A survey of cutting-edge research projects designed to resurrect extinct species.
Swedish science journalist Kornfeldt knows what everyone thinks when they learn that it may be possible to bring ancient animals back to life using edited DNA: Can scientists bring back dinosaurs? Perhaps not so astonishingly in this age of hyperspeed scientific progress, there are people working on it, including the real-life paleontologist who consulted on all of the Jurassic Park movies and whose dinosaur resurrection project is funded by George Lucas. However, as the author ably shows in her first book, dinosaurs aren’t the whole story. Kornfeldt chronicles her many journeys around the world to meet the many researchers who have dedicated their careers to bringing back the dead. From passenger pigeons to wooly mammoths to the Pyrenean ibex, extinct animals (and some plants, too) inspire passion in a certain type of scientist, especially those with access to new DNA extraction and gene-editing techniques. In clear prose absent of jargon, the author relates the challenges and triumphs of the offbeat characters who peer into the genetic material of beings who expired tens of thousands of years ago and work to re-create it. Kornfeldt is excellent at presenting such scenarios with a wary enthusiasm, acknowledging the significant “potential and risks of de-extinction.” She also notes that such research—however magnificent the stakes—may be met with a mixed response from the public when the born-again species are genetically modified organisms and, probably, out of human control once reintroduced in the wild. As she writes, “it remains to be seen how resurrecting a species would work in practice.” The author’s careful synthesis of accomplishment versus aspiration is also spot-on—even world-class scientists will be dreamers, and there is much more research to be conducted before mammoths once again lumber across the tundra. Wondrous tales of futuristic science experiments that happen to be true.