[Paleopsych] Las Vegas Mercury: How to Clone the Perfect Blonde

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Thu Jan 20 21:13:07 UTC 2005

Books: How to Clone the Perfect Blonde
Thursday, Jan 20, 2005, 09:41:24 AM

How to Clone the Perfect Blonde
Sue Nelson and Richard Hollingham
272 pages, Quirk Books
Grade: B+

    Cloning around
    By John Ziebell

    "Could science really make your shallowest dreams come true?" This is
    the big question asked by the authors of How to Clone the Perfect
    Blonde, both responsible adult correspondents for the BBC. The title
    sounds glib, but the answers are entertaining and sophisticated, a
    brief collection of mini-treatises on why perceived solutions to
    desires like building a perfect partner, turning back time, upgrading
    your body or living forever might be more the stuff of nightmares than

    How to Clone the Perfect Blonde is billed as a layman's explanation of
    cutting-edge scientific practice for people who "couldn't get past
    Chapter 2 of A Brief History of Time"--pretty much everybody I know.
    The book's success stems in part from humor, a clarity of language and
    the authors' ability to neatly condense fairly heady theoretical
    background information, but it also offers graceful illustrations of
    the interrelationships between complex ideas, using examples that
    range from Homer Simpson to Alan Turing and "Star Trek" to string
    theory, taking time out along the way to explain why, if we needed
    proof, 12 Monkeys is a better movie than Groundhog Day--in terms of
    how they deal with physics, at least. And this is fun stuff. Who
    really knew, offhand, why Einstein needed both a general and special
    theory of relativity?

    Eight chapters deal with such cultural staples as cloning, artificial
    intelligence, time travel, black holes, teleportation, cryonics and
    body modification--and they don't mean piercing. Some of these ideas
    have probably crossed most of our minds in the course of one fantasy
    or another: Who would you clone as your perfect partner...and what
    would you do if the clone had the personality of a werewolf? Exactly
    what services would your robot provide? Why wouldn't you teleport to
    work--and how might you be reassembled on the other end if you did?

    The sections begin with comic or at least conversational approaches to
    their topics. "How to Lose your Love Handles" begins by discussing the
    false allure of obesity remedies and moves into an explanation of the
    human genome, which introduces a discourse on gene therapy, addressing
    concerns that are not only physical--genetic alteration can cure, but
    also kill--but philosophical: "Eugenics isn't dead," the text notes,
    "It's just become more complicated." Witness the growth industry of
    genetically modified foods, brought to us by Monsanto, the folks who
    introduced caffeine to Coca Cola and Agent Orange to Vietnam. The
    discussion of time travel begins with the "If Only" game--as in, "If
    only I could go back and..."--to launch its exploration of parallel
    universes, relativity and that eternally sticky genre-fiction problem
    of messing with the past.

    Quite often, the book points out, our misconceptions cut both ways. If
    your grandmother has had a hip replaced or a cochlear implant to
    improve bad hearing, she's undergone the ultimate in elective
    surgery--she's a cyborg. Sure, somewhere in chiaroscuro-lit
    laboratories white-coated geeks are hard-wiring lampreys or
    transplanting monkey brains, but most of this research is
    compensatory--artificial limbs, the book notes, are becoming more and
    more like the real ones every day: "At the moment, rather than being
    better, stronger and faster, any bionic man would be worse, weaker and

    Some bits are creepier than others. The science behind cryonics is
    sound, and embryos can be frozen successfully for later use...but what
    about Michael Jackson? The Acor Life Extension Foundation reportedly
    has some 50 individuals flash-frozen at its facility in Arizona, even
    though we have no idea whether either the human the consciousness or
    the human form could survive defrosting. "Of course," the authors add
    with typical Brit tongue in cheek, "future generations might have
    better things to do than bring back the dead." Which segues into one
    of the neat little sidebars that helps make this work unique, this one
    on the Frozen Dead Guy Festival in Nederland, Colo.--well, you'll have
    to get the book to check that out for yourself.

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