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How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever

36 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0525951049
ISBN-10: 0525951040
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About the Author

Jack Horner is regents professor of paleontology at Montana State University, and probably the best-known paleontologist in the world. He is the recipient of a MacArthur "genius" award and the author of several books on dinosaurs.

James Gorman is deputy science editor of The New York Times. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (March 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951049
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a new and refreshing look at paleontology. While the book is nominally about turning a bird into a dinosaur, it is really about exciting new developments in paleontology. Horner shows how paleontology is expanding beyond digging for dinosaurs and moving into molecular biology and evolutionary development (evo-devo). Horner weaves several different fields of biology and shows how inter-disciplinary studies have revolutionized the field. He chronicles the work of Mary Schweitzer, who discovered red blood cells and (perhaps) cartilage in a 68-million year old T-rex, and Hans Larson, who is investigating ancestral genes in chicken embryos. I had followed news from paleontology relatively closely for a lay observer, but even I was shocked at some of the evo-devo research currently being done.

Hopefully, this book will inspire more students to go into biology. Turning a chicken into a dinosaur might be just the right hook to stimulate interest in these exciting new developments in evo-devo.

My one suggestion for the book is that because it covers so many fields, Horner ends up summarizing or quoting the works of others. He tells their stories effectively. But at some point, I wonder if perhaps it would have been better to produce a joint book, with articles from several of the contributors in the field. However, it is also useful to have one voice to guide the reader through the science. Since Horner is not a native to molecular sciences (his expertise is traditional paleontology), he is perhaps better suited to explaining the complexities of genetics to lay readers.

P.S. - Be sure to check out the Discovery Channel's documentary (Dinosaurs: Return To Life?) on this topic. It is a nice complement to the book.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Franco Folini on May 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There is a recurring problem with American authors: apparently a writer must produce a minimum number of pages in order to publish a book, even when the core ideas can only fill half of them. In this case the mix is: 30% description of the great idea on how to test evolution by "recreating" a dinosaur starting from a chicken; 50% repetitions of the same idea over and over; 20% irrelevant and boring descriptions of marginal details.
IMHO reducing everything down to a 100 pages would make this a perfect book.
It's like mixing half a glass of Bordeaux with half a glass of water. You can't avoid thinking how much better would be enjoying the pure wine, without the water!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Shelby Lee on April 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Let me preface this review by clarifying that this is not the first time I've been exposed to this body of research. Watching the Discovery Channel special in early 2008, I became so fascinated with the material that I dug up as much information as I could and wrote a paper about the possibility of bringing back dinosaurs, mammoths, sabre-tooth cats, etc. Since then, I've followed the research closely -- particularly that of Dr. Larsson -- and when I began editing the paper again this year "for fun" and stumbled upon this book for preorder by chance, I was ecstatic.

I am also a long, longtime fan and admirer of Dr. Horner, who I remember fondly on my tv set as a child, talking to me about dinosaurs while I listened raptly.

The book itself tends to meander every which way, although all in the scope of the fossil paleontology and microbiology community, charting efforts all across the board (and globe) until now. I suppose if you're looking for a very specialized sort of thing, it'll seem scatterbrained, and the real "meat" of what you're dying for is in the last 1/3 of the book. But pay close attention, and be patient; you'll be glad you did. Dr. Horner and Mr. Gorman are great writers, and storytellers. This is a treat to read.

It also makes quite a stirring case in the end regarding ethical, financial, and philosophical issues; I believe this is no mistake on the author's part, someone who is clearly reaching out to the public for both their interest, their awe, their faith in the value of the work, and their $$$ investment. No doubt, Horner is beginning to understand the gravity of the work being done here: if he doesn't push for it, no one will.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sam Santhosh VINE VOICE on March 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
What happens when Paleontology converges with Molecular Biology? Advances in molecular biology now allows us to make changes to the genetic code - the 'language of life'. Paleontology gives us glimpses of extinct animals. The authors of this book challenges the reader to consider the possibility of changing the genome of an existing embryo say that of a chicken and enticing it to 'remember' its past and develop characteristics of its ancestors - such as teeth, tail etc. And since birds are descendent from Dinosaurs, theoretically you can now go back in time step by step and slowly but surely create a Dinosaur.

It is an intriguing concept and the authors do an excellent job of asking the right questions - can we do it? should we do it? what are the benefits? What are the disadvantages? The book also covers the basic science very well and in simple terms explains the principles involved.

The title of the book is slightly misleading since we are far away from actually being able to create a Dinosaur. Many challenges still remain but the possibility of being able to do this in the next 10 to 20 years is very real. More importantly the book will give the reader a better idea of the various possibilities, that a proper understanding of the genetic code will provide humanity.
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