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The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being

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Table of Contents

BEGINNINGS: The mystery of conception and the history written in your body. HEADS AND BRAINS: From the origin of the vertebrate head to the phenomenal growth of the human brain. SKULLS AND SENSES: Laying the foundations for building a skull, and growing organs to sense the world around us. SPEECH AND GILLS: The watery origins of the voicebox. SPINES AND SEGMENTS: A pattern for life and the evolution of an S-shaped spine. RIBS, LUNGS AND HEARTS: The ribs of our ancestors and the heart and lungs of a fish. GUTS AND YOLK SACS: Links with egg-laying ancestors and fruit-eating apes. GONADS, GENITALS AND GESTATION: The anatomy of reproduction and the helplessness of human babies. ON THE NATURE OF LIMBS: Fins, limbs and ancestors. HIP TO TOE: Learning to walk before you run. SHOULDERS AND THUMBS: Climbing ancestors and unique human hands. THE MAKING OF US: Finding our twig on the tree of life. Acknowledgements. Further reading. List of illustrations. Index.

About the Author

Alice Roberts is an anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, anthropologist, television presenter, author and professor at the University of Birmingham. She has presented The Incredible Human Journey and Coast on BBC 2 and Inside Science on Radio 4. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two children.


The biggest gap in biology is that between DNA . . . and living creatures . . . Alice Roberts has set out to find it. With wit and enthusiasm, she succeeds -- Steve Jones * Geneticist and author of The Single Helix * A brilliant account of how a single cell transforms itself into a living, breathing, thinking person. The book exudes physicality, it is like having an intellectual massage of every muscle in your body - afterwards you are keenly aware of your body and feel like a different person -- Mark Miodownik * author of The Genius of Invention * Roberts's engagingly personal style connects you to your ancestors, to your own personal beginnings as a single cell and, in a most attractive way, to herself as an author of great charm. From your brain to your fingertips, you emerge from her book entertained and with a deeper understanding of yourself -- Richard Dawkins A masterful account of why our bodies are the way they are ... Roberts skilfully and knowledgeably weaves embryology, genetics, anatomy, evolution and zoology to tell the incredible story of the human body ... It is in comparative anatomy that this book really shines ... Roberts's anatomical expertise is seductive ... Roberts's lightness of touch is joyous, and celebratory -- Adam Rutherford * Observer * Alice Roberts tells us about the most amazing story on the planet - the creation of the human animal. Nothing is more extraordinary and her guided tour of the human body takes us on a fascinating journey of self-discovery -- Desmond Morris

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