Tag Archives: Science

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’ is the follow-up to the hugely successful ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari which I read last year. Having examined the development of humans in his first book through the cognitive, agricultural, scientific and industrial revolutions, Harari turns to the challenges of the future in which humans will seek to “upgrade” from Homo Sapiens to gods (or “Homo Deus”), re-engineering our physical and mental capabilities to prevent ageing, escape death and increase happiness. The impact of famine, war and plague has been significantly reduced in recent decades, to the point where we now face the opposite challenges in the form of an obesity crisis, caring for an ageing population with people living longer than ever and a world where more people commit suicide than are killed by terrorists, criminals and conflicts. Continue reading

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The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman

The Vaccine Race Meredith Wadman‘The Vaccine Race: How Scientists Used Human Cells to Combat Killer Diseases’ by Meredith Wadman is an account of the history, science and ethics of vaccine development in the United States. It primarily concerns the career of American anatomy professor Leonard Hayflick and his quest to find and mass produce the safest human cells for use in vaccines at a time when viruses such as polio and rubella were far more prevalent than they are today. Continue reading

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The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2018

Wellcome Book Prize 2018 LonglistThis year’s Wellcome Book Prize longlist has been announced today. The twelve books are:

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris
In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli
Plot 29: A Memoir by Allan Jenkins
The White Book by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)
With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty
To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell
Mayhem: A Memoir by Sigrid Rausing
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky
The Vaccine Race: How Scientists Used Human Cells to Combat Killer Viruses by Meredith Wadman Continue reading

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Three Non-Fiction Books About Medicine

Pale Rider Laura SpinneyPale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed The World by Laura Spinney probably isn’t what most people consider to be cosy festive reading over Christmas but it is somewhat seasonal. Much of what has been written about the Spanish flu tends to focus on the impact it had on Western countries in the aftermath of the First World War but Spinney’s book is a refreshingly global account of how the virus reached all corners of the earth from Alaska to Rio de Janeiro to Samoa to China. Estimates remain vague but the Spanish flu is believed to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide, possibly as many as 100 million, and its rapid spread is likely to have been partly exacerbated by soldiers returning home at the end of the First World War. Continue reading

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah HarariI was half way through reading ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari on the tube the other week when a fellow commuter asked me what the book is about. Even though I have been writing reviews regularly for over five years, I still don’t enjoy being put on the spot about books I am still reading and mulling over, particularly at 8:15am on a crowded train. My initial response was to say that it’s about, well, pretty much everything. Even though that statement is fairly accurate, the expression on his face suggested that it was also quite unhelpful, so I added that it’s about how and why the human race has developed in the way that it has. This appeared to be a more satisfactory answer, which is just as well because I still can’t think of a better way to summarise its content.

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The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2016

Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2016

Formerly known as the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction has a new sponsor this year and a longlist of ten books, whittled down last month to a shortlist of just four. Open to authors of any nationality, it covers all areas of non-fiction including current affairs, politics, history, science, sport, travel, biography and autobiography. This year’s shortlisted books are:

  • Second-Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich (translated from the Russian by Bela Shayevich)
  • Negroland by Margo Jefferson
  • The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar
  • East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity by Philippe Sands

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Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence and Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis

Empire Antarctica Gavin Francis Ice Silence Emperor PenguinsThe subtitle of Gavin Francis’ travel memoir would be a reasonably concise answer to the question: “What comes to mind when you think of Antarctica?”. While ice and emperor penguins are the more obvious responses to be expected from those who have never been there, it is the silence of such a remote landscape which Francis dwells on in his account of the fourteen months he spent as the base-camp doctor at the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley research station on the Caird Coast. What becomes clear from reading ‘Empire Antarctica’ is that claustrophobia and isolation are also major factors, although that would have made a much less satisfying book title.  Continue reading

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