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The Violinist’s Thumb And Other Lost Tales of the Human Genome

There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists. Join Sam Kean, author of The Violinist's Thumb at Chesterfield County Public School's Visiting Author Program on Monday, October 14th, 6:30 p.m. at Thomas Dale High School to explore the wonders of the magical building blocks of life: DNA.

New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean uses vibrant storytelling in The Violinist's Thumb to make science entertaining and untangle the secrets of our genetic code. In rather humorous ways he explains how genetics has shaped our past and how DNA will determine humankind’s future. Check out these chapter title highlights (or click here for the complete table of contents):

  • Chapter 3: Them's the DNA Breaks: How Does Nature Read-and Misread-DNA
  • Chapter 7: The Machiavelli Microbe: How Much Human DNA Is Actually Human?
  • Chapter 11: Size Matters: How Did Humans Get Such Grotesquely Large Brains?
  • Chapter 16: Life as We Do (and Don't) Know It: What the Heck Will Happen Now?

Sam Kean, the kid who spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers, is now a writer in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, Air & Space/Smithsonian, and New Scientist, and his work has been featured on Radiolab, NPR's All Things Considered, and Fresh Air. In 2009 he was a runner-up for the National Association of Science Writers' Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for best science writer under the age of thirty. He currently writes for Science and is a 2009-2010 Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.

This October 13th and 14th, Chesterfield County Schools will be featuring Kean in their annual Visiting Author ProgramThe program was started in 1993 to reflect thinking and development in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics- all rich in history and culture. and focuses on authors and books of interest to a wide audience.  

Chesterfield County's Objectives for this series include:

  • engaging students in STEM writing and thinking,
  • encouraging interdisciplinary thinking and learning,
  • providing students with real- world writing opportunities and
  • incorporating students into the broader community of science writers and learners.  

Click here for a list of previous Visiting Authors (PDF).

The Visiting Author Program is FREE and open to the public, Monday, October 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

In addition to the public lecture, Chesterfield County science and writing students have studied Kean's book and will participate in workshops and lectures while he is here in Richmond. And as part of the October 14th events, students will perform works of music, dance and theater inspired by The Violinist's Thumb and visual artworks will be on display. Click here for the full event flyer (PDF).

Location: Thomas Dale High School Auditorium, 3626 W. Hundred Road, Chester, VA  23831 

Click here for more information from Chesterfield County Public Schools.  Questions? Call 804-768-6245.

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