Some Assembly Required Book Summary - Some Assembly Required Book explained in key points
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Some Assembly Required summary

Neil Shubin

Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA

4.2 (48 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Some Assembly Required by Neil Shubin is a science book that explores the evolution of the human body and the role of genetics in shaping it. It offers insights into the fascinating way in which our bodies are pieced together.

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    Some Assembly Required
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    Plants and animals don’t change by developing new traits – rather, they repurpose old ones.

    The question of how a fish could have grown legs and begun walking on land is one that has obsessed paleontologists for generations.

    Charles Darwin’s contemporaries questioned his theory that evolution is a journey of intermediate stages, which is something the author – a paleontologist – wondered about as well. Why, for example, did the appendages that would eventually become wings appear on the ancestor of a bird that couldn’t fly? 

    Why would useless wings grow, rather than disappear? The answer is not that tiny wings grew into big wings. It’s that what we know as wings actually started out as something else. The author’s new mantra, inspired by Darwin’s response to his critics, is that nothing begins where you think it does. 

    The key message is: Plants and animals don’t change by developing new traits – rather, they repurpose old ones. 

    Darwin’s argument – that new features arise as a result of old ones changing functions – forever altered the way we see the history of life. To understand how, let’s take a look at the lowly fish. 

    In 1798, a certain fish, observed by a French scientist in Egypt, became famous. Why this particular fish? Well, it had unusual air sacs in its body. Now, most fish possess air sacs; they’re known as swim bladders, and they help fish remain submerged at a specific depth of water. But the famous fish’s air sacs were different. They were connected to the fish’s esophagus. They were proto-lungs. 

    Frenzied scientists began combing lakes and rivers all over the world for more data. Lo and behold, this Egyptian fish wasn’t actually that special. There were lots of fish with the same proto-lungs. Air-breathing fish weren’t the exception – they were more like the rule. 

    Recent research shows that proto-lungs and swim bladders are different versions of the same organ. And the genes that build swim bladders are the same as those that build lungs – in fish and, as we’ll soon see, in people, too. 

    Lungs aren’t a new invention that came about to help fish adapt to dry land. Rather, fish were breathing air long before they stepped out of the water. Evolution just repurposed the fishes’ air sacs.

    See? Nothing begins where you think it does.

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    What is Some Assembly Required about?

    Some Assembly Required (2020) is an approachable account of the great transformations in the history of life. Paleontologist Neil Shubin started his career looking to fossils for the answers to life’s greatest questions – but with recent scientific advancements, he argues that studying DNA reveals more about the journey we took to become human.

    Some Assembly Required Review

    Some Assembly Required (2020) by Neil Shubin is an exploration of the fascinating world of human development. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offering a captivating blend of science, history, and personal anecdotes, it provides a comprehensive understanding of how our bodies take shape.
    • With its accessible language and engaging storytelling, it makes complex topics like embryology and genetics interesting and relatable for all readers.
    • The book's examination of evolutionary connections between humans and other species sheds light on our shared origins, making it a compelling and thought-provoking read.

    Who should read Some Assembly Required?

    • People interested in the history of evolution
    • Science enthusiasts
    • Anyone who loves an amazing factoid

    About the Author

    Neil Shubin is a paleontologist who trained at Columbia, Harvard, and the University of California, Berkeley. He is now a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago and the author of two other books: Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within.

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    Some Assembly Required FAQs 

    What is the main message of Some Assembly Required?

    The main message of Some Assembly Required is to explore the fascinating world of genes and how they shape our bodies and behaviors.

    How long does it take to read Some Assembly Required?

    The reading time for Some Assembly Required varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Some Assembly Required a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Some Assembly Required is a captivating book that offers valuable insights into the mysteries of genetics. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Some Assembly Required?

    The author of Some Assembly Required is Neil Shubin.

    What to read after Some Assembly Required?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Some Assembly Required, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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