23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Robin, Science

Panic In Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science by Richard Preston, 240 pages, read by Robin, on 02/21/2012

Panic In Level 4
I listened to this book as an audiobook and it did a pretty good job of keeping me entertained while I drove around town over the course of a week or so. The book covers some of the author’s experiences while writing non-fiction pieces (books and magazine articles) over the years. It returns to his famous Hot Zone book about an Ebola virus outbreak in the United States and discusses his feelings while in the hot zone of the level 4 biohazard labs of USAMRIID (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases). That is a pretty short section, followed by a much longer (too long, perhaps) section on a pair of brothers who are working on calculating the digits of pi (3.14….) to ever-increasing precision in order to find some pattern or order in the number. There were some interesting parts to their story – their homemade super-computers were interesting, but this section took up more of the book than I was completely happy to hear… The final section of the book – about a genetic disease that causes sufferers to literally cannibalize themselves (left to their own devices, they eat off their fingertips, lips and whatever else they can get into their mouths) – was very interesting. Not something I would want to read or listen to while eating, but a fascinating glimpse of the ravages that small changes in our DNA codes can make in a human being. The book was, overall, interesting and it kept my attention, but the middle part seemed to drag on a bit. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in scientific oddities, though – it had its truly fascinating moments.

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