Author(s): Sam Kean
The epic true story of human DNA and what it can tell us about our world.
The story of human DNA has a valid claim to being the greatest story ever told. It goes back across the aeons to the primordial soup where life first began and takes us through every stage of evolution to the present, as well as posing urgent questions about humanity's future. Indeed in many ways, it can be said that mankind's biggest triumph is to have survived long enough to be able to tell this story at all. Standing on the shoulders of giants, Sam Kean tells this story with brilliance and humour. By telling the very personal stories of the people who have helped solve the mysteries of DNA stage by stage, he leads us through the complexities of such vast subjects as genetic theory, the mechanics of natural selection and the origins of life itself. Along the highly entertaining way, we discover myriad gripping facts - did you know that in DNA terms we are 8 per cent virus? Or that DNA may be able to explain why some people like cats and crashing motorbikes?
The Violinist's Thumb is structured so that each chapter provides the answer to one mystery. Some are relatively recent - such as how humans acquired language or 'beat' the Neanderthals. Some reach back even further into our genetic past. By turns fascinating, hilarious and gob-smacking, this is a book which will change the way you see yourself and the world around you.
Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a child and now he is a writer in Washington DC. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, Air & Space/Smithsonian 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. He currently writes for Science. His first book, The Disappearing Spoon, was a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Royal Society's Winton Prize for science writing.