Dr Alice Roberts: The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being

A Roberts. unlikeliness of being

About a month ago I started reading Prof Alice Roberts’ book ‘The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being’ and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I have seen many of Prof Roberts’ TV documentaries and have read one of her other books ‘The Incredible Human Journey’ and have always enjoyed their content. My own academic and personal interests include human evolution, the human body and subjects surrounding the natural sciences making Alice Roberts’ books and programmes deeply interesting.

I have meaning to read ‘The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being’ ever since I received the book last Christmas and I am very glad that I’ve finally got round to it. A large portion of the work published by Alice Roberts has surrounded the topic of human evolution and as that is the subject I studied as an undergraduate I was mostly familiar with the material and areas covered. However, her latest book goes back deeper into evolutionary history and discusses the evolutionary history of our bodies. This means looking at embryos, genes and the visible anatomy using the latest research in order to understand how we came to look like the way we do today.

Throughout the book there is amazing detail that is described in such a way that it is to understand, so even if you have a limited knowledge of anatomy you should be able to follow. There are also many illustrations, which were hand-drawn, that again assist to understand the processes and structures that are being discussed. Whilst reading this book I learnt so many things about our anatomy and our evolutionary history. Most of my knowledge surrounding evolution is focused on and around human evolution, with other primates and some other mammals for comparison but ‘The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being’ has definitely expanded my knowledge.

One thing that this book highlights for me is that we as human beings are not unique or incredibly special. We are a product of evolution and a great deal of luck that we even exist. For some this thought is terrifying and wrong – that we are special and that makes us better for it. I have totally the opposite opinion. The fact that we can see traits that give us a hint of our evolutionary history and that these traits can be seen in other organisms is amazing. However, from another point on view at a very individual level it is incredible that either you or me are here today. It is chance that a particular sperm met that particular egg to produce you and this story repeats itself at every level of our evolutionary history. The more I think about it more the mind boggles!

This is a great book that is well written and easy to both read and understand. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in evolution, biology or anatomy.


International Women’s Day – Which Women Inspire You?

As it’s International Women’s day I thought that it would be appropriate to write about which women have inspired me. Why don’t you do the same?

I admire a lot of women, particularly in the field of science as that is my own area of knowledge but I always remember seeing Professor Alice Roberts with her bright red hair on TV. To be honest I think she was one of the reasons that I liked the study of human remains so much – as she appeared on the TV programme ‘Time Team’ as an osteologist.For me she always had the most interesting part of the dig, plus I always wanted red hair after seeing hers! Alice Roberts also featured whilst I was at University presenting programmes on human evolution and as that was my degree I was obviously drawn to her. In 2012 she was made Professor of Public Engagement in Science at Birmingham University. She is passionate about her subjects and is eager to learn more and then share it with others. She was always an ideal to me growing up and is still an inspiration to me even now.

Alice Roberts is one of the women I look up to in science but suppose my biggest inspiration is my mum. She hasn’t done anything absolutely crazy but she is awesome. I go to her with any problem I have big or small and she will always have some good advice and knows what I need to hear. She doesn’t sugar coat things and is extremely realistic – but in a good way. She is also the strongest women I know. When I was about ten my parents got a divorce and around the same time, and one year later, both her parents had passed away. Through all of this she was strong, calm and held everything together. I don’t think either my sister or I really knew what was happening or how much she was going through because she got herself, and us, through this difficult time remarkably smoothly. I know realise that as each year goes by I become more and more similar to my Mum, I have similar attitudes and opinions and I think I behave in a similar way and I love it. Whenever anyone says ‘you’re just like you’re Mum’ I feel a sense of pride. Now if I could be even a little bit as an amazing parent as her when I have kids I know they’ll be OK. Thanks Mum!

Now it’s your turn. Which woman, or women, inspires you the most!

Ancient Human Occupation of Britain – BBC Radio

A half hour program on BBC Radio 4. Professor Alice Roberts discusses the how and who inhabited ancient Britain. She talks to Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, Nick Ashton of the British Museum, Professor Danielle Schreve from the Royal Holloway and Rob Dinnis about carbon dating.

Find the episode on BBC iplayer here and to find out more about the AHOB (Ancient Human Occupation of Britain) team you can find their website here.