Electric Review

Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms

Biology

New Releases from Wiley

MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOPHYSICS. Meyer B. Jackson. Cambridge University Press.

This selection marks an outstanding addition to the field of biophysics, premised on both molecular and cellular principles. In the past, texts in this area have often been staid and singular in focus, looking at biophysics in purely foundational terms. Here, however, Jackson (University of Wisconsin Medical School) has created a sharp and multidimensional resource that marries different aspects of the scientific journey together in one volume, in turn helping the advanced college student refine his ability to apply principles of physical chemistry to the multiplicities of biological research.In his treatise, Jackson covers myriad topics, including global transitions in proteins; molecular forces in biological structures; conformations of macromolecules; and molecular associations, in addition to erudite analysis of diffusion and Brownian Motion. Further, the appendices provide a fantastic overview of applicable mathematical concepts (i.e. matrix algebra; Fourier analysis). These appendices serve as a refresher course of sorts and are meant to give students the chance to revisit the whole of their mathematical backgrounds (applying the core of their knowledge to relevant principles of molecular and cellular biophysics). More than anything, this text is note worthy for its ability to cross-over the boundaries of multiple disciplines (mathematics, physical chemistry, physics, biology, statistics), in an effort to show the student that the study of science requires a mastery of vast principles and the innate ability to synthesize theory and then reapply it to new sets of problems. As noted, Jackson’s treatise presupposes some level of competency in both advanced mathematics and chemistry and is written for students who are embarking on dedicated graduate-level study in the field.

Recommended as a primary teaching text in all Biophysics courses that teach the application of molecular and cellular biophysical principles to various biological systems. Further recommended to all college-level libraries as a general reference text with long-term value.

Of Related Interest

PRINCIPLES AND TECHNIQUES OF BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY (6th Edition). Edited by Keith Wilson and John Walker. Cambridge University Press.

This text, edited by two of the most esteemed faculty from the University of Hertfordshire, will be of interest to all serious students in the sciences. Principles and Techniques of Biochemistry serves as an expanded edition of the previous Principles And Techniques of Practical Biochemistry. In essence, this text provides analysis of the theoretical principles and the applications of those principles as they relate to the disciplines of biochemistry and molecular biology. During the last two decades, the landscape of modern medicine has changed a great deal, with discoveries in areas like stem cell research and genomics making it necessary for chemists and biologists to have extensive knowledge of the molecular structure of the human form. Accordingly, Wilson and Walker have constructed afundamental course book that not only looks to discuss the principles of these concentrations of study, but also looks at the ways scientists should go about applying theory to the every-day practice of medicine and laboratory research. Topics of coverage include cell culture techniques; centrifugation; molecular biology (including bioinformatics and basic techniques); recombinant DNA and genetic analysis; and protein structure (including purification, characterization and functional analysis). We note this textbook because of its ability to merge the disciplines of biochemistry and molecular biology and illuminate the links that render these areas of study interdependent. Well-edited and clearly written, providing students with a stable point of reference which they will be able to utilize beyond the confines of the classroom.

Recommended as a primary text in classes that connect the principles and practices of biochemistry with molecular biology. Imperative reading for those students entering pre-med programs. Finally, recommended to all Health Sciences libraries as a general reference text.

ANTIMICROBIAL AGENTS: ANTIBACTERIALS & ANTIFUNGALS. Editor: Andre Bryskier. ASM Press.

This volume presents the reader with a comprehensive source of data pertaining to antibiotic medications. In his new edition, Bryskier (Sanofi-Aventis, France) has stitched together a definitive text that dissects antimicrobial agents from a ‘ground zero’ perspective, as independent elements of the topic build into the next to create a reference that documents the drugs available to physicians to combat infection and the risks that use of these medicines incite.

After providing a historical overview of antibacterial therapy (including the Penicillin and Post-penicillin eras), we move into a summary of the different classifications of antibacterial medications (with review of structure-activity relationship). In addition, Bryskier includes a well-devised chapter on the Epidemiology of Resistance to Antibacterial Agents.

In this segment, the author discusses how pathogens are able to change in structure to literally out-wit a medicine and become resistant. This data builds naturally into the next primary chapter, Development of An Antibiotic, in which Bryskier writes on the creation of infection-fighting drugs. Further discussion includes chapters on the pursuit of new antibiotics; systemic antifungal agents; and the effect of antibiotic treatments on the GI tract.

We recommend this book because of the relevance of this subject matter to both the practice of medicine and to myriad sociological factors. Given today’s war-torn consciousness, the threat of bioterrorism is quite real (some would say imminent). Accordingly, a physician’s ability to effectively treat patients with antibiotics has not been this challenging since before the advent of penicillin (and its distant cousins in the antibacterial chain). Anthrax poisoning; mutations of the Stapylococcus pathogen with its many ways to cause breakdown of the respiratory system; Helicobacter Pylori and its link to breakdown of the GI tract: These threats to human health represent only the tip of the iceberg.

If doctors are to have even a fighting chance against these crises, than they must be armed with an assortment of medicines with enough power to beat back the changing tides of disease. Look at the latest media coverage of international health issues: As the world prepares for a possible pandemic in the wake of the Avian Flu, it has become an immediate necessity for physicians across the globe to ready themselves to treat patients fallen victim to super-strong pathogens.

How do doctors guard against over-prescription of antibiotics and the weakening of the antimicrobial-agent arsenal? How do researchers attack the need for more efficient antibiotics in the face of a Bird-Flu germ forceful enough to kill millions? How do physicians cope with the destructive impact these medicines have on the human cell structure? The most up-to-date ruminations on these questions is contained in this reference, and it serves as the most complete and tightly structured summaries of antibiotic medications currently available to health care practitioners.

Recommended to all Health Science libraries as a general reference text. Further recommended to all Infectious Disease researchers as an important component to the canons of medical literature (with specific relevance given the unique pathogens that are currently threatening the world).

by John Aiello

Of Related Interest

MICROBIOLOGY OF FRESH PRODUCE (Emerging Issues in Food Safety). Editor: Karl R. Matthews. ASM Press.

Also from ASM Press, Microbiology of Fresh Produce continues along the same theme, focusing on how science can work to best control the growth (and spread) of the microorganisms that inhabit fresh fruits and vegetables. As this text documents, bacteria which grow on produce are responsible for myriad foodborne illnesses — diseases with the potential to cause serious issues among the elderly, the very young, and those with impaired immune systems. Here, Matthews (Department of Food Science, Cook College, Rutgers) and his co-writers have developed a manual that peers into the core of this problem from all four corners of the topic. Readers will immediately see that this is not a one dimensional text that speaks to just one element of the question; instead, Matthews looks to trace how pathogens are born, charting a trail of transmission that extends from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s table. After reviewing the most common microorganisms found on fruits and vegetables, Matthews discusses how deeper awareness among food producers might serve to quash the onset of disease. From this point, we are given an overview of the Biology of Foodborne Pathogens (before exploring how more sanitary processing procedures might further eradicate many of the diseases which come to afflict the consumer). Finally, the reader is presented with data on how consumers themselves are the last line of defense in the equation: With better knowledge of how to handle produce before eating it, many bouts of illness can easily be avoided. In essence, Matthews’ book is about teaching physicians and researchers that control of foodborne disease (through the consumption of produce) is a problem that requires the dissemination of data. Basically, everyone who plays a role in the production of this food chain (farmer; processor; route driver; consumer) must learn how to handle fresh produce properly in its many phases in order to eliminate the microorganisms that thrive on its ‘skin.’

Recommended to all Health Science libraries as a general reference text. Further recommended to Infectious Disease researchers because of its comprehensive examination of the ways produce can be infected with bacteria. Finally, this manual would prove valuable to public health workers charged with controlling the spread of disease through restaurants, hotels and school-based environments.

Order from booksmd.com.

WESTCOTT’S PLANT DISEASE HANDBOOK. Seventh Edition. R. Kenneth Horst. Springer.

This notable reference encompasses the whole of plant pathology, dissecting the subject with flair and substance. Here, readers will be presented with in depth information on ways that disease attacks the plant kingdom. The 7th edition is noteworthy for an expanded narrative that summarizes significant taxonomic changes in fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes; recently discovered diseases for previously known plant-pathogens; recent changes in chemicals and pesticides and regulatory changes governing their use (in addition to a well-developed segment on pest management and biological control).

Although botanists and botanical researchers comprise the obvious target market for Westcott’s Plant, this text would nonetheless also be indispensable to florists and nursery operators as a general reference.

The CRC & Informa Science Shelf

HANDBOOK OF MICROBIOLOGICAL MEDIA. Ronald M. Atlas. CRC Press.

In this time-tested Handbook of Microbiological Media, the reader is presented with a resource meant to be used in a variety of laboratories – including medical, diagnostic, research and academic labs. This volume lists the formulations and uses of more than 7,000 microbiological media, including both the classic and modern media employed for the identification, cultivation and analysis of a wide spectrum of bacteria and fungi. Handbook of Microbiological Media is notable for the wide-range of data presented: The information on how to identify specific strains of highly volatile bacteria (such as the drug resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is important to all realms of research, offering deep insight into highly complicated areas of study. In sum, the information contained in this handbook will allow researches to infiltrate the core of a given bacterium so as to understand how it grows and thrives and mutates (with the knowledge gleaned allowing scientists to implement safety-barriers to better protect the populous and its food supply from contamination).

by John Aiello

BIOLOGY AND BREEDING OF CRUCIFERS. Editor: Surinder Kumar Gupta. CRC Press.

The ever-expanding world population, together with the changing forces of the global economy, have made advancements in agricultural research imperative. Simply, without new roads being forged, it will soon be even more difficult to provide enough food for growing nations. Accordingly, this text, edited by Surinder Kumar Gupta (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural and Technology) examines this topic in comprehensive terms. Before Biology and Breeding was published, scientific literature lacked a reference that was completely devoted to analysis of the wild brassica species. But here, the wild brassica is dissected from myriad vantage points, as the author shows his readers that a better understanding of this species can yield important answers on how to strengthen crop genetics. Topics of coverage include the biology, breeding and genetic components of crucifers; examination of current research studies on genome and karyotype evolution and analysis (in addition to cytogenetics and germplasm conservation); review of biotechnological and molecular techniques to increase rapeseed-mustard production via wild crucifers; and discussion of how a better understanding of the wild brassica species might culminate in superior crop varieties.

Recommended to practicing botanists and agricultural researchers looking to unlock ways to enhance rapeseed-mustard production through introgression and hybridization.

GEOMICROBIOLOGY. Fifth Edition. Henry Lutz Ehrlich. Dianne K. Newman. CRC Press.

One of the great challenges for scientists during the last century has been to unlock the role microbes play in the formation and degradation of minerals. Here, authors Ehrlich and Newman present the fifth edition of this hallmark text (which serves to dissect the geomicrobial composition of myriad minerals, including various fossil fuels). This new edition proves both rich and vital, outlining the latest advancements in this ever-changing field. Readers will note the cutting-edge chapter on the molecular methods currently in use in geomicrobiology (in addition to an enlightening discussion of the principles of bioleaching ores).

Target: Geomicrobiology would prove to be a strong choice as a primary course text in microbiology and geophysics courses that explore the impact microbes have on the evolutionary cycle of mineral properties.

by John Aiello

PRINCIPLES AND TECHNIQUES OF BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY (6th Edition). Edited by Keith Wilson and John Walker. Cambridge University Press.

This text, edited by two of the most esteemed faculty from the University of Hertfordshire, will be of interest to all serious students in the sciences. Principles and Techniques of Biochemistry serves as an expanded edition of the previous Principles And Techniques of Practical Biochemistry. In essence, this text provides analysis of the theoretical principles and the applications of those principles as they relate to the disciplines of biochemistry and molecular biology. During the last two decades, the landscape of modern medicine has changed a great deal, with discoveries in areas like stem cell research and genomics making it necessary for chemists and biologists to have extensive knowledge of the molecular structure of the human form. Accordingly, Wilson and Walker have constructed afundamental course book that not only looks to discuss the principles of these concentrations of study, but also looks at the ways scientists should go about applying theory to the every-day practice of medicine and laboratory research. Topics of coverage include cell culture techniques; centrifugation; molecular biology (including bioinformatics and basic techniques); recombinant DNA and genetic analysis; and protein structure (including purification, characterization and functional analysis). We note this textbook because of its ability to merge the disciplines of biochemistry and molecular biology and illuminate the links that render these areas of study interdependent. Well-edited and clearly written, providing students with a stable point of reference which they will be able to utilize beyond the confines of the classroom.

Recommended as a primary text in classes that connect the principles and practices of biochemistry with molecular biology. Imperative reading for those students entering pre-med programs. Finally, recommended to all Health Sciences libraries as a general reference text.

CELL BIOLOGY PROTOCOLS. Robin Harris. John M. Graham David Rickwood. John Wiley.

This text is truly written for the modern curriculum, stitching together various areas of scientific study as they relate to the discipline of Cell Biology. In today’s research laboratory, the cell biologist is required to have a working knowledge of myriad subjects, including analytical biochemistry, molecular biology and molecular genetics. Accordingly, this text assembles data on various protocols (light and electron microscopy; concepts of cell culture and cell separation; subcellular fractionation; organelle and membrane isolation, and the use of in vitro reassembly systems in Cell Biology) in an effort to present students and practicing researchers with a text as vast as the cellular forms which create the human dynamic itself.

Recommended as a primary teaching text in both Cell Biology and Molecular Biology courses, noted for its ability to show the reader that the study of science is the study of multiplicities drawing from the motion of the world.

MEDICINAL PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY. Edited by Oliver Kayser and Wim Quax. Wiley-VCH.

The 21st century has brought a renewed focus on plant-life and specifically on ways that it might extend to myriad realms of science in support of healthcare researchers throughout the world. Here, editors Kayser and Quax present this impeccably organized two-volume resource that serves to examine the fine points of medicinal plant biotechnology. Topics of focus include the engineering of medicinal plants; plant propagation; metabolomicstechniques for plant extracts; an extremely relevant review of why science needs to create new medicines; natural products related to medicine; the DNA profiling of plants; and biotechnological approaches for the production of some plant-based chemotherapeutics (to touch on highpoints). The material the authors have included on the cancer-fighting properties of some plants is quite intriguing, and it holds great importance for scientific researchers, since, along with heart disease, cancer remains a leading cause of death that continues to defy efficient medical intervention. This text is notable for the way it sets out to explore plant biotechnology from myriad perspectives, building a precise resource that allows the industrial sector to apply pertinent scientific advances to the day-to-day course of business. Designed for chemists and molecular biologists, as well and pharmaceutical researchers and biotechnologists. Noted for its well-developed tone and for the way the authors build competing material into a cogent and purposeful treatise that has value in both the professional and academic worlds.

GLORIFIED DINOSAURS. The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. Luis M. Chiappe. John Wiley. This book will amaze many readers who will first think it’s a fancy coffee-table book from one of the Big-Five New York City trade publishers. However, careful examination of the spine reveals that this is indeed a John Wiley title with and deep and sparkling reference value. Here, Chiappe (Director of Dinosaur Institute at the National History Museum of Los Angles County) presents a treatise that details the link between birds and dinosaurs. Make no mistake – this material will captivate, as Chiappe strips away unsubstantiated lore, putting us into intimate contact with our prehistoric past. In Glorified, Chiappe shows the multidimensional evolution of birds as we follow the way these graceful winged-creatures rose from the dreamscapes of some heretofore secret world. In documenting this evolution, Chiappe analyzes the distinct physical changes which took place – the avian skeleton becoming sleeker and more compact as it passed through multiple stages of advancement. Topics of concentration include Mesozoic birds; the ‘origins of flight’ and the ancestry of the bird; the earliest known bird (Archaeopteryx); and the beginning of the ‘modern bird’ period. Readers will note that much of the research presented here is completely new and has never before been published in book form — Chiappe breaking deep ground, escorting us across the threshold of many new and intriguing realms. In addition, the full-color illustrations are breath-taking: These lavish and intricate graphics place us at eye-level with past millenniums as we seek to unlock the mysteries of our own evolutionary process.

Recommended as a primary text in any Paleontology or Evolutionary Biology courses that examine how birds have evolved into the shape of their present state. The text is noted for its depth and the accessibility of its writing, as Chiappe does a brilliant job in presenting both a historical and scientific perspective. Glorified Dinosaurs also works in a non-academic sense and will appeal to all birder watchers or students of avian history. Finally, recommended to all libraries in the public sector and at the college level as a general reference text.

CENTROSOMES IN DEVELOPMENT AND DISEASE. Editor: Erich A. Nigg. Wiley-vch. Centrosomes is a specialty text in the finest sense of the Wiley applied science list. It provides extensive detail of the Centrosome — the center of animal cells which for decades has been shrouded in misunderstanding and mystery. However, several major research projects have made significant advances on unlocking the composition of centrosomes in order to investigate their role in the human life cycle. The course of this research has revealed a direct correlation between centrosomes and various diseases, including cancer. Nigg’s study provides in depth analysis of centrosomes and takes the reader through a conventional journey of the subject, moving from centrosome construction and composition to its actual function within the shape of the cell (culminating with discussion of the role of the centrosome in disease). Accordingly, this is the most vital aspect of the book: if science is able to understand how centrosomes impact the birth of a tumor, researchers might be able to move at a more rapid pace toward finding a cure for cancer.

Recommended as a supportive teaching text in advanced cell biology courses which promote independent research and study on the part of the student. Would further be useful to practicing researchers in the fields of oncology or cell biology. Also recommended to all Health Science libraries as a general reference text.

Order from amazon.com.

by John Aiello

DICTIONARY OF MICROBIOLOGY & MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. 3rd Edition. Paul Singleton. Diana Sainsbury. John Wiley.

Insofar as reference works are concerned, the proof is literally in the pudding. As students and instructors know, there are a multitude of these kinds of books around, each of which announce that they are ‘the best and most vital to the core of the discipline.’ So how can a reader know which of these books are truly vital to their course of study? Well, the proof is in the pudding, evidenced by how many times you go back to the reference in question during the course of your daily work. And that is exactly why this dictionary heads the list of our 2007 recommendations for science-based dictionaries. Here, Singleton and Sainsbury have compiled the ultimate resource combining the core-basis for both microbiology and molecular biology. This selection contains nearly 20,000 of the primary terms used to define these intricate areas of science (while simultaneously reflecting advances that have taken place in these fields over the last decade). It is comprehensive in tone and impeccably edited, noted for its clarity and for the ease with which it can be used.

Recommended as in-office resource for all microbiologists and molecular biologists (and practicing researchers in each field). In addition, this manual is mandatory for advanced students in each of these areas allowing them to digest myriad layers of data as they come to apply classroom theory to the laboratory.

by John Aiello

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOTERRORISM DEFENSE. Editors: Richard Pilch. Raymond Zilinskas. Wiley-Liss.

Given the torn state of so many continents (in addition to the fact the that United States is at war with an enemy that boasts to possessing lethal biochemical agents), this encyclopedia has now become an absolute adoption requirement for academic libraries throughout the world. Readers will note that the volume collects data on myriad aspects of bioterrorism (as it analyzes various bioterrorism agents; tactics of biodefense and the characteristics of biotechnology; ways both government and individual can prepare for attack; likely threats facing the world; threat analysis; and discussion of previous biological warfare events). In the post 9-11 universe, the threat that terrorists will engage chemical agents that can kill large numbers of people from a distant stage is a very real possibility. The Anthrax attacks that rocked our consciousness in the days after the World Trade Center attack serve to prove just how susceptible Americans are to biological weaponry. Accordingly, this volume is an absolute necessity for all branch offices of Government (such as Public Health Departments and law enforcement). Finally, health care workers should also familiarize themselves with this material (since they embody our first line of defense against the effects of these deadly poisons).

by John Aiello

SIGNALING NETWORKS IN CELL SHAPE AND MOTILITY (CIBA FOUNDATION SYMPOSIA SERIES). Chair: Gary Borisy. John Wiley.

This selection stitches together the ruminations of leading scientists on matters of cell biology, genetics, neurobiology, immunology and structural biology, as they discuss the ways that cells morph and move. Specifically, the authors delve deeply into myriad topics, with the core data being exploration of the organized principles that incite cellular changes (the authors joining together to assess whether or not cells contain internal ‘switches’ which govern their movement and processes). The importance of this title from a medical standpoint is that it gives researchers another ‘bullet in their gun’ in the fight against diseases like cancer and diabetes. It is an unfortunate fact that true management of these afflictions will not take place until the health care community unlocks the hidden secrets of the cell (their mission demands that they dissect what exact phenomena are taking place within a cell’s perimeters that alter its shape and cause irreparable disease). Vital for all oncology researchers and endocrinologists, in addition to cell biologists and instructors within these fields.

by John Aiello

REPRODUCTIVE PHYSIOLOGY OF MAMMALS. From Farm to Field and Beyond. Keith K. Schillo. Delmar/Cengage Learning. This magnificent classroom resource outlines the reproductive physiology of mammals in depth and detail. Covering everything from the organization of the mammalian reproductive system to the dynamics of sexual behavior, students are afforded a primer that digs deep beyond the surface-layers of the subject as the author escorts his readers to core-information in a logical and ordered manner. Outstanding use of graphics/illustrations allows readers to test comprehension and connect one primary concept to another.

Recommended to instructors in the field and as a primary course text; further recommended to college-level libraries as a long-term reference.

ALCAMO’S FUNDAMENTALS OF MICROBIOLOGY. Jeffrey C. Pommerville. Jones and Bartlett.

Now in its 7th edition, Alcamo’s Fundamentals of Microbiology marks the consummate teaching text in the discipline, reviewing each of its major components. The text begins with a broad overview, exploring how Microbiology came to be recognized as an independent area of study.

From here, the reader will be able to examine the basic concepts of chemistry in relation to Microbiology. With the foundation now built for deeper study, the reader will be engaged in an analysis of bacteria and how it constructs the various diseases that impact the human species; this includes a well-researched chapter on airborne bacterial disease. Further, information on micro-organisms (the virus and the fungi) is presented, in addition to thorough discussion on resistance and immune-related disorders.

Because of the way it’s written, Alcamo’s makes complex material accessible to the student reader. Microbiology is one of the most complex areas of study in all the medical sciences, and Pommerville (Professor of Biology at Glendale Community College) does an admirable job in keeping Alcamo’s readable.

Too many times science writers tend to become taken with their knowledge of the subject material, losing sight of the fact that the young reader cannot “keep up.” However, this problem does not befall Alcamo’s. Instead, the time has been taken to present introductory notes to the student on how to use a textbook. As “basic” as this may sound, do not over-look its importance: instead of jumping into the core of the course material, Pommerville moves into it slowly, allowing the student to absorb the basics that must be learned before advancement in the subject area can be achieved.

There is also a continual impetus here to teach “science as a process of knowing” – a concept which is vital as the student begins to explore the idea of Microbiology in conjunction with the modern practice of medicine. In short, this book has been written for application within the profession rather than mere theoretical study, and it achieves its mission admirably.

Recommended to all Health Science libraries as a general reference text – the material here is presented in a clear and concise manner, with the idea to inspire the student to more in depth study. Further recommended as a classroom text in all Allied Health subjects, and in all nursing programs which explore Microbiology theories.

Order from booksmd.com.

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE. Andrew Parker. Basic Books. This new text marks a crossover in educational publishing. Although billed as a science text, this material also touches on theories of anthropology, biology and geology in its discussions of the Cambrian Explosion – this point in time when the number of life forms ballooned from three to thirty-eight, literally changing the face of the world.

Andrew Parker, a Zoologist from Oxford University, has written a fascinating account of this phenomenon – releasing a book that is at once spellbinding and engaging – the true essence of a “teaching text” in the best sense of the phrase:

“Some of the more spectacular dinosaurs lived seventy million years ago and were probably the victims of mosquitoes. The idea that dinosaurs could be brought back to life based on dinosaur blood preserved within ancient mosquitoes is now a distant one. What rained on this particular parade was contamination – the apparently ancient DNA from dinosaurs was in fact recent DNA, from a contaminant within the molecular lab…”

(Page 55)

Much of Parker’s analysis is simply riveting, and it opens up doors to our thinking that have heretofore been locked. According to Parker, this burst in the birth of new life shapes came from vision: when the simplistic animals of the period found their eyes and focused on the light, they were left with an immediate challenge: it all came down to adaptation or death. And from that adaptation to their environment flowed forth a catalyst for the Cambrian Explosion.

Whether you agree or disagree with Parker’s “Light Switch Theory” is irrelevant; scientific theories notwithstanding, you will be consumed by this book and the way it ties together different disciplines (biology, physics, geology), taking us on a journey into our far-flung pasts. In The Blink is a brilliant accomplishment — well written and evocative, timely and bold, escaping into the vacant rooms of idea and thought and wonder, suddenly bringing us a step closer to the sacred and the divine.

Simply, this is what academic writing should be about – informative books, piercing in their depth, forcing the student to explore the idea of himself within the context of the classroom. This is one “textbook” that should make a run at the best seller list.

Order at amazon.com or go to perseusbooks.com.

by John Aiello

VERTEBRATE PALAEONTOLOGY. Michael J. Benton. Second Edition. Blackwell Science. This fine textbook by Michael Benton (Department of Geology University of Bristol) sets the standard in the field – a well-developed and wonderfully researched book that will serve the student community in the study of Palaeontology for years to come.

Benton’s text is written in classic textbook style, juxtaposing illustrations with declarative analysis to create a teaching guide with the capability to take a student completely unfamiliar with the subject matter through its every layer. By constructing Vertebrate in this manner, Benton promotes a deeper ‘step-by-step’understanding of the data, allowing students to see the role the Vertebrate has played in our evolutionary cycle:

“The pterosaurs, relatives of the dinosaurs, filled the skies, and the birds, descendants of the carnivorous dinosaurs, also came on the scene. Other land animals included the more familiar lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodilians and mammals…”

(Page 188)

Benton’s study offers the complete history of the Vertebrate, with documented study from all points of world (including North and South America, Russia, Europe and China). This second edition presents updates from studies conducted during the 1990s, thus giving students the most recent data available.

In addition to the in depth analysis of the Vertebrate, Benton also explores the research techniques which Paleontologists use. This is quite useful to students because it begins to foster an appreciation for the discipline and encourages the investigation of the subject matter not only as a “class” but as a possible career path (see: the illuminating outline on how to dig up a dinosaur’s bones and then sift the fragments into a scientific story).

Authoritatively written and broad in scope, Vertebrate will not only teach the novice student the basics about Vertebrate Paleontology, it will surely inspire a few curious individuals to delve deeper into this fascinating material.

Recommended as a text for Biology and Geology courses with Vertebrate courses. Further recommended to both private sector and college-level libraries as a general reference text.

Order at amazon.com.

THE PNEUMOCOCCUS. Edited by Elaine I. Tuomanen. Timothy J. Mitchell. Donald A. Morrison. Brian G. Spratt. ASM Press.

This selection summarizes the latest data on the Pneumococcus, or Steptocococcus Pneumoniae — one of the most troublesome pathogens to plague the world.

This opportunistic and elusive organism found in the upper respiratory tract of human beings has been under study by scientists for over a hundred years, yet they still have not been able to fully unlock the key to its life cycle. Thus, the potential for deadly infection remains a central concern of healthcare providers world-wide.

“In a way, our study of Pneumococcus has proved to be quite ironic,” says Doctor Elaine I. Tuomanen, Chair of the Department of Infectious Diseases at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and lead editor for this textbook. “It [Pneumococcus] has contributed more to general scientific knowledge in ways that people don’t realize; for instance, DNA was discovered in the course of research of Pneumococcus. We have had huge advances in medicine because of our study of this bacteria, yet ironically, we can’t conquer it.”

The textbook Pneumococcus serves as a comprehensive study of the Streptococcus, and provides keen insight into its many layers. After a chapter which defines the foundation of the subject, multiple experts analyze the genetics, surface anatomy and microbial physiology of the pathogen. From here, the reader is taken through the host-microbe interaction by-way of a full and comprehensive study of epidemiology, including the pathogen’s primary mechanisms of carriage (the way it transmits and adheres to a host). This segment remains vital to the reader for it chronicles the point where the threat to human life begins. Finally, a discussion of the pathogen’s infiltration of the body leads into analysis of current trends in treatment and prevention.

Presently, the existence of the Pneumococcus is one of the most perplexing and challenging considerations confronting the world’s healthcare community. With the emergence of SARS (and also the Avian Flu) a few years ago, we saw just how quickly disease can spread and kill large numbers of people. In addition, the constant threat of bioterrorism we live under makes Pneumococcus an even bigger concern: if terrorists were to somehow figure a way to replicate a super-strain of the bacterium and then unleash it on the world, vast segments of the population could be wiped out. Thus, deep study into how this pathogen is able to spread, thrive and resist antibiotics is necessary.

In Pneumococcus, an esteemed group of researchers and physicians comprising the leading voices on the subject have created a text which is dedicated to fostering deeper investigative study into the Pneumococcus: the goal is for more enhanced vaccines and treatments to be developed in order to disarm – or at least better neutralize – this hearty germ.

“In terms of this pathogen,” says Dr. Tuomanen, “science will need to eliminate all the diseases that it causes in order to stop its progression. Presently, we know of over 90 different types [of the Pneumococcus], and you would have to go through a whole lifetime in order to see them all. Basically, we now have to work towards creating a vaccine that will block its colonization. That is the only way to control it; I just don’t think we will ever win the antibiotic battle because of the bacteria ’s ability to develop resistance to the drugs we use [against it].”

As Dr. Tuomanen so eloquently points out, even after more than a century, this remains one of the greatest challenges confronting infectious disease specialists around the globe.

Recommended to all Health Science libraries as a general reference text for its long-term reference value. Further recommended to all epidemiologists and researchers in both the private and public sector who study how disease spreads. Finally, would be a useful teaching text in courses which explore the spread of infectious disease.

by John Aiello

Of Related Importance

MICROBE. Are We ready For The Next Plague? Alan P. Zelicoff. Michael Bellomo. AMACOM.

Following along the same theme, Microbe (Dr. Alan Zelicoff is former Senior Scientist at Sandia National Laboratories and Michael Bellomo has worked on projects related to NASA’s Orbital Space Plane), is as important as it is gutsy — discussing the fallibility of our health-defense structure in both enlightened and human terms.

To be sure, Microbe is no easy read. But it is an undeniably vital one, focused on many of the themes that Dr. Elaine Tuomanen (Chair/Infectious Diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee) pinpoints in the above referenced article.

Further, a recent piece published by Reuters speaks to ways that different strains of flu are able to replicate and mutate, wreaking havoc with World health along the way. Obviously, this book is timely, and readers should be forewarned that Microbe is not some science fiction fantasy story, but instead, a study that speaks to a real concern confronting the present state of our planet:

“Eleven miles to the north across the Long Island Sound, dead crows began showing up in the Bronx. As the summer dragged on, the increased numbers of dead birds began to spread to other parts of the city. The die-off began to attract media attention, as if New York was slowly awakening to find that something strange and deadly was stalking the parks and water ways of the city.”

(Page 2)

One of the most distressing aspects of the story is that it seems the media (and perhaps the medical community itself) are a bit behind the curve in facing down this problem. Rather than move in a proactive mode, it appears that health care providers are in a reactive mode — reacting to the movement of the virus instead of devoting primary energies to eradicate the threat through more effective vaccines:

“Given how involved the process is, it can take up to six months – sometimes even longer – to go from the identification of this year’s predominant flu strains to the production of the vaccination material and delivery to the doctor’s shelf. And every now and then, the experts guess wrong, leading to an unfortunate loss of life among those most vulnerable to the flu virus.”

(Page 207)

In essence, Microbe details the primary threats facing the world as they relate to contagious infection, and we are greeted with not so friendly details about the horror that diseases such as SARS, West Nile virus and Hantavirus are likely to cause unless we get a firm grip on the ways in which they spread.

Simply, the answer to this problem seems to be in the development of a more effective and timely wall of vaccine defense rather than in more agressive antibiotic therapies (since anibiotics only attempt to treat the problem after the fact, once an individual has been infected and fallen into illness). In addition to the scientific data presented, the authors use an effective technique — employing hypothetical stories — to create realistic scenes that demonstrate how fast these organisms can move from a single host into the general populous.

However, Zelicoff and Bellomo don’t paint a picture of disaster without also offering an answer. Accordingly, they carefully outline areas the World health community should focus on, including impactful segments on the potential for creation of DNA-based vaccines that might also provide insight into better understanding how pathogens in general mutate beyond the reach of antibiotics.

In the end, Microbe is not so much a book about instilling fear in the mind of the reader as it is a book about enlightening the general public to this burgeoning concern: In short, each of us need to be aware of our bodies and the agents that threaten them so we might collectively move toward a viable solution.

See amacombooks.org to purchase.
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This entry was posted on June 28, 2013 by in Reference.
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