From Back Bay Books
There is enough DNA in a single cell to stretch six feet, but it coils down to fit into a space a thousandth of an inch wide. There is enough DNA in a human body to reach from Pluto to the sun. Within this DNA are stories that have been buried for millions of years. DNA reveals truths about sports, music or Machiavellian microbes, and these tales collectively tell a larger and more intricate story: why humans are one of nature’s most absurd creatures, as well as its crowning glory.
Now available in paperback, Sam Kean’s “The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code” (Back Bay Books; July 16, 2013; paperback), delivers the same humor and insight—and delightful anecdotes—about DNA that Kean used to make the periodic table of the elements entertaining in his New York Times bestselling debut “The Disappearing Spoon.” “The Violinist’s Thumb” has been named one of the best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon.com, and the author will appear to discuss his book in Brooklyn on Aug. 17 at the Nerd Nite Global Festival, which will take place at the Brooklyn Lyceum.
DNA offers a powerful tool for rooting through our past; biology has become history by other means. Unraveling the genetic code has not always been easy. From its earliest days, the field of genetics has been rife with infighting, backstabbing, and controversial theories, but scientists can now finally read the astounding stories inscribed in our DNA. We’ve been carrying these stories with us in our cells forever; grand sagas of where we came from and how we evolved from the primordial muck into the most dominant species the planet has known.
Structured so that each chapter is the answer to a single question, “The Violinist’s Thumb” starts in the remote microbial past, moves on to our animal ancestries, lingers over primates and hominid competitors like Neanderthals, and culminates with the emergence of modern, cultured human beings with flowery language and hypertrophied brains while also considering the uncertainties that remain in the future.
The Aug. 17 event will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Lyceum (227 4th Ave in Park Slope), and is part of the Nerd Nite Global Fest, which will take place at Brooklyn Lyceum from Aug. 16-18.
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Sam Kean is a writer in Washington, D.C. He is the author of the New York Times national bestseller The Disappearing Spoon, which was also a runner-up for the Royal Society’s book of the year for 2011. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, and New Scientist, and has been featured on NPR’s Radiolab and All Things Considered.