Summaries of Guns Germs and Steel

2509 Words Oct 1st, 2008 11 Pages
Prologue: Yali's Question
Jared Diamond has done much research in New Guinea. His friend, local New Guinean; Yali, asked why whites had been so successful compared to the locals. Diamond, while looking into Yali’s question, wants to prove that the differences in success have nothing to do with racial intelligence, but rather environmental differences. He starts with saying that stone people "are on the average probably more intelligent, not less intelligent, than industrialized peoples." He says the New Guineans may not be technologically smart like Europeans, but they are a lot fitter than any European put in their environment. He traces back these differences in the folds of history.

Chapter 1: Up to the Starting Line
Upright humans
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What plants can be used for domestication. Diamond explains the means by which plants are selected for domestication and improved: via oral/fecal spread of consumed preferred seeds, selection for larger size, more flesh, and better taste, selection for lack of germination inhibitors, selection of self-compatible hermaphrodites, seeds with softer external coats and more. Even with all this some edible plants have never been domesticated. Seed crops were easy to grow and store, so their domestication came first. Then fruit and nuts, became domesticated. Most successful domesticates had been achieved by Roman times.

Chapter 8: Apples or Indians
The rise of food production in the Fertile Crescent was made possible by the Mediterranean climate. In contrast, Mesoamerica, New Guinea, and the Eastern US were limited in the available large seed grasses, domestic able animals, edible pulses, and high protein domestic plants. Arrival of appropriate founder sort speed up the food production where suitable plants were previously lacking. Local inhabitants routinely master their local ethno biology (thus few domestications have occurred in modern times). However, there can be reactionary populations resisting change. Of 200,000 wild plants, only about 200 have been domesticated for consumption, and 12 species account for 80% of world food tonnage.

Chapter 9: Zebras, Unhappy Marriages, and the Anna Karenina Principle
Successfully domesticated animal species, like the happy
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