Monday, November 22, 2010

What on Earth evolved? 100 species that changed the world by Christopher Lloyd

Great theme, but surprising errors!!

The book talks in detail about 100 species - 50 before human and 50 that came after the human and influenced by him. It is very much a reference book with lot of scientific detail and a great layout.

But on a quick review of a couple of chapters, I saw two errors which made me lose confidence in the book.

On Page 13, "Even more shocking was that of the 25,000 human genes at least 95 per cent turn out to have no apparent function at all." Ouch! I guess the author meant 95% of the DNA has no apparent function - but what an error!

On Page 170, "Elephants have no less an impact....... most popularly by Indian chief Chandragupta Maurya. His 9000 elephants were according to Greek historian Plutarch, instrumental in deterring invasion by Greek adventurer Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC" Sounds well researched and impressive? But unfortunately it is wrong. Chandragupta Maurya was a teenager when Alexander invaded India. Alexander did beat King Poros and his elephant troops, but turned back before proceeding much further into India since his troops wanted to return. They might have been influenced by rumors of the strength of King Nanda of Magadha who would have been Alexander's next adversary if he had moved further into India. After Alexander left India, there was a power vacuum which Chandragupta Maurya took advantage of. But he had to fight many battles and it took many years for him to establish the Mauryan empire and its powerful army. Alexander was long dead by then!. However there is evidence of Chandragupta Maurya supplying elephants to one of Alexander's successors - Selecus, whose daughter Helen was given to Chandragupta in marriage - but that is another story.

Everybody makes errors, but there is no excuse for these type of errors in a book of this nature. After spending $45, I feel disappointed.

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