These are excellent companion books. Dip into one for a while, then dive into the other. They’re both well written in a conversational tone and often read like good mysteries. Unveiled in these books are the big who-dun-its: the mysteries of life. From how the universe likely began and how it will end to who discovered DNA. In school, I was never drawn in much by my science classes. I’m fairly certain this was due mainly to my inadequacies and flighty attention, but I do wonder: had I been handed books such as these then, would I have been a more engaged student? Probably not. More likely, I was a mope who needed a lifetime to become this curious.
I still struggle to picture how DNA protein G combines with C, and T with A, but Kean does a nice job of creating wonder about how scientists discovered this. For example, Gregor Mendel had nervous breakdowns during tests in school, yet he persevered at matters that were more important to him: understanding the expression of dominant and recessive traits. Another giant in the field, Sturtevant, blew off homework altogether. Darwin hated math. Fruit fly scientists apparently have a great sense of humor, naming their flies after their attributes: “Male coitus interruptus mutants spend just ten minutes having sex (the norm is twenty).” And Sister Miriam Michael Stimson, a nun who invented Preparation H, was discouraged from pursuing science at all, but her research methods helped inspire other DNA researchers.
In Shubin’s book, you’ll learn why today is longer than yesterday. Why the size of Jupiter and its distance from Earth helped to create life here. Why and how changes in the universe affected the evolution of our bodies. This is a mind-dazzling book that I can’t recommend highly enough. I need to read it again. And again. When people casually maintain that we’re all connected, they don’t quite understand the extent of their claim. Shubin lays this all out, puzzle piece by puzzle piece. My mind is still reeling.