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An award-winning writer explores science's boldest frontier - extension of the human life span - with the researchers and entrepreneurs who are racing to create medicines that will allow us to live longer and better. Aging, cancer, stem cells, cloning - the themes of Merchants of Immortality are the stuff of today's headlines, yet they reflect some of humankind's most ancient hopes and fears. Stephen S. Hall delves behind the headlines to reveal just how close scientists are to fulfilling hopes of longer, healthier lives. Merchants of Immortality tackles profound social questions: How close are we to cloning humans? Can stem cell therapies tame illnesses such as heart attacks, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes? How long might our children live? Hall's account of life-extension research is as dramatic as it is authoritative. The story follows a close-knit but fractious band of scientists and entrepreneurs who work in the shadowy area between profit and the public good. Hall tracks the science of aging back to its father figure, the iconoclastic Leonard Hayflick, who was the first to show that cells age and whose epic legal battles with the federal government cleared the path for today's biotech visionaries. Chief among those is the charismatic Michael West, a former creationist who founded the first biotech company devoted to aging research. West has won both ardent admirers and committed foes in his relentless quest to promote stem cells, therapeutic cloning, and other technologies of "practical immortality." Merchants of Immortality breathes scintillating life into the most momentous science of our day, assesses the political and bioethical controversies it has spawned, and explores its potentially dramatic effect on the length and quality of our lives.
What biologists are doing for immortality.
An award-winning journalist tackles the hot topic of male body image and shows how physical size during childhood affects our psychology, social status, relationships, and income as adults.With a mix of fresh research, incisive reportage, and bracing candor, Size Matters traces the surprising history of society's bias against shortness and reveals how short people can and do thrive in spite of this insidious bigotry. Drawing on his own childhood experiences (he was shorter than 99 percent of boys his age), Stephen Hall explains the evolution of the growth chart, the biology of childhood aggression, and the wrenching phenomenon of bullying. He explores the factors that determine why one child's small stature may lead to anguish while another short child develops an emotional resilience that will enrich his later life. Weaving together recent findings from the fields of animal behavior, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Hall assesses the role of physical size in mating success and argues that the alpha male may not be king of the mountain after all. Hall also pinpoints the social forces that create and cash in on our anxieties about size, from bulked-up superhero action figures to pharmaceutical companies selling growth hormone to increase a child's height -- at a cost of up to $40,000 a year. He introduces us to families who have agonized over whether to make that huge investment. He explains new research showing that a person's height as a teenager has lifelong psychological consequences. He even tracks down kids he bullied in elementary school and kids who bullied him in high school to show that these childhood encounters have lasting effects on our adult lives. Along the way, Hall builds a persuasive case against societal attitudes that make size (or any difference) matter and argues forcefully that being short has psychological, social, and biological advantages. Size Matters will raise the consciousness -- and the spirits -- of any short male and anyone who cares about him.
A compelling investigation into one of our most coveted and cherished ideals, and the efforts of modern science to penetrate the mysterious nature of this timeless virtue. We all recognize wisdom, but defining it is more elusive. In this fascinating journey from philosophy to science, Stephen S. Hall gives us a dramatic history of wisdom, from its sudden emergence in four different locations (Greece, China, Israel, and India) in the fifth century B. C. to its modern manifestations in education, politics, and the workplace. We learn how wisdom became the provenance of philosophy and religion through its embodiment in individuals such as Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus; how it has consistently been a catalyst for social change; and how revelatory work in the last fifty years by psychologists, economists, and neuroscientists has begun to shed light on the biology of cognitive traits long associated with wisdom--and, in doing so, begun to suggest how we might cultivate it. Hall explores the neural mechanisms for wise decision making; the conflict between the emotional and cognitive parts of the brain; the development of compassion, humility, and empathy; the effect of adversity and the impact of early-life stress on the development of wisdom; and how we can learn to optimize our future choices and future selves. Hall's bracing exploration of the science of wisdom allows us to see this ancient virtue with fresh eyes, yet also makes clear that despite modern science's most powerful efforts, wisdom continues to elude easy understanding.
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