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Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beastsby Emily Anthes
Synopses & Reviews
One of Barnes and Nobles Best Books of March 2013
One of Amazons Best Nonfiction Books for March 2013
One of Publishers Weeklys Top Ten Spring 2013 Science Books
For centuries, we've toyed with our creature companions, breeding dogs that herd and hunt, housecats that look like tigers, and teacup pigs that fit snugly in our handbags. But what happens when we take animal alteration a step further, engineering a cat that glows green under ultraviolet light or cloning the beloved family Labrador? Science has given us a whole new toolbox for tinkering with life. How are we using it?
In Frankenstein's Cat, the journalist Emily Anthes takes us from petri dish to pet store as she explores how biotechnology is shaping the future of our furry and feathered friends. As she ventures from bucolic barnyards to a “frozen zoo” where scientists are storing DNA from the planets most exotic creatures, she discovers how we can use cloning to protect endangered species, craft prosthetics to save injured animals, and employ genetic engineering to supply farms with disease-resistant livestock. Along the way, we meet some of the animals that are ushering in this astonishing age of enhancement, including sensor-wearing seals, cyborg beetles, a bionic bulldog, and the worlds first cloned cat.
Through her encounters with scientists, conservationists, ethicists, and entrepreneurs, Anthes reveals that while some of our interventions may be trivial (behold: the GloFish), others could improve the lives of many species — including our own. So what does biotechnology really mean for the world's wild things? And what do our brave new beasts tell us about ourselves?
With keen insight and her trademark spunk, Anthes highlights both the peril and the promise of our scientific superpowers, taking us on an adventure into a world where our grandest science fiction fantasies are fast becoming reality.
"Animals are fascinating if reluctant soldiers in the biotech revolution, writes journalist Anthes (Instant Egghead Guide: The Mind) in this witty and thought-provoking book. Scientists, it turns out, have produced cyborg cockroaches, genetically altered mice whose brains we can control, and goats that express commercial drugs in their milk. Bizarre, to be sure, but undoubtedly beneficial: animals play a crucial role in the development of myriad products that make life better for humans. But what about the creatures' quality of life? Many decry the use of animals in experiments (though Anthes points out that Americans spend billion 'every year eating animal flesh'), yet even Charles Darwin, a staunch opponent of animal cruelty, refused to 'condemn invasive animal research.' Still, that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to make that invasion less intrusive. Anthes argues that we are making our way through the ethical thicket. Ever-tinier microprocessors, receivers, and batteries let us tag and track 'an ever-expanding menagerie of marine and terrestrial species,' from seals to bees and the currents and winds they travel on. Anthes is optimistic we will 'use our scientific superpowers wisely' to make life better for both the 'creatures that live in scientific labs and those that run them.' Agent: Abigail Koons, Park Literary Group." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“In a fascinating romp through laboratories, barns, and pet stores, science journo Emily Anthes interviews the innovators pushing biological limits, and offers elegant explanations of neuroscience and genetics.” Ryan Jacobs, Mother Jones
“Charming...the science is accessible and so, mercifully, is the ethics…a breezy introduction to a complex and controversial issue.” BBC Focus
“An elegant tour of the wild and fraught sideshow of animal biotechnology....Learned, entertaining and illuminating.” Kirkus Reviews
“The book is a quick, often surprising review of current advances, giving accessible treatment to a weighty subject and employing clear descriptions of complex science. Anthes not only explores what is being done but also asks why and if it should be done. Along the way, the book reveals much about humans and our connections to animals and the world we all inhabit.” Booklist
“With wit, high intelligence, and a lively writing style, Anthes portrays the new world of biotechnology — in which we control the bodies and brains of other animals — and the moral and philosophical issues so raised.” Alan Lightman, bestselling author of Einsteins Dreams
A captivating journey into the wild world of altered animals.
These days, we personalize our pets, dressing our cats in Halloween costumes and creating dog breeds that best suit our lifestyles. But what happens when we alter a cats genes so it turns green under ultraviolet light, or when we clone the family Labrador?
In Frankenstein's Cat, Emily Anthes takes us from petri dish to pet store as she explores the world of animal biotechnology. With our new tech toolbox, we can transfer bits of DNA between species and augment an animals capabilities with electronic devices. Some of our “enhancements” are frivolous — reproducing a cherished pet is the ultimate vanity project — but others could have a real impact on our future. We can use cloning technology to protect endangered species, create state-of-the-art prostheses for injured animals, and stock farms with genetically engineered, disease-resistant livestock. As Anthes steers a live cockroach with a remote control, discovers companies churning out armies of mutant mice, and explores the efforts to resurrect the woolly mammoth, she takes us on an adventure into a world where science fiction is fast becoming reality. What do these interventions mean for animals? And what do they say about us?
With irreverence and spunk, Anthes highlights the peril and promise tied to our scientific superpowers, and delivers a provocative book that will have everyone talking about the future of our feathered and furry friends.
About the Author
Emily Anthes is a journalist whose articles have appeared in Wired, Discover, Psychology Today, Slate, Scientific American, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She holds a masters degree in science writing from MIT and a bachelors degree in the history of science and medicine from Yale. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her dog, Milo.
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