Success gets all the headlines, but I’m far more interested in failures. Success can be attributable to luck, or timing, or actual skill, or some combination of small factors that ultimately propel a project to a good outcome. Failure? More often than not, you know why something failed, and that makes the next attempt better. Failure is a sign of reach exceeding grasp, as it should be. I don’t care why something works, I want to know why it doesn’t.
The human body is no exception. I loved this book that, as the subtitle explains, catalogues “a panorama of our glitches, from pointless bones to broken genes.” And, high praise from me as I’ve been working with eyes for over a decade now, it taught me something I hadn’t known about the structure of the eyes before – that basically our light receptors face the wrong way, and the strain of connectivity is the reason why we are at increased risk of retinal detachment. Cool! The answer for why is similar in most of these cases: a random mutation that never got natural selected out, or an adaptation to a world we no longer inhabit, but it’s entertaining every time.
If I had one critique it would have been to make the book longer, it’s a brisk read but more detail and further examples would have been nice to flesh it out. I appreciated that Lents didn’t restrict himself to physiology, there are errors in calculation here from the brain, and as we all know, I’m a sucker for how irrational human behavior can be explained.