Jack Horner's quest to hatch a dinosaur makes comparisons to Jurassic Park unavoidable - especially given that the paleontologist was an adviser to the film. Rather than extracting DNA from dino blood in a petrified mosquito, however, Horner wants to manipulate the embryo of a chicken and create a bird with teeth and a reptilian tail. Patrick Lawlor's narration of Horner's fascinating work is mostly enthusiastic and engaging, and he's comfortable with the scientific jargon. He does show some insensitivity to the text, and while there are not huge flaws, this detracts from an otherwise polished production.
Jack Horner, the scientist who advised Steven Spielberg on the blockbuster film Jurassic Park and a pioneer in bringing paleontology into the 21st century, teams up with the editor of the New York Times's Science Times section to reveal exactly what's in store.
In the 1980s, Horner began using CAT scans to look inside fossilized dinosaur eggs, and he and his colleagues have been delving deeper ever since. At North Carolina State University, Mary Schweitzer has extracted fossil molecules---proteins that survived 68 million years---from a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil excavated by Horner. These proteins show that T. rex and the modern chicken are kissing cousins. At McGill University, Hans Larsson is manipulating a chicken embryo to awaken the dinosaur within---starting by getting it to grow a tail and eventually prompting it to grow the forelimbs of a dinosaur.
All of this is happening without changing a single gene. This incredible research is leading to discoveries and applications so profound they're scary in the power they confer on humanity. How to Build a Dinosaur is a tour of the hot rocky deserts and air-conditioned laboratories at the forefront of this scientific revolution.
©2009 Jack Horner and James Gorman; (P)2009 Tantor
The story and science were good. However, many of the ideas could have been expressed using far fewer words. The whole first chapter could have been about 10 words: Hell Creek is desolate and we founds lots of fossils there. OK: 11 words.
I enjoyed the book a lot but found the title and the actual book mismatched. As somebody interested in both paleontology and biology I enjoyed the discussions of microbiology, genetics and paleontological findings. To be sure the emerging field of evolutionary developmental biology as described by Horner, is related to his idea of building a dinosaur from a chicken by turning on and off genes to create a non-avian dinosaur-like chicken. That being said the entirety of the book is not about how to build a dinosaur. Rather it is a mix of paleontological findings over the course of the past 50 years mixed with interesting narratives about Montana and the Badlands along with the identification debates surrounding the discovery of proteins and cells in the fossils of a T-Rex and other fossils. I enjoyed the book overall and like this narrator. If you are not familiar with biology at all the technical parts will be hard to follow, but that's in only about 15 percent of the book.
This book wanders all over the place. It starts with a very interesting hypothesis about how embryonic development of a chicken might be manipulated to recreate the morphology of dinosaurs (i.e the great great grandfathers of birds), but then it digresses. The author is not content to educate us about dinosaurs. We're also told about Clovis people, Lewis and Clark, buffalo hunting, a dog attack by a beaver, Indian use of horses, etc. etc. It also is full of silly analogies (e.g. post-meteorite earth is compared to the wild West). I could only get halfway through it. If there's no thief like a bad book, then this is the John Dillinger of books. If you're interested in dinosaurs, Audible has several good books. Unfortunately, this isn't one. Hard to believe the author (Jack Horner) had the assistance of a professional writer (James Gorman). I'm sure Horner could have done this badly on his own.
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