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Anyone who has watched Suzana Herculano-Houzel's TED talk knows she is a charming communicator with a sharp mind. In this book she gives an accounting of how she answered the question, "What is so special about us?" The conclusion— our big calorie-greedy brains couldn't be possible without the invention of cooking— wasn't a given.
This is one of those popular science books that made feel that I was along for the ride solving one of humanity's great questions. There is plenty of scientific history and breakdowns given to help the listener understand the different studies that went into her conclusions.
Dina Pearlman is the perfect narrator, clear, and landing the jokes like she wrote them.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I found this book fascinating in all sorts of ways but it needs an executive summary. Read the following and ask yourself what the author was thinking.
"The math here is straight forward because by deffiniton there are six point zero two times ten to the twenty third Avogadro's number of molecules in one mole of any substance and because five point four four times nine to the negative nine micro moles equals five point four four times ten to the negative fifteen moles of glucose. ..."
It can go on like this for PAGES. Just put up with this because you can train youself to go intermitently catotonic and make sense out of it all. And very well worth it. Eventually I began to look forward to these epileptic fits as comic relief. In all seriousness I could not help but think this stuff verges on Nobel Prize territory.
I learned a lot of interesting things listening to this book. For instance, our brains are simply scaled up versions of the typical primate brain. However, the other great apes (a small subset set of all primates) are aberrants. They have big bodies but relatively small brains which led to some unfortunate conclussions. Speciffically, that our brains are aberrantly to big. Actually their brains are aberrantly small. The book is full of these sorts of observations.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful