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Skeptic Book Club

Skeptics -

We're getting a jump on things and announcing June's selections early. It seems more time to read is a good thing--who knew? As usual, bring your own food, drinks, and brains. Enjoy!

- Matt

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

From Amazon:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.


2. Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith

From Amazon:

Origin's explores cosmic science's stunning new insights into the formation and evolution of our universe— of the cosmos, of galaxies and galaxy clusters, of stars within galaxies, of orbiting planets, and of different forms of life. "Distill[s] complex science in clear and lively prose." —Scientific American Book Club..."The most informative, congenial and accessible general look at cosmology to come along since Carl Sagan's Cosmos 27 years ago," says Publishers Weekly. "The tone is informational, aimed at high clarity, and laced with giddy humor . . . general readers of every stripe will benefit from the authors' sophisticated, deeply knowledgeable presentation. If the casual book buyer purchases one science book this year, this should be the one." "Introduces the vibrant general-interest literature about individual post-Sagan advances in astronomy and cosmology."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist 32 pages of color illustrations.

Sat Jun 23, 2012 2am – 4am GMT (no daylight saving)
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