Tuesday, 15 June 2004

How to Clone the Perfect Blonde – Sue Nelson & Richard Hollingham ****

It’s disappointing how close this is to a great popular science book. The premise is excellent. Subtitled ‘making fantasises come true with cutting-edge science’ it takes eight ‘how to’s and builds an interesting chapter around each. The title chapter, for example, is really about what cloning is, why it’s difficult to do, what was special about Dolly the sheep, why the claims of various people to have made human clones already is unlikely and more. The other topics are:
  • how to build a domestic goddess (a humanoid robot)
  • how to avoid commuting (teleportation)
  • how to lose your love handles (dealing with fat)
  • how to turn back time (time machines)
  • how to upgrade your body (cyborgs)
  • how to remove an eyesore (black holes)
  • how to live for ever
… and each chapter has lots of good information put across in a very effective way. (The authors claim this is popular science for people who couldn’t get past chapter 2 of Brief History of Time). But, and there is a but, it’s all rather let down by the schoolboy/schoolgirl ‘humour’. This isn’t a book aimed at children, but the supposedly funny stuff grates after a while on an adult. To make matters worse, a lot of the humour would be lost on readers who haven’t a UK background (which I suspect is why the book isn’t available in the US). For instance in the cloning section, the ‘recipe’ for human cloning starts ‘One human egg (check it’s not past its sell-by date, and look for the lion mark)’. The lion mark? Even half the UK population probably can’t remember that.
It’s not that popular science can’t be entertaining – the best certainly is – but we need to acknowledge that adults can cope with more sophisticated funnies.
Paperback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

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