This book is for anyone interested in technology and life. Biology as taught in school is often not very compelling - having to memorize the 5 different kinds of bones, while perhaps occasionally useful to know, is not overly exciting. As James Somers described it in his marvelous essay “I should have loved biology”, “astonishing facts were presented without astonishment”.
In this book I hope to reinvigorate biological literature and hopefully offer you an appropriate dose of astonishment.
This is not a textbook. The material is intended to captivate and entertain. Readers are not expected to have a working knowledge of biology or chemistry, although in practice I think that most of you will have a technical background and thus have some useful recollection of (very) basic science that you have most likely learned before in school.
Some chapters retell basic biological facts, but hopefully in a much more compelling way than most literature. Other chapters expand on some quite advanced subjects, but presented in a way that should be accessible after having invested some time on the earlier chapters on basic biology.
In terms of material, I strive to cover the whole gamut of topics, from hydrogen bonds to if you should have your DNA analyzed for fun (no). Not all chapters need to be interesting or relevant for everyone. Again, this is not a textbook - you should be enjoying this work, feel free to skip anything that you don’t care about.
The field of biology is vast. I have tried to focus on the most fascinating, fundamental and insightful parts, things that will give you a broad appreciation of what the technology of life is all about. Specialists reading this book will surely be disappointed by the exciting things from their field I could not fit in, but I hope to make up for that by the breadth of subjects covered.
It is my hope that the reader will finish the book feeling suitably awed at the majesty of life, and perhaps be motivated to go on to learn more, or even make a career jump into biology, genetics or related fields.
This book retells classic biology. With the exception of one well-marked chapter, nothing you will read in here is in any way original or controversial.
Now, seasoned biologists might feel that some of my phrasing is different from the words that they’d prefer, but that is ok. We have different audiences. I have however strived to not ever confuse the reader with needlessly imprecise or unconventional terms.
Or put another way, after having read this book, you can talk to the professionals, and you’ll sound normal to them. If you decide to delve into the vast existing literature, you will see the same words being used. Incidentally, each chapter comes with references to appropriate sources.
Biology is complex, and it is always possible I got it wrong somewhere. If so, please let me know urgently so I can address the problem. A registry of errata can be found on the book’s website: https://berthub.eu/dna-book/
With this book, I very much hope to leave you as excited as I am about biology!