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.
on April 12, 2013
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.
on July 4, 2013
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.
on April 26, 2014
I listened to an interview with the author on NPR and wanted to learn more. The author delivers information on genetic manipulation in an easy to understand fashion and does so with clever writing and wit. Had the book stayed on the topic of gene manipulation and delved a bit deeper into this subject I would have been happier. The second section of the book moves on to animal prosthetics -- man-made flippers for injured dolphins -- that sort of thing. The last section of the book are author research notes. She's done an impressive amount of research, but at this point the book feels a bit like a college dissertation -- an excellent dissertation, mind you -- but not exactly what I was hoping for.
on April 3, 2013
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.
on March 21, 2013
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.
I spent 20 years in biotech on just these kinds of projects. A typical, little known (true, I was there) scene in Palo Alto-- an MD, PhD geneticist crying uncontrollably because her original nude rat just died. Behind the horror stories, massive egos, and deeply divisive opinions in this industry are a whole bunch of real folks!
Just out of undergrad in physical chemistry I was invited to Argonne national labs for a "pre-employment" tour. They showed me how they "turned on" the reactor core, with an inner circle of physical materials and objects, a "next" circle of darling live beagles, and then labs of the dead and dying beagles. It wasn't just the horror I felt as a dog lover, it was my astonishment and laughter at the "third" ring outside the beagles-- the physicist's offices!!
Shades of Arnold's RE-PET? Pet Semetary? Finally, pig organs for transplant? Frog poison venom in corn that no insect on earth can survive? THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ, regardless of which side of the issue you're on! The author takes a DRY (not a page turner), but balanced and "to inform" tone, giving amazing insights into everything from the ethical dilemmas to the surprising side shows of the technologies. The technical detailing is not deep (from a physical chemist's frame), but the intricacies of the industry are key to anyone who cares about the future, whether you have a loved one waiting for a transplant, or you're with ASPCA, or you're in the industry yourself. For POV, I'm a biological patent reviewer at payroy dot com, and genetic engineering IP is my field. I don't judge, I review for patent worthiness, but am a female, and am a dog lover, so you know! I DO buy organic.
Five stars for the currency of the info-- the author has been painstaking in bringing not only US, but worldwide details (offshore is where the real Frankenstein work is being done, much of it covert) to the fore. I'll bet that even if you're with CIA or NSA there are details you'll find startling here, not to mention DOD black programs looking at bio and genetic weapons yourself. Sobering, scary, and in many places, comical.
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on May 14, 2013
I heard an interview with this book's author on NPR and couldn't wait to read it. It was worth the read! I especially enjoyed the first half, with the chapters on bio-engineered animals (GloFish and AquaBounty), the frozen zoo (cryogenically freezing animal cells for possible future revival), and the cloning of endangered animals and pets. The second half of the book (principally the discussion of "hijacking" an animal's brain and putting humans at the controls) was also interesting, though I liked the first half of the book the most. I highly recommend this fun, fast (only 180 pages) read!
on March 27, 2013
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.
on March 25, 2013
Half wildest dreams (genetic modification to improve human health), half deepest fears (a lot of hubris in the seemingly simple modification to make a pet more appealing -- and no one seems to be on top of the potential threats to human well-being or even survival), this is an absorbing, meticulously researched but highly accessible book. Anthes shows us that the kinds of things most of us thought were more than decades away are happening in labs right now, and that, as usual, the science is way ahead of the people who think about policy and ethics. From the military use of remote control insects to the genetic re-creation of beloved deceased pets ("it's reproduction, not resurrection," she reminds us), from the breeding of animals that are healthier to eat, cheaper to raise, or better organ donors to humans to the experiment that surprised scientists by resulting in mice with tusks, this is sometimes horrifying but always fascinating, and indisputably essential reading. Highly recommended!