Why would an arguably normal, healthy individual submit himself to hundreds of blood tests, body scans, brain scans, and other medical tests? Why would this same seemingly robust specimen have his DNAand the DNA of his familyanalyzed for genetically related diseases, as well as for genes that affect personality, intelligence, physical and mental abilities, and morethen publish the results for all to see? If you've heard the term "guinea pig journalism" and wondered what exactly it meant, you are about to learn the definition in ways you'll never forget.
In Experimental Man, award-winning journalist, public radio correspondent, and bestselling science author David Ewing Duncan puts every aspect of his physical makeup under the microscope. His mission, as perhaps the most tested healthy person in history, is to discover what cutting-edge medical technology can tell him, and us, about our future health; the effects of living in a toxin-soaked world; and how genes, proteins, personal behavior, and an often-hostile environment interact within our bodies.
Duncan begins by eating two servings of large fish in a single day and watching his blood-mercury level nearly triple overnight. He is relieved to discover that he is among the lucky humans with a genetic proclivity for expelling most mercury in a month or so. He goes on to examine evidence of hundreds of chemical exposures that occurred in his childhood in Kansas and later in life, and their impact on his health. In the end, he receives startling news about how long he might live based on his profile and an alleged "longevity gene."
A series of brain scans explains why Duncan is a writer and not a London cabbie; provides insights into his moods and emotions; and, perhaps, reveals whether he is an atheist or a true believer, or prefers hip-hop or Beethovenbut what can a brain scan tell him about consciousness and self-awareness?
Duncan is startled by a computer model that predicts he could have a heart attack by 2017, and nonplussed by a nutritionist who informs him his diet is not as healthy as he thinks. He investigates a bump on his kidney and provides a fascinating, organ-by-organ tour of himself as seen through a total body scan.
As a new age of personalized medicine dawns, these tests and more will soon be available to millions of people. But will knowing the intricate details of our physical condition now and in the future put our minds at ease or make us paranoid? Will this information be used against us at work and even in love? Experimental Man explores these and many other questions about health, medicine, and the nature of life in the twenty-first century.
The book Experimental Man is interactive with The Experimental Man Project Web site, which includes articles, news, a blog, tests you can take, and a complete download of David Ewing Duncan's data, presented section by section. Go to www.experimentalman.com.