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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2003
I love to read science books because they continually amaze me with the hidden worlds that they reveal. This book is no exception. Author Bainbridge has written a slim book of 181 pages, that tells us the marvels, eccentricities, and terrors hidden away in the X chromosome. It always amuses me when people extol the human body as the epitome of creation excellence. When you look deeply into our physical engineering, though, you usually start wondering if perhaps we were designed by a fractious committee.
It is the male Y chromosome, and specifically the "Sry" gene on that chromosome, that actively sets out to make any cell blob containing it to turn into a male. But the Y chromosome is really just a dried up fossil of a gene that serves no other purpose than determining sex. It is the X that has many functions.
The book answers many questions. Why are diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hemophilia mostly limited to males? Why are male identical twins really identical, while female identical twins are not totally identical? Why are approximately 50% of female body cell X chromosomes different from the other 50% while in a male the cells are all alike? Why are women the main sufferers from autoimmune diseases? What happens when a woman is born with only one sex chromosome, a single X? Why is it that color blindness affects mostly men, and why is color blindness almost inevitably red-green, and almost never blue-yellow?
We also learn that many other mammals live and reproduce perfectly well with no Y chromosomes. Armadillos generally give birth to identical quadruplets. And on and on goes Mr. Bainbridge with the facts about the unusual X chromosome that is an astounding two inches long yet is able to intricately fold itself to fit into every tiny body cell.
This is a very accessible book that should educate and, indeed, entertain anyone who picks it up.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2003
Let me start out by saying "I apologize for the title. It's a dirty job, and somebody had to do it." Second I'd like to note that I'd rather give this book a 4.5, but it errs much more towards the 5 end of the spectrum than the 4, so I will be generous and round up.
This book is extremely interesting, even exciting, and I read it in two sittings. It's peppered throughout with dry British humor (you have to be a fan of British humorists to notice it most of the time, I think), and very entertaining as well as edifying. This book is a joy to read because it is well-written 97% of the time. For the other 3%, the author lost me by referring to something that was (probably) in the book prior to that point, but I didn't recall it and he neglected to put a little parenthetical reminder as to what it was exactly. And sometimes the flow seems a tiny bit scattered. This is why it would be a 4.5 star book, and not a flat-out 5, if I had that choice. However, they are extremely minor quibbles, and I only mention them at all because otherwise the book is so wonderful. (I would also LOVE more information, but I can't fault the author for not including more -- the length is just right for a trade science book.)
David Bainbridge's premise is that the X chromosome is wildly underestimated, or perhaps underrated, and that some people may even go so far as to use the fact that the (stunted) Y chromosome is more 'powerful' -- presumably because its mere presence creates a boy fetus instead of a female (most of the time), even when multiple Xes "gang up" on it -- to further a sexist agenda. Mr. Bainbridge went so far as to argue that the X is a much more powerful chromosome, and that people should wonder how women cope with two of them instead of assuming that they are so weak that women feel no ill effects. (In fact, there are mechanisms in the human body to protect a woman from "an overdose of X".) While I was skeptical of this premise, Mr. Bainbridge certainly argued a good case, and I learned all sorts of fascinating things that they don't teach in high school biology.
All in all? Fascinating. Even if you didn't like biology in school (or maybe especially if that's the case), check out this book. It's the kind of science book you'll take with you for a long soak in a hot tub.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2003
I love to read science books because they continually amaze me with the hidden worlds that they reveal. This book is no exception. Author Bainbridge has written a slim book of 181 pages, that tells us the marvels, eccentricities, and terrors hidden away in the X chromosome. It always amuses me when people extol the human body as the epitome of creation excellence. When you look deeply into our physical engineering, though, you usually start wondering if perhaps we were designed by a fractious committee.
It is the male Y chromosome, and specifically the "Sry" gene on that chromosome, that actively sets out to make any cell blob containing it to turn into a male. But the Y chromosome is really just a dried up fossil of a gene that serves no other purpose than determining sex. It is the X that has many functions.
The book answers many questions. Why are diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hemophilia mostly limited to males? Why are male identical twins really identical, while female identical twins are not totally identical? Why are approximately 50% of female body cell X chromosomes different from the other 50% while in a male the cells are all alike? Why are women the main sufferers from autoimmune diseases? What happens when a woman is born with only one sex chromosome, a single X? Why is it that color blindness affects mostly men, and why is color blindness almost inevitably red-green, and almost never blue-yellow?
We also learn that many other mammals live and reproduce perfectly well with no Y chromosomes. Armadillos generally give birth to identical quadruplets. And on and on goes Mr. Bainbridge with the facts about the unusual X chromosome that is an astounding two inches long yet is able to intricately fold itself to fit into every tiny body cell.
This is a very accessible book that should educate and, indeed, entertain anyone who picks it up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2003
I read this book in about 5 or 6 hours. It was fairly interesting and easy to read. I have no background in biology, but I love reading non-fiction. None of the science went over my head and I look forward to acting like I know something the next time someone mentions X chromosomes. Eh, that'll never happen, but I had fun reading it. I wouldn't give it five stars, because there's much better science non-fiction out there.
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on January 11, 2014
How, exactly, do we become male or female? The real answer is not as simple as the one you learned in high school biology, and David Bainbridge takes his readers on a fascinating, humorous, and thoroughly informative journey through the story of the answer (as you may have guessed, it has something to do with the X chromosome). While much of the information in this book will not be new for people with an understanding of genetics greater than or equal to that of a typical college sophomore biology student, the presentation of the material in this book almost ensures that all save geneticists will not be bored. Even then, the wonderful humor of the author and some of the historical examples might be worth a cursory read.

Often, books of this type err in one of two directions in their attempts to be both accessible and informative. I have read some that overdo the humor and water down the information to such an extent that little is learned after a read of the book. On the other hand, popular science can sometimes be too dense and jargon-heavy for a reader unfamiliar with the subject to appreciate the material. The X in Sex strikes a near perfect balance between these two extremes. The book is chock full of interesting and relevant information, from the specifics of the X chromosome (and there are many interesting aspects) to many wonderful historical anecdotes and humorous insertions. At times, the author got a bit too witty for his own good, but the humorous writing style is on the whole very beneficial. Sure, we don't get any of the latest discoveries in this book, but as a primer to whet the palette of the interested person, one could do far worse.

While I have a great appreciation for it, genetics as a field of study has never interested me greatly even though I am a chemist with a strong biological background (shame on me, I know...). This book, however, has reminded me that there is a great, simple beauty to genetics, and plenty of interesting tales to tell.
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on May 21, 2006
How do we become male or female? The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives, by David Bainbridge writes a compelling and enjoyable book that explains the X and Y Chromosomes having a profound impact on our lives, determining what sex we will be and also influencing how we live. Bainbridge takes readers into a neat over view of the X chromosome, mentioning its importance in the genetic makeup of the person. He makes an argument that the Y chromosome plays a more significant role in mediating subsequent sex differences. He uses exquisite analogies, and wit to provide the readers with some entertainment.

How the Chromosome Control Our Lives takes you back to history of the X chromosome and its influence on differences between sexes. The book is easily understood and is broken up into three main chapters. The first chapter, Making a Difference, reveals that Sry, a gene on the Y chromosome causes XY embryo to develop as male. He uses catching analogies revealing his humor, such as `Think of sex as a restaurant, with sex chromosomes for customers. This may not be the kind of the of restaurant you want to eat in, but bear with me.' He makes his point through a real life story connecting present day information with evidence and technology.

He then exceeds to his second Chapter, and explains why sex-linked conditions; Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, Hemophilia and colorblindness are more prevalent in males. This is because men only have one X, therefore they get one copy of each of its genes. He then goes on and tells us the effects, if one of these genes is damaged, significant changes can occur. The third chapter focuses on how the X dosage and X in activation influences female physiology, providing several images to help the reader understand somewhat complex information. Bainbridge makes great efforts to provide familiarities to all readers.

This book is highly recommended for all. It is very interesting and makes you want to further your reading on the same topic. David Bainbridge does an excellent job of describing how and why we live, in a very clear and somewhat challenging way.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2003
This book presents a few tidbits about the X chromosomes and the genes resident on it and how they affect our lives. Topics discussed include autoimmune diseases, color blindness, disease transmission vectors (due to mutated genes), X chromosome inactivation in anyone possessing multiple X chromosomes...etc
Overall, this is a good, entertaining layman read. It is not an overview on the biology of the X chromosome. Rather,a good afternoon read for one's infotainment.
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on February 28, 2015
Gift
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6 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2004
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no more." This book simply goes too far in the direction of the "simple."

"Did I manage to slip in the word 'gene' unnoticed?" the author asks on page 18. Well, if you are the type that will be amazed to learn that there are these things called "genes" then this will be a fun book for you.

THere are so many anoying typos. For example, singular anticedent (a bioligist) and plural pronoun (them), p.52. "vice-like hold" (should be vise-like, p. 54). "A common misconception 'abut" the ..." (p. 65) and so on. A human baby is referred to as an "it" while an inantimate object such as a chromosome is referred to as a "he".

Most of the book has nothing new, and is anoying to read. The one interesting thing is that, in our species, women have 2 X-chromosomes but men have only 1. So something must be done so that the the genes on the X-chromosome are expressed in the same degree/amount in both genders. In our species, females (and some males, who are YXX !) inactivate all but one of the X-chromosomes as a developing embryo. From that point on, all daughter cells have the same X-chromosome(s) inactivated. In Calico cats, the pigmentation is carried on the X-chromosome, so the pattern reflects the pattern of chromosome inactivation. This has interesting implications for other genes carried on the X-chromosome.

So, there are a few interesting tidbits in the back of the book, if one has the patience to get that far.

The author also makes statements of fact, then later "confesses" that they are not completely true, pointing out some exceptions. So, if you see some "fact" in this book, before you go quoting it, better read the rest of the book carefully, in case the author was only "kidding" about that fact.
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4 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2003
See David Page's (at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass.) new research, first hitting the news on June 18, 2003.
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