- Paperback: 122 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (April 30, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226983366
- ISBN-13: 978-0226983363
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 97 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Planet of Viruses Paperback – April 30, 2012
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"Part of a series sponsored by the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) to help support educational outreach to students, [A Planet of Viruses] packs into 109 pages just about everything you’ve always wanted to know–and a lot you’ll probably wish you didn’t know–about the viruses that have caused humanity so much grief throughout history."—Forbes
“I hope Carl Zimmer lives a long, long time so we can get more and more books from him. . . . [A Planet of Viruses is] a short read . . . but intense and well explained.”
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Top customer reviews
You get a sense of the sheer ubiquity of viruses. They are even on a grain of sand. You’ll read how little we know about them, especially about the marine-dwelling viruses which generally seem to be unlike anything known on land. You’ll read about some of the reasons that human flu epidemics are so often associated with birds and pigs (avian flu, swine flu). There is some information here I hadn’t read before about the ways in which the HIV virus compromises the body’s system. There are suggestions about how and why viruses might be coming back as a means of treating bacterial diseases, now that so many of our antibiotics are failing to cure all the mutated varieties of bacterial infection we are facing.
There are other, incidental astonishing facts mentioned here that I found myself reading about for the first time. For example, on the very first page, Zimmer mentions the existence of “The Cave of Crystals” in Mexico’s Sierra de Naica range. This other-worldly cavern of immense, towering crystals is now largely unavailable for viewing. But as with the other subjects touched on in this book, Zimmer’s description will pique your interest and induce you to explore further.
I think this is an excellent book to introduce readers from ages 10 on up to the subject of viruses. The fascinating facts presented here might then help sustain their interest if they should choose to plunge into more academic studies of the subject.
Carl Zimmer's new book, A Planet of Viruses borrows its delivery technique from its subjects: in less than 100 pages, A Planet of Viruses packs quite a punch of information. The eradication of smallpox, the rise of HIV, the immigration of West Nile virus to the western hemisphere, the viruses in our genomes and the recent discovery mysteriously huge mimivirus are all treated here in delightfully short essays describing the impact of viruses on mankind and on life in general. To some of these topics Zimmer brings refreshing perspectives. He proposes that the common cold virus, an unwelcome companion of man since ancient history, should be treated like a wise old tutor rather than an ancient enemy. Then he explains why we haven't truly eradicated smallpox, and probably never will. Viruses, hovering between life and non-life have an impact on life so large it is hard to fathom. Viruses kill about half of marine microbes every day. Their sheer biomass ("...equal to [that of] 75 million blue whales"), huge host range, mind-boggling number of particles in the biosphere and, above all, the genetic diversity which is unmatched by all other life combined. They infect more than our cells: many are contained in our very genomes, transferred from generation to generation.
Having read the book in one sitting, I felt a bit lightheaded when I rose to drink my (now cold) coffee. Like compressed viral DNA injected into the host cell, the movement of this concentration of information from a small book into my brain had an almost palpable effect. As a microbiologist I knew quite a few of these stories about viruses, I just never had them put together in front of me in such a readable and concentrated fashion. Unlike larger books, which may be more elaborate on any single theme, Zimmer's small book delivers its viral DNA in a short, sharp shock. I am happy to have been infected, and I recommend you do the same.
Reproduced from bytesizebio.net under Creative Commons License.
It's got all the elements of great stories: sex, murder, politics, terrorism, and the frailty of human life. It covers many aspects key to a basic understanding of how viruses work, and discusses features of public health, vaccination, global warming, bioweapons, human experimentation.
Zimmer brings in important newer concepts of viruses as commensal organisms, or even symbiotes, as life forms - or not, as essential building blocks to our own humanness, as drivers of evolution. This was elegantly accomplished. Finally, this work is scholarly, delving into the history of viruses and virology and includes a nice literature review.
Finally, and most important to me, this book caused me to think about some aspects of virology differently, and inspired me to look deeper into some topics on which I had not kept current. This is what science education is all about: challenging us to think about "facts" in a different light.
I also really like this book because of it's history, but as with any science-related book, some of the material is not current: Virus That Ate Cannibals: Six Great Medical Detective Stories by Carol Eron
I have a PhD in Molecular Virology (Baylor College of Medicine, 1994), and became a lifelong student of virology in 1985 when, as an undergraduate, I found myself intellectually intrigued and personally disgusted by the AIDS epidemic. I have been engaged in virus-related research now for more than 25 years (that makes me sound older than I feel/am!). My research lab focus at the UNM SOM and the National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center is on human papillomavirus infections, how these viruses infect human cells, and what makes these normally benign lesions progress to cancers in a few individuals. You can hear me discuss HPVs on the Blog TWiV (This Week in Virology), episode 126: [...]
Most recent customer reviews
I really like how the author grouped the viruses and titled each chapter with reference to the topic or the particular virus.Read more