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The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters Hardcover – Feb 16 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (Feb. 16 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691167427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691167428
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3 x 23.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"In The Serengeti Rules, the author goes from E. coli to elephants to lay out the basic rules that shape so much of what's around us and inside us."--Brian Switek, Wall Street Journal

"In this remarkably engaging book, Carroll . . . persuasively argues that life at all levels of complexity is self-regulated, from the inner workings of cells to the larger relationships governing the Serengeti ecosystem. . . . Carroll superbly animates biological principles while providing important insights."--Publishers Weekly

"The Serengeti Rules is one of the best biology books for general readers I've ever encountered. It should be required reading for every college student, regardless of major."--Andrew H. Knoll, Harvard University

"A compelling read filled with big, bold ideas. . . . Through compelling storytelling, key insights of distant, isolated biologists are brought to life. . . . I suspect that many will find new insights and inspiration here… Carroll has made a strikingly clear case that ecology is a science on a par with molecular biology and genetics. In many ways, this book is an homage to Charles Elton. . . . Building on his vision, Carroll provides a passionate motto for the twenty-first century: 'better living through ecology.' Are the Serengeti Rules a panacea? No, but Carroll convincingly reveals them to be a sturdy foundation for the future of biology, for human well-being, and for conservation and management."--Brian J. Enquist, Nature

"A thought-provoking challenge to complacency."--Kirkus

"Carroll's book is fantastic, a success story in going form the specific to the general. It helps that Carroll is a gifted writer, captivating and thoughtful, and highly respectful of the reader. Carroll brings in the history of thought and research in the relevant areas of physiology, ecology etc. His messages are framed in the larger context of the Earth's overall health and important environmental issues. He links the subject matter to key central themes in biological theory (such as natural selection and evolution). And this is all done very well. You've seen the synthetic overviews of life and evolution framed in chaos theory, complexity theory, even quantum physics. This is better. This is a book to give to your favorite biology teacher (high school or college), and that teacher will take from it examples, connections, lessons, ways of telling, that will enrich their teaching immeasurably."--Greg Laden, ScienceBlog's Greg Laden

"[A]s a subject for popular science, regulation seems to fail the thrill test; genetics and neuroscience appear more alluring. Now Sean B. Carroll. . . . Has risen to the challenge with this wonderful book about the natural control of numbers in living systems. Carroll is one of the top storytellers in contemporary science, as his previous writings about evolutionary biology have shown. Here he uses his narrative skills to take us on a scientific journey through time and space--making his case through the work of researchers around the world who have built up rules of life over the past century. . . . [The Serengeti Rules] is wholeheartedly recommended for its entertaining view of biology from an original perspective."--Clive Cookson, Financial Times

"[A] deep journey into the rules of life on Earth. . . . By introducing us to the great pioneers of molecular biology, like Jacques Monod (enzyme regulation), Akira Endo (lovastatin developer) and Janet Rowley (cancer and inheritance of genetic diseases), Carroll sets the reader up with a strong foundation in the natural processes that go on within our own bodies, and describes how breakthroughs happen, such as the discovery of 'repressors' and 'suppressors,' (which act, not by 'doing things,' but by preventing things), and double-negative regulatory logic. We also learn what happens when these mechanisms fail."--Cathy Taibbi, Examiner.com

"Sean Carroll . . . [is] one of our great science writers. . . . This is a visionary book."--Peter Forbes, The Guardian

"Sean Carroll's new book, with his thesis that everything is regulated backed by stories of discovery and inquiry, will enhance the way I teach biology. I am convinced that The Serengeti Rules should be required reading for students in all fields of science, but especially those pursuing careers in biology education."--Paul K. Strode,American Biology Teacher

"This book offers hope that we can make a difference, that we can follow those rules, and that things can get better on our planet, our home. It is well written, meticulously researched, and easy to read. I also learned more about the serendipitous nature of scientific discovery. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to both teachers and students."--Cheryl Hollinger, American Biology Teacher

"This book was easy to read and gave many great examples of the resiliency of nature.'--National Science Teachers Association Recommends

"For biologists, Carroll's book successfully conveys a powerful message: although biology is infinitely complex and diverse, simple sets of rules of regulation that apply across scales, from molecules to the entire planet's ecosystem, can and have been identified. They are also remarkably easy to explain, as shown by the many beautiful examples described in the book. So perhaps, next time a physicist or mathematician views biological research as lacking fundamental theoretical underpinning, a glimpse into Carroll's book . . . might help them reconsider their arguments. The Serengeti Rules is a great read."--Pavel Tomancak, Cell

"Sean B. Carroll's new book The Serengeti Rules is a passionate telling of the story of the precarious and hard-fought balance that is the very precondition of health--both at the level of individual organisms and at the level of ecosystems. . . . The book is informative, well-written, and persuasive. . . . The Serengeti Rules is an optimistic book."--Alva Noë, NPR.org's 13.7 blog

"The Serengeti Rules should be widely read."--Neil Paterson, Dundee University Review of the Arts

From the Back Cover

"A master storyteller, Carroll explores the unity of biology from the molecular level to the Serengeti, the rules that regulate life, and the consequences when regulation breaks down. A fascinating journey from beginning to end, this book will educate and entertain readers at all levels and leave them with a better understanding of how the biosphere works."--Simon Levin, Princeton University, author of Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons

"The Serengeti Rules is a superb journey of a book written by a scientist of the first rank. Unfolding seamlessly from molecule to ecosystem, it explains with authority and grace why modern biology is central not just to human life but to that of the planet itself."--Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

"As one of our leading biologists and communicators, Sean Carroll has merged a passion for scientific discovery with a flair for telling great stories of exploration. In The Serengeti Rules, Carroll has crafted a work of epic sweep that travels the globe in search of the logical rules that govern all of life, from tiny molecules to entire ecosystems. The Serengeti Rules both delights and enlightens--I was left marveling at the human achievement behind scientific breakthroughs and the sheer beauty of the working of living systems."--Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

"Original, provocative, and beautifully crafted, Carroll's book provides a glimpse into the deeper laws of biology that govern the earth. With his inimitable style of storytelling combined with a deep knowledge of science, Carroll takes us on a rollicking adventure, reminding us that the rules that apply to ecosystems also apply to the human body. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of the planet."--Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

"This is a rattling good read by one of the leading scientists of our time. The Serengeti Rules made me think differently about what we biologists do. This is a book that needs to be shouted from the rooftops."--Andrew F. Read, Pennsylvania State University

"Masterful and compelling. The Serengeti Rules is a significant contribution, one that will be welcomed by professional biologists and a wide range of lay readers."--Harry W. Greene, author of Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art

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Format: Hardcover
How do animals (and plants) regulate their numbers? Why does the human body possess a great degree of self-regulation, culminating with healing? Why should biology matter to you and me? Distinguished evolutionary developmental biologist Sean B. Carroll explains how and why the rules regulating ecosystems apply to the human body in his "The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works And Why It Matters". One of our foremost communicators of science, Carroll combines his vast scientific knowledge, superb storytelling talent and fine prose in demonstrating that there is indeed a "common underlying logic to life" as expressed by the similar rules regulating vast scales of biological organization, from the organ systems of the human body to immense ecosystems like East Africa's Serengeti. Organized into three sections, Carroll's latest book is a bold, provocative, and compelling exploration of the rules governing life on Earth, conveyed through his vivid, often insightful, accounts of those biologists who discovered them. In "Everything Is Regulated", he introduces to two pioneering figures of early 20th Century biology, Harvard University physiologist Walter Cannon, and Oxford University ecologist Charles Elton, describing how Cannon stumbled upon homeostasis and Elton made sense of the "economy of nature", recognizing the importance of regulating numbers of animals via the existence of food webs. In “The Logic of Life”, Carroll describes the importance of Jacques Monod’s and Francois Jacob’s discovery of enzyme regulation, and how it influenced a later generation of molecular biologists in the United States and Japan in understanding the origin of cancer and in developing suitable drugs for treating it.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The theme of Serengeti Rules is the regulation of systems. Absolutely everything plays a role in keeping the entire ecosystem in balance. When one element goes rogue, it can destroy the entire system. Sean Carroll spends a great deal of time explaining examples at the microscopic level of human biology – from bacteria to cancers. When something gains too much power, it becomes toxic to the system. Homeostasis is upset, and we fall ill. So with the external world and its ecosystems. But it is only in the last half of the book that Carroll finally returns to the Serengeti to show how it works on a large scale. This is an enormously common fault in nonfiction of late. It leaves readers fidgety, wondering when the author is going to honor the title of the work.

The first 130 pages here are stories about various scientists who discovered the relationships among the microscopic components of our bodies. How they were precocious children and students, how they stumbled onto their discoveries, and how they (and it’s usually someone else) leveraged them into new drugs and other treatments. The Serengeti will have to wait.

At the Serengeti level, the fundamental driver of the natural order is trophic cascades, more colloquially understood as the food chain. Take one element out of the food chain and the house of cards can collapse. The upset can come from above or below: not enough vegetation means not enough prey. Removal of the top predator can lead to overwhelming numbers of prey, which leads to vegetation shortages, different (wrong) vegetation taking over, inappropriate habitats for animals….

Carroll includes my favorite example.
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa213990c) out of 5 stars 39 reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e7b4a4) out of 5 stars This excellent book deals with equilibrium Feb. 15 2016
By M. J. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Serengeti Rules: Read This Book to Survive!
This excellent book deals with solving problems related to equilibrium and balance in chemistry, microbes, plants, animals, people, and the environment. If any of a number of critical things ( e.g. your blood pressure or salt levels) get too far out balance, you die! How different levels of regulatory operations were discovered and how they can be manipulated are explained in a clear and exciting way. Carroll spices things up with descriptions such as that of a medical hero trying to discover how to keep wounded soldiers alive while he is getting shelled in World War I and another scientist studying animal wildlife while facing down a bull elephant.

I especially like finding out about scientists you might not have heard of, such as Walter Cannon, Charles Elton, Jaque Monad, Ancel Keys, and Janet Rowley. How they persevered in spite of huge setbacks and sometimes being actively discouraged is inspiring. There was Walter B. Cannon, who coined the word homeostasis and created the treatment regimen of sodium bicarbonate for soldiers in shock in 1918. He noticed a relationship between acidity and blood pressure and, by lowering acidity, raised their blood pressure, thereby saving lives.
This idea, that controlling A, which then controls B, is then expanded to more complex chain reactions. It does get complicated. For me, the most understandable example was where Algae was destroying a lake in Wisconsin. After a lot of study and trail and error and a thorough review of the eco system, they eventually came up with a four step process that got results. They introduced bass fish. The bass ate the minnows; the minnows had been eating zooplankton; the zooplankton were eating the algae. Bass = no minnows; no minnows = more zooplankton; more zooplankton, less algae. It sounds routine, but it was far from it and involved a number of different groups, political machinations, and high risk experimentation that might have backfired.

Carroll's book also includes interesting side notes, such as the one about Disney's movie "White Wilderness" that faked a lemming suicide scene. Sean Carroll''s excellent storytelling skills made me finish this book in one sitting and learn a great deal and I absolutely loved it!
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e7b6f0) out of 5 stars Messing with a house of cards Feb. 25 2016
By David Wineberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The theme of Serengeti Rules is the regulation of systems. Absolutely everything plays a role in keeping the entire ecosystem in balance. When one element goes rogue, it can destroy the entire system. Sean Carroll spends a great deal of time explaining examples at the microscopic level of human biology – from bacteria to cancers. When something gains too much power, it becomes toxic to the system. Homeostasis is upset, and we fall ill. So with the external world and its ecosystems. But it is only in the last half of the book that Carroll finally returns to the Serengeti to show how it works on a large scale. This is an enormously common fault in nonfiction of late. It leaves readers fidgety, wondering when the author is going to honor the title of the work.

The first 130 pages here are stories about various scientists who discovered the relationships among the microscopic components of our bodies. How they were precocious children and students, how they stumbled onto their discoveries, and how they (and it’s usually someone else) leveraged them into new drugs and other treatments. The Serengeti will have to wait.

At the Serengeti level, the fundamental driver of the natural order is trophic cascades, more colloquially understood as the food chain. Take one element out of the food chain and the house of cards can collapse. The upset can come from above or below: not enough vegetation means not enough prey. Removal of the top predator can lead to overwhelming numbers of prey, which leads to vegetation shortages, different (wrong) vegetation taking over, inappropriate habitats for animals….

Carroll includes my favorite example. Off the west coast of North America, the undersea kelp forests have been disappearing, removing an important habitat for all kinds of underwater animals. The reason the kelp is gone is because sea urchins have been swarming over the sea floor, cleaning it of all the kelp. The reason the sea urchins are out of control is that while they are the sea otter’s favorite food, the otters are running for cover elsewhere. The reason the sea otters are gone is because unusually, killer whales have moved inshore to hunt them. The reason the killer whales have invaded is because their normal prey of sea lions is in major decline. And of course, the reason the sea lions are in decline is because of us, overfishing so that fish stocks are down 90%. A shortage of sea lion food. That’s all it took to upset the entire balance. Multiply that throughout the world, and you begin the see the mess we’ve made.

The book ends on a positive note, with the rehabilitation of a wilderness park in Mozambique, and inspiring achievements in the eradication of smallpox and polio. It can be done if we have two key factors in place: good management and good policing. Finding those two elements together is an achievement by itself.

David Wineberg
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e7b930) out of 5 stars Quite Possibly The Most Important, Most Influential Popular Science Book on Biology for Our Time March 15 2016
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How do animals (and plants) regulate their numbers? Why does the human body possess a great degree of self-regulation, culminating with healing? Why should biology matter to you and me? Distinguished evolutionary developmental biologist Sean B. Carroll explains how and why the rules regulating ecosystems apply to the human body in his "The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works And Why It Matters". One of our foremost communicators of science, Carroll combines his vast scientific knowledge, superb storytelling talent and fine prose in demonstrating that there is indeed a "common underlying logic to life" as expressed by the similar rules regulating vast scales of biological organization, from the organ systems of the human body to immense ecosystems like East Africa's Serengeti. Organized into three sections, Carroll's latest book is a bold, provocative, and compelling exploration of the rules governing life on Earth, conveyed through his vivid, often insightful, accounts of those biologists who discovered them. In "Everything Is Regulated", he introduces to two pioneering figures of early 20th Century biology, Harvard University physiologist Walter Cannon, and Oxford University ecologist Charles Elton, describing how Cannon stumbled upon homeostasis and Elton made sense of the "economy of nature", recognizing the importance of regulating numbers of animals via the existence of food webs. In “The Logic of Life”, Carroll describes the importance of Jacques Monod’s and Francois Jacob’s discovery of enzyme regulation, and how it influenced a later generation of molecular biologists in the United States and Japan in understanding the origin of cancer and in developing suitable drugs for treating it. In “The Serengeti Rules” – the book’s longest section – Carroll describes how marine ecologist Robert T. Paine recognized the existence of keystone predators on top of the food chains of ecosystems, and how this led to the discovery of trophic cascades, in which the presence or absence of keystone predator and prey species have substantial impacts on regulating the structure and population densities of ecosystems. He concludes by showing how the ecological rules of regulating animal numbers – “The Serengeti Rules” - have been applied successfully in bringing back from the verge of extinction, the once lush Gorgongosa of Mozambique and in wiping out forever, the lethal scourge of mankind that was smallpox. In citing these and other examples, Carroll impresses upon us the need to employ “The Serengeti Rules” to preserve forever, Earth’s biodiversity, not merely for our sake, but for the sake of succeeding generations of humans. For these reasons “The Serengeti Rules” may be recognized as one of the most important popular science books published this year, and perhaps, one of the most influential of our time.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e7bad4) out of 5 stars A terrific five-star book, yet I was still disappointed in the end… April 7 2016
By B. Case - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am well read in popular science and there was little in this book that was wholly new to me. What was new was the idea of synthesizing all into an overarching set of rules that govern “how life works and why.” That is what I found stunning, and that is why I am giving this book five stars. It also gets five stars because it is eminently well written and was a joy to read. It is the type of science book that makes difficult concepts come to life through the telling of real-life stories about the amazing men and women who made groundbreaking discoveries. I’d heard most of these stories before in other books and science articles, but their collection here, and use as evidence for a set of rules that govern life on the molecular level to the ecological level, was extraordinary. That is why I purchased the book and I was not disappointed.

However, despite enjoying this book immensely, I can’t help but share how ultimately sorely disappointed I was at the author’s Pollyanna optimism in the end when (very briefly) applying these rules to the health of the planet and the future of life thereon…especially human life. He defended his overt optimism by citing Greg Carr (the American entrepreneur and philanthropist who is primarily responsible for the restoration of Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park) by saying: “Choose optimism because the alternative is a self-fulfilling prophecy.” He’s a scientist; shouldn’t he choose realism? Look almost everywhere and it is so obvious that humankind—mostly by its sheer numbers—is pushing major planet-level natural regulatory systems to the breaking point. Is it not hubris to think that humanity may be able to fix all these complex adaptive systems that we’ve already set careening out of balance and many that we do not yet know we have set out of balance? Personally, I don’t choose either optimism or pessimism; I do choose realism. Doing so does not stop me from enjoying the present moment and still doing whatever I can to make a better future for life on Earth…i.e., to try to do my small part to try to keep the world and its countless array of complex adaptive biological and ecological regulatory systems in balance.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e7b9a8) out of 5 stars Brilliant book on ecology and history of science Feb. 26 2016
By Steve G - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book as both a book about ecology and about the history of science. Sean Carroll is an excellent story-teller. He explains biological regulation in very simple terms. He even makes concepts like double-negative regulation simple. And while Carroll educates the reader about ecology, he frames the discussion in terms of the scientists who made major discoveries in the field. His discussions range from bacteria to elephants and it is all equally interesting. The writing is well-paced and Carroll uses considerable humor. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Disclosure: I received this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


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