Science fiction and fantasy
The Incredible Unlikeliness Of Being
by Alice Roberts
The book is then structured by going through the body and examining the development of each part. Alice Roberts discusses the difficulty of accurately mapping the brain and what each area is responsible for. She looks at skull development from the perspectives of prehistory and then child development, adding in some interesting stories about ancient cultural attitudes to skull shapes, before tackling how eyes evolved. Very early mammal embryos resemble fish, and the stages of embryonic development tell us a lot about evolutionary history. Fruit flies tells us about genes and how segmented bodies evolved, whilst there's a story to be told by our curved spinal structure in terms of how we have adapted to different habitats. The quirks of rib shape, for instance, tell us how different species climbed trees and how well adapted they are to walking.
The book then examines the gut, reproductive organs, limbs, feet, ankles, running and bone mass, the skeleton, and hands. Each of these sections is accompanied by fascinating facts and recent scientific discoveries. The style of writing is accessible, and it stays fun in part because modern biology and evolutionary history are delivered in a conversational style without getting too dry.
The black and white illustrations are clear and easy to load on an ebook, and there are a good number of them to break up the text.
This is a fascinating book, and its great strength is in its details. Did you know that everyone has had a hernia, or why we evolved to have the number of limbs we do and not, say, six or eight? The Incredible Unlikeliness Of Being is both entertaining and enlightening. Alice Roberts makes this look easy, but only because the book is is meticulously researched and written.
2nd July 2017
If you like this, try:The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey
DNA is not the whole story. This book examines how cells know which genes to activate and what that tells us about disease, inheritance and biology.
How To Think Like A Neandertal by Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge
The Neandertals were an evolutionary offshoot that died out. But what did they have in common with us, and what were they really like?
How Many Friends Does One Person Need? by Robin Dunbar
A look at what evolution can tell us about the science of friendship, culture, morality and various other curiosities.
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy
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