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The All Things Risk Podcast

The All Things Risk podcast explores the themes of risk, uncertainty and resilience as applied to sports, the arts, current affairs and just about any other domain. We feature long-form conversations with interesting guests who have loads of fascinating stories, tips and tools.
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Oct 2, 2018

This conversation is absolutely fascinating. In fact, it blew me away. My guest for this episode is science, nature, and travel writer David Quammen. David’s books have included The Song of the Dodo, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin which chronicles’ Charles Darwin’s reluctance to publish his On the Origin of Species, Spillover which later informed shorter books Ebola and The Chimp and the River: How AIDS emerged from the African Forest. David has also written hundreds of articles for the likes of National Geographic, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Atlantic, amongst others.

The bulk of this episode however relates to David’s latest book The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, which explores the dramatic revisions in our understanding of life’s history on this planet caused by recent discoveries of genome sequencing and the story of a scientist called Carl Woese. You will also hear about the concept of ‘horizontal gene transfer’ amongst others which revolutionises our understanding of the human genome, how we think about all species of life on earth and other profound and radical implications.

David has a wonderful knack in his writing and speaking for making science understandable and pleasurable to absorb. We get into all of that and much more including:

  • David’s background in writing and how he got into writing about science and nature;
  • Pandemics and what we know and don’t know about them, drawing heavily on David’s recent writing on the Ebola outbreak in West and Central Africa;
  • The various themes of The Tangled Tree;
  • The role of personalities in science – to quote David “science itself, however precise and objective is a human activity”;
  • The risks and implications of some of the findings described in The Tangled Tree;
  • Much, much more

Show notes:

David’s website;

David on Twitter;

The Tangled Tree: A Radical History of Life on Earth;

Review of the Tangled Tree in the New York Times

Spillover;

Ebola;

The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged From the African Forest;

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin;

Horizontal gene transfer;

Carl Woese;

Barbara McClintock;

CRISPR

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