A Planet of Viruses: Second Edition by Carl Zimmer

By Carl Zimmer

The earlier 12 months has been one in every of viral panic—panic about viruses, that's. via headlines, public overall healthiness warnings, and at the least one selfmade hazmat go well with, we have been reminded of the strong strength of viruses. they're the smallest residing issues identified to technological know-how, but they could carry the full planet of their sway.
A Planet of Viruses is Carl Zimmer’s eye-opening examine the hidden global of viruses. Zimmer, the preferred technological know-how author and writer of National Geographic’s award-winning weblog The Loom, has up to date this variation to incorporate the tales of latest outbreaks, akin to Ebola, MERS, and chikungunya virus; new medical discoveries, resembling a hundred-million-year-old virus that contaminated the typical ancestor of armadillos, elephants, and people; and new findings that convey why weather swap could lead to even deadlier outbreaks. Zimmer’s lucid causes and engaging tales reveal how deeply people and viruses are intertwined. Viruses helped provide upward thrust to the 1st life-forms, are chargeable for lots of our so much devastating illnesses, and should proceed to manage our destiny for hundreds of years. completely readable, and as reassuring because it is horrifying, A Planet of Viruses is a desirable journey of a powerful hidden world.

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Speeding up a cell’s division is no small feat, especially for a virus with just eight genes. The normal process of cell division is maddeningly complex. A cell “decides” to divide in response to signals both from the outside and the inside, mobilizing an army of molecules to reorganize its contents. Its internal skeleton of filaments reassembles itself, pulling apart the cell’s contents to two ends. 2 billion “letters” all told, organized into 46 clumps called chromosomes. The cell must drag those chromosomes to either end of the cell and build a wall through its center.

In fact, our own ancestors did not crawl onto land until about 400 million years ago. Viruses don’t leave behind fossils in rocks, but they do leave marks on the genomes of their hosts. Those marks suggest that viruses have been around for billions of years. Scientists can determine the history of genes by comparing the genomes of species that split from a common ancestor that lived long ago. Those comparisons can, for example, reveal genes that were delivered to their current host by a virus that lived in the distant past.

If you go to Wyoming and twirl a rack of postcards, chances are you’ll find a picture of a jackalope bounding across the prairie. It looks like a rabbit sprouting a pair of antlers. You may even see jackalopes in the flesh—Â�or at least the head of one mounted on a diner wall. On one level, it’s all bunk. Most jackalopes are nothing but taxidermic trickery—Â�rabbits with pieces of antelope antler glued to their heads. But like many myths, the tale of the jackalope has a grain of truth buried at its core.

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