Misha Angrist is a participant in a “real-time experiment in science and radical openness”: He’s one of the first 10 subjects in the Harvard-sponsored Personal Genome Project. His entire genome is online, as well as his health records. Angrist, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, also has a background in creative writing, and it shows with this witty, clear book. In “Here Is a Human Being,” he explains what it’s like to be a research subject and peek into his own genome. Angrist also examines the fledgling field of personal genomics and its possibilities (personalized medicine) and its problems (employer discrimination).
Despite neuroscientist Donald W. Pfaff’s valiant effort to keep his book accessible to the layman, with lots of drawings and summarizing paragraphs, his complicated material is for scientists or those with a strong interest in sex differences. However, Pfaff, a professor at the Rockefeller University, does provide some interesting context for the battle of the sexes. His main idea is that the sex differences in our brains and our behavior are caused by X and Y chromosomes, hormones and the environment. For instance, testosterone can trigger male aggression, but a different cocktail of hormones reliably incites females to protect their young — by violent means, if necessary.