37. Herding Hemingway's Cats | Kat Arney | PodNu Podcasts & Book Insights

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway, a well-known American writer, was once given a cat from a captain of a ship… a cat that came to be very famous. However, it was not because this cat was particularly good at catching mice, but, instead, because it had six toes—a genetic defect known as polydactylism. Whenever a tourist visits Hemingway's former home, the tour guide will focus on the many six-toed cats that make his former property their home and call them Hemingway's cats. However, like a story written by Hemingway, this rumor is also purely fictional.

Hemingway didn't keep cats when he lived in Hisso Island, Florida, because his wife had peacocks on the property, but that didn't stop cats with six digits from becoming famous in connection with Hemingway. Are there such unusual cats in this world? Yes. There certainly are—but the question remains WHY. Why are there six-toed cats at all? This is precisely the mystery that Hemingway's Cats by Kat Arney attempts to answer. The subtitle of this book, ‘How do genes work?’ indicates that six-toed cats must have a problem at the genetic level.

The author of this book, Kat Arney, holds a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Cambridge. She is now a freelance science writer and a BBC science presenter dedicated to popularizing scientific knowledge. This book takes the six-digit cat as a starting point, bringing us into the microscopic world of genes and exploring the working principles of genetics. So, the first question we are faced with is: What, exactly, are genes? Contrary to many people's expectations, there is no authoritative definition of the term gene so far. As it turns out, the word is convenient to use, but its meaning remains very vague.

After summarizing the views of many scholars, the author provides a definition of her own. According to Arney, the gene is the genetic material that can play a role, including DNA and RNA...

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