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Semi-Identical Twins! Plus, 10 Best Books Ever

It's always big news when scientists discover an entirely new kind of human being. From a press release from the journal Nature:

'Researchers have discovered a pair of twins who are identical through their mother's side, but share only half their genes on their father's...

'The 'semi-identical' twins are the result of two sperm cells fusing with a single egg, before becoming two embryos -- a previously unknown way for twins to come about, say the team that made the finding. The twins are also chimaeras, meaning that their cells are not genetically uniform. Each sperm has contributed genes to each child.

'The twins' genetic makeup was investigated because one was born with ambiguous genitalia. One turned out to be a 'true hermaphrodite', with both ovarian and testicular tissue. The other twin is anatomically male.'

Wikipedia's article on identical twins refers to this as "polar twins." The article states, "Scientists have still not shown that polar twins do indeed exist." Well, now we know.

Back in my day, there were only two kinds of twins: Identical and fraternal. But now it seems like there's as many types of twins as flavors of ice cream at Baskin Robbins. The whole "chimera" category (spelled slightly differently by the Brits, apparently) is bizarre. I'm pretty sure that's when you have two sets of DNA, because your twin was reabsorbed in the womb. Also I'm told there are mirrored twins: the one twin is the mirror image of the other, with organs on the opposite side of the body (including the heart!).

Now what the scientists need to figure is why two children from the same biological parents will be absolutely nothing alike, to the point of being barely even the same species.


A new book has asked hundreds of writers to list their favorite books. Here's the Top Ten:

1. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

2. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

3. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

4. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
by Mark Twain

6. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

8. In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust

9. The stories of Anton Chekhov

10. Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Like all such lists, it's guilt-inducing, unless you're one of the people who has actually read all of these books and therefore should be drummed out of polite society for being literarily immaculate.

I'm a good reader in spurts. I'll decide I need to be more intellectual, and will dutifully wrassle some 19th century novel to the ground. But then one day I'll wake up and realize that I haven't finished a novel in 6 months, and that "reading" has become a process much more like skimming and glancing and gleaning and dipping and peeking. It's about data extraction. You know you're in trouble when you find yourself going right to the index, and then skipping from the back of the book toward the front.

At my worst I lose the abilty to read left to right.

I've still got some work to do on this Top Ten. I'm sure I've read a couple of Chekhov stories. And some of WarPea. (Enough to echo Woody Allen: "It's about Russia.") I've read maybe 250 pages of Anna Karenina, but could never get much farther than the scene where Venus is describing rising in the sky in the evening. Astronomically impossible. I'm hoping that the four times I've read Gatsby will make up for the zero times I've read Middlemarch.

Got a Top Ten list? Let's hear 'em. Fiction only. I'll try to come up with a few. Where's Light in August? The Sun Also Rises? Invisible Man (by Ellison, not Wells). Or, speaking of Wells, The Time Machine?


Mentioned in the boodle, here's George Packer's story in the New Yorker, on the plight of Iraqis who have helped Americans.

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 26, 2007; 9:30 AM ET
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