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About Carl Zimmer
In his books, Zimmer travels to the frontiers of biological research, to discover how scientists are expanding our understanding of the natural world and ourselves. His books include "Parasite Rex," "Evolution: The Triumph of An Idea," "Soul Made Flesh," and "A Planet of Viruses."
Zimmer began his career at Discover, where he ended up as a senior editor. After publishing his first book, "At the Water's Edge," Zimmer became a full-time writer, contributing to magazines including National Geographic, The Atlantic, and Wired. Zimmer began contributing to the New York Times in 2004, and in 2013 he launched "Matter," a weekly column on everything from Neanderthal DNA to the future of life on Earth.
Among his awards, Zimmer has earned the National Academies Communication Award and the Stephen Jay Gould Prize. He is a three-time winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award. Zimmer is a professor adjunct at Yale, where he teaches writing. He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named.
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"Science book of the year"—The Guardian
One of New York Times 100 Notable Books for 2018
One of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Books of 2018
One of Kirkus's Best Books of 2018
One of Mental Floss's Best Books of 2018
One of Science Friday's Best Science Books of 2018
“Extraordinary”—New York Times Book Review
"Leading contender as the most outstanding nonfiction work of the year"—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Celebrated New York Times columnist and science writer Carl Zimmer presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying genes became cheaper, millions of people ordered genetic tests to link themselves to missing parents, to distant ancestors, to ethnic identities...
But, Zimmer writes, “Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors. Each piece has its own ancestry, traveling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are—our appearance, our height, our penchants—in inconceivably subtle ways.” Heredity isn’t just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors—using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates—but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. We need a new definition of what heredity is and, through Carl Zimmer’s lucid exposition and storytelling, this resounding tour de force delivers it.
Weaving historical and current scientific research, his own experience with his two daughters, and the kind of original reporting expected of one of the world’s best science journalists, Zimmer ultimately unpacks urgent bioethical quandaries arising from new biomedical technologies, but also long-standing presumptions about who we really are and what we can pass on to future generations.
Fortunately, science writer Carl Zimmer is here to guide us. In this compact volume, he tells the story of how the smallest living things known to science can bring an entire planet of people to a halt--and what we can learn from how we've defeated them in the past.
Planet of Viruses covers such threats as Ebola, MERS, and chikungunya virus; tells about recent scientific discoveries, such as a hundred-million-year-old virus that infected the common ancestor of armadillos, elephants, and humans; and shares new findings that show why climate change may lead to even deadlier outbreaks. Zimmer’s lucid explanations and fascinating stories demonstrate how deeply humans and viruses are intertwined. Viruses helped give rise to the first life-forms, are responsible for many of our most devastating diseases, and will continue to control our fate for centuries. Thoroughly readable, and, for all its honesty about the threats, as reassuring as it is frightening, A Planet of Viruses is a fascinating tour of a world we all need to better understand.
Sixty-five million years ago, a comet or asteroid larger than Mount Everest slammed into the Earth, inducing an explosion equivalent to the detonation of a hundred million hydrogen bombs. Vaporized detritus blasted through the atmosphere upon impact, falling back to Earth around the globe. Disastrous environmental consequences ensued: a giant tsunami, continent-scale wildfires, darkness, and cold, followed by sweltering greenhouse heat. When conditions returned to normal, half the plant and animal genera on Earth had perished.
This horrific chain of events is now widely accepted as the solution to a great scientific mystery: what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? Walter Alvarez, one of the Berkeley scientists who discovered evidence of the impact, tells the story behind the development of the initially controversial theory. It is a saga of high adventure in remote locations, of arduous data collection and intellectual struggle, of long periods of frustration ended by sudden breakthroughs, of friendships made and lost, and of the exhilaration of discovery that forever altered our understanding of Earth's geological history.
IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites are masters of chemical warfare and camouflage, able to cloak themselves with their hosts' own molecules.
IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites steer the course of evolution, where the majority of species are parasites.
WELCOME TO EARTH.
For centuries, parasites have lived in nightmares, horror stories, and in the darkest shadows of science. Yet these creatures are among the world's most successful and sophisticated organisms. In Parasite Rex, Carl Zimmer deftly balances the scientific and the disgusting as he takes readers on a fantastic voyage. Traveling from the steamy jungles of Costa Rica to the fetid parasite haven of southern Sudan, Zimmer graphically brings to life how parasites can change DNA, rewire the brain, make men more distrustful and women more outgoing, and turn hosts into the living dead.
This thorough, gracefully written book brings parasites out into the open and uncovers what they can teach us about the most fundamental survival tactics in the universe.
Presiding over the rise of this new scientific paradigm was the founder of modern neurology, Thomas Willis, a fascinating, sympathetic, even heroic figure at the center of an extraordinary group of scientists and philosophers known as the Oxford circle. Chronicled here in vivid detail are their groundbreaking revelations and the often gory experiments that first enshrined the brain as the physical seat of intelligence -- and the seat of the human soul. Soul Made Flesh conveys a contagious appreciation for the brain, its structure, and its many marvelous functions, and the implications for human identity, mind, and morality.
“Carl Zimmer is one of the best science writers we have today.”
—Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
We all assume we know what life is, but the more scientists learn about the living world—from protocells to brains, from zygotes to pandemic viruses—the harder they find it is to locate life’s edge.
Carl Zimmer investigates one of the biggest questions of all: What is life? The answer seems obvious until you try to seriously answer it. Is the apple sitting on your kitchen counter alive, or is only the apple tree it came from deserving of the word? If we can’t answer that question here on earth, how will we know when and if we discover alien life on other worlds? The question hangs over some of society’s most charged conflicts—whether a fertilized egg is a living person, for example, and when we ought to declare a person legally dead.
Life's Edge is an utterly fascinating investigation that no one but one of the most celebrated science writers of our generation could craft. Zimmer journeys through the strange experiments that have attempted to re-create life. Literally hundreds of definitions of what that should look like now exist, but none has yet emerged as an obvious winner. Lists of what living things have in common do not add up to a theory of life. It's never clear why some items on the list are essential and others not. Coronaviruses have altered the course of history, and yet many scientists maintain they are not alive. Chemists are creating droplets that can swarm, sense their environment, and multiply. Have they made life in the lab?
Whether he is handling pythons in Alabama or searching for hibernating bats in the Adirondacks, Zimmer revels in astounding examples of life at its most bizarre. He tries his own hand at evolving life in a test tube with unnerving results. Charting the obsession with Dr. Frankenstein's monster and how Coleridge came to believe the whole universe was alive, Zimmer leads us all the way into the labs and minds of researchers working on engineering life from the ground up.
This remarkable book presents a rich and up–to–date view of evolution that explores the far–reaching implications of Darwin's theory and emphasizes the power, significance, and relevance of evolution to our lives today. After all, we ourselves are the product of evolution, and we can tackle many of our gravest challenges –– from lethal resurgence of antiobiotic–resistant diseases to the wave of extinctions that looms before us –– with a sound understanding of the science.
At the Water's Edge will change the way you think about your place in the world. The awesome journey of life's transformation from the first microbes 4 billion years ago to Homo sapiens today is an epic that we are only now beginning to grasp. Magnificent and bizarre, it is the story of how we got here, what we left behind, and what we brought with us.
We all know about evolution, but it still seems absurd that our ancestors were fish. Darwin's idea of natural selection was the key to solving generation-to-generation evolution -- microevolution -- but it could only point us toward a complete explanation, still to come, of the engines of macroevolution, the transformation of body shapes across millions of years. Now, drawing on the latest fossil discoveries and breakthrough scientific analysis, Carl Zimmer reveals how macroevolution works. Escorting us along the trail of discovery up to the current dramatic research in paleontology, ecology, genetics, and embryology, Zimmer shows how scientists today are unveiling the secrets of life that biologists struggled with two centuries ago.
In this book, you will find a dazzling, brash literary talent and a rigorous scientific sensibility gracefully brought together. Carl Zimmer provides a comprehensive, lucid, and authoritative answer to the mystery of how nature actually made itself.