Before they were classics….

I came across this today while on the interwebs. It’s 15 scathing early reviews for books that are considered classics today, including Lolita, Brave New World, and The Catcher in the Rye. Check them out here: http://www.flavorwire.com/335428/15-scathing-early-reviews-of-classic-novels?all=1

Also, just want to mention that I recently read Lolita and it was amazing. Nabokov draws you in and almost makes you feel sorry for Humbert Humbert. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Book Review: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

Hubby and I have been busy little bees thanks to both of us having to  present at our lab meetings last week and with my students having an upcoming exam. We apologize for the lack of blog activity. Here is a book review for you.

Today, I review Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life by Marcus Wohlsen. I was initially drawn to this book because science in a research lab at a university can be quite the expensive endeavor. I mean thousands and thousands of dollars to run a lab. You just can’t do science because you enjoy it. You end up having to beg for money from the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health in hopes that you will have the money to pay for lab materials, care for research animals, and possibly employ a post-doctoral scientist in you lab. It’s a daunting task. So, I wanted to read about how scientists were doing the sort of science I do every day, but in their garage.

The book starts out with a story of Kay Aull, a woman whose father was diagnosed with the disease of hemochromatosis. It is a common hereditary disease, but is often tricky to diagnose because its symptoms resemble many other health problems. Genetic testing for this disease is expensive, and insurance companies often won’t pay for the test until other disease possibilities have been ruled out. Aull wanted to see if she could develop a genetic test for the disease at home. Aull had the know how since she attended MIT and worked for a DNA synthesis company. She constructed a lab in the closet of her small apartment. She was able to determine that she carried the mutation for the disease, allowing her knowledge that could be valuable if future health issues arose.

This ingenuity and desire to make science more accessible is at the heart of this book. The above story is one of many about biopunks who want biology to be something anyone has the ability to do at home, from guys who want to develop field tests for infectious diseases in developing countries, to a woman who wants to have an at home test for melamine contamination. The book also shares stories about some of history’s earliest biopunks, including Lady Montagu, who played around with early inoculations for smallpox.

The risk of being a biopunk is also discussed. This poorly understood sect of individuals become closely watched due to the threat of bioterrorism. People are afraid of what these folks could be cooking up in their homes. In fact, the FBI has a liaison that attends biopunk conferences in order to build relationships with the community.

Overall, this book is an interesting read. It’s nice that there are people out there who want to make science accessible and affordable. Who knows what types of innovations are being cooked up in someone’s garage?

Book Review: The Facts, by Philip Roth

The Facts is the autobiography of novelist Philip Roth.  If you’ve never read Roth, you should.  He’s famous for writing semi-autobiographical novels that are outrageously candid and extremely funny.  He has an ease and confidence about writing that allows him to create people and places that are simply aliveso alive, in fact,  that readers are often left wondering where fiction ends and reality begins. In The Facts, Roth attempts to lay out the real facts of his life as he seems them. But, as the book’s last chapter underscores, autobiography can never reveal the truth as candidly or interestingly as fiction can. Continue reading

The Religion of Benjamin Franklin

Lost month I read Walter Isaacson’s amazing biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.  I enjoyed that book so much that I went out and bought a copy Franklin’s own Autobiography, which is even better.  In addition to reading about Franklin’s life in his own words, the Autobiography provides fascinating insights into Franklin’s religion.  Today, many people would have you believe that the Founders were a group of super-powered politicians-slash-evangelical-Christians, but Franklin’s own words prove that false, like this statement: “My indiscrete disputations about religion began to make me pointed at with horror by good people as an infidel or atheist.”  Just imagine a modern politician saying that! Continue reading

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore”

Hubby and I went to Baltimore today. I wish it were for a fun outing, but it was to get my wisdom teeth extracted. Anyway, imagine our happy surprise when we found out that Edgar Allan Poe was buried right down the road from the University of Maryland Dental School where I was going to have said procedure. We left to give ourselves to pay our respects to an author before my wisdom teeth were “Nevermore”. Pictures for your viewing pleasure are below. Continue reading

Book Review-The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry

Do you ever wonder if you might be related to the people you are passing on the street? Due to common descent, we are all related. Bryan Sykes is a medical geneticist that investigates the interrelatedness of humans by examining their mitochondrial DNA, and shares the results with you in this book. Continue reading