Your Future Self: A Journey to the Frontiers of Molecular Medicine

Hank Whittemore, Author Thames & Hudson $27.5 (160p) ISBN 978-0-500-54223-1
This handsome volume might tell lay readers plenty about medicine and biology, but its main appeal lies in what it shows. Inspired by an exhibit at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Museum of Art, the book lets us accompany scientists as they explore the human body and its components, using computerized images and innovative microscopes. Employing such techniques as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray crystallography, computerized tomography and immunofluorescent dyes, scientists can glimpse the brain mechanisms involved in drug addiction, or see how HIV penetrates healthy cells to cause AIDS. The photos--many of them stunningly beautiful--capture a four-cell human embryo growing on day two, brain signals crackling across neural synapses, cancer spreading or a free-roaming white blood cell clearing debris inside a lung afflicted with pneumonia. Whittemore (The Super Cops; CNN: The Inside Story), who has also written scripts for Nova, explains the science behind these vivid images--explicating, for example, both the structure and function of DNA, and the computer programs used to depict it. Images contributed by biomedical centers, hospitals and laboratories share a final chapter with the work of medical technology-themed sculptors and photographers. Some of the strongest images--blazing high-contrast reds and echoey purples--establish microphotography as a distinct art form. Even the less spectacular images, and the clear prose that accompanies them, show how new imaging technologies can render scientific data graspable, amplify patterns in nature and create metaphors for our own futures. 120 color illustrations. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
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