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The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

By Matt Ridley
  • Read in 16 minutes
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  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Genome by Matt Ridley

Genome (2006, second edition) takes you on an exciting journey into your own body, exploring the genetic building blocks that make up not only who you are but also all life on earth. You’ll examine the basics of genetics and discover what genes influence, from aging to illness to even your own personality. Importantly, you’ll better understand why the future of healthcare and wellness may be found in the human genome.

Key idea 1 of 10

The human genome is the most important “book” in the history of our world.

When British Prime Minister Tony Blair and American President Bill Clinton announced on June 26, 2000, that the human genome had been roughly mapped out, it was a major turning point in human history.

For the first time, we had access to the “book” that described the “story” of human life!

To understand the gravity of this scientific feat, we first need to grasp the basics of genetics.

The human genome, or the full genetic map of a normal human being, is made up of 23 chromosome pairs. A chromosome is shaped like the letter X, and genes stack up on each of the letter’s “arms.” Each chromosome pair differs in size and in the number of genes found on each.

A gene itself lives on a long strand of DNA (that is acid), which itself is composed of a series of molecule pairs, called nucleotides: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. These molecules are often referred to simply by their first letters, A, C, G and T. These pairs are “written out” in the genome, which can be “read” in order to replicate itself.

Think of it this way: the genes on our chromosomes are like short stories, making the human genome the biggest and most informative “book” on the planet!

With over a billion “words,” the human genome too may be one of the longest, most complicated books in the world. In it, every chapter of life ever written can be discovered.

And what’s more, the tens of thousands of genes that compose the human genome – all this information – fit into a tiny nucleus of a tiny cell that could easily sit on the tip of a pin.

In our genome, you can discover the progression of the story of life’s evolution from bacteria, fish and apes to finally human beings. We can learn about how illnesses such as Huntington’s disease came about, or why people love the feeling of cool ocean water.

The following blinks will open up this book of human life and examine a few chapters that have defined the essence of every single person on the planet.

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