Reading Now / by Anne Kreamer


Two recent pieces push our understanding of evolution.

"Can Jellyfish Unlock The Secret Of Mortality?" - The New York Times.  What we might learn from the "immortal jellyfish," a small, aquatic invertebrate that can transform itself back into a polyp and begin life anew. Or as  Friedrich Nietzsche conceived “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”: “Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again. . . .”

"Human Evolution Enters An Exciting New Phase" - Wired Science.  "If you could escape the human time scale for a moment, and regard evolution from the perspective of deep time, in which the last 10,000 years are a short chapter in a long saga, you’d say: Things are pretty wild right now.

In the most massive study of genetic variation yet, researchers estimated the age of more than one million variants, or changes to our DNA code, found across human populations. The vast majority proved to be quite young. The chronologies tell a story of evolutionary dynamics in recent human history, a period characterized by both narrow reproductive bottlenecks and sudden, enormous population growth.

The evolutionary dynamics of these features resulted in a flood of new genetic variation, accumulating so fast that natural selection hasn’t caught up yet. As a species, we are freshly bursting with the raw material of evolution."  One finding?  "These variations, known to scientists as “cryptic,” might actually be evolution’s hidden fuel: mutations that on their own have no significance can combine to produce unexpected, powerful effects."  Maybe X-Men comics weren't so far-fetched after all.


The Legend of Broken, Caleb Carr's new fantasy

The Legend of Broken, by Caleb Carr. Carr's new genre-bending saga of fortress city.