How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution Illustrated Edition
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“Horner is at his best: provocative yet firmly grounded in science… His goal is to make people think about how evolution works, and by extension, about our own origins.”—New Scientist
“Straight from the scientific frontier, Horner’s work should excite anyone who’s dreamed of walking with dinosaurs.”—Booklist
“Scientists can finally begin to answer evolutionary questions that have puzzled researchers for decades.”—Smithsonian
About the Author
James Gorman is deputy science editor of the New York Times and editor of its Science Times section.
- Item Weight : 7.5 ounces
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0452296013
- ISBN-13 : 978-0452296015
- Product Dimensions : 5.36 x 0.53 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Plume; Illustrated Edition (February 23, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #694,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A great read if you can follow it. There is a lot of scientific verbiage that would be difficult for the layman do you understand. Very interesting theories and very entertaining overviews. Jack Horner takes you in depth in seeing just how close we are to creating the Chickenosaurus.
This would be a mistake, since in the latter half of the book the authors get down to explaining what kind of techniques or knowledge may be necessary to produce a creature that for all practical purposes, i.e. in terms of its skeletal structure and general appearance would be a living dinosaur. Studying these pages is fascinating, and indeed gives one more reason for believing that if the authors or other biologists succeed in bringing this about, then this would be the most awesome feat in scientific and technological history.
What is most important about the author's proposals is that they are not dependent on having the genomes of long extinct dinosaurs. Instead, they seek to adjust the timing of the growth patterns that led to the evolution of birds from nonavian dinosaurs. This is to be done via the embryo of a domestic chicken. But changing the timing of metabolic and growth processes, this timing being regulated by genes, must respect what actually occurred in the evolutionary development of the bird from the dinosaur. Otherwise what results is a kind of "freak" that may be of interest in general but will not represent a genuine dinosaur of the kind that roamed the earth millions of years ago.
A small amount of space is devoted in the book to the ethics and dangers of this kind of effort. These discussions are important but did not convince this reviewer that the author's proposals should not be carried out. On the contrary, they should be done immediately without any mental reservation. Right now. Today.
The last two chapters are not at the same level. Horner is interested in promoting a grand experiment: modifying embryonic chicken development so that you create a creature with the features belonging to the chicken's non-avian dinosaur ancestors. There is a lot of developmental biology which must first be mastered to accomplish this. However, at the level of detail that Horner writes, there is just not enough to say to adequately fill the 50 pages devoted to the subject. As explained I couldn't fully appreciate the concept of symmetry, and Horner did not want to go into such topics as just how staining works in tracing embryo development.
Horner himself is a delightful man, careful to give credit where it is due, willing to tell some anecdotes which do not paint him in the best light, and willing to spend $40,000 of his own money to sponsor research he believes in! However, sometimes he seems to be implicitly assuming that it is only the control genes which mutate, so that just by modifying their signals you can creat a viable creature with dinosaur characteristics.
Top reviews from other countries
My overall impression on finishing the work could be summarized as: "Interesting, but, what's the point?". Mr. Horner theorises the possible subsidiary benefits to our understanding of hereditary diseases &c. as a foundation for the validity of creating a 'dinosaur', but one suspects these worthy spheres of research could be undertaken without the 'de-extinction' aspect. Nor would the animal resulting from such an experiment be a 'dinosaur' in the genuine sense, rather it would be a (theoretically sterile) pseudo-animal exhibiting artificially induced archaic physiological traits.
The pseudo-animal proposed by Mr. Horner would not be a dinosaur. It would be a domestic chicken expressing some physical traits from a prior stage of its evolutionary development congruent with the popular image of what a non-Avian theropod dinosaur might look like.
While an interesting idea which would undoubtedly thrill school children the world over, I'm afraid I fail to see any practical application for the project which would be of benefit to either our understanding of evolution (which Mr. Horner repeatedly and unnecessarily points out he considers superior to all other conceptions of life's origins) or any other application beneficial to the advancement of society which couldn't be achieved by other avenues of research which do not involve 'reverse engineering'.
I havnt finished this book yet but I must say it's a brilliant book. If you're a fan of dinosaurs, jack horner or the chickenosaurus project then this is for you.