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Science Books

December 14, 2007

Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres: Deciphering the Ends of DNA
Catherine Brady (2007)

Molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn first burst into the public arena after opposing the President's Council on Bioethics' call for a moratorium on stem cell research, and objecting to the council's censoring of important scientific evidence contained in their final report. For her principled efforts, Blackburn was dismissed from the council in 2004; a move that excited a scandal hungry press, and caused a flurry of sensationalist headlines. Such high drama - which is always on the cards if you're voted one of Time magazine's "Most Influential People in the World" for 2007 - provides some insight into Blackburn's extraordinary character, but represents just a fraction of her contribution to science. In this remarkable biography, award-winning author Catherine Brady, Assistant Professor in the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco, reveals a tenacity and passion with which Blackburn approaches both her life and work, and shows how these qualities contributed to Blackburn's development of a completely new field of scientific research. Brady writes about Blackburn's vital research into the specialized ends of chromosomes, and the telomerase enzyme that extends them. Left at that most of us would have a hard time trying to discern the implications of such esoteric research, but Brady goes on to clearly explain how Blackburn's work on the telomerase enzyme may eventually lead to a cure for cancer and a host of age-related diseases. Brady really makes apparent the political and gender-based obstacles that Blackburn faced during the course of her career, and the resourcefulness and professionalism that she used to overcome them.

The Dinosauria
Edited by David B. Weishampel, Peter Dodson, and Halszka Osmólska
ISBN: 0520254082

Research into dinosaurs is one of, if not the most popular area in science, and likely one of the first areas of science that we are exposed to as children. Everyone loves a dinosaur. Yet so much about dinosaurs still remains a mystery, and researchers continue to discover new and exciting characteristics about dinosaur skin color, habitat, diet, reproduction, and, of course, what led to their extinction. Just over a decade ago, some clever clogs compiled a fantastic compendium of dinosaurs called The Dinosauria, which was celebrated as an "historically unparalleled compendium of information," and the "best scholarly work available on dinosaurs." Compiled and edited by professors working in the fields of anatomy, evolution, veterinary medicine and paleontology, The Dinosauria certainly earned all the praise that it received, and in regard to comprehensiveness is still hard to beat. But dinosaurs being the mysterious creatures that they are means that scientists have made many new discoveries over the last decade, which means only one thing: a revamped Dinosauria. In this newly released version, forty-four specialists - from the Eastern Bloc, China, and the West - contribute years of experience and knowledge from their respective fields. Some of the fascinating areas covered include dinosaur reproduction, life history strategies, biogeography, taphonomy, paleoecology, thermoregulation, and extinction, which are all complemented with a collection of updated and beautifully rendered illustrations. This new, revised, and fully expanded edition is sure to again make The Dinosauria the dinosaur-buff's reference of choice.

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