After several million years of jostling for ecological space, only one survivor from a host of hominid species remains standing: us. Human beings are extraordinary creatures, and it is the unprecedented human brain that makes them so. In this delightfully accessible book, the authors present the first full, step-by-step account of the evolution of the brain and nervous system. Tapping the very latest findings in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and molecular biology, Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall explain how the cognitive gulf that separates us from all other living creatures could have occurred. They discuss the development and uniqueness of human consciousness, how human and nonhuman brains work, the roles of different nerve cells, the importance of memory and language in brain functions, and much more. Our brains, they conclude, are the product of a lengthy and supremely untidy history--an evolutionary process of many zigs and zags--that has accidentally resulted in a splendidly eccentric and creative product.
Genome sequencing enables scientists to study genes over time and to test the genetic variability of any form of life, from bacteria to mammals. Thanks to advances in molecular genetics, scientists can now determine an animal's degree of inbreeding or compare genetic variation of a captive species to wild or natural populations. Mapping an organism's genetic makeup recasts such terms as biodiversity and species and enables the conservation of rare or threatened species, populations, and genes. By introducing a new paradigm for studying and preserving life at a variety of levels, genomics offers solutions to previously intractable problems in understanding the biology of complex organisms and creates new tools for preserving the patterns and processes of life on this planet. Featuring a number of high-profile researchers, this volume introduces the use of molecular genetics in conservation biology and provides a historical perspective on the opportunities and challenges presented by new technologies. It discusses zoo-, museum-, and herbarium-based biological collections, which have expanded over the past decade, and covers the promises and problems of genomic and reproductive technology. The collection concludes with the philosophical and legal issues of conservation genetics and their potential effects on public policy.
From the discoveries of Watson and Crick to the appearance of Dolly the Sheep, the last fifty years have ushered in a revolution of knowledge in how organisms develop, function, and replicate. Scientists are now engaged in an epic task that will catapult the revolution to new heights: the sequencing of the human genome. Consider the scope of such a discovery. How different are we from one another? Does race have a scientific meaning? Is there such a thing as a disease gene? What are the potential risks of genetically modified food? Does a clone have a soul? The Human Genome Project will inevitably lead to landmark changes in medicine, agriculture, and the study of evolution--and will ultimately define the course of human history. The Genomic Revolution: Unveiling the Unity of Life takes readers on a fascinating journey through genomics--from the basic presentation of ideas about heredity through the essential principles of molecular biology, including an exploration of the ethical implications of the genome project for individuals and society. Some of the world's leading experts in genomics--Harold Varmus, Leroy Hood, Daniel Kevles, and Craig Venter, to name just a few--contribute their assessments of the state of current scientific research. Written for anyone wondering why we are the way we are, The Genomic Revolution is a timely and important collection that spans the science, the promise, and the potential pitfalls of a field moving so quickly that its achievements may alternately delight and trouble us, but almost always surprise us.
"You might notice that there are many unique elements in this textbook. By reading the next few pages, you will learn how the different parts of this textbook will help you to become a successful science student. You may be tempted to skip this section, but you should read it. This textbook is an important tool in your exploration of science. Like any tool, the more you know about how to use this textbook, the better your results will be. "
Ever since the recognition of the Neanderthals as an archaic form of human in the mid-nineteenth century, the fossilized bones of extinct humans have been used by paleoanthropologists to explore human origins. These bones tell the story of how the earliest humans first emerged in Africa some 6 to 7 million years ago. The bones also reveal that as humans became anatomically and behaviorally more modern, they swept out of Africa in waves into Asia, Europe, and finally into the New World. Even as paleoanthropologists continued to make important discoveries, experts in genetics were looking at the human species from a very different angle. In 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick first envisioned the double helix structure of DNA, the basic building block of all life. In the 1970s it was shown that humans share 98.7 percent of their genes with the great apes--that in fact genetically we are more closely related to chimpanzees than chimpanzees are to gorillas. And most recently the entire human genome has been mapped--we now know where each of the genes are located on the DNA strands that make up our chromosomes. In Human Origins: What Bones and Genomes Tell Us about Ourselves, two of the worlds foremost scientists, geneticist Rob DeSalle and paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall, show how research into the human genome confirms what fossil bones have told us about human origins. This unprecedented integration of the fossil and genomic records provides the most complete understanding possible of humanity's place in nature, its emergence from the rest of the living world, and the evolutionary processes that have molded human populations to be what they are today.
Biology, the study of life, directly applies to your health, life, and future in ways as simple as making daily food choices or as complex as deciding which career to pursue.
An excellent bottle of wine can be the spark that inspires a brainstorming session. Such was the case for Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, scientists who frequently collaborate on book and museum exhibition projects. When the conversation turned to wine one evening, it almost inevitably led the two-one a palaeoanthropologist, the other a molecular biologist-to begin exploring the many intersections between science and wine. This book presents their fascinating, freewheeling answers to the question "What can science tell us about wine?" And vice versa. Conversational and accessible to everyone, this colorfully illustrated book embraces almost every imaginable area of the sciences, from microbiology and ecology (for an understanding of what creates this complex beverage) to physiology and neurobiology (for insight into the effects of wine on the mind and body). The authors draw on physics, chemistry, biochemistry, evolution, and climatology, and they expand the discussion to include insights from anthropology, primatology, entomology, Neolithic archaeology, and even classical history. The resulting volume is indispensible for anyone who wishes to appreciate wine to its fullest. "
Suddenly, research findings require a paradigm shift in our view of the microbial world. The Human Microbiome Project at the National Institutes of Health is well under way, and unprecedented scientific technology now allows the censusing of trillions of microbes inside and on our bodies as well as in the places where we live, work, and play. This intriguing, up-to-the-minute book for scientists and nonscientists alike explains what researchers are discovering about the microbe world and what the implications are for modern science and medicine. Rob DeSalle and Susan Perkins illuminate the long, intertwined evolution of humans and microbes. They discuss how novel DNA sequencing has shed entirely new light on the complexity of microbe-human interactions, and they examine the potential benefits to human health: amazing possibilities for pinpoint treatment of infections and other illnesses without upsetting the vital balance of an individual microbiome. This book has been inspired by an exhibition, The Secret World Inside You: The Microbiome, at the American Museum of Natural History, which will open in New York in early November 2015 and run until August 2016. It will then travel to other museums in the United States and abroad.
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