I appreciated the approach the author took to this book. Generally, science books written by people who are good writers but not necessarily scientists end up being the most fun to read. So far, Sam Kean, Jon Ronson, and Mary Roach are my favorite authors of this genre, but if you have any suggestions please let me know!
- Fresh Air had Sam Kean as a guest last month
- Book extras, including pictures
- The author’s regular column on Slate
- 5 Great Scientists Who Believed Wildly Unscientific Things, including Watson and Crick!
- Double Blasted, the Radiolab episode about the book
So, you know how this works. Write your opinions about this book in the comments and let’s have a discussion!
This month’s recipe: Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies
How do these related to the book? Well, everyone likes them, so they must be an innate part of our genetic code. Or how about this: the evolutionary ancestors of these brownies were either too cakey or too fudgey, but selection eventually favored the texture and chocolateness of these reduced-flour brownies. Eat it for scientific reasons only.
Next Month’s Book Club: I will be posting on Sunday, October 7th at 11 am and we will be reading I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Someone at the Boston Skeptics’ Book Club suggested that we needed a fiction break and also since classes are starting next month I’m extending the amount of time that you have to finish the book.