BookLog: Andromeda Strain (A Second Reading after 40 Years)

I just finished reading it (for the second time). I read it almost 40 years ago.

It is an amazing read. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. If you love Science you will enjoy it even more.  When you read a book, a second or third time, you notice a lot of things you miss the first time.

The story is about a Scoop satellite that goes off its trajectory and lands in a small town (of about 50 people) in Arizona, USA. A team goes to retrieve it and finds a lot of dead bodies. They die too. A second team lands and finds that the entire town is dead but for two people – an old man and a baby. Those are the only two clues in addition to the satellite. The story is about the research that follows to identify the problem.

I think it is the first book of MC I read and I think he was very young (probably in his early twenties) when he wrote it.

“Michael Crighton’ s the Andromeda Strain centers on an investigation of a pathogen newly imported from outer space. The researchers struggle to understand the probable organism because it is so unfamiliar to them. In one interesting passage the character Leavitt proposes to his colleagues that black cloth, a watch and granite are living things. 

Our definition of life is limited by our experiences that create a frame of reference. We define life based on the life that we have observed, but. … what if we discover new possible life forms that do not fit currently accepted descriptions of organisms? Would that mean that they are not living or that our definition of life is too narrow?

 

The impressive aspect of the book is reading about  the planning that went into building a research facility before it was needed. The chain of events that get triggered by the falling of the Scoop satellite shows another amazing level of a system that functions. We don’t really think about the money governments spend in anticipation of future needs and planning to prevent disasters.

The research lab described in the story was pretty sophisticated (even for that time) and I wonder what it will be like today.

I could not help thinking about the role of computers in the story. I kept thinking how much computers of today would do it differently and how so many technologies can help.

My final thought as I was finishing up the book was –  “how can you prepare for the unknown”? Planning the Unplanned  is a fascinating discussion that covers this a bit.

The book left me with an immense interest in learning a lot more about Science.

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