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As I walked along the shelf of science books at the bookstore, I saw Gerald Weissmann’s latest book, Epigenetics in the Age of Twtter. I knew that I had to read it immediately. It bills itself in the subtitle as “Pop culture and Modern Science”. This book is composed of a collection of 28 modified essays first written for The FASEB Journal which is the official journal of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology.
As soon as I started to read this book, I reached for my sticky notes so that I could mark easy access to the references section. There are 37 pages of references, and I found that I was flipping to see the sources constantly. It is amazing how Weissmann brings together such a very wide range of material in this book. He pulls facts and quotes from material dating from the mid-1800s to very recently accessed websites.
In each of his essays, Weissmann makes many connections of ideas and personalities. Some of his examples were familiar to me, others totally new. It was an easy book to read, but certainly not a quick one as I found myself going for background knowledge and increased awareness of some of the scientists, authors and politicians who may be more familiar to an American audience.
In one chapter, Weissmann discusses the ugly politics of Nazi science and then demonstrates through the way history unfolds that “science is and remains international”. In a subsequent chapter he takes us through time travel to see how the Nobel Prize was awarded to women very rarely, and then only reluctantly, until 2009 when this “aberrancy ran into equality on the podium in Stockholm. “
I looked at some of my brief notes that I sketched out while reading the book. Among the ideas I noted for my further thought:
- macrobiomes and microbiomes
- why do we need operational definitions in science
- Hellman and Hamett
- microRNAs and ‘Lock and Key’
- Lasker Awards
- Oliver Wendell Homes - Junior and Senior
- Omics – the advancing edge of science and technology
- Hair loss and grayness
If you read this fascinating book, you may create your own list. My favourite chapter, Voodoo Economics and Voodoo Healing: Witchcraft Persists in Massachusetts, compares conditions in Angola and the state of Massachusetts with regard to sorcerers and witches. After a quote describing healing touch therapy, Weissmann despairs “reading this twaddle”. Weissmann’s book is neither pretentious nor silly talk, it is a fine and challenging read.
Click here for a complete list and links to the books I have reviewed.
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Doug Bintzler - www.agctsequencing.com
It looks like an interesting book. As a person highly interested in Epigenetics, I may have to read it.