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Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts [Kindle Edition]

Emily Anthes
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Winner of 2014 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Best Young Adult Science Book
Longlisted for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
One of Nature’s Summer Book Picks
One of Publishers Weekly’s Top Ten Spring 2013 Science Books

For centuries, we’ve toyed with our creature companions, breeding dogs that herd and hunt, housecats that look like tigers, and teacup pigs that fit snugly in our handbags. But what happens when we take animal alteration a step further, engineering a cat that glows green under ultraviolet light or cloning the beloved family Labrador? Science has given us a whole new toolbox for tinkering with life. How are we using it?

In Frankensteins Cat, the journalist Emily Anthes takes us from petri dish to pet store as she explores how biotechnology is shaping the future of our furry and feathered friends. As she ventures from bucolic barnyards to a “frozen zoo” where scientists are storing DNA from the planet’s most exotic creatures, she discovers how we can use cloning to protect endangered species, craft prosthetics to save injured animals, and employ genetic engineering to supply farms with disease-resistant livestock. Along the way, we meet some of the animals that are ushering in this astonishing age of enhancement, including sensor-wearing seals, cyborg beetles, a bionic bulldog, and the world’s first cloned cat.

Through her encounters with scientists, conservationists, ethicists, and entrepreneurs, Anthes reveals that while some of our interventions may be trivial (behold: the GloFish), others could improve the lives of many species—including our own. So what does biotechnology really mean for the world’s wild things? And what do our brave new beasts tell us about ourselves?

With keen insight and her trademark spunk, Anthes highlights both the peril and the promise of our scientific superpowers, taking us on an adventure into a world where our grandest science fiction fantasies are fast becoming reality.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Medicine-producing goats, a glowing beagle, and remote-controlled rats seem like science fiction, but not only are they scientifically possible, they’re already here. Welcome to the weird world of animal biotechnology presented by journalist Anthes. Genetic alteration has allowed us to change animals in ways never before possible. The book is a quick, often surprising review of current advances, giving accessible treatment to a weighty subject and employing clear descriptions of complex science. Anthes not only explores what is being done but also asks why and if it should be done. Along the way, the book reveals much about humans and our connections to animals and the world we all inhabit. These animals are not just in labs. Glowing fish and steerable cockroaches are being sold, and a cloned cat has been accepted into a home after her research days were finished. Cyborg beetles and much more are a reality today, and their existence prompts us to wonder where our responsibility lies when pursuing our ever-growing power to play with the animal kingdom. --Bridget Thoreson


"An elegant tour of the wild and fraught sideshow of animal biotechnology." ---Kirkus

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book's title tells us to expect a survey of the brave new world of animal genetic engineering, and it does a marvelous job of doing that. Emily Anthes covers the waterfront of modern animal genetic engineering. Highlights are tales of glowing fish engineered for the pet store trade, "pharmacy" animals such as goats that can produce medicinal milk for humans, new prosthetic limbs for pets, farm animals, and even dolphins, the cloning of pets, farm animals, and endangered species, and robo-beasts such as rat-bots, beetle drones, and other computer-controlled animals.

The author is an excellent writer. Few books about scientific subjects can be considered page-turners, but this one is. Her own personal experiences and wit add delightful spice to the writing. Perhaps most important, however, is the author's thought-provoking exploration of the ethical dilemmas and complexities involved in animal genetic engineering. This is a book you will be thinking about long after you have finished reading it.

5 Stars for a wonderfully informative and thought-provoking book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mammoth Park June 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
As a scientist, I was fascinated by all the work that is going into the manipulation of animal species. The author gives us an overview of work on fluorescent fish, cloned cats and dogs. transgenic goats, cyber-dolphins, and the recreation of woolly mammoths.

I am especially intrigued by the possibility of bringing back the mammoths. Every time that I drive west out of Denver, I look for the buffalo herd, really bison, that can sometimes be seen near the highway. (Please see Customer Image for the hardcover edition.) This species was nearly wiped out, but has been saved. Could we do the same for the mammoths by cloning their DNA? Of course, they are really large animals, perhaps too big for zoos. Where would we put them? Give them North Dakota or even Canada? How could they be contained?. Maybe we could give them their own island. Manhattan could then be put to good use.

Overall, the book's overview of genetic research was fascinating. I recommend it as an excellent starting point for exploring this area.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book came today and I just can't put it down. It's past 2am already. I'll probably finish it on the second read tomorrow. This is a book everyone needs to read to understand synthetic biology. It's amazing, scary, shocking, exciting. Synthetic Biology, and Evolutionary Developmental Biology are favorite topics of mine to read. Emily writes in a style that is very easy to understand even for a layman on this subject. She clarifies misunderstandings about genetically modified animals and also contrasts them to the hybridized animals which we have had for hundreds of years - especially dogs. She gets deep into the ethics and puts forward both sides of all the issues raised. The book starts out describing how they can easily grow a mouse with tusks with a slight genetic modification. This book seems like science fiction from 100 years into the future but it is real and now and today.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe GMO crops are the least of our problems April 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I have worked at biotech companies in research for over 10 years, and so am well familiar with genetically tweaked mice that are created to test out drugs and their efficacy. This book was helpful because it was well-researched and had other examples of "tweaking". However, I felt such inherent danger when I read about the creation of so many "brave new beasts". What happens when they - like the genetically engineered salmon - get loose in the wild? A situation just as bad as GMO corn pollen - unable to be contained, even if harmful. I wish that the author had shared more about what she really feels about the issues she raised. I liked this book - many examples of *cool* and *useful* modifications of creatures, and a good look at what is out there. I just couldn't shake my inner creepiness warning, because I think she glossed over the dangers of this technology.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Barrett
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you're like me, you get inspired by the headlines: "Scottish Scientist Clones Sheep." "Engineers Create Radio-Controlled Insects." "New Plan to Re-Stock Great Plains With Long-Extinct Animals." You get excited, you get inspired, and then... you wait. Years pass. Emily Anthes' book Frankenstein's Cat explains the need for patience. In clear, occasionally hilarious prose, Anthes relays the state-of-the-art at the intersection of animals and science: bionic bugs, cloned pets, biological mapping networks. It's a wonderful reminder of our weird and breath-taking world, the difficulty of the scientific work that aims to illuminate it, and the dedication of the men and women conducting that work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Overview o the Current Science July 4, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just as one would expect from a Scientific American Book, this is a very good general survey. It covers the trends in cloning and other aspects of biotechnology. In doing so, it might disappoint those who are already a bit more informed, either by reading other books on the issues or by following the general science magazines. For those, who want a quick survey, though, this is a good choice.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fasten your seat belt March 27, 2013
By iorek
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is a great, user-friendly way to learn about one of the most exciting, important issues facing us. In a series of well chosen stories, it gives us insight into the full cross section of possible effects from the use of biotechnology on animals (and by implication, us).

Choose your medicine: some of the stories are sweet (a prosthetic tail for a dolphin) or silly (engineering fish that glow) and some are frightening and ominous (mice that grow tusks and behave in compulsively bizarre ways, or insects impaled with wires to convert them into spy drones) but all of them are instructive. This book makes clear that there is no going back, and that some of the fastest changes are taking place in countries with the worst controls. As you read this well written book, you'll find yourself reaching to fasten your seat belt.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Scary book about future biological developments!!
Published 2 months ago by Eleanor A. Robb
4.0 out of 5 stars A little more fluidity in writing would be good, but a pervasive light...
Really interesting. A little more fluidity in writing would be good, but a pervasive light touch ( humor) makes it an enjoyable read.
Published 2 months ago by Pennyd
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
Great, very readable book! Science for everyone to understand and science we need to know about in our animal's future
Published 2 months ago by Gloria Carlson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
husband loves it
Published 3 months ago by Barbara L Ballard
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read.
Must read.
Published 4 months ago by ag
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing insight
Published 4 months ago by Massact
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Everyone should read this one!
Published 5 months ago by sundowner
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting!
I learned a lot about advancements application and future of biotechnology. Very good book for anyone who likes science or dogs!
Published 6 months ago by Matthew Martin
4.0 out of 5 stars Things are moving fast!
Very interesting survey of advances in robotics , genetics etc with animals. The author does a good job of staying going to be impartial all still having an interesting point of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern technology and scientific research
This book explains in layman's terms what is happening in breeding/genetics and biomechanics today, and is fully documented with scientific studies/evidence.
Published 7 months ago by Bill Navolis
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More About the Author

Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her work has appeared in Wired, Scientific American Mind, Psychology Today, SEED, Discover, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Slate, New York, Miller-McCune, Good, Foreign Policy, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere. Her new book, Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts, will be published in March 2013 by Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She is also the author of the Instant Egghead Guide: The Mind (St. Martin's Press, 2009).

Emily blogs at Wonderland, which is part of the blog network of the Public Library of Science. Her blog post, "When a deaf man has Tourette's," was selected for inclusion in The Open Laboratory 2010: The Best of Science Writing on the Web.

She has a master's degree in science writing from MIT and a bachelor's degree in the history of science and medicine from Yale, where she also studied creative writing.

Emily lives in Brooklyn, New York with her dog, Milo.


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