Human Errors
An illuminating, entertaining tour of the physical imperfections that make us human We humans like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures. But if we are supposedly evolution’s greatest creation, why do we have such bad knees? Why do we catch head colds so often—two hundred times more often than a dog does? How come our wrists have so many useless bones? Why is the vast majority of our genetic code pointless? And are we really supposed to swallow and breathe through the same narrow tube? Surely there’s been some kind of mistake. As professor of biology Nathan H. Lents explains in Human Errors, our evolutionary history is nothing if not a litany of mistakes, each more entertaining and enlightening than the last. The human body is one big pile of compromises. But that is also a testament to our greatness: as Lents shows, humans have so many design flaws precisely because we are very, very good at getting around them.   A rollicking, deeply informative tour of humans’ four billion year long evolutionary saga, Human Errors both celebrates our imperfections and offers an unconventional accounting of the cost of our success.

Human Errors Details

TitleHuman Errors
Author
ReleaseMay 1st, 2018
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Health, Biology, Genetics

Human Errors Review

  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    I came across this on NetGalley but as it had already been published I decided to purchase a copy for myself as I haven't bought a medical text for a few months. I am always drawn to books with a medical element to them and this sounded as though it would be incredibly interesting with the added benefit of learning more about myself.This intriguing non-fiction book details the design flaws us humans have and their advantages and disadvantages too. Sometimes purely fact driven writing can come ac I came across this on NetGalley but as it had already been published I decided to purchase a copy for myself as I haven't bought a medical text for a few months. I am always drawn to books with a medical element to them and this sounded as though it would be incredibly interesting with the added benefit of learning more about myself.This intriguing non-fiction book details the design flaws us humans have and their advantages and disadvantages too. Sometimes purely fact driven writing can come across as both tedious and heavy but I didn't feel this at all here. I have mentioned before that I read quite a few books that I can learn something from and this fits perfectly into that category. Nathan H. Lents has ensured that the writing is straightforward and easy to follow so that it can be read and understood by those who are not part of the medical profession, and has excelled in penning a thoroughly engaging narrative for readers to appreciate.Highly recommended to everyone! I mean, who doesn't want to learn more about their own body and its evolution?
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  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    (3.5) Lents is a biology professor at John Jay College, City University of New York, and in this, his second book, he explores the ways in which the human body is flawed. These errors come in three categories: adaptations to the way the world was for early humans (to take advantage of once-scarce nutrients, we gain weight quickly – but lose it only with difficulty); incomplete adaptations (our knees are still not fit for upright walking); and the basic limitations of our evolution (inefficient s (3.5) Lents is a biology professor at John Jay College, City University of New York, and in this, his second book, he explores the ways in which the human body is flawed. These errors come in three categories: adaptations to the way the world was for early humans (to take advantage of once-scarce nutrients, we gain weight quickly – but lose it only with difficulty); incomplete adaptations (our knees are still not fit for upright walking); and the basic limitations of our evolution (inefficient systems such as the throat handling both breath and food, and the recurrent laryngeal nerve being three times longer than necessary because it loops around the aorta). Consider that myopia rates are 30% or higher, the retina faces backward, sinuses drain upwards, there are 100+ autoimmune diseases, we have redundant bones in our wrist and ankle, and we can’t produce most of the vitamins we need. Put simply, we’re not a designer’s ideal. And yet this all makes a lot of sense for an evolved species.My favorite chapter was on the inefficiencies of human reproduction compared to that of other mammals. Infertility and miscarriage rates are notably high, and gestation is shorter than it really needs to be: because otherwise their heads would get too big to pass through the birth canal, all babies are effectively born premature, so are helpless for much longer than other newborn mammals. I also especially liked the short section on cancer, which would eventually get us all if we only lived long enough. As it is, “evolution has struck an uneasy balance with cancer. Mutations cause cancer, which kills individuals, but it also brings diversity and innovation, which is good for the population.”Lents writes in a good conversational style and usually avoids oversimplifying the science. In places his book reminded me of Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong and Mark O’Connell’s To Be a Machine. It’s a wry and gentle treatment of human weakness; the content never turns depressing or bitter. Recommended for all curious readers of popular science.Favorite lines:“While lithopedions [“stone babies”] and abdominal pregnancies are quite rare, they are also 100 percent the result of poor design. Any reasonable plumber would have attached the fallopian tube to the ovary, thereby preventing tragic and often fatal mishaps like these.”“to call our immune system perfectly designed would be equally inaccurate. There are millions of people who once happily walked this planet only to meet their demise because their bodies simply self-sabotaged. When bodies fight themselves, there can be no winner.”Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.
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  • Jenn
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed the first half to two thirds of this book -- it was a straight forward, conversational and highly accessible discussion of quirks of evolution such as human vision, overly long nerves, and sinuses that drain the wrong way -- along with explanations of how they came to be and the advantages or disadvantages. It's comprehensive enough and covers comparisons to other species (mammal and non) -- and extremely interesting.I especially enjoyed the chapter on diet and nutrition -- this I really enjoyed the first half to two thirds of this book -- it was a straight forward, conversational and highly accessible discussion of quirks of evolution such as human vision, overly long nerves, and sinuses that drain the wrong way -- along with explanations of how they came to be and the advantages or disadvantages. It's comprehensive enough and covers comparisons to other species (mammal and non) -- and extremely interesting.I especially enjoyed the chapter on diet and nutrition -- this is one of the most clear discussions around micronutrients I have read. I could actually hear this in my head like it was a seminar or an interview on "Fresh Air." The chapter on DNA and then disease were also interesting -- with particular focus on how autoimmune diseases are puzzling (esp lupus). Even the chapter on reproduction being a rather flawed process was interesting.Then, the book makes a bit of a switch into neuroscience and cognition -- talking about how humans carry certain errors with them (like gambler's fallacy) and the advantages of young people being reckless. Near the end -- the author turns more to a bit of an existential and philosophical discussion around the impending demise of humanity due to our selfishness and potential solutions. I can't help but feel that this is at once sincere but also a reaction to the usual charge of social science books not providing enough of a solution to the issues they raise. It's sort of general and helpful/not-helpful and doesn't really fit as a conclusion to the first 2/3 of the book: "Our population growth, environmental destruction, and poor stewardship of natural resources threaten the prosperity that we have sought to create for ourselves."I hope future editions have a more relevant conclusion or summary -- this conclusion seemed a bit disconnected.
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  • Christina Dudley
    January 1, 1970
    I tore through this fun and fascinating look at human flaws, both physiological and mental, especially enjoying the physiological, since it was almost wholly new to me. Backwards retinas? Incomplete adaptation to walking upright? Extra bones? Broken-down Vitamin C production? The flaws in our thinking were more familiar to anyone who's studied any psychology, but it was still interesting. My family was subjected to many, "Did you know...?"-type comments out of the blue, so I'm sure they're relie I tore through this fun and fascinating look at human flaws, both physiological and mental, especially enjoying the physiological, since it was almost wholly new to me. Backwards retinas? Incomplete adaptation to walking upright? Extra bones? Broken-down Vitamin C production? The flaws in our thinking were more familiar to anyone who's studied any psychology, but it was still interesting. My family was subjected to many, "Did you know...?"-type comments out of the blue, so I'm sure they're relieved I'm done.This book is going next to my teenage son, and many thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to review it.
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  • Cindy Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    Really enjoyed this book- it answered lots of questions that I had about why certain things about the human body and how it operates, some things that simply don't make sense.The research is thorough and the writing is entertaining. It's helpful to know, fascinating to learn and fund to read. Recommend.
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  • David Wineberg
    January 1, 1970
    To Err is HumanHuman Errors is a page-turner of a biology book. Nathan Lents focuses on mistakes, redundancies and weaknesses that make life a constant gamble for humans. From genetic code destruction to pointless bones, overtaxed muscles, meandering nerves and backward designs, the book combines a million years’ worth of wrong choices, errors, flukes and plain bad luck that is the human body. At several points, Lents ventures that no engineer would design such and such a system this way – it’s To Err is HumanHuman Errors is a page-turner of a biology book. Nathan Lents focuses on mistakes, redundancies and weaknesses that make life a constant gamble for humans. From genetic code destruction to pointless bones, overtaxed muscles, meandering nerves and backward designs, the book combines a million years’ worth of wrong choices, errors, flukes and plain bad luck that is the human body. At several points, Lents ventures that no engineer would design such and such a system this way – it’s just wasteful, inefficient or crazy.The human body is the sum of all its travels through time. It has vestiges of other forms it took, corrupted DNA that was not immediately fatal (so it was able to be passed on) and evolutionary benefits that have outlived their usefulness. The result is a being that needs an outsized amount of care and feeding, technology and medicine. We are the only animal with this need. -Our sinus cavity drainage (from the top!) gives humans headcolds far more often than any other animal.-Our backs are optimized for four-legged living.-Human eyeballs are built backwards, causing a large blindspot in each eye that is more or less overcome by having two eyes and therefore stereo-vision. Cephalopods got our kind of eye right, among the two dozen totally different kinds of eyes, each adapted to the bearers’ environment.-Our procreation equipment is so inefficient, both mother and child are at risk of death from the act of birth, unlike any other primates. Lents says primates will continue to care for other offspring while giving birth, something unimaginable for women. Cows often barely notice they are giving birth.-There is an entire a la carte menu of autoimmune diseases unique to humans, and often only to women, for which we have no cures and no idea why they occur. Our own cells attack our systems until they kill us. Another unique feature of humans.One recurring theme is food. We are both blessed and cursed with the need for a variety of food. Most animals eat the same thing day in and day out all their lives, but have finely balanced metabolisms, because they produce whatever they need internally. Humans need constant interventions with different vitamins, minerals and meds. That humans could subsist and thrive on multiple foods started out as a giant Darwinian advantage. Now that we actually need that variety for a balanced diet, it is a liability. We are the only animal with this need, too. Our DNA is so corrupted we now require this variety and intervention – or die.Our failing DNA gets its own chapter. The GULO gene in humans is the stub of something that was once very useful. GULO produces vitamin C – just not in humans. Somewhere along the way, an ape had a gene mutation that disabled GULO. It must have lived in an environment filled with citrus, because it didn’t die off, but produced offspring that also had the gene disabled. As animals dispersed from those food sources, scurvy killed off those who had no access to citrus. Today, we have vitamin supplements and imported fruit all year. Lents says our bodies will simply never be able to accidentally repair and restore what’s left of GULO to active duty. There are now too many missing factors for such a complex mutation to occur.“You cannot have sexual reproductions, DNA and cellular life without also having cancer,” Lents says. It is a natural bug in our design. He says there is a 100% chance of developing cancer if something else doesn’t kill you first, because “cell division is dangerous game” and innumerable mutations can trigger uncontrollable tumors.As he says in the epilogue: “It’s survival of the fittest, not the perfect.”David Wineberg
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  • Olga Miret
    January 1, 1970
    Facts, anecdotes, some opinions, and a very engaging way of learning about the human body. Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.When I saw this book on offer, I could not resist. I studied Medicine and have been fascinated by Biology and the Natural Sciences for ages. I have also thought and often commented on our (mostly mine, but yes, most of the issues are general, not exclusive to me) fla Facts, anecdotes, some opinions, and a very engaging way of learning about the human body. Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.When I saw this book on offer, I could not resist. I studied Medicine and have been fascinated by Biology and the Natural Sciences for ages. I have also thought and often commented on our (mostly mine, but yes, most of the issues are general, not exclusive to me) flawed design, no matter how superior we feel to the rest of the species that share the planet with us. In a later chapter of the book, the author sums it up observing that if we participated in an Olympic Games-style contest that included all of the Earth’s species, we would not win at anything, apart from perhaps decathlon (or chess if it was included), as we are generalists. We might not be able to compete with the physical prowess shown by many other species (we are not the fastest, the strongest, the best hunters, the ones who jump higher or who can run for longer), but we can do many things to a reasonable level. And yes, we are pretty intelligent (however we choose to use our minds).There is enough material to fill several books under the general title of this book, and Lents chooses pretty interesting ones (although I guess some will appeal to some readers more than others). He talks about pointless bones and anatomical errors, our diet (here he talks about our tendency to obesity and our need to eat a varied diet due to the fact that our bodies have lost the ability to synthesise a number of vitamins, amino acids… while other species do),junk in the genome (issues to do with our DNA), homo sterilis (we are not very good at reproducing as a species), why God invented doctors (about our immune system and autoimmune diseases, cancer…), a species of suckers (about cognitive biases. The title of the chapter refers to P.T. Barnum’s edict ‘a sucker born every minute’ although as the author notes, this is an underestimate), and he discusses the possible future of humanity in the epilogue. There is a fair amount of information contained in this book, and that includes some useful illustrations, and notes at the end (I read an ARC copy, but it is possible that the final version contains even more documentation and resources). It is an educational read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I listened to the book thanks to the text-to-speech facility, and it suits it well, as it has a very conversational tone and manages to impart lots of information without being overbearing or obscure.  I read some reviews suggesting that it was so packed with facts that it was better to read it in small bites. Personally, I read it in a few days and never got bored of it, but it might depend on the reader’s interest in the subject.I was familiar with some of the content but I appreciated the author’s take and the way he organised the materials. Although I enjoyed the whole book, I was particularly interested in the chapters on genetics (the DNA analysis and the identification of specific genes have moved on remarkably since I completed my degree) and on cognitive biases. As a doctor, I also agreed with his comments about autoimmune diseases, the difficulties in their diagnosis, and how these illnesses can sometimes be confused with psychiatric illnesses (being a psychiatrist, I know only too well this can happen). Of course, as is to be expected from the topic, the book reflects on the development of the species and discusses natural selection and evolution, and I was fascinated by the reviews of people who took his arguments as personal attacks on their beliefs. I agree that some of his interpretations and his hypothesis of the reasons for some of these flaws can be debatable, but that does not apply to the facts, and I did not feel the book is intended as a provocation but as a source of information, and entertainment. As the writer notes, we remember better (and believe in) anecdotes and stories than we do dry data. (I am not an expert on the subject but was fascinated by the comments on his blog.)I found the book fascinating, and as a writer, I thought it was full of information useful to people thinking of writing in a variety of genres, from science-fiction (thoughts about how other species might evolve crossed my mind as I read it), historical fiction (if we go back many years), and any books with a focus on human beings and science.  I would recommend checking a sample of the book to see if the writer’s style suits the reader. I highlighted many lines (and was surprised when I learned that female Bluefin tunas don’t reach sexual maturity until they are twenty years old and was pleased to learn about the important roll old female orcas play in their society) but I particularly like this one:Scurvy is a dystopian novel written by the human body.A great read for those who prefer non-fiction and fact-packed books, perfect for people with little time, as it can be picked up and savoured in bite-size instalments, and a book that might pique our interest in and lead to further research on some of the topics. Experts are unlikely to find new information here, but other readers will come out enlightened and with plenty to think about. I strongly recommend it.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    From bad knees to backward retinas to autoimmune disease and the uptick in peanut allergies, Professor Nathan Lents' book Human Errors is told in a conversational tone that brings anatomy and physiology to the masses. Since the beginning of time we humans have been in awe of ourselves and what makes us especially unique creatures. Usually we emphasize that which makes us "more complex" or "more highly evolved" ignorant of the randomness of mutations and the misdirection of evolution. Here, Lent From bad knees to backward retinas to autoimmune disease and the uptick in peanut allergies, Professor Nathan Lents' book Human Errors is told in a conversational tone that brings anatomy and physiology to the masses. Since the beginning of time we humans have been in awe of ourselves and what makes us especially unique creatures. Usually we emphasize that which makes us "more complex" or "more highly evolved" ignorant of the randomness of mutations and the misdirection of evolution. Here, Lents instead focuses on these evolutionary "glitches" and explains how they lead to different ailments and diseases that impact humans. I initially picked up this book to see if I would be able to incorporate any of the material into my own biology lectures. I especially liked some of the analogies Lents used: ~Pseudogenes likened to cars with missing spark plugs -- on the outside all appears in tip top shape but you will never get from Point A to Point B without that missing piece. ~Dietary diseases described as the "dystopian novels written by the human body" ~Predisposition to developmental septal defects: odds of tripping -- both dependent on a variety of different factors (laces tied or untied, long vs. short laces, etc.) with a range of probability.Reminiscent of one of my all time favorite biology books, Why We Get Sick:The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams, Human Errors definitely deserves a place on my physical bookshelf.I would like to thank NetGalley, Edelweiss, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Nathan Lents for the opportunity to review this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Rachel Noel
    January 1, 1970
    *Book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.This book is clearly meant for lay people like myself. It is written at an accessible level and has plenty of humor to make the reading engaging. If my high school biology class had used this book, I would have learned a lot more. As it is, I feel a lot more informed about human anatomy than I used to be. From the structure of our eyes to the interconnections of the bones in our ankles and wrists. This is a very educational book that keeps your i *Book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.This book is clearly meant for lay people like myself. It is written at an accessible level and has plenty of humor to make the reading engaging. If my high school biology class had used this book, I would have learned a lot more. As it is, I feel a lot more informed about human anatomy than I used to be. From the structure of our eyes to the interconnections of the bones in our ankles and wrists. This is a very educational book that keeps your interest and is easy to read.And it's not just the physical aspects of humanity that are discussed. As interesting as it is to question why our ACL, even after all these years, is still better designed for a species that walks on four limbs, our brains are even more confounding! Lents doesn't have all the answers, but he is really good at explaining the problems and their theorized origins in our evolutionary history. And not just the physical stuff, either. The social and mental stuff gets discussed at length as well.I really liked this book and highly recommend it for anyone who needs a refresher on biology or has questions on anatomy. The book is very comprehensible for those of us without a lot of background on the topic. There is an excellent blend of information, theory and humor.
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  • Yzabel Ginsberg
    January 1, 1970
    [I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]I found this to be both an informative and entertaining read. While the author doesn’t delve very deep into details (each subject in each chapter would probably warrant a book of its own), and although I wish there had been more developed explanations at times, I’m also aware that one book couldn’t tackle everything in one go—and he nevertheless provides enough information for a reader to go on research some more later on a given topic.I already [I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]I found this to be both an informative and entertaining read. While the author doesn’t delve very deep into details (each subject in each chapter would probably warrant a book of its own), and although I wish there had been more developed explanations at times, I’m also aware that one book couldn’t tackle everything in one go—and he nevertheless provides enough information for a reader to go on research some more later on a given topic.I already knew some of the ‘human errors’ presented in the book (such as junk DNA and mutations), but definitely not others, such as why we get so many headcolds (our sinuses placed the wrong way), why we do actually make our own B12 vitamin but can’t use it (same with other vitamins—and this is why we need a varied diet, with all the problems it entails), or why our ways of procreating are, in fact, very inefficient compared to those of other mammals. So, discovering all this was fascinating, and the explanations provided also satisfy the unavoidable ‘why’ questions that rose immediately after (I’m very much a why person; every physician who attended me since I’ve learnt to speak can testify to this). For instance, we lost the ability to make our own vitamin C, whose absence will lead to scorbut and kill us; but the mutation that led to this defect wasn’t erased through evolution because it happened in areas where fruit was easily available, and a diet of fruit would compensate for our rotten GULO gene… until the latter stuck, happily passed around to descendants.I liked that some explanations went a bit further: it’s not only about this or that physical defect, but also about how we’re still wired for survival techniques and reactions dating back to prehistoric times, and how some of our modern behaviours are thus impacted. An extended example would be gambling, and why people in general have irrational reactions such as ‘now that I’ve lost ten times in a row, I -must- win, there’s no other way’ (though statistically, you could lose an 11th time), or will bet more and more when they’re on winning streak, and risk losing it all or more, rather than save those earnings. Those would go back to the way we interpreted situations to learn from them and survive (man sees a lion in a bush, concludes bushes often hide a lion, and then avoids bushes). Same with optical illusions, due to our brains’ ability to ‘fill in the blanks’.On the side of actual errors, I noticed a few (redundant words or phrases, that a last editing pass would probably remove). Nothing too bad, though.Conclusion: Due to the lack of deeper details and general simple writing, this book is probably more for laypeople rather than people with a strong scientific background—but even then, there’s still a chance that some of the ‘human errors’ may still be of interest to them.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Instagram) knows I'm obsessed with anatomy (and by extension to a lesser extent, physiology). It borders on pathological. I have anatomical charts and skulls as decoration all over my apartment, and an entire bookshelf devoted to various anatomy texts across a lot of timespans. (But to be fair, I was a TA for college anatomy classes for five years, so it's not like it's a completely random interest). So when this showed up in my Netgalley options, I snagged Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Instagram) knows I'm obsessed with anatomy (and by extension to a lesser extent, physiology). It borders on pathological. I have anatomical charts and skulls as decoration all over my apartment, and an entire bookshelf devoted to various anatomy texts across a lot of timespans. (But to be fair, I was a TA for college anatomy classes for five years, so it's not like it's a completely random interest). So when this showed up in my Netgalley options, I snagged it. I will read anything pertaining to anatomy.I was pleasantly surprised. Usually, I know 99% of information in these types of books. But, this one focused on the flaws of our anatomy and physiology, so it was a new spin and dove deeply into things I had certainly thought about in my years of biology coursework, but had never really investigated. I also like that this is generally accessible, but there were a few issues. It could have had better editing (I found myself rolling my eyes every time he said something to the extent of "no engineer would design a structure this way", because it happens at least three times per chapter). Early on in the book (chapter two-ish? or maybe the latter part of chapter one?) I was really annoyed by his sentence structure, too. It was overly simple, and reminded me a lot of the pre-meds I teach who are brilliant scientists but do admittedly struggle with the flow of their writing, particular non-academic/non-scientific writing. While this is a book about science, it's targeted to the average Joe, so there were opportunities for improvement. But, it got better as it went on (or I got used to it and blocked it out. Not sure which). There's also times where he gets a little more technical than I expected, particularly around some of the gene stuff. I've have my share of genetics courses and I was able to follow along, but there were some things that made me really think back to my college classwork to remember and understand, which for many readers may be bordering on too scientific. But generally, he does a nice job of explaining complex topics for the non-science reader. I also strangely found the section on behavioral economics, particularly the "why we suck at managing currency and gamble away our money" fascinating. I'm glad that was included. Generally, a solid read. I'd definitely recommend it to my students (and anyone with a passing interest in the human body), pre-meds and non-pre-meds alike. Thanks to Netgalley for the free review copy!
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  • Monique
    January 1, 1970
    Review written: May 4, 2018Star Rating: ★★☆☆ Heat Rating: N/A An Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book was received free via Netgalley for an honest review. Human Errors got burned badly by expectations. When I saw the title and blurb on Netgalley, it suggested a very specific and narrow focus to me. I was looking forward to some very medical discussions, even some interesting evolutionary discussions. Unfortunately, the bulk of this book did not focus on the things I was expecting.That's no Review written: May 4, 2018Star Rating: ★★½☆☆ Heat Rating: N/A An Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book was received free via Netgalley for an honest review. Human Errors got burned badly by expectations. When I saw the title and blurb on Netgalley, it suggested a very specific and narrow focus to me. I was looking forward to some very medical discussions, even some interesting evolutionary discussions. Unfortunately, the bulk of this book did not focus on the things I was expecting.That's not to say that the opening chapters didn't have some fascinating medical and evolutionary discussions, because they did. I loved learning about the eye and its structure, for example. That was fascinating and even moreso because this eye type evolved twice and in wildly different animals. There was talk of our wrist and ankle bones and other structures that seem foolish or redundant or just poorly designed. Sometimes it was accompanied by discussions of evolution and why certain things might have been selected for even when they were bad (like sickle cell anemia and its relationship with malaria). These parts were my favorites.But, when the book began discussing things in terms of how an engineer might design and then arguing that something was an error because an engineer wouldn't design it that way, it gradually began to lose me. The curious discussions about the flaws in the human reproductive system were interesting, but the author never makes the kinds of intellectual jumps I would have expected. The discussion on out digestive tract, our diet needs, and how evolution ended up selecting things that could be considered detrimental (like that we can't make all the enzymes, proteins, etc that we need to survive) was interesting. But again, it lacked any real discussion about how or why this may have been selected for. He doesn't even explain why this is an error beyond the idea that it is just poorly engineered. And then he gets into ways the brain is fooled. It was at that point that I mostly checked out. That isn't a defect or wrong or whatever you want to call it unless you want to argue, as he does, that all humans should be perfectly logical at all times. And what exactly is the definition of perfectly logical, you might ask? Well, it appears to be what the author thinks is logical. In the end, it appears that the book was little more than a set up for his epilogue: a discussion on whether this is other life in the universe and whether we will adapt or kill ourselves. I was deeply disappointed because I wanted way more of those opening bits and way less of the judgmental and, in my opinion, arguable discussions in the lat roughly 2/3 of the book.I did learn some interesting things, notably about the eye, and am grateful for it. In that sense, the book was good. But the rest of it seemed difficult to accept at face value when so many value judgments were being put on it as opposed to just facts. I did like the illustrations that accompanied some of the examples.This review is ©May 2018 by Monique N. and has been posted to Netgalley.
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  • Casey Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free Kindle copy of Human Errors by Nathan H. Lents courtesy of Net Galley  and  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as the desription sounded fascinating. It is the first book by Nathan H. Lents that I have read.This book is a very good read. T I received a free Kindle copy of Human Errors by Nathan H. Lents courtesy of Net Galley  and  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as the desription sounded fascinating. It is the first book by Nathan H. Lents that I have read.This book is a very good read. The subtitle of the book provides a good synopsis - a panorama of our glitches, from pointless bones to broken genes. The author presents the subjects in an easy to understand and read fashion. While it addresses how hard it is for evolution to correct itself once a change has been made (whether purposeful or by accident), a little more of the science and/or research behind it would have been helpful.That said, I do recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in why our bodies are not the perfect biological machine (and far from it).
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  • Mandy
    January 1, 1970
    According to Nathan Lents human evolution has led to a whole catalogue of “errors” in the human body and he claims that in many ways we are badly designed - from faulty knees that can’t cope with us walking upright to genetic mutations that lead to many conditions and disabilities. It’s an interesting and entertaining book, written in a lively and accessible style, but as other reviewers have pointed out errors in some of his conclusions I now doubt the accuracy of some of what I took as fact. N According to Nathan Lents human evolution has led to a whole catalogue of “errors” in the human body and he claims that in many ways we are badly designed - from faulty knees that can’t cope with us walking upright to genetic mutations that lead to many conditions and disabilities. It’s an interesting and entertaining book, written in a lively and accessible style, but as other reviewers have pointed out errors in some of his conclusions I now doubt the accuracy of some of what I took as fact. Nevertheless it’s a good fun read and definitely provides food for thought.
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  • Jeanette Blain
    January 1, 1970
    Our bodies are amazing. Even more so given the impersonal and imperfect processes of evolution. It's interesting to read how we came to be stuck with some unfortunate limitations, yet still, dominate as a species. For a book about science facts, Human Errors shines in that it's not super technical, but not dumbed-down to a childish level. I think this book hits the sweet spot for what it is. I've read books in the (what I'll call) rundown-of-interesting-facts genre that are far less satisfying. Our bodies are amazing. Even more so given the impersonal and imperfect processes of evolution. It's interesting to read how we came to be stuck with some unfortunate limitations, yet still, dominate as a species. For a book about science facts, Human Errors shines in that it's not super technical, but not dumbed-down to a childish level. I think this book hits the sweet spot for what it is. I've read books in the (what I'll call) rundown-of-interesting-facts genre that are far less satisfying.Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a digital ARC. All views are my own.
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  • Janice
    January 1, 1970
    A humorous and yet well-researched book on the myriad of foibles and design flaws of the human body. Believe me, as a person gets further along in years it becomes more and more obvious that the human body has inherent flaws. I enjoyed the author’s writing style very much. It was informative but not too dry or academic. A good and worthwhile read for sure.My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an arc in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Book Him Danno
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to netgalley for the advance copy of Human Errors for an honesty review. Human Erros by Nathan H. Lent is the biology book I wish I had head in school. The authors makes human biology fun, humors and fun.Several quote that stuck with me because of cancer in the family. “You cannot have sexual reproductions, DNA and cellular life without also having cancer." My children have eye issues and have to wear glasses so learning about the human eyes was beyond fascinating.I learned by I get so Thank you to netgalley for the advance copy of Human Errors for an honesty review. Human Erros by Nathan H. Lent is the biology book I wish I had head in school. The authors makes human biology fun, humors and fun.Several quote that stuck with me because of cancer in the family. “You cannot have sexual reproductions, DNA and cellular life without also having cancer." My children have eye issues and have to wear glasses so learning about the human eyes was beyond fascinating.I learned by I get so many sinus infections and the flaw in the design of the human body. Which isn't a flaw but more a reason we are created to have struggles physically.Humans are so different from the rest of the animal kingdom and again another quote that I loves was."It’s survival of the fittest, not the perfect.My 11 year old son loves this book and can't get enough of it. I can't wait for this to be published to buy a physical copy for my kids.
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    Fun book about what can go wrong in the human bodyIf you are wondering how a book can be fun when discussing something morbid, you should read this book. Nathan Lents describes several built-in flaws in the human body, based on natural selection, where a change doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be a little better than what was there before. This can lead to all sorts of havoc, which Lents discusses in an enjoyable and clear way. His tone is conversational and he uses humor to good effect. Fun book about what can go wrong in the human bodyIf you are wondering how a book can be fun when discussing something morbid, you should read this book. Nathan Lents describes several built-in flaws in the human body, based on natural selection, where a change doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be a little better than what was there before. This can lead to all sorts of havoc, which Lents discusses in an enjoyable and clear way. His tone is conversational and he uses humor to good effect. I loved the book and recommend it to anyone interested in biology.Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.
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  • Phil Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes by Nathan Lents admits from the get-go that there are more than enough books about how great and wondrous the human body is. Lents takes a whole different tack: how human bodies have huge design flaws, from big system like our bones to the DNA in every cell. Why do we have a blind spot in each eye? It is because the retina is wired backwards. Why are the drains for our sinuses in the wrong place? To make room for our Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes by Nathan Lents admits from the get-go that there are more than enough books about how great and wondrous the human body is. Lents takes a whole different tack: how human bodies have huge design flaws, from big system like our bones to the DNA in every cell. Why do we have a blind spot in each eye? It is because the retina is wired backwards. Why are the drains for our sinuses in the wrong place? To make room for our oversized brains. Is it really a good idea to take in food through the same opening that we use for breathing? Lents thinks definitely not. The wrist has way too many bones, grouped “...like a pile of rocks,” a turn of phrase that produces a vivid mental image. Human Errors brings up ideas about vitamins that I had never remotely considered. Why don’t dogs and other animals need vitamin C in their diets? Because they can make it themselves. Why can’t we? Because, through a genetic mutation, we lost that ability. Minerals, which always have to be consumed, cause us problems because we have trouble absorbing them. Calcium absorption gets worse as we age, and iron deficiency is the number one nutritional deficiency both in the US and in the world. Obesity is also a natural fallout from poor design.Focusing in on human DNA and running the numbers, Lents demonstrates that DNA are enormously wasteful, with 97% of DNA not “saying”anything. These include strings called pseudo genes, one of which causes us to not be able to generate our own vitamin C. Other strands of DNA are discarded bits of ancient viruses, and even pieces of our own genetic material, copied over and over like an office printer run amok. There are a myriad of problems with human reproductive systems, from the fact that the Fallopian tubes are not even connected to the ovaries (!) to the fact the sperm can only turn in one direction. Autoimmune diseases are just ongoing mistakes made by your body, plain and simple. Allergic reactions to poison ivy and bee stings fall in this same category. Memory is another area where we have big problems. Given only some information about an event, our brains try to fill in the gaps. In the case of gambling, our imperfect brains try to find patterns where there are none. Kudos to Human Errors for shining a light in dark places, providing me with new insights into how the body works (and doesn’t).
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  • Basma
    January 1, 1970
    This book was an okay read. I think the main reason this book gets a lower rating is because even though it's quite interesting I personally wasn't convinced by the reasonings..The main premise of this book is discussing the "design flaws" as the author calls them that are in our bodies. It ranges from how our knees functions, to diets and vitamins, to how frequently we get the flu and why, autoimmune disease, holes in the heart, cancer, optical illusions and so much more. The author connects ev This book was an okay read. I think the main reason this book gets a lower rating is because even though it's quite interesting I personally wasn't convinced by the reasonings..The main premise of this book is discussing the "design flaws" as the author calls them that are in our bodies. It ranges from how our knees functions, to diets and vitamins, to how frequently we get the flu and why, autoimmune disease, holes in the heart, cancer, optical illusions and so much more. The author connects every human error or design flaw back to evolution and compares what is going on with our bodies to what is going on in animals, mainly mammals and our cousins the apes. Now if you're someone who believes in evolution and that we go back to apes then maybe you'll be convinced by how effortlessly he finds a quick link to these design flaws and links them back to a specific animal, but if you don't believe in it, once he reaches the point where he tries to connect the dots things start to sound a bit absurd, and this is what happened with me. I recognize that the study of evolution is a scientific theory that's well researched and studied but I don't necessarily think it all made sense to me and I don't think God created us with design flaws.BUT, that being said.. The part before the author connects the dots is really interesting. I am not a medical person nor do I know a lot about biology, so everything discussed in this book is new knowledge to me and I found that fascinating. What the author brings up and calls "design flaws" are very interesting things to look into and understand why they're happening and what triggers them or why they are the way they are. I think because I didn't connect with the reasonings about the aforementioned questions I feel I still need to read more about it. Some parts in this book contain way too much information and details that I had to look up every other word because all of that medical terminology is too hard to understand. However that didn't make the book boring nor did it make it any less fascinating.. it just took me a while to finish.(I received a free e-book copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
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  • Angie Boyter
    January 1, 1970
    Definitely 3+.The science behind our bodies’ imperfectionsNo thinking person can escape awe at the wonders of the human body and how smoothly it works(most of the time), coordinating so many parts, from muscles to neurons to blood cells, to produce our minds, our skills, and our physical achievements. You have probably heard this theme before, so in Human Errors biology professor Nathan Lents delves into the other side of the human body: the parts that do not work as well as we might have hoped Definitely 3+.The science behind our bodies’ imperfectionsNo thinking person can escape awe at the wonders of the human body and how smoothly it works(most of the time), coordinating so many parts, from muscles to neurons to blood cells, to produce our minds, our skills, and our physical achievements. You have probably heard this theme before, so in Human Errors biology professor Nathan Lents delves into the other side of the human body: the parts that do not work as well as we might have hoped or, in many cases, as well as they work in other animals. He explores elements that most people would agree are problems, like our pesky knees. He also explains other problems that people know only too well but whose cause they do not realize, like the fact that our mucus drains are located near the top of our sinus cavities. He introduces still others that we may not be aware of at all, like the fact that our retinas are installed backwards and what this means to our vision. And these are all in the first chapter! Human Errors is a FASCINATING read for the right audience. This is science, and Lents delves into the details of the aspects of our bodies that are not exactly optimal to a degree that some readers will find excessive…and others will find entrancing. You need not be a scientist to enjoy it, but this is definitely a book for science buffs. For example, Lents discusses allergies as an example of a human system gone wrong that is being compounded by well-intentioned social practices, also known as the “hygiene hypothesis”, and he gives us the foundation for allergic reactions:“A fledging embryo develops immune cells while in utero. The very first thing these cells do is participate in a phenomenon called clonal deletion. Clonal deletion is the process by which the developing immune cells in a fetus are presented with small bits of chewed-up proteins from the fetus’s own body. The immune cells that react to those bits of self-protein are then eliminated; they are “deleted” from the immune system. This process goes on for weeks and weeks, and the goal is to eliminate every single immune cell that has the potential to react to its own body. Only then is the immune system ready for action. “If this description made you say “Wow”, then you will probably love this book. If it is more than you really wanted to know, then you might be happier with a different choice.There is a lot of great stuff here, but I would emphasize “a lot”. I do not think this is a good choice for a “binge read” session. For maximum enjoyment, I would recommend a chapter or so at a time. At such doses you will emerge from each session enlightened, stimulated, and with a broadened appreciation for your wonderful human body, even the human errors.
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  • Kate Vane
    January 1, 1970
    Evolution does not mean we are continually moving towards perfection. Mutations happen by chance, and they may or may not be good for us. If they don’t kill us and if they don’t stop us reproducing, they stick around.Human Errors details some of these ‘errors’ and includes some fascinating examples. Our dodgy knees are a hangover from our primate days, and were never meant to support us standing up. Our retinas are the wrong way round and we’d be much better off if we had the eyes of an octopus. Evolution does not mean we are continually moving towards perfection. Mutations happen by chance, and they may or may not be good for us. If they don’t kill us and if they don’t stop us reproducing, they stick around.Human Errors details some of these ‘errors’ and includes some fascinating examples. Our dodgy knees are a hangover from our primate days, and were never meant to support us standing up. Our retinas are the wrong way round and we’d be much better off if we had the eyes of an octopus.There are chapters which focus on the more serious consequences of these errors – such as hereditary diseases and autoimmune conditions which lead the body to attack itself.I was fascinated by the chapter on reproduction and loved the image of menopausal orca whales leading hunting packs of young males, but when I thought about it later, I wasn’t clear whether the author thinks the menopause in humans is an error at all.There’s also an epilogue which is more speculative. Lents’ argument seems to be that the inventiveness of humans allows us to outpace our errors, or even turn them into strengths. However these strengths can also be weaknesses. He argues that selfishness and short-term thinking may well lead humanity to destroy itself and the planet. This seems to be more about philosophy than science.Overall though, this is an informative and entertaining read for a non-scientist like me and the quirky examples make the underlying facts more memorable.*I received a copy of Human Errors from the publisher via Netgalley.
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  • Michael Perkins
    January 1, 1970
    Caveat: for a book that’s supposed to be for lay people, it’s pretty detailed. I liked that for the most interesting topics to me (e.g. autoimmune diseases), but less so for some other topics. The book does live up to its title. And it brought up a memory from some time ago. Back in the 70’s, someone gave me an article to read from Christianity Today magazine which then, and still seems to be, THE evangelical magazine. The article was written by a surgeon and titled “Fearfully and Wonderfully Ma Caveat: for a book that’s supposed to be for lay people, it’s pretty detailed. I liked that for the most interesting topics to me (e.g. autoimmune diseases), but less so for some other topics. The book does live up to its title. And it brought up a memory from some time ago. Back in the 70’s, someone gave me an article to read from Christianity Today magazine which then, and still seems to be, THE evangelical magazine. The article was written by a surgeon and titled “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” a quote from Psalm 139. The purpose of the piece was to examine the body as further proof of “intelligent design.” I don’t think the author of this book would necessarily disagree with that, as far as it goes.But the details in his book, reflecting what we’ve learned about DNA, cellular biology and weird imperfections in the body does better support the imperfections of evolution. In fact, at the beginning of the book the author discusses the inefficiency of the eye, it’s absurd design. The irony is that the eyeball used to be a favorite example of the intelligent design advocates.
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  • Jim
    January 1, 1970
    As often happens, I chose to read this book after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. It was an enjoyable and informative read. My only criticism is that the author just jumped into some of the major design flaws (e.g., sinuses, backward photoreceptors, weak ACL, etc.) w/o first laying down some basic of evolutionary theory. Given that his primary audience is (probably) non-science folks, I think he missed an opportunity to lay out the context and address the question of why all these d As often happens, I chose to read this book after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. It was an enjoyable and informative read. My only criticism is that the author just jumped into some of the major design flaws (e.g., sinuses, backward photoreceptors, weak ACL, etc.) w/o first laying down some basic of evolutionary theory. Given that his primary audience is (probably) non-science folks, I think he missed an opportunity to lay out the context and address the question of why all these design flaws were overlooked by natural selection. And, while it was probably a conscious omission, he could have addressed head on so-called "intelligent design" (aka, denial of the scientific case for evolution by creationists) as a flawed concept. That is, the "design" of the human species is anything but intelligent. Still, overall, I really enjoyed the book.
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  • Ryan Fohl
    January 1, 1970
    Written by a biologist so it has more breadth then if written by a doctor. Lots of fun animal facts In here. This book is not comprehensive. Without deliberate intention this book will arm one with arguments against intelligent design. The author is clearly a great teacher. Lots of complex topics explained clearly. Some I was familiar with and some were new. The ending goes Into dystopia, immortality, and scientific optimism. This is like a great college biology course. Like this description of Written by a biologist so it has more breadth then if written by a doctor. Lots of fun animal facts In here. This book is not comprehensive. Without deliberate intention this book will arm one with arguments against intelligent design. The author is clearly a great teacher. Lots of complex topics explained clearly. Some I was familiar with and some were new. The ending goes Into dystopia, immortality, and scientific optimism. This is like a great college biology course. Like this description of retroviruses “like a parasite made of pure DNA”What I learned: dog food does not need vitamin c. Lots of bones are useless. Orcas go through menopause.
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  • Ergun Coruh
    January 1, 1970
    This book shows how Evolution by Natural Selection works by simply looking at our species' flaws, how and why we evolved to have them and yet we survived as species. Lents is a great science communicator and an authority in his field (Professor in Biology). Evolution has always been a tough nut to sell to general public for various reasons. Lents uses DNA, mutations, cellular biology and mathematics in his central toolset to describe how we evolved as species, in due course retaining countless f This book shows how Evolution by Natural Selection works by simply looking at our species' flaws, how and why we evolved to have them and yet we survived as species. Lents is a great science communicator and an authority in his field (Professor in Biology). Evolution has always been a tough nut to sell to general public for various reasons. Lents uses DNA, mutations, cellular biology and mathematics in his central toolset to describe how we evolved as species, in due course retaining countless flaws and ways to handle them. The material is accessible and digestible by novice. If you want to understand how Evolution by Natural Selection works this is your, well, Bible.
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  • vgy
    January 1, 1970
    There were definitely some very interesting things in this book that were fun to read about (esp. the sinuses, the eye, some of the genetic stuff - though I'm definitely on the other side of the Encode discussion). I agree with those who mentioned that the Epilogue didn't really fit with the rest of the book. I felt that if it was just a few pages, it would've been ok, but as it was actually a pretty lengthy discussion, it veered the book into territory that I felt was not in line with the rest There were definitely some very interesting things in this book that were fun to read about (esp. the sinuses, the eye, some of the genetic stuff - though I'm definitely on the other side of the Encode discussion). I agree with those who mentioned that the Epilogue didn't really fit with the rest of the book. I felt that if it was just a few pages, it would've been ok, but as it was actually a pretty lengthy discussion, it veered the book into territory that I felt was not in line with the rest of the book.
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  • Cathy
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fun little book (it's not very long), with the science explained in simple layman’s terms so anyone can appreciate the flaws the author has outlined. It’s educational and entertaining. I’ve been sharing some of the items listed with my family as I’ve read. Those who enjoy human anatomy and the workings of the brain and of DNA (do you know how much junk is in the human genome?) will be particularly satisfied with Lents’ collection of human flaws.* I received an ARC of this book in excha This is a fun little book (it's not very long), with the science explained in simple layman’s terms so anyone can appreciate the flaws the author has outlined. It’s educational and entertaining. I’ve been sharing some of the items listed with my family as I’ve read. Those who enjoy human anatomy and the workings of the brain and of DNA (do you know how much junk is in the human genome?) will be particularly satisfied with Lents’ collection of human flaws.* I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Ameetha Widdershins
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 A fun and folksy read about the glitches in the human body and brain, their origins and the problems they cause. There is a wide array of examples from various disciplines dealing with human anatomy, physiology, neurology and cognition, and comparisons and contrasts to other animals that share or avoid our evolutionary mishaps. Despite its conversational tone, the information provided is as scientifically accurate and up-to-date as is known. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this.I 3.5 A fun and folksy read about the glitches in the human body and brain, their origins and the problems they cause. There is a wide array of examples from various disciplines dealing with human anatomy, physiology, neurology and cognition, and comparisons and contrasts to other animals that share or avoid our evolutionary mishaps. Despite its conversational tone, the information provided is as scientifically accurate and up-to-date as is known. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this.I read this book courtesy of Netgalley.
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  • Andi
    January 1, 1970
    While I enjoyed this book very much, I have to say I was hoping for more. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to reading more in-depth books of this nature, but this seemed sorely lacking in substance. It was a delightful, entertaining read, and what was there was very interesting. I would recommend it to people who have a passing interest, or as a starting point before diving in to something more complex, but it really is only for the casual reader.
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