Science Book a Day Interviews Carl Zimmer


Special thanks to Carl Zimmer for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures

Carl Zimmer is a columnist at the New York Times, where his column “Matter” appears each Thursday. In his books, essays, articles, and blog posts, Zimmer reports from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life. He is a popular speaker at universities, medical schools, museums, and festivals, and he is also a guest on radio programs such as Radiolab and This American Life. – From Carl’s Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for writing this book?

I had read a number of intriguing studies about parasites in the years beforehand, and I thought it might be a possible basis for a book. My agent nodded violently in agreement, so I took a look. It far surpassed my hopes, with one surprise after another coming to light.

#2 – Many people who have written about your book talk about their fascination with these bizarre creatures. What do you think is the basis for this fascination?

I think it’s disquieting that living things can thrive inside of us. And when you discover just how sophisticated they are at exploiting us and other hosts, it becomes downright unnerving.

#3 – Parasite Rex has been out for over a decade now. What has the public response to your book been? I’ve met people who use your book in teaching kids about parasites. How does that make you feel?

I’m thrilled that kids like the book. I hope it helps them appreciate one of the crucial virtues of science—it shows you how far beyond your own imagination the natural world really is. Sometimes grown-ups email me to tell me they’ve just discovered the book, too, and that pleases me to no end. 

#4 – How did you go about your research for this book? How long did it take you to get your many examples together?

The research was a combination of things. I read a lot of scientific research—both cutting-edge work and classic studies that happened decades or centuries ago. And I traveled a lot to see scientists at work with parasites—from a sleeping sickness outbreak in South Sudan to the parasite-ridden jungles of Costa Rica.

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books that you can tell us about?

I’m working on the second edition of a textbook called Evolution: Making Sense of Life. It’s great to have a chance to improve on the first edition and to bring it up to date. Evolutionary biology is pushing forward at a remarkable speed these days.

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Categories: Biology, Interviews, Parasites

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