Special thanks to Dan Green for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Extreme Biology: It’s Life but Not as We Know It
Dan Green spent his first four years in Africa, until his family swapped the African sun for Welsh rain. He grew up an English-American hybrid in the heart of Wales and then went to Cambridge University to study geology. After college, he shipped out to Italy to chase a dream of rock ‘n’ roll stardom, wound up in Venezuela, where he became editor of the English language newspaper and survived a coup d’etat and most recently rode his motorbike across Europe to Morocco. – From his Amazon.com Bio
#1 – What was the impetus for writing this Extreme Biology?
The idea with this mini-series of two books (Extreme Biology & Extreme Physics) was also to explode the myth that we know all there is to know. Sometimes the way science is presented (especially for children) can make it seem like it’s all sewn up, but that’s not the case. We are constantly making new discoveries and they can often be very surprising, making us go back and rethink what we thought we knew! I also think it’s important for people to have some understanding of genetics, since it’s a part of our modern world.
#2 – What IS extreme biology?
Ha! A very good question! The “extreme” titles were dreamed up to allow us to feature some “out there”, cutting edge science. The Basher Series normally sticks to core science topics and themes that readers will encounter in school… although I always try to go a little ways beyond that. Originally, we thought it might include some speculative stuff, but then we decided it best to stick to proven science and technology. Having said that, gene therapy and regenerating body parts snuck in there, and they’re quite futuristic!
So, what is “Extreme Biology”? It’s the coolest, most bleeding-edge biological advances, from synthetic lifeforms to functional MRI. Also included are several hot topics that kids might hear about in the media, such as “schmeat” (lab-grown meat) and face transplants. There is quite a bit on genetics in the book because that’s where many major advances are taking place.
#3 – How did you decide what advances in medicine and genetic engineering to keep in the book?
I’ve partly answered this question above, in that we wanted to include the most surprising, newsworthy and modern advances in the book. I tried to give readers an overview of the basics of genetics – genes, genomes, DNA etc – and also cover the bases (no pun intended) of common genetic techniques – recombinant DNA, PCR etc. I’m quite proud of the fact that this is the only kid’s book – at least to my knowledge – that features Cre/loxP and broad spectrum antivirals!
#4 – What is your philosophy when communicating difficult scientific ideas to children?
Everybody can understand science. The trick is to keep it simple – it’s all too easy to lose readers by using complicated language or trying too hard to sound “scientific”. The key is to do lots and lots of research, and make sure that you have really grasped the subject before you start to write. I try to break it down to the basic underlying concepts. I think it was Einstein said something along the lines of, ‘if you can’t explain a concept to a child then you haven’t understood it yourself.’ I learn so much when I write these books.
#5 – Are you working on any other projects/books that you can tell us about?
I’ve just finished writing an amazing book called Rebel Science. It tells the stories of the scientists who dared to swim against the tide and question accepted beliefs to make earthshaking, groundbreaking discoveries. It features brilliant art by the illustrator David Lyttleton and I’m very excited by it. If everything goes well, it may be the first in a new book series…