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The Violinist’s Thumb

And other lost tales of love, war, and genius, as written by our genetic code

Sam Kean

ABSTRACT: Did the human race almost go extinct? Can genetics explain a crazy cat lady’s love for felines? How does DNA lead to people with no fingerprints, or humans born with tails? And how did the right combination of genes create the exceptionally flexible thumbs and fingers of a truly singular violinist? Unraveling the genetic code hasn’t always been easy—from its earliest days, genetics has been rife with infighting, backstabbing, and controversial theories—but scientists can now finally read the astounding stories inscribed in our DNA. As we make advances into DNA mapping and modification, genetics will continue to be the hottest topic in science, shaping the very makeup of our bodies and the world around us. With the same masterful combination of science, history, and culture he brought to The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean untangles the secrets of our genetic code, explaining how genetics has shaped our past, and how DNA will determine humankind’s future.

THE SPEAKER: 
Sam Kean is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb. His stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, and The New Scientist, among other places, and his work has been featured on “Radiolab,” “All Things Considered,” and “Fresh Air.” He was the 2009 national runner-up in the National Association of Science Writer's award for best young science writer. The Disappearing Spoon was named an Amazon “Top 5” science book, and was nominated by the Royal Society for one of the top science books of 2010.

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