A bookish coincidence

September 18, 2014 • 11:36 am

Sadly, as I am preening the Albatross I have almost no time to write about science: such posts are much, much harder than posts on politics and atheism. Fortunately, the Albatross is almost at her nesting ground.

Coincidentally, Matthew finished his book the same day as I did, and, yesterday, as I was going through my bibliography (mindless grunt work), I got this note from Matthew:

Going through bibliography, nearly fixed it all. Amused to discover I had left out Watson and Crick (1953a,b)

Not two minutes before that, I discovered that I had cited Darwin but had left Darwin (1859) out of the bibliography. Coincidence? Or God?
At any rate, I’d like to tout Matthew’s book, even though it won’t be out till June 20, published by Profile Books. I’ve read bits of it and it’s very good. Those with an interest in biology—or science in general—will like it.
Here’s the draft cover (notice the cleverly colored letters):

Cobb cover

It looks at how the idea of genetic information came to be, covering 20 years of post-war science and technology. Most of it is on the struggle to unravel the genetic code, but it also deals with stuff like introns and exons, artificial genetic codes, and the perennial New Paradigm of Evolution: epigenetics (fortunately, Matthew’s assessment of that is clear-eyed).
As for The Albatross, I am informed by my publishers that I will be killed if I divulge any information about it. All I can say is that you have a rough idea of the topic, and I promise that it is a real, genuine book, not a warmed-over collection of website posts. Oh, and you have to buy it. Srsly.


56 thoughts on “A bookish coincidence

    1. Wouldn’t the Prof have to convert and then apostasize to actually deserve death?
      Some publishers are really strict.

  1. Jerry, I’m just waiting for it to pop up on Amazon for pre-order! 🙂

    I really like the design of the cover for Matthew’s book. Very nice! (Assuming that’s tha actual design.)

        1. “ATCG”

          Yeah, I know, but it’s underwhelming as a graphic design element. The visual impression is that random letters are colored. A design should work aesthetically, first, and then if you can cram some clever meaning into it, it’s frosting on the cake.

  2. The horror: Amazon.com has no reference to matthew’s newest book yet. Please let us know when we can ore-order your books.

  3. All I can say is that you have a rough idea of the topic, and I promise that it is a real, genuine book, not a warmed-over collection of website posts.

    Do you think it will cause a stir amongst the non-godless? (godful?)

    1. Heh. Now I’m going to have to put an electronic copy of it on a thumb drive, and then walk around with it roped about my neck.

  4. “I have almost no time to write about science: such posts are much, much harder than posts on politics and atheism.”

    Surely this says something about the comparative rigor and critical thinking required when writing about science. No weasel words allowed.

    Jerry – I can’t wait to download your new book on my Kindle! I keep hoping that you’ll do a book/lecture tour, with a visit to Philadelphia’s Free Library (E.O. Wilson is lecturing there next month, right after the release of his new book, “The Meaning of Human Existence” … which is a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award).

    1. That reads like you’re accusing our host of allowing himself ‘weasel words’ in politics/atheism posts. It reads exactly like that, to be precise.

      WTF is that phrase supposed to mean anyway, except for being vaguely offensive to mustelids?

      1. Yeah, I wasn’t too keen on that. The reason science posts are harder is not because it takes more thinking (in fact, it often takes less): it’s because I read each paper I write about twice, and then have to put the complicated results into language that is comprehensible to a wide and diverse readership.

        I’d like to think I don’t use “weasel words” in my prose, so I’d appreciate an apology from this reader.

  5. First, the cover is very good…but it’s missing a number of colored letters…two “T”s in “GREATEST,” “C”s and an “A” in “CRACK,” an “A” in “Matthew,” possibly more.

    Second, Jerry, if you’ve still not settled on a title…I would passionately argue for the most sensational one you think you can get away with. If the book is anything like I suspect it is, it’s going to stir up a real hornet’s nest, and any such stirring goes much better with a provocative title.

    Plus, as you might have noticed, I’d love to see you do the national book lecture tour including all the late-night TV comedy shows and NPR and the rest, and a great way to both get on that circuit and to get the conversation started with the host is to go with a real barnburner of a title. You know me…I’d try to go with something like, “You’re a Complete Blithering Idiot If You Still Believe in Gods, Including Shithead Jesus and Pigfucker Muhammad and Asshole Krishna and All the Rest of Them.” but I can see how that might be too long to fit on the spine….



          1. Strictly speaking of course priests are extortionists, they threaten you with dire consequences if you don’t pay up. But it’s a bit less pithy.

  6. Is “The Albatross” the full title rather than the modern trend for a half page title that summarises the book and saves you buying it?

    If so excellent

      1. Definitely an allusion. “a source of frustration or guilt; an encumbrance (in allusion to Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner): an albatross of a marriage.” [NOAD]

        Although the image of religion as an albatross about humanity’s neck is an interesting one…


  7. I will be a happy purchaser of both books. I had already purchased the hard copy of WEIT when I received a signed kitteh version. Not a problem as it went to another home of multiple readers.

  8. I love the idea of a book about discovering the genetic code.

    I hate that the representation of DNA on the cover is a twisted ladder. DNA is a double helix, not a twisted ladder.

  9. Can’t weit to get your book. I suspect it’s about why science isn’t compatible with religion. But in fact it’s reality that’s not compatible with religion. Science is our best way of revealing reality.

  10. A side comment: Around 1900, three geneticists rediscovered and validated Mendel’s work: De Vries, Correns, and Tschermak (I call them mendel’s midwives.) Tschermak died in 1962, a year after Nirenberg began the breaking of the genetic code in 1961. Is it not amazing that one who rediscovered Mendel would live to see the genetic code become known? It says something about the illuminating power of science, and the rapidity with which science advances.

          1. For some reason the phrase “preening the albatross” made me snicker. Probably just my juvenile sense of humour.

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