Friday, February 22, 2008

8. Your Body: The Fish That Evolved

The title:
Your Body: The Fish That Evolved
The author: Dr. Keith Harrison
Publication: Metro, 2007
Got it from: Good old St. Catharines PL

It's not too often that I'd describe a book as cute, particularly a science one, but...."awwwwww!" If Yankee Mistress is some sort of zoological abomination, this book would be something fuzzy and cute and cuddly.

Or maybe I'm just overly optimistic after my last review.

This light and breezy book (it only took a few hours to read) is a compact little history about how we evolved from tiny little microorganisms to super apes: what we gained that made us "us" at each step. And can I just say I never noticed that our elbows and knees bend in opposite directions? Awesome! Or that horses actually stand on their toe, not their foot? And I never realized that women and men walk differently because women have to compensate for their wider hips (we have to sway our hips back and forth for balance, otherwise we'd fall over. Sometimes I just fall over anyway.)

What made this book so cute was that the ideas of the book are 21st century, but it was written in a 19th century style. I don't know how to explain this, but if you've ever read any non-fiction from 1800's you know that they write in that sort of grand, sweeping style with short, concise sentences and occasional humphs and tut-tuts from the author. For example:

"As a species, we have recently developed the ability to alter the genetic composition of other species directly, to produce Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's). Some people argue this is no different to altering the characters of other species through selective breeding, which we have been doing for thousands of years, but this is nonsense. Selective breeding is a way of choosing which cow genes we want in our cows...with genetic modification, we are moving genes from one species to another." (p.205)

I just can't help picturing the author of this work as some little British man with a monocle. He digs up bones in the desert, occasionally pausing to take his tea under the shade of his umbrella, while Al Jolson plays on the Victrola nearby. He says things like "rather!" and "quite, quite!" with frequency. He has all the sensibilities of a 21st century scientist, but prefers to party like it's 1899.


No comments: