Friday, June 21, 2013

"Frankenstein's Cat" by Emily Anthes

This is a popular science book written by a science journalist without any science degree, and aimed at a lay audience. However, even as a scientist I did enjoy reading this non-fiction book and learnt a few interesting things I didn't know previously and also discovered a few things I still thought existed only in Sci Fi have actually already been achieved in the lab! The book looks at how humans modify animals using biotech/genetics/neuroscience/electronics/prosthetics etc. It does try to hype things up a little, but it also tries to explain the technology and de-mystify it to a non-science audience, and also deals with a lot of the ethical issues behind animal use. And reminds us that changing animal behaviours and appearances isn't new, we have been doing it for 100's or 1000's of years, but this is just more sophisticated technology allowing far greater power and while sometimes this can be beneficial we have to bear in mind that just because we Can do something doesn't mean we should do it. It includes prosthetic limbs for animals (including dolphins), goats that are genetically engineered to produce special proteins/drugs etc in their milk, robotically controlled rodents and insects, glow-in-the-dark-fish, chickens which cant pass on certain viruses (think avian flu) and many more fascinating critters. Some are obviously good things, some are obviously ethically not good, and some are definitely in the grey zone. But as this stuff is all becoming possible it was an interesting read to start thinking about these issues and also to see how the non-scientists in the community might interpret them.

Read: 10th June -  21st June 2013
My score: 6.5/10

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