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Science Books

November 30, 2006

Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project
Spencer Wells (2006)
ISBN: 0792262158

While there is an abundance of scientific research explaining how Homo sapiens emerged from Africa thousands of years ago, explaining just how we managed to spread ourselves across the face of the globe has proven to be problematic. Now, with the aid of new genetic research tools, Spencer Wells, author of The Journey Of Man, has managed to trace the migration patterns of our species. Wells is the director of the Genographic Project, which is a pioneering study that has accumulated the world's largest assortment of population genetic samples for analysis. Sophisticated new genetic mapping techniques have allowed Wells and his colleagues to address some long-standing questions in the field of genetic anthropology, such as how we managed to get where we are today, and why humans come in all shapes, colors and sizes. In Deep Ancestry, Wells traces the DNA samples of 5 subjects, demonstrating how the DNA in each of us can be used to chronicle our ancestor's every migratory movement. In this respect, Deep Ancestry is a satisfying blend of complex science, ancestral studies, and cultural identity, which ultimately shatters our facile preoccupation with differences among our species. While Wells introduces some very complicated scientific concepts, he does it in a way that is easily accessible while not skimping on content. Deep Ancestry is a fascinating and exceptionally well-written book. Highly recommended.

The End Of The Line: How Overfishing Is Changing The World And What We Eat
Charles Clover (2006)
ISBN: 159558109X

We're told that eating low fat, nutrient rich fish will return healthy dividends, but Charles Clover, the environment editor for the Daily Telegraph, is here to tell us that our health-kick comes at a hefty price. That price, according to Clover, is no less than the depletion of the world's fish stocks. Clover says that with 75 percent of the world's fish stocks currently fully exploited or over-fished, fishing is presently unsustainable. He adds that since 1950, a staggering 90 percent of the world's fish population has disappeared due to overfishing. With the trendiest fish already at risk of extinction within the next few decades or so, it seems that this is a leviathan of a problem that deserves our immediate and undivided attention. Clover takes up the case, and sets out to discover what can be done about this dire situation. Clover journey's the world interviewing fish market proprietors, sailors, chefs and staff working for the world's various fishing regulatory bodies. Clover's interviews reveal that it is a combination of seemingly unrelated factors that are contributing to the demise of fish stocks: new, high-tech fishing vessels; apathetic or corrupt government agencies; the public's desire for certain fish and the high-profile chefs who foster these desires. Clover saves his full wrath for nations such as Japan and Spain, who continually engage in illegal fishing. The End Of The Line is an alarming and trenchant account of our rapidly dwindling fish stocks, and our apparent failure to prevent this impending disaster from occurring.

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