By Mark S. Blumberg
In such a lot respects, Abigail and Brittany Hensel are basic American twins. Born and raised in a small city, they get pleasure from an in depth dating, notwithstanding each one has her personal tastes and character. however the Hensels additionally percentage a physique. Their heads take a seat side-by-side on a unmarried torso, with hands and legs. they've got not just survived, yet have built into athletic, swish younger ladies. And that, writes Mark S. Blumberg, opens a unprecedented window onto human improvement and evolution.
In Freaks of Nature, Blumberg turns a scientist's eye at the oddities of nature, exhibiting how a subject matter as soon as relegated to the sideshow might help clarify a few of the inner most complexities of biology. Why, for instance, does a two-headed human so resemble a two-headed minnow? What we have to comprehend, Blumberg argues, is that anomalies are the usual items of improvement, and it really is via developmental mechanisms that evolution works. Freaks of Nature induces a type of highbrow vertigo because it upends our intuitive knowing of biology. What quite is an anomaly? Why is a limbless human a "freak," yet a limbless reptile-a snake-a winning variation?
What we see as deformities, Blumberg writes, are in simple terms replacement paths for improvement, which problem either the creature itself and our skill to slot it into our usual different types. instead of mere dead-ends, many anomalies turn out strangely survivable--as on the subject of the goat with no forelimbs that discovered to stroll upright. Blumberg explains how such diversifications take place, and issues to the good fortune of the Hensel sisters and the goat as examples of the intense flexibility inherent in person improvement. In taking heavily a topic that has frequently been refrained from as discomfiting and embarrassing, Mark Blumberg sheds new mild on how individuals--and complete species--develop, continue to exist, and evolve.
"Mark Blumberg's superbly written publication introduces a few significant difficulties in either developmental and evolutionary biology. contributors can occasionally advance in astonishingly aberrant methods. those freaks of nature problem the way in which we expect approximately improvement and, through the years, have brought on a few biologists to wonder if the formation of recent species is usually as non-stop as orthodox theories of evolution purpose."--Sir Patrick Bateson, Professor Emeritus of Ethology, college of Cambridge
"Mark Blumberg is a freak of literature--one of the only a few scientist-writers (think Stephen Jay Gould or Oliver Sacks) who can sweep us alongside as they fight to determine how the exceptions within the species can turn out the guideline of who all of us are. In Freaks of Nature, the specimens are definitely riveting, yet it's additionally Blumberg's lucid, lyrical, profound insights into what it potential to be human that may stick with the reader."--Richard Panek, writer of Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens and The Invisible Century: Einstein, Freud, and the quest for Hidden Universes
"Freaks of Nature examines different types of disfigurement that take place in either humans and animals, contains diagrams and images, and questions our assumptions in regards to the abnormally developed...Blumberg urges us to think about how our principles of what's common can and may extend to incorporate the anomalies between us."--The Chronicle Review
"When humans come to the Mutter Museum 'to see the freaks,' I draw back inwardly, smile outwardly and usually say not anything in any respect. i've got chanced on through the years that the population of this awesome position say excess of I ever may well. regardless of the explanation for vacationing the museum--fascination, repulsion, even derision--people are inclined to depart extra knowledgeable and even perhaps extra acutely aware than once they arrive. and that's precisely how I felt after examining this book."--Anna N. Dhody, Curator of the Mutter Museum of the varsity of Physicians of Philadelphia, within the Scientist
"Timely and wide-ranging, Freaks of Nature indicates that even supposing we've handed a few fascinating landmarks on our trip, we're nonetheless a ways from that turned around vacation spot and the direction continues to be unclear."--New Scientist
"If you're attracted to the technology in the back of the macabre, this ebook will thrill you. It's additionally a must-read for an individual who desires to understand extra a couple of state-of-the-art region of evolutionary theory."--io9.com
"One of the simplest Books of 2008"--Neurotopia
"With well-picked examples, Blumberg constructs his in the beginning extraordinary, yet finally profound, argument...Startlingly convincing." --Elizabeth Quill, technological know-how News
"Blumberg is a developmental psychobiologist, and hence advocates for a extra supple realizing of the interaction among improvement, habit, and evolution than has often been authorized. He eloquently defends the view that 'development is the tale of edition inside one lifetime,' and that considering heavily approximately anomalies is helping us see 'how a lot adaptability there's within the constructing organism.' --Jason B. Jones, Boldtype
"By proposing a parade of animal freaks, mutants, developmental anomalies, and bizarre species, Blumberg imparts classes that, even supposing generic to biologists, can be precious to non-specialists. He emphasizes that the advanced means of improvement might be unraveled via figuring out how such anomalies are produced...Blumberg illustrates his issues with transparent and interesting examples...Blumberg's targets go beyond storytelling: he goals to teach that developmental biology has made actual contributions to evolutionary theory." --Jerry A. Coyne, Nature
"Blumberg takes us on a journey of real-life teratology, and the way realizing abnormalities is casting new mild at the dating among the genetic and non-genetic forces that form us all." --Stephen Cass, Discover
"A stimulating read." --Financial Times
"Blumberg's reasons of the criteria that move into [these] deformations are gripping." --Robert Colvile, Telegraph.co.uk
"Engrossing and interesting." --John Wilkins, Evolving concepts